Friulian language series: Gjenesi 11, torate di Babêl

In the eleventh chapter of the book of Genesis, you read about: la torate di Babêl (tower of Babel); la dissendence benedide di Sem (blessed lineage of Shem); la dissendence di Terac (lineage of Terah). 

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Read Gjenesi 11

To read the Friulian text of the Bible associated with the notes below or listen to its audio, visit Bibie par un popul and consult Gjenesi 11. An archived version of the text can be found here.

Verset 1

Vocabulary: dut (all), il mont (world), fevelâ (to speak), stes (same), la lenghe (language), doprâ (to use, to employ), la peraule (word).

Dut il mont al fevelave la stesse lenghe: all the world used to speak the same language. The verb fevelâ is used here in its masculine, third-person singular form of the imperfet indicatîf, which is al fevelave. The imperfet indicatîf conveys the ongoing nature of an action in the past; al fevelave can be taken as was speaking, used to speak. Consider the following: al fevelave (he was speaking; he used to speak); al fevelà (he spoke); al à fevelât (he has spoken; he spoke).

E al doprave lis stessis peraulis: and used to use the same words. The verb doprâ means to use, to employ. You find this verb as well used in its masculine, third-person singular form of the imperfet indicatîf, which is al doprave. Stes is the Friulian for same; observe the following: il stes risultât (the same result); i stes risultâts (the same results); la stesse lenghe (the same language); lis stessis lenghis (the same languages).

The verb fevelâ is conjugated below in the imperfet indicatîf. For this tense, you can use this conjugation as your model for verbs ending in â in their infinitive form.

Imperfet indicatîf
Imperfect indicative

o fevelavi
tu fevelavis
al fevelave

e fevelave

o fevelavin
o fevelavis
a fevelavin

Verset 2

Vocabulary: cuant che (when), i oms (men), plaçâsi (to settle), il soreli (sun), jevâ (to rise), a soreli jevât (in the east), rivâ (to arrive, to come), la concje (valley, basin), la tiere (land, earth), fermâsi (to dwell), li (there).

Cuant che i oms si plaçarin a soreli jevât: when men settled in the east. You also encountered soreli jevât (east; literally, risen sun) in Gjenesi 2:8. Plaçâsi a soreli jevât can be taken as to settle in the east. The verb plaçâ means to place, to position; plaçâsi, then, can be understood more literally as to place oneself, to position oneself.

The feminine noun concje means valley, basin. Rivâ tune concje can be taken as to come upon a valley (or, more literally, to arrive in a valley). Intune or tune is a contraction of in + une. You read: a rivarin tune concje (they came upon [arrived in] a valley) de tiere di Senaar (in [of] the land of Shinar) e si fermarin li (and they dwelt there). The reflexive verb fermâsi translates literally as to stop oneself; it is taken here in the sense of to dwell.

Verset 3

Vocabulary: (to say), dîsi un cul altri (to say to one another), dai (come, go to), metisi (to put oneself), (to make, to do), il modon (brick), cuei (to bake, to cook), ju (them), il fûc (fire), doprâ (to use, to employ), impen di (in place of, instead of), il clap (stone), il catram (tar, pitch), la malte (mortar).

Si diserin un cul altri: they said to one another. Dai is an interjection meaning come, go to: dai, metìnsi a fâ modons e a cueiju tal fûc (come, let us take to making bricks and baking them in the fire). The masculine modon means brick; fâ modons, then, means to make bricks. The reflexive verb metisi translates literally as to put oneself, to set oneself. For example, to put oneself to work can be rendered in Friulian as metisi a lavorâ. Metisi a fâ modons translates literally as to put oneself to making bricks, but it is better rendered in English as to take to making bricks. Metìn is the first-person plural imperative of the verb meti; metìnsi is its reflexive equivalent: metìn (let us put); metìnsi (let us put ourselves). This is not the first time that you are meeting with the si ending in the imperative; in Gjenesi 1:28, you encountered multiplicaitsi. Multiplicait is the second-person plural imperative of the verb multiplicâ; multiplicaitsi is its reflexive equivalent: multiplicait (multiply); multiplicaitsi (multiply yourselves).

The text of this verse continues: a dopravin il modon (they used [were using] brick) impen dal clap (in place of stone) e il catram (and pitch) impen de malte (in place of mortar). A dopravin is the third-person plural of the imperfet indicatîf of the verb doprâ. Consider the following: al fevelave (he was speaking; he used to speak); al doprave (he was using; he used to use); a fevelavin (they were speaking; they used to speak); a dopravin (they were using; they used to use).

Verset 4

Vocabulary: (to say), parcè no (why not), (to make, to do), la citât (city), la torate (tower), rivâ (to arrive, to come), la spice (top, peak), fint in (up to, until), il cîl (heaven, sky), il non (name), fâsi un non (to make a name for oneself), no stin a (let us not), dividisi (to scatter [divide] oneself), ator par (round about), il mont (world).

Fasìno is the interrogative form of o fasìn, which is the second-person plural of the presint indicatîf of the verb fâ. Consult the present indicative of the verb (in the notes at verse 9 on the linked page). You read: parcè no fasìno (why do we not build [make]) une citât (a city) e une torate ch’e rivi cu la spice fint in cîl? (and a tower that reaches the heaven with its top [and a tower that may arrive with the top as far as the heaven]?). Observe: o fasìn (we make); fasìno? (do we make?); no fasìn (we do not make); parcè no fasìno? (why do we not make?).

The Friulian for tower is la torate. La torate di Babêl, then, is the Friulian name for the tower of Babel. The top of the tower is referred to in the text of this verse as la spice; you encountered this noun once before in lis spicis des monts (Gjenesi 8:5). Rivâ fint in cîl can be taken as meaning to reach the heaven.

You find the present subjunctive in: une torate ch’e rivi cu la spice fint in cîl. E rivi is the feminine, third-person singular of the coniuntîf presint of the verb rivâ. The present subjunctive e rivi is used here rather than the present indicative e rive because the tower has not yet been created; the construction of it is still a proposition. Consider the following: la torate e rive cu la spice fint in cîl (the tower reaches the heaven with its top; the tower already exists); parcè no fasìno une torate ch’e rivi cu la spice fint in cîl? (why do we not make a tower that may reach the heaven with its top?; the tower does not yet exist).

Fasìnsi un non: let us make a name for ourselves. Fasìn is its second-person plural imperative of the verb fâ; its reflexive equivalent is fasìnsi: fasìn (let us make); fasìnsi (let us make {for} ourselves); fasìnsi un non (let us make ourselves a name; let us make a name for ourselves).

No stin a dividisi ator pal mont: let us not scatter (divide) ourselves all over (round about) the world. In the negative, the Friulian imperative works as follows (using the verb fevelâ): no sta fevelâ (second-person singular; do not speak); no stait a fevelâ (second-person plural; do not speak); no stin a fevelâ (first-person plural; let us not speak). Pal is a contraction of par + il; that is, ator pal mont = ator par + il mont.

Say the following in Friulian, using pierdi timp (to waste time; literally, to lose time):

  1. do not waste time (second-person singular)
  2. do not waste time (second-person plural)
  3. let us not waste time (first-person plural)


  1. no sta pierdi timp
  2. no stait a pierdi timp
  3. no stin a pierdi timp

Verset 5

Vocabulary: il Signôr (Lord), vignî jù (to come down), dâ une cjalade (to take a look), la citât (city), la torate (tower), i oms (men), butâ sù (to erect, to build).

You read: il Signôr al vignì jù (the Lord came down) a dâi une cjalade a la citât e a la torate (to take a look at the city and tower) che i oms a stavin butant sù (that the men were erecting).

Consider the following: al rive (he arrives); al sta rivant (he is arriving {just now}). In al sta rivant, al sta is the masculine, third-person singular of the presint indicatîf of the verb stâ; it is followed by rivant, which is the present participle of the verb rivâ. In the text of this verse, che i oms a stavin butant sù conveys the sense of that the men were {in the process of} erecting {at that very moment}. In a stavin butant sù, a stavin is the third-person plural of the imperfet indicatîf of the verb stâ; it is followed by butant, which is the present participle of the verb butâ.

More examples: al sta cjalant; tornant; doprant (he is {in the process of} looking; returning; using {just now}); a stan cjalant; tornant; doprant (they are {in the process of} looking; returning; using {just now}); al stave cjalant; tornant; doprant (he was {in the process of} looking; returning; using {just then}); a stavin cjalant; tornant; doprant (they were {in the process of} looking; returning; using {just then}).

Verset 6

Vocabulary: dissal (he said), il Signôr (Lord), veju (there they are, here they are), a son (they are), il popul (people), sôl (single, solitary), fevelâ (to speak), ducj (all; masculine plural), stes (same), la lenghe (language), chest al è (this is), dome (only), il cjaveç (tip, extremity), vê voe di fâ (to want to do; also voie), se (if), lâ indenant (to go ahead), cussì (thus, so), rivâ a fâ (to manage to do, to succeed in doing), volê (to want, to intend).

Dissal il Signôr: the Lord said. Ve is the Friulian for behold, here is/are, there is/are; in the text of this verse, you find veju, to be taken here as meaning there they are. You read: veju (there they are), che a son un popul sôl (who are a single people) e a fevelin ducj la stesse lenghe (and who all speak the same language).

The masculine noun cjaveç refers to one of the two extremities of a thing. For example, di un cjaveç al altri dal mont means from one end of the world to the other. In the context of this verse, il cjaveç can be taken in the sense of tip, starting point, beginning. The Lord says: chest al è dome il cjaveç (this is only the beginning) di ce che a àn voe di fâ (of that which they mean to do). La voe (or voie) is the Friulian for longing, desire, will. Vê voe di fâ (or vê voie di fâ) can take different renderings in English, such as to want to do, to feel like doing, to long to do, to be keen on doing. Another example: o ai voie di lâ vie (I want to leave; I long to leave; I feel like leaving).

The text of this verse continues: se a van indenant cussì (should they continue like this [if they go ahead thus]), a rivaran a fâ dut ce che a volaran (they will succeed in doing whatever they intend [all that they will want]). Lâ indenant can be taken as meaning to continue; it is composed of (to go) and indenant (forwards, ahead). Rivâ a fâ can be understood as meaning to manage to do, to succeed in doing, to be able to do. A rivaran and a volaran are the third-person plural futûr sempliç forms of the verbs rivâ and volê.

Verset 7

Vocabulary: anìn (come, go to), dismontâ jù (to go down), confusionâ (to confuse, to confound), il lengaç (speech, language), par che (in order that, so that), rivâ a capî (to come to understand), capîsi un cul altri (to understand one another).

Anìn: like dai from verse 3, anìn is an interjection meaning come on, go to. The text of this verses continues: dismontìn jù (let us go down) e confusionìnju (and let us confound them) tal lôr lengaç (in their speech) par che no rivin a capîsi un cul altri (so that they are not able to understand one another). Dismontìn is a first-person plural imperative; confusionìn is also a first-person plural imperative, to which ju (them) has been attached.

In these verses, you have encountered two related words: la lenghe and il lengaç. La lenghe refers to a specific tongue spoken by a group of people (Friulian language, Polish language, Italian language, etc.), whereas il lengaç refers to speech or the human capacity for language; for example: la facoltât dal lengaç (faculty of speech). Lengaç can also be taken as jargon: il lengaç dai miedis (jargon of physicians; medical jargon).

In Friulian, the names of the languages mentioned in the preceding paragraph are: la lenghe furlane (Friulian language), la lenghe polache (Polish language), la lenghe taliane (Italian language). The name of a language can also be identified without lenghe attached to it; in this case, the name of the language is a masculine noun: il furlan (Friulian), il polac (Polish), il talian (Italian).

Versets 8-9

Vocabulary: di li (from there, whence), il Signôr (Lord), sparniçâ (to scatter), il mont (world), par dut il mont (all over the world, throughout the world), no… plui (no longer, no more, not anymore), lâ indevant (to go forwards, to continue), la citât (city), cussì (thus, so), il non (name), meti non (to name), parcè che (because), al è stât (it was), alì (there), confusionâ (to confuse, to confound), il lengaç (speech, language), ducj i oms (all men), sparniçâsi (to scatter oneself, to spread out).

Verse 8: E di li il Signôr ju sparniçà par dut il mont: and from there the Lord scattered them all over the world. In verse 6, you encountered lâ indenant, in the sense of to continue. In the current verse, you now find it expressed as lâ indevant, with the same meaning. Both indenant and indevant mean ahead, forwards. E no lerin plui indevant cu la lôr citât: and they did not continue (go ahead) with their city. A lerin is the third-person plural of the passât sempliç of the verb lâ.

Verse 9: Cussì i meterin non Babêl (thus was it named Babel [thus unto it they put {the} name Babel]), parcè che al è stât alì (because it was there) che il Signôr al à confusionât il lengaç (that the Lord confounded the speech) di ducj i oms (of all men) e di li (and from there) si son sparniçâts (they scattered themselves) par dut il mont (throughout the world).

Versets 10-11

Vocabulary: la gjernazie (offspring), cent (one hundred), un an (year), a cent agns (at one hundred years {of age}), al à vût (he begot), doi agns (two years), dopo di (after, following), il diluvi (flood), nassi (to be born), vivi (to live), cinccent (five hundred), altri (other), il fi (son), la fie (daughter).

Verse 10: Cheste e je la gjernazie di Sem: this is the lineage (offspring) of Shem. Al à vût (from the verb vê, meaning to have), in the context of births, is to be taken as he begot. A cent agns, Sem al à vût Arpacsad: at one hundred years {of age}, Shem begot Arpachshad. The plural of an (year) is agns (years). Doi agns dopo dal diluvi: two years after the flood.

Verse 11: Dopo nassût Arpacsad (after the birth of Arpachshad [after {having been} born Arpachshad]), Sem al à vivût cinccent agns (Shem lived five hundred years) e al à vût altris fîs e fiis (and begot other sons and daughters). The Friulian verb nassi means to be born; its past participle is nassût. Example: o soi nassût a Cormons (I was born in Cormons; a female would say o soi nassude a Cormons).

Versets 12-26

Vocabulary: un an (year), i agns (years), al à vût (he begot), dopo nassût (after the birth of), vivi (to live), altri (other), il fi (son), la fie (daughter).

The following numerals appear (listed in numerical order): vincjenûf (twenty-nine); trente (thirty); trentedoi (thirty-two); trentecuatri (thirty-four); trentecinc (thirty-five); setante (seventy); cent e disenûf (one hundred and nineteen); dusinte (two hundred); dusinte e siet (two hundred and seven); dusinte e nûf (two hundred and nine); cuatricent e trê (four hundred and three); cuatricent e trente (four hundred and thirty). See also: How to count in Friulian.

The following names appear (listed in alphabetical order): Abram (Abram), Aran (Haran), Eber (Eber), Lot (Lot), Nacor (Nahor), Peleg (Peleg), Reu (Reu), Selac (Shelah), Serug (Serug), Terac (Terah).

Verses 12: A trentecinc agns (at thirty-five years {of age}), Arpacsad al à vût Selac (Arpachshad begot Shelah).

Verse 13: Dopo nassût Selac (after the birth of Shelah [after {having been} born Shelah]), Arpacsad al à vivût cuatricent e trê agns (Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years) e al à vût altris fîs e fiis (and begot other sons and daughters).

Verses 14-26: See the language of verses 12 and 13. See also the vocabulary and names listed above.

Versets 27-32

Vocabulary: la gjernazie (offspring), al à vût (he begot), murî (to die), al jere (he was), ancjemò (yet, still), vîf (alive, living), il pari (father), il paîs (land, country), nassi (to be born), un caldeu (Chaldean), sposâsi (to get married), la femine (wife, woman), il non (name), vê non (to be named), la fie (daughter), sterp (barren), podê (to be able, can), il frut (child), vê fruts (to bear children), cjoli (to take), il fi (son), il nevôt (grandson), la brût (daughter-in-law), jessî (to go/come out, to exit), fâ jessî di (to make go/come out of), (to go), la tiere (land, earth), rivâ (to arrive, to come), però (but, however), fermâsi (to dwell), li (there), vivi (to live), in dut (in all, altogether), dusinte e cinc (two hundred and five), un an (year), i agns (years), po (then).

Verse 27: Cheste e je la gjernazie di Terac (this is the lineage [offspring] of Terah): Terac al à vût Abram (Terah begot Abram), Nacor (Nahor) e Aran (and Haran). Aran al à vût Lot: Haran begot Lot.

Verse 28: Aran al murì (Haran died) che al jere ancjemò vîf so pari Terac (when his father Terah was still alive), tal paîs che al jere nassût (in the land where he had been born), a Ur dai caldeus (in Ur of the Chaldeans). A Chaldean is un caldeu; its plural form is i caldeus. Ur of the Chaldeans is identified with the modern site of Tell el-Muqayyar, on the Euphrates river, in Iraq.

Verse 29: Abram e Nacor si sposarin (Abram and Nahor each took wives [got married]): la femine di Abram e veve non Sarai (the wife of Abram was named Sarai [was having {the} name Sarai]), la femine di Nacor e veve non Milche (the wife of Nahor was named Milcah), fie di Aran (daughter of Haran), che al jere il pari di Milche e di Ische (who was the father of Milcah and Iscah).

Verse 30: Ma Sarai e jere sterpe e no podeve vê fruts: but Sarai was barren and could not bear children. Observe: e podeve (she could; she was able); no podeve (she could not; she was not able).

Verse 31: Terac al cjolè so fi Abram (Terah took his son Abram), so nevôt Lot (his grandson Lot), fi di Aran (the son of Haran), e sô brût Sarai (and his daughter-in-law Sarai), femine di Abram (the wife of Abram). The Friulian for grandson is il nevôt (grandson) and for daughter-in-law it is la brût. Related: la gnece (granddaughter); il zinar (son-in-law). Il nevôt and la gnece can also mean nephew and niece, respectively.  Ju fasè jessî di Ur dai caldeus par lâ te tiere di Canaan: he made them leave (go out of) Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan. Rivâts però a Caran si fermarin li: but having arrived at Haran, they dwelt there.

Verse 32: Terac al à vivût (Terah lived), in dut (in all), dusinte e cinc agns (two hundred and five years), po al murì a Caran (then he died in Haran). With the names of cities, the English in is expressed as a in Friulian: a Caran (in Haran), a Ur (in Ur).