- Sicilian language
nativename= _sc. Sicilianu
*flag|Calabria (Central and Southern)
speakers=4.8 million (Gordon, 2005)
Sicilian ( _sc. "lu sicilianu", _it. lingua siciliana, also known as Siculu or Calabro-Sicilian) is a
Romance language. Its dialects comprise the Italiano Meridionale-estremo language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicilyand its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria(where it is called Southern Calabro); in the southern parts of Apulia, the Salento(where is it known as Salentino); and Campania, on the Italian mainland, where it is called "Cilentano" (Gordon, 2005). Ethnologue"(see below for more detail)" describes Sicilian as being "distinct enough from Standard Italian to be considered a separate language" (Gordon). Some assert that Sicilian represents the oldestclarifyme|June 2008 Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin(Privitera, 2004), but this is not a widely-held view amongst linguists. For instance, Cipolla describes such a view as radical (2004, p. 151).
It is currently spoken by the majority of the inhabitants of Sicily and by emigrant populations around the world. The latter are to be found in the countries which attracted large numbers of Sicilian immigrants during the course of the past century or so, especially the
United States, Canada, Australiaand Argentina. In the past two or three decades, large numbers of Sicilians were also attracted to the industrial zones of northern Italy and indeed the rest of the European Union, especially Germany.
Sicilian is not used as an official language anywhere, even within Sicily. There is currently no central body, in Sicily or elsewhere, that regulates the language in any way. However, the
Center for Sicilian Philological and Linguistic Studiesin Palermo has been researching and publishing information on the Sicilian language since its inception in 1951 [ [http://www.csfls.it Centro di studi filologici e linguistici siciliani (CSFLS)] ] .
The autonomous regional parliament of Sicily has legislated to encourage the teaching of Sicilian at all schools, but inroads into the education system have been slow (Cipolla, 2004).
The language is officially recognized in the municipal statutes of Sicilian towns, such as
Caltagirone[ [http://www.regione.sicilia.it/presidenza/ull/gazzette/g04-25s/g04-25s-p1.htm Gazzetta Ufficiale della Regione Siciliana: Statuto del Comune di Caltagirone] ] and Grammichele[ [http://www.regione.sicilia.it/presidenza/ull/gazzette/g05-28s/g05-28s-p1.htm Gazzetta Ufficiale della Regione Siciliana: Statuto del Comune di Grammichele] ] , in which the "inalienable historical and cultural value of the Sicilian language" is proclaimed. Further, the Sicilian language is to be protected and promoted under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML). However, the Italian Parliament has yet to ratify this draft law [ [http://www.eurolang.net/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=3002 Cardi, Valeria. Italy moves closer to ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. "Eurolang". December 12, 2007] ] .
Ethnologue report on Sicilian
Alternate names of Sicilian are Calabro-Sicilian, Sicilianu, and Siculu. The term Calabro-Sicilian refers to the fact that a form of Sicilian, or a dialect closely related to Sicilian, is spoken in central and southern Calabria. "Sicilianu" is the name of the language in Sicilian itself (Gordon).
The term "Siculu" describes one of the larger prehistoric groups living in Sicily (the
Sicelsor Siculi) before the arrival of Greeksin the 8th century BC "(see below)". It can also be used as an adjective to qualify, or further elaborate on, the origins of a person, for example: Siculo-American ("siculu-miricanu") or Siculo-Australian (Gordon).
Dialects of Sicilian
As a language, Sicilian has its own
dialects, in the following main groupings (Gordon and Bonner 2001):
*Western Sicilian (in
Palermo, Trapani, Central-Western Agrigentino)
*Central Metafonetica (in the central part of Sicily that includes some areas of the Provinces of Caltanissetta, Messina, Enna, Palermo and Agrigento)
*Southeast Metafonetica (in the
Province of Ragusaand the adjoining area within the Province of Syracuse)
*Ennese (in the
province of Enna)
*Eastern Nonmetafonetica (in the area including the
province of Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, and the adjoining area within the Province of Syracuse)
*Messinese (in the
province of Messina)
*Isole Eolie (in the
*Pantesco (on the island of
*Southern Calabro (in southern and central sections of
*Southern Pugliese (also called
Salentino, and reportedly a dialect of Sicilian on the peninsular section of Apulia)
*Cilentano (In the Geographical region of
Sicilian is described as "vigorous" (in terms of not being in danger of extinction), although most Sicilians are described as being at least
bilingual(being fluent in Italian as the official language of Italy). The strong French influence on Sicilian "(elaborated below)" raises the prospect that it may be better classified as a Southern Romance rather than Italo-Western language (Gordon).
The fact that
Sicilyis the largest island in the middle of the Mediterraneanand that virtually all the peoples of the Mediterranean (and beyond) have passed through it, be that as friend or foe, over the millennia, ensures that the Sicilian language is both rich and varied in its influences. The language has inherited vocabulary and/or grammatical forms from all of the following: Greek, Latin, Arabic, French, Lombard, Provençal, German, Catalan, Spanish and of course Italian, not to mention prehistoric influences from the earliest settlers on the island. The very earliest influences, visible in Sicilian to this day, exhibit both prehistoric Mediterraneanelements and prehistoric Indo-European elements, and occasionally a cross-over of both (Giarizzo 1989 and Ruffino 2001).
Before the Roman conquest, Sicily was occupied by remnants of the indigenous populations (the
Sicani, Elymi, Siculi, the third arriving between the second and first millennium BC), as well as by Phoenicians(from between the 10th and 8th centuries BC) and Greeks (from the 8th century BC). The Greek languageinfluence remains strongly visible, while the influences from the other groups are less obvious. What can be stated with certainty is that there remain pre-Indo-European words in Sicilian of an ancient Mediterranean origin, but one cannot be more precise than that. Of the three main prehistoric groups, only the Siculi were Indo-European, and their speech is likely to have been closely related to that of the Romans (Ruffino).
The following table illustrates the difficulty linguists face in tackling the various sub-strata of the Sicilian language. The examples are for the English word "twins" (Ruffino).
=Extract from Antonio Veneziano=
"Celia, Lib. 2"
(ca. 1575–1580)(Martoglio 1993) [ This collection of Nino Martoglio's poetry was edited and translated by Prof. Gaetano Cipolla.]
Influences on the Italian language
As one of the most-spoken languages of Italy, Sicilian has notably influenced the Italian lexicon. In fact, there are several Sicilian words that are nowadays part of the Italian language; they usually refer to things closely associated to Sicilian culture, with some notable exceptions (Zingarelli 2007):
*"arancino" (from "arancinu"): arancino, a Sicilian cuisine specialty;
*"canestrato" (from "'ncannistratu"): a cheese typical of Sicily;
*"cannolo" (from "cannolu"): cannolo, a Sicilian pastry;
*"cannolicchio" (from "cannulicchiu"): razor-clam; the small version of the "cannolo";
*"carnezzeria" (from "carnizzaria"): butcher's shop;
*"caruso" (from "carusu"): boy;
cassata": cassata, a Sicilian pastry;
*"cirneco" (from "cirnecu"): a small breed of dogs common in Sicily;
cosca": a small group of criminals affiliated to the Sicilian mafia;
*"curatolo" (from "curatulu"): watchman in a farm, with a yearly contract;
*"dammuso" (from "dammusu"): stony habitation typical of the island of
*"fuitina" (it.: "fuga d'amore"): the running away from home of a young couple, tied to the tradition of arranged marriages in Sicily (if the girl was to be married to someone she didn't like); in modern times it involves a couple whose parents or relatives may not look favorable to their relationship; after several days alone and away together, upon their return they would automatically be married by a Priest with the eventual blessings of both families, on the basis that their love was already consummated (i.e., sexual relations took place);
*"intrallazzo" (from "'ntrallazzu"): illegal exchange of goods or favours, but in a wider sense also cheat, intrigue;
*"marranzano" (from "marranzanu"): Jew's harp;
*"marrobbio" (from "marrubbiu"): quick variation of sea level produced by a store of water in the coasts as a consequence of either wind action or an atmospheric depression;
*"minchia": penis in its original meaning, but also stupid person, is also widely used as interjection to show either astonishment or rage;
*"picciotto" (from "picciottu"): young man, but also the lowest grade in the Mafia hierarchy;
*"pizzino" (from "pizzinu"): small piece of paper;
*"pizzo" (from "pizzu"): literally meaning beak in Sicilian, it is protection money paid to the Mafia; it comes form the saying "fari vagnari a pizzu" (to wet one's beak).
*"quaquaraquà": person devoid of value, nonentity;
*"scasare" (from "scasari"): to leave en masse (means literally to move home);
*"stidda" (it.: "stella"): lower Mafia organization.
Language situation today
Sicilian is estimated to have millions of speakers. However, it remains very much a home language spoken among peers and close associates. The regional Italian dialect has encroached on Sicilian, most evidently in the speech of the younger generations.
Poets in Sicily sometimes write in Sicilian. However, most speakers (especially the youngest ones) are literate just in Italian, not Sicilian; this implies a poor knowledge of the written language in all its formal grammar and spelling rules, in contrast to a still-wide diffusion of informal spoken Sicilian in the island.
The education system does not support the language. Local universities do not carry courses in Sicilian, or where they do it is described as "dialettologia", that is, the study of dialects.
* "Arba Sicula" Volume II, 1980 (bilingual: Sicilian and English)
* cite book |last= Bonner |first= J. K. "Kirk" |title= Introduction to Sicilian Grammar |publisher= Legas |year= 2001 |isbn= 1-88190141-6
* cite book |last= Camilleri |first= Salvatore |title= Vocabolario Italiano Siciliano |publisher= Edizioni Greco |year= 2098
* Centro di Studi Filologici e Linguistici Siciliani (1977-2002) "Vocabolario Siciliano", 5 volumi a cura di Giorgio Piccitto, Catania-Palermo (the orthography used in this article is substantially based on the Piccitto volumes).
* cite journal |last=Cipolla |first=Gaetano |year=2004 |title=U sicilianu è na lingua o un dialettu? / Is Sicilian a Language? |journal=Arba Sicula |volume=XXV |issue=1&2 |pages=pp. 138–175 |accessdate= 2008-01-09
* cite book |last= Cipolla|first= Gaetano |title= The Sounds of Sicilian |publisher= Legas |year= 2005 |isbn= 188190151-3
* cite book |last= Giarrizzo |first= Salvatore |title= Dizionario Etimologico Siciliano|publisher= Herbita Editrice |year= 1989
* cite web |author=Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) |title=Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition |publisher=Ethnologue |date=2005 |work=Sicilian: A language of Italy |url=http://www.ethnologue.com/ |accessdate=2008-01-09
* cite book |last= Hughes |first= Robert |title= Barcelona |publisher= Harvill |year= 1993 |isbn= 0-00-272167-8
* cite book |last= Hull |first= Geoffrey |title= Polyglot Italy: Languages, Dialects, Peoples |publisher= Legas |year= 2001 |isbn= 0-949919-61-6
* cite book |last= Martoglio |first= Nino |title= The Poetry of Nino Martoglio |publisher= Legas |year= 1993 |isbn= 1-881901-03-3 (bilingual: Sicilian and English; edited and translated by Prof. Gaetano Cipolla)
* cite book |last= Meli |first= Giovanni |title= Moral Fables and other poems |publisher= Legas |year= 1995 |isbn= 1-881901-07-6 (bilingual: Sicilian and English; edited and translated by Prof. Gaetano Cipolla)
* cite book |last= Norwich |first= John Julius |title= The Kingdom in the Sun |publisher= Penguin Books |year= 1992 |isbn= 1-88190141-6
* cite book |last= Pitrè |first= Giuseppe |title= Grammatica Siciliana |publisher= Edizioni Clio |year= 2004
* cite journal |last=Privitera |first=Joseph|year=2001 |title=I Nurmanni in Sicilia Pt II / The Normans in Sicily Pt II |journal=Arba Sicula |volume=XXII |issue=1&2 |pages=pp. 148–157 |accessdate= 2008-01-09
* cite book |last= Privitera |first= Joseph |title= Sicilian: The Oldest Romance Language |publisher= Legas |year= 2004 |isbn= 0-14-015212-1
* cite book |last= Ruffino |first= Giovanni |title= Sicilia |publisher= Editori Laterza |year= 2001 |isbn= 88-421-0582-1
* cite book |last= Runciman |first= Steven|title= The Sicilian Vespers |year= 1958 |isbn= 0-521-43774-1
* cite book |last= Zingarelli |first= Nicola |title= Lo Zingarelli 2007. Vocabolario della lingua italiana. Con CD-ROM |publisher= Zanichelli |language=Italian |year= 2006 |isbn= 8808042294
*scn icon [http://www.linguasiciliana.org/ www.linguasiciliana.org]
*it icon [http://www.linguasiciliana.it/ www.linguasiciliana.it]
*en iconscn icon [http://arbasicula.org/ Arba Sicula] A non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the Sicilian language
*en icon [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=scn Ethnologue report on Sicilian]
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