Sicilian language
Overview
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

 (where it is called Southern Calabro); in the southern parts of Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

, the Salento
Salento
Salento is the south-eastern extremity of the Apulia region of Italy. It is a sub-peninsula of the main Italian Peninsula, sometimes described as the "heel" of the Italian "boot"...

 (where it is known as Salentino); and Campania
Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

, on the Italian mainland, where it is called Cilentano (Gordon, 2005). Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

(see below for more detail) describes Sicilian as being "distinct enough from Standard Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 to be considered a separate language" (Gordon).
Encyclopedia
Sicilian is a Romance language. Its dialects make up the Extreme-Southern Italian language group, which are spoken on the island of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and its satellite islands; in southern and central Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

 (where it is called Southern Calabro); in the southern parts of Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

, the Salento
Salento
Salento is the south-eastern extremity of the Apulia region of Italy. It is a sub-peninsula of the main Italian Peninsula, sometimes described as the "heel" of the Italian "boot"...

 (where it is known as Salentino); and Campania
Campania
Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

, on the Italian mainland, where it is called Cilentano (Gordon, 2005). Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

(see below for more detail) describes Sicilian as being "distinct enough from Standard Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 to be considered a separate language" (Gordon). Some assert that Sicilian represents the oldest Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

 (Privitera, 2004), but this is not a widely-held view amongst linguists, and is sometimes strongly criticized (2004, p. 151). To Sicilians though, it is a dialect of Italian, not its own language.

Speakers

Sicilian is currently spoken by the majority of the inhabitants of Sicily and by emigrant populations around the world. The latter are found in the countries which attracted large numbers of Sicilian immigrants during the course of the past century or so, especially the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and Argentina
Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

. 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
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, especially Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

.

It 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 Studies in Palermo has been researching and publishing information on the Sicilian language since its inception in 1951.

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
Caltagirone
Caltagirone is a town and comune in the province of Catania, on the island of Sicily, about 70 km southwest of Catania. It is bounded by the comuni of Acate, Gela, Grammichele, Licodia Eubea, Mazzarino, Mazzarrone, Mineo, Mirabella Imbaccari, Niscemi, Piazza Armerina, San Michele di...

 and Grammichele
Grammichele
Grammichele ; Latin: Echetla; Medieval: Occhiolà) is a town and comune in the province of Catania in Sicily, southern Italy. It is located at the feet of the Hyblaean Mountains, some 13 km from Caltagirone.-History:...

, 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
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is a European treaty adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe...

 (ECRML). However, the Italian Parliament has yet to ratify this draft law.

The Sicilan language is spoken in various Sicilian American communities in the United States,and is preserved and taught through family association, church organizations and societies, as well as social and ethnic historical clubs, and even in internet social groups

Other names

Alternative 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 Sicily itself (Gordon).

The term "Siculu" describes one of the larger prehistoric groups living in Sicily (the Sicels
Sicels
The Sicels were an Italic people who inhabited ancient Sicily. The Sicels gave Sicily the name it has held since antiquity, but they rapidly fused into the culture of Magna Graecia.-History:...

 or Siculi) before the arrival of Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 in 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 dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s, in the following main groupings (Gordon and Bonner 2001):
  • Western Sicilian (in Palermo
    Palermo
    Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

    , Trapani
    Trapani
    Trapani is a city and comune on the west coast of Sicily in Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Trapani. Founded by Elymians, the city is still an important fishing port and the main gateway to the nearby Egadi Islands.-History:...

    , Central-Western Agrigentino
    Agrigento
    Agrigento , is a city on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy, and capital of the province of Agrigento. It is renowned as the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas , one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden...

    )
  • Central Metafonetica (in the central part of Sicily that includes some areas of the Provinces of Caltanissetta
    Province of Caltanissetta
    The Province of Caltanissetta is a province in the southern part of Sicily, Italy...

    , Messina
    Province of Messina
    Messina is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Messina.-Geography and demography :...

    , Enna
    Province of Enna
    Enna is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Enna.It has an area of 2,562 km², and a total population of 177,200 . There are 20 comunes in the province, see Comunes of the Province of Enna...

    , Palermo
    Province of Palermo
    The Province of Palermo is a province in the autonomous region of Sicily, a major island in Southern Italy. Its capital is the city of Palermo. The Province of Palermo has 82 comuni , 1,239,272 inhabitants, and is 4,992 km² .-External links:...

     and Agrigento
    Province of Agrigento
    Agrigento is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. It has an area of 3,042 km², and a total population of 454,370...

    )
  • Southeast Metafonetica (in the Province of Ragusa
    Province of Ragusa
    The Province of Ragusa is a province in the autonomous region of Sicily in Italy, located in the south-east of the island. Its capital is the city of Ragusa, which is the most southerly provincial capital in Italy.-Geography:...

     and the adjoining area within the Province of Syracuse
    Province of Syracuse
    The Province of Syracuse is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Syracuse.It has an area of 2,109 km², and a total population of 396,167 ....

    )
  • Ennese (in the province of Enna
    Province of Enna
    Enna is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Enna.It has an area of 2,562 km², and a total population of 177,200 . There are 20 comunes in the province, see Comunes of the Province of Enna...

    )
  • Eastern Nonmetafonetica (in the area including the province of Catania
    Province of Catania
    Catania is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Catania.It has an area of 3,552 km², and a total population of 1,073,881 . There are 58 comunes in the province, see Comunes of the Province of Catania...

    , the second largest city in Sicily, and the adjoining area within the Province of Syracuse
    Province of Syracuse
    The Province of Syracuse is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Syracuse.It has an area of 2,109 km², and a total population of 396,167 ....

    )
  • Messinese (in the province of Messina
    Province of Messina
    Messina is a province in the autonomous island region of Sicily in Italy. Its capital is the city of Messina.-Geography and demography :...

    )
  • Isole Eolie (in the Aeolian Islands
    Aeolian Islands
    The Aeolian Islands or Lipari Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. The locals residing on the islands are known as Eolians . The Aeolian Islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer, and attract up to...

    )
  • Pantesco (on the island of Pantelleria
    Pantelleria
    Pantelleria , the ancient Cossyra, is an Italian island in the Strait of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, southwest of Sicily and just east of the Tunisian coast. Administratively Pantelleria is a comune belonging to the Sicilian province of Trapani...

    )
  • Southern and Central Calabrian (Calabrese) (in the southern and central sections of Calabria
    Calabria
    Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

    , including the provinces of Reggio Calabria
    Province of Reggio Calabria
    The Province of Reggio Calabria is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Reggio., it has an area of 3,183 km², and a total population of 565,866. There are 97 comuni in the province, see Comuni of the Province of Reggio Calabria.- Economy :The region is...

    , Vibo Valentia
    Province of Vibo Valentia
    The Province of Vibo Valentia is a province in the Calabria region of Italy, set up by a national law of 6 March 1992 which came into effect on 1 January 1996, and formerly part of the Province of Catanzaro...

    , Catanzaro
    Province of Catanzaro
    The Province of Catanzaro is a province of the Calabria region, in Italy. The city of Catanzaro is capital both of the province and of the region.- Demographics :The following is a list of the province of Catanzaro comunes with population over 5,000:...

     and most of Crotone
    Province of Crotone
    The Province of Crotone is a province in the Calabria region of Italy. It was created in 1996 out of part of the Province of Catanzaro. The capital is the city of Crotone.It has an area of 1,717 km², and a total population of 172,970...

    )
  • Southern Apulian (Pugliese) (also called Salentino
    Salentino
    The Salentino dialect is the traditional vernacular of the southern Italian provinces of Lecce, Brindisi and part of that of Taranto, known more commonly as the Salento, the extreme southern part of the region of Puglia or the southern "heel" of the Italian peninsula.For socio-political reasons...

    , and reportedly a dialect of Sicilian on the peninsular section of Apulia
    Apulia
    Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

    )
  • Cilentano
    Cilentan language
    The Cilentan language is a dialect spoken in the area of Cilento, located in the southern part of the Province of Salerno, Campania, Italy.-Influences:...

     (In the Geographical region of Cilento
    Cilento
    Cilento is an Italian geographical region of Campania in the central and southern part of the Province of Salerno and an important tourist area of southern Italy.-Geography:...

     in Campania
    Campania
    Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

    )

Early influences

Because Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 is the largest island in the Mediterranean and virtually all Mediterranean peoples have passed through it (Phoenicians, Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, Byzantine Greeks
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, Arabs, French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

, Aragonese
Aragonese people
The Aragonese are an ethnic group or nation living in the historical region of Aragon, between the centre and the north-east of Spain. Their native Aragonese language, which might have been spoken in the whole of the Kingdom of Aragon in the Middle Ages, is nowadays a seriously endangered language,...

, Spanish
Spanish people
The Spanish are citizens of the Kingdom of Spain. Within Spain, there are also a number of vigorous nationalisms and regionalisms, reflecting the country's complex history....

, Italians), Sicilian displays the rich and varied influence of several languages on its lexical stock and grammar. Such languages include Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, Norman
Norman language
Norman is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon...

, Lombard, Provençal
Provençal language
Provençal is a dialect of Occitan spoken by a minority of people in southern France, mostly in Provence. In the English-speaking world, "Provençal" is often used to refer to all dialects of Occitan, but it actually refers specifically to the dialect spoken in Provence."Provençal" is also the...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 and of course Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, to say nothing of prehistoric influence from the island's pre-Indo-European inhabitants. The very earliest influences, visible in Sicilian to this day, exhibit both prehistoric Mediterranean elements and prehistoric Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 elements, and occasionally a blending of both (Giarizzo 1989 and Ruffino 2001).

Before the Roman conquest
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, Sicily was occupied by remnants of the indigenous populations
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 (the Sicani
Sicani
The Sicani or Sicanians were one of three ancient peoples of Sicily present at the time of Phoenician and Greek colonization.-History:The Sicani are thought to be the oldest inhabitants of Sicily with a recorded name...

, 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
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 (from the 8th century BC). The Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 influence 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).
Stratum Word Source
Modern giameddi Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 
gemelli
Medieval bizzuni, vuzzuni Norman
Norman language
Norman is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon...

 
besson
binelli Ligurian
Ligurian language (Romance)
Ligurian is a Gallo-Romance language spoken in Liguria in Northern Italy, parts of the Mediterranean coastal zone of France, Monaco and in the villages of Carloforte and Calasetta in Sardinia. Genoese , spoken in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is its most important dialect...

 
beneli
Ancient èmmuli Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

 
gemulus
cucchi Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

 
copula
minzuddi Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

 
medius
ièmiddi, ièddimi Greek  didymos


A similar qualifier can be applied to many of the words that appear in this article. Sometimes we may know that a particular word has a prehistoric derivation, but we do not know whether the Sicilians have inherited it directly from the indigenous populations, or whether it has come to them via another route. Similarly, we might know that a particular word has a Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 origin, but we do not know from which Greek period the Sicilians first used it (pre-Roman occupation or during its Byzantine period
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

), or once again, whether the particular word may even have come to Sicily via another route. For instance, by the time the Romans had occupied Sicily during the 3rd century BC, the Latin language had made its own borrowings from Greek (Ruffino).

Pre-classical period

The words with a prehistoric Mediterranean derivation often refer to plants native to the Mediterranean region or to other natural features. Bearing in mind the qualifiers mentioned above (alternative sources are provided where known), examples of such words include:
  • alastra (a thorny, prickly plant native to the Mediterranean region; but also Greek kelastron and may in fact have penetrated Sicilian via one of the Gallic
    Gaul
    Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

     idioms) (Ruffino)
  • ammarrari (to dam or block a canal or running water; but also Spanish embarrar - to muddy) (Giarrizzo)
  • calancuni (ripples caused by a fast running river)
  • calanna (landslide of rocks)
  • racioppu (stalk or stem, e.g. of a fruit, ancient Mediterranean word rak) (Giarrizzo)
  • timpa (crag, cliff; but also Greek tymba, Latin tumba and Catalan timba) (Ruffino).


There are also Sicilian words with an ancient Indo-European origin that do not appear to have come to the language via any of the major language groups normally associated with Sicilian, i.e. they have been independently derived from a very early Indo-European source. The Siculi are a possible source of such words, but there is also the possibility of a cross-over between ancient Mediterranean words and introduced Indo-European forms. Some examples of Sicilian words with an ancient Indo-European origin:
  • dudda (mulberry; similar to Welsh
    Welsh language
    Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

     rhudd meaning the colour "pink"; Romanian
    Romanian language
    Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

     dudă) (Giarrizzo)
  • scrozzu (not well developed; similar to Lithuanian
    Lithuanian language
    Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

     su-skurdes with a similar meaning and Old High German
    Old High German
    The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

     scurz, meaning short) (Giarrizzo)
  • sfunnacata (multitude, vast number; from Indo-European und / fund meaning water) (Giarrizzo).

Greek influences

The following Sicilian words are of a Greek origin (including some examples where it is unclear whether the word is derived directly from Greek, or via Latin):
  • appizzari - to rot, go bad (as in fruit), ruin (from (eks) èpeson), (Giarrizzo)
  • babbiari - to fool around (from babazo, which also gives the Sicilian words: babbazzu and babbu - stupid; but Latin babulus and Spanish babieca)
  • bucali - pitcher (from baukalion), (Giarrizzo)
  • bùmmulu - water receptacle (from bombylos; but Latin bombyla), (Ruffino)
  • cartedda - basket (from kartallos; but Latin cratellum), (Ruffino)
  • carusu - boy (from kouros; but Latin carus - dear, Sanskrit
    Sanskrit
    Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

     caruh - amiable)
  • casèntaru - earthworm (from gas enteron), (Giarrizzo)
  • cirasa - cherry (from kerasos; but Latin cerasum), (Giarrizzo)
  • cona - icon, image, metaphor (from eikon; but Latin icona), (Ruffino)
  • cuddura - type of bread (from kollyra; but Latin collyra), (Ruffino)
  • grasta - flower pot (from gastra; but Latin gastra), (Ruffino)
  • naca - cradle (from nake), (Giarrizzo)
  • ntamari - to stun, amaze (from thambeo; but Calabrian (Calabrese) tammaru - stupid, comes from Arabic tammar date vendor), (Giarrizzo)
  • pistiari - to eat (from apestiein), (Giarrizzo)
  • tuppiàri - to knock (from typto), (Giarrizzo).


Vulgar Latin was spoken by the Roman occupation troops who garrisoned Sicily after Rome annexed the island (after the end of the First Punic War
First Punic War
The First Punic War was the first of three wars fought between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. For 23 years, the two powers struggled for supremacy in the western Mediterranean Sea, primarily on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and its surrounding waters but also to a lesser extent in...

, ca. 261 BC). A historical feature shared by Sicily, the far south of Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

, and the province of Lecce
Province of Lecce
The Province of Lecce is a province in the Apulia region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Lecce. Totally included in the Salento peninsula, it is the second most populous province in Apulia and the twenty-first most populous in Italy....

, is that during the Roman period, these areas were never completely Latinised. Greek remained the main language for the majority of the population. This helps explain the linguistic differences in these areas and those immediately to the north which were, more or less, Latinised (Hull). It is also why Sicilian is often referred to as a neo-Latin language – it did not descend directly from Latin (although some linguists disagree with that view, see below).

From 476 to 535 AD, the Ostrogothic kingdom ruled Sicily, although their presence did not impact the Sicilian language (Ruffino). The few Germanic
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 influences to be found in Sicilian do not appear to originate from this period. One exception might be abbanniari or vanniari (to hawk goods, proclaim publicly) from Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 bandujan - to give a signal. Also possible is schimmenti (diagonal) from Gothic slimbs (slanting). Other sources of Germanic influences include the Hohenstaufen rule of the 13th century, words of Nordic and Germanic origin contained within the speech of 11th century Norman
Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 and Lombard
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 settlers, and the short period of Austrian
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

 rule in the 18th century.

Arab period

In 535 AD, Emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

 made Sicily a Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 province, and for the second time in Sicilian history, the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 became a familiar sound across the island (Hull, 1989). As the power of the Byzantine Empire waned, Sicily was progressively conquered
Emirate of Sicily
The Emirate of Sicily was an Islamic state on the island of Sicily , which existed from 965 to 1072.-First Arab invasions of Sicily:...

 by Saracen
Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

s from North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, from the mid 9th to mid 10th centuries. The Arabic language
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 influence is noticeable in around 300 Sicilian words, most of which relate to agriculture and related activities (Hull and Ruffino). This is understandable since the Saracens introduced to Sicily the most then-modern irrigation and farming techniques and a new range of crops
Muslim Agricultural Revolution
The Arab Agricultural Revolution is a term coined by the historian Andrew Watson in his influential 1974 paper postulating a fundamental transformation in agriculture from the 8th century to the 13th century in the Muslim...

 – nearly all of which remain endemic to the island to this day.

Some words of Arabic origin
Influence of Arabic on other languages
Arabic has had a great influence on other languages, especially in vocabulary. The influence of Arabic has been most profound in those countries dominated by Islam or Islamic power...

:
  • azzizzari - to embellish (from aziz; precious, beautiful), (Giarrizzo)
  • babbaluciu - snail (from babus; but Greek boubalàkion), (Giarrizzo)
  • burnia - jar (from burniya; but Latin hirnea), (Giarrizzo)
  • cafisu - measure for liquids (from qafiz), (Giarrizzo)
  • cassata
    Cassata
    Cassata or Cassata siciliana is a traditional sweet from the area of Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Cassata may also refer to a Neapolitan ice cream containing candied or dried fruit and nuts....

    - sicilian ricotta
    Ricotta
    Ricotta is an Italian dairy product made from sheep milk whey left over from the production of cheese. Although typically referred to as ricotta cheese, ricotta is not properly a cheese because it is not produced by coagulation of casein...

     cake (from qashatah; but Latin caseata - something made from cheese), (Giarrizzo)
  • gèbbia - artificial pond to store water for irrigation (from gabiya), (Giarrizzo)
  • giuggiulena - sesame seed (from giulgiulan), (Giarrizzo)
  • mafia
    Mafia
    The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...

    - swagger or boldness/bravado (from mahyas "aggressive boasting, bragging", or from marfud "rejected")
  • ràisi - leader (from rais), (Giarrizzo)
  • saia - canal (from saqiya), (Giarrizzo)
  • zaffarana - saffron, type of plant whose flowers are used for medicinal purposes and in Sicilian cooking (from safara)
  • zagara - blossom (from zahar)
  • zibbibbu - type of grape (from zabib), (Giarrizzo)
  • zuccu - tree trunk (from suq; but Aragonese
    Aragonese language
    Aragonese is a Romance language now spoken in a number of local varieties by between 10,000 and 30,000 people over the valleys of the Aragón River, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza in Aragon, Spain...

     soccu and Spanish zoque), (Giarrizzo).


Throughout the Arab epoch of Sicilian history, a large Greek-speaking population remained on the island and continued to use the Greek language, or most certainly a variant of Greek heavily influenced by Arabic (Hull). What is less clear is the extent to which a Latin-speaking population survived on the island. While a form of Vulgar Latin clearly survived in isolated communities during the Arab epoch, there is much debate as to the influence it had (if any) on the development of the Sicilian language, following the re-Latinisation of Sicily (discussed in the next section). There are few Sicilian words reflecting an archaic Latin form (as may be found, for example, in Sardinian
Sardinian language
Sardinian is a Romance language spoken and written on most of the island of Sardinia . It is considered the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and is noted for its Paleosardinian substratum....

), so the influence may have been minor (Hull). However, some forms do exist, so the tantalising prospect of a Sicilian form of a Vulgar Latin surviving the Arab period and influencing the modern development of Sicilian remains open (as already mentioned, Privitera puts forward the radical proposition that medieval Sicilian descends directly from a form of Vulgar Latin that survived throughout the Byzantine and Arab periods).

These are some words of Latin origin that may have survived the Arab epoch:
  • antura - a while ago (from ante oram - an hour ago), (Giarrizzo)
  • asciari - to find (from afflare, cf. Spanish
    Spanish language
    Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

     "hallar", to find), (Giarrizzo)
  • bìfara - to fruit twice yearly, Large-green fig (from bifera), (Giarrizzo)
  • filìnia - cobweb (from filum, line, strand), (Giarrizzo)
  • oggiallanu or ovannu - last year (from hodie est annus).

Linguistic development from the middle ages

By 1000 AD the whole of what is today southern Italy, including Sicily, was a complex mix of small states
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 and principalities
Principality
A principality is a monarchical feudatory or sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess, or by a monarch with another title within the generic use of the term prince....

, languages and religions (Hull). The whole of Sicily was controlled by Muslim Saracens at the elite level, although the general population remained a Greek speaking and predominantly Orthodox Christian population to which was added new Muslim immigrant communities from North Africa. The far south of the Italian peninsula was part of the Byzantine empire and predominantly Greek speaking, although many communities were reasonably independent of Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. The principality of Salerno was controlled by Lombards (or Langobards) who had also started to make some incursions into Byzantine territory and had managed to establish some isolated independent city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s (Norwich 1992). It was into this mix that the Normans thrust themselves in ever increasing numbers during the first half of the 11th century.

Norman French influence

When the two most famous of southern Italy's Norman adventurers, Roger of Hauteville
Roger I of Sicily
Roger I , called Bosso and the Great Count, was the Norman Count of Sicily from 1071 to 1101. He was the last great leader of the Norman conquest of southern Italy.-Conquest of Calabria and Sicily:...

 and his brother, Robert Guiscard
Robert Guiscard
Robert d'Hauteville, known as Guiscard, Duke of Apulia and Calabria, from Latin Viscardus and Old French Viscart, often rendered the Resourceful, the Cunning, the Wily, the Fox, or the Weasel was a Norman adventurer conspicuous in the conquest of southern Italy and Sicily...

, began their conquest of Sicily in 1061, they already controlled the far south of Italy (Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

 and Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

). It took Roger 30 years to complete the conquest of Sicily (Robert died in 1085), (Norwich). In the process, the re-vitalization of Latin in Sicily had begun, along with the marginalization of Islam (the Christian faith continued among the general population during the Saracen period and it was only the ruling Muslim elite who were adherents of Islam, not the Sicilians themselves). A long list of Norman
Norman language
Norman is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon...

 words were to become absorbed by the new language during this period, for example:
  • accattari - to buy (from Norman
    Norman language
    Norman is a Romance language and one of the Oïl languages. Norman can be classified as one of the northern Oïl languages along with Picard and Walloon...

     acater, Modern French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

     acheter), (Ruffino)
  • ammuntuari/ammuntuvari – to mention, nominate (from Norman mentevoir), (Giarrizzo)
  • appujari - to support (from modern French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

     "appuyer") (Pietrocola)
  • bucceri (vucceri) - butcher (from bouchier), (Hull)
  • custureri - tailor (from coustrier; Modern French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

     couturier), (Hull)
  • firranti - grey (from ferrant), (Giarrizzo)
  • foddi - mad (from fol; Modern French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

     fou / fol / folle), (Hull)
  • giugnettu - July (from juignet; Modern French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

     juillet), (Hull)
  • ladiu or laiu - ugly (from laid), (Hull)
  • largasìa - generosity (from largesse), (Giarrizzo)
  • puseri - thumb (from poucier), (Hull)
  • racina - grape (from raisin), (Hull)
  • raggia – anger (from rage), (Giarrizzo)
  • sbernu/a - alder tree (from verna or vernon), Gallic-Norman, may be from Osbern or Asbern.
  • travagghiari - to work (from French "travailler") (Pietrocola)
  • testa - head (from teste), (Hull)
  • trippari - to hop, skip (from Norman triper), (Giarrizzo).


The following factors that emerged during or immediately after the conquest were to prove critical in the formation of the Sicilian language:
  • The Normans brought with them not only their own Norman-speaking kin (more than likely in quite small numbers), but mercenaries from mainland Italy. In particular, these included Lombards (with their Gallo-Italic idiom, Lombardic
    Lombardic language
    Lombardic or Langobardic is the extinct language of the Lombards , the Germanic speaking people who settled in Italy in the 6th century. The language declined rapidly already in the 7th century as the invaders quickly adopted the Latin vernacular spoken by the local Roman population. E.g...

    , ancestral to the modern Lombard language) and other Italians from around Campania
    Campania
    Campania is a region in southern Italy. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region of Italy; its total area of 13,590 km² makes it the most densely populated region in the country...

    . The latter would bring with them the Vulgar Latin
    Vulgar Latin
    Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

     from that region, an idiom not too different from that to be found in central Italy
    Italy
    Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

     at the time (Hull).
  • The thirty-year-long war of conquest and the eradication of Islam resulted in the depopulation of Saracens in most parts of Sicily, most of whom escaped back to North Africa (Hull, 1989 and Norwich; Abulafia, The end of Muslim Sicily cit.; A. Nef, Géographie religieuse et continuité temporelle dans la Sicile normande (XIe-XIIe siècles): le cas des évêchés, in P. Henriet (ed.), À la recherche de légitimités chrétiennes - Représentations de l’espace et du temps dans l’Espagne médiévale (IXe-XIIIe siècles) (Madrid 2001), Lyon 2003).
  • Further migrations to settle the depopulated areas were encouraged from the mainland by Roger, in particular, Italian settlers from areas controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. The western parts of Sicily were colonised by migrants from Campania, and the central-eastern parts by settlers from the western Padan Plain ( Po River
    Po River
    The Po |Ligurian]]: Bodincus or Bodencus) is a river that flows either or – considering the length of the Maira, a right bank tributary – eastward across northern Italy, from a spring seeping from a stony hillside at Pian del Re, a flat place at the head of the Val Po under the northwest face...

     Valley) in northern Italy who also brought with them a Gallo-Italic idiom. After the death of Roger I, and under the regency of Adelaide del Vasto
    Adelaide del Vasto
    Adelaide del Vasto was the third wife of Roger I of Sicily and mother of Roger II of Sicily, as well as Queen consort of Jerusalem due to her later marriage to Baldwin I of Jerusalem, as his third wife.-Family:She was the daughter of Manfred del Vasto Adelaide del Vasto (Adelasia, Azalaïs) (c....

     during the minority of her son, Roger II
    Roger II of Sicily
    Roger II was King of Sicily, son of Roger I of Sicily and successor to his brother Simon. He began his rule as Count of Sicily in 1105, later became Duke of Apulia and Calabria , then King of Sicily...

     (herself from northern Italy), this process of Lombardic colonisation was intensified (Hull and Norwich).


We can see above the main factors that go into framing the Sicilian language as we know it today. The Vulgar Latin base (predominantly from Campania) was similar to the Vulgar Latin in central Italy (and therefore, by implication, reasonably similar to the Vulgar Latin in Tuscany that would eventually form the base for the national language). This base from Campania was influenced by the many Gallic influences present in Sicily at the time, namely Norman, French and Langobardic. Underneath that were remnants of the Arabic and Greek idioms that the new language eventually replaced, but hundreds of words remained in the vocabulary of the changing Romance language.

Other Gallic influences

The Lombard influence is of particular interest. Even to the present day, a Gallo-siculo
Gallo-siculo
The Gallo-Italic of Sicily is a group of Gallo-Italic dialects, linguistic set of Romance languages, found in central-eastern Sicily that date back to migrations from Northern Italy during the time of Norman Roger I of Sicily and which continued after his death under his successor Roger II .The...

 dialect exists in the areas where the Lombard colonies were the strongest, namely Novara
Novara di Sicilia
Novara di Sicilia is a comune in the Province of Messina in the Italian region Sicily, located about 160 km east of Palermo and about 40 km southwest of Messina...

, Nicosia, Sperlinga
Sperlinga
Sperlinga is a comune in the province of Enna, in region of Sicily in southern Italy....

, Aidone
Aidone
Aidone is a town and comune in the province of Enna, in region of Sicily in southern Italy.-Main sights:* Church of Santa Maria la Cava* Mother Church of San Lorenzo...

 and Piazza Armerina
Piazza Armerina
Piazza Armerina is an Italian comune in the province of Enna of the autonomous island region of Sicily.-History:...

 (Hull). The Siculo-Gallic dialect did not survive in other major Lombard colonies, such as Randazzo
Randazzo
Randazzo is a town and comune of Sicily, Italy, in the province of Catania. It is situated at the northern foot of Mount Etna, 70 km NW of Catania by rail. It is the nearest town to the summit of Etna, and is one of the points from which the ascent may be made.-History:In the 13th century the...

, Bronte and Paternò
Paternò
Paternò is a town and comune in the Province of Catania, Sicily, southern Italy.-History:The site of Paternò was settled before 3500 BCE. Its inhabitants were probably the Sicani, although it was located in mainly Sicel territory; its initial name was Inessa. The modern name derives form the Greek...

 (although they did influence the local Sicilian vernacular). The Gallo-Italic influence was also felt on the Sicilian language itself, as follows (Hull):
  • sòggiru - father-in-law (from suoxer)
  • cugnatu - brother-in-law (from cognau)
  • figghiozzu - godson (from figlioz)
  • orbu and orvu - blind (from orb)
  • arricintari - to rinse (from rexentar)
  • unni - where (from ond)
  • the names of the days of the week:
    • luni - Monday (from lunes)
    • marti - Tuesday (from martes)
    • mèrcuri - Wednesday (from mèrcor)
    • jovi - Thursday (from juovia)
    • vènniri - Friday (from vènner)


The origins of another Gallic influence, that of Old Provençal, had three possible sources.
  1. As mentioned above, the number of actual Normans in Sicily are unlikely to have ever numbered much higher than 5,000 at any time. Their numbers were boosted by mercenaries from southern Italy, but it is also possible that mercenaries came from as far away as southern France. The Normans made San Fratello
    San Fratello
    San Fratello , formerly San Filadelfio, is a comune in the Province of Messina in the Italian region Sicily, located about 110 km east of Palermo and about 90 km west of Messina...

     a garrison town in the early years of the occupation of the north-eastern corner of Sicily. To this day (in ever decreasing numbers) a Siculo-Gallic dialect is spoken in San Fratello that is clearly influenced by Old Provençal, leading one to the conclusion that a significant number in the garrison came from that part of France (Privitera 2001). This may well explain the dialect spoken only in San Fratello, but it does not wholly explain the diffusion of many Provençal
    Provençal language
    Provençal is a dialect of Occitan spoken by a minority of people in southern France, mostly in Provence. In the English-speaking world, "Provençal" is often used to refer to all dialects of Occitan, but it actually refers specifically to the dialect spoken in Provence."Provençal" is also the...

     words into the Sicilian language. On that point we are confronted with a further two possibilities.
  2. Some Provençal words may have entered the language during the regency of Margaret of Navarre between 1166 and 1171 when her son, William II of Sicily
    William II of Sicily
    William II , called the Good, was king of Sicily from 1166 to 1189. William's character is very indistinct. Lacking in military enterprise, secluded and pleasure-loving, he seldom emerged from his palace life at Palermo. Yet his reign is marked by an ambitious foreign policy and a vigorous diplomacy...

    , succeeded to the throne at the age of 12. The Queen's closest advisers, entourage and administrators were from the south of France (Norwich), and many Provençal words entered the language during this period.
  3. The Sicilian School
    Sicilian School
    The Sicilian School was a small community of Sicilian, and to a lesser extent, mainland Italian poets gathered around Frederick II, most of them belonging to his court, the Magna Curia. Headed by Giacomo da Lentini, they produced more than three-hundred poems of courtly love between 1230 and 1266,...

     of poetry (discussed below) was strongly influenced by the Provençal of the troubadour
    Troubadour
    A troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages . Since the word "troubadour" is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz....

     tradition (Cipolla 2004 p. 141). This element is deeply embedded in Sicilian culture, for example, the tradition of Sicilian puppetry (opira dî puppi) and the tradition of the cantastorii (literally sing stories). There is no doubt that Provençal troubadours were active during the reign of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
    Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
    Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

    , and that some Provençal words would have passed into the Sicilian language via this route.


Some examples of Sicilian words derived from Provençal:
  • addumari - to light (from allumar); but also "to turn sthg. on"
  • aggrifari - to kidnap, abduct (from grifar), (Giarrizzo)
  • banna – side, place (from banda), (Giarrizzo)
  • burgisi - landowners, citizens (from borges)
  • lascu - sparse, thin, infrequent (from lasc), (Giarrizzo)
  • lavanca and allavanca - precipice (from lavanca), (Giarrizzo)
  • paraggiu - equal (from paratge), (Giarrizzo)

Sicilian School of Poetry

It was during the reign of Frederick II
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 (or Frederick I of Sicily) between 1198 and 1250, with his patronage of the Sicilian School
Sicilian School
The Sicilian School was a small community of Sicilian, and to a lesser extent, mainland Italian poets gathered around Frederick II, most of them belonging to his court, the Magna Curia. Headed by Giacomo da Lentini, they produced more than three-hundred poems of courtly love between 1230 and 1266,...

 of poetry, that Sicilian became the first of the Italic idioms to be used as a literary language
Literary language
A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

 (Cipolla 2004 p. 141). The influence of the school, and the use of Sicilian itself as a poetic language, was acknowledged by the two great Tuscan writers of the early Renaissance period Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 and Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

. The influence of the Sicilian language should not be underestimated in the eventual formulation of a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 that was to become modern Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

. The victory of the Angevin
Capetian House of Anjou
The Capetian House of Anjou, also known as the House of Anjou-Sicily and House of Anjou-Naples, was a royal house and cadet branch of the direct House of Capet. Founded by Charles I of Sicily, a son of Louis VIII of France, the Capetian king first ruled the Kingdom of Sicily during the 13th century...

 army over the Sicilians at Benevento
Benevento
Benevento is a town and comune of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Benevento, 50 km northeast of Naples. It is situated on a hill 130 m above sea-level at the confluence of the Calore Irpino and Sabato...

 in 1266 not only marked the end of the 136-year Norman-Swabian reign in Sicily, it effectively ensured that the centre of literary influence would eventually move from Sicily to Tuscany (Cipolla 2004 p. 141). While Sicilian, as both an official and literary language would continue to exist for another two centuries, the language would soon follow the fortunes of the kingdom itself in terms of prestige and influence.

As a side note, there are some Germanic influences in the Sicilian language, and many of these date back to the time of the Swabian kings (amongst whom Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick II , was one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen. His political and cultural ambitions, based in Sicily and stretching through Italy to Germany, and even to Jerusalem, were enormous...

 enjoyed the longest reign). Words that probably originate from this era include:
  • arbitriari - to work in the fields (from arbeit), (Giarrizzo)
  • vardari - to watch over (from wartên), (Giarrizzo)
  • guastari or vastari - to waste, use up (from wastjan)
  • guddefi - forest, woods (from wald, note resemblance to Anglo-Saxon
    Old English language
    Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

     
    wudu), (Giarrizzo)
  • guzzuniari - to wag, as in a tail (from hutsen), (Giarrizzo)
  • lancedda - terracotta jug for holding water (from Old High German lagella), (Giarrizzo)
  • salaguni - willow (from Old High German salaha)
  • sparagnari - to save money (from Old High German sparen), (Giarrizzo).

Catalan influence

Following the Sicilian Vespers
Sicilian Vespers
The Sicilian Vespers is the name given to the successful rebellion on the island of Sicily that broke out on the Easter of 1282 against the rule of the French/Angevin king Charles I, who had ruled the Kingdom of Sicily since 1266. Within six weeks three thousand French men and women were slain by...

 of 1282, the kingdom was to come under the influence of the Kingdom of Aragon
Kingdom of Aragon
The Kingdom of Aragon was a medieval and early modern kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula, corresponding to the modern-day autonomous community of Aragon, in Spain...

 (Runciman 1958), and as a result, the Catalan language
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

 (and the closely related Aragonese
Aragonese language
Aragonese is a Romance language now spoken in a number of local varieties by between 10,000 and 30,000 people over the valleys of the Aragón River, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza in Aragon, Spain...

) would add a new layer of vocabulary in the succeeding century. For the whole of the 14th century, both Catalan and Sicilian were the official languages of the royal court (Hughes 1993). Sicilian was also used to record the proceedings of the parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 of Sicily (one of the oldest parliaments in Europe) and for other official purposes (Cipolla 2004, p. 155). While it is often difficult to determine whether a word has come to us directly from Catalan (as opposed to Provençal or Spanish), the following are likely to be such examples:
  • accabbari - to finish, end (from acabar)
  • addunarisi - to notice, realise (from adonar-se), (Giarrizzo)
  • affruntarisi - to be embarrassed (from afrontar-se), (Giarrizzo)
  • ammucciari - to hide (from amagar)
  • arruciari – to moisten, soak (from arruixar), (Giarrizzo)
  • criscimogna - growth, development (from creiximoni), (Giarrizzo)
  • muccaturi - handkerchief (from mocador)
  • nzirtari - to guess (from encertar)
  • priàrisi - to be pleased (from prear-se), (Giarrizzo)
  • taliàri - to look at somebody/something. (from talaiar; but Arab tali'a).

Spanish period to the modern age

By the time the Aragonese crown was joined with the Spanish realm
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 in the late 15th century, the Italianisation of written Sicilian in the parliamentary and court records had commenced. By 1543 this process was virtually complete, with the Tuscan dialect
Tuscan dialect
The Tuscan language , or the Tuscan dialect is an Italo-Dalmatian language spoken in Tuscany, Italy.Standard Italian is based on Tuscan, specifically on its Florentine variety...

 of Italian becoming the
lingua franca of the Italian peninsula and supplanting written Sicilian (Cipolla 2004 p. 155).

Spanish rule had hastened this process in two important ways:
  • Unlike the Aragonese, almost immediately the Spanish placed viceroy
    Viceroy
    A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...

    s on the Sicilian throne. In a sense, the diminishing prestige of the Sicilian kingdom reflected the decline of Sicilian from an official, written language to eventually a spoken language amongst predominantly illiterates.
  • The expulsion of all Jews
    Jews
    The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

     from Spanish dominions ca. 1492 altered the population of Sicily. Not only did the population decline, many of whom were involved in important industries, but some of these Jewish families had been in Sicily for around 1,500 years, and Sicilian was their mother tongue which they used in their schools. Thus the seeds of a possible broad-based education system utilising books written in Sicilian was lost.


Spanish rule lasted over three centuries (not counting the Aragonese and Bourbon
House of Bourbon
The House of Bourbon is a European royal house, a branch of the Capetian dynasty . Bourbon kings first ruled Navarre and France in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Bourbon dynasty also held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma...

 periods on either side) and had a significant influence on the Sicilian vocabulary. The following words are of Spanish derivation:
  • arricugghirisi - to return home; (from arrecogerse; but Catalan recollir-se)
  • balanza – scales (from balanza), (Giarrizzo)
  • fileccia - arrow (from flecha), (Giarrizzo)
  • làstima – lament, annoyance (from lástima), (Giarrizzo)
  • pignata – pan (from pinada)
  • pinzèddu – brush (from pincel), (Giarrizzo)
  • ricivu – receipt (from recibo), (Giarrizzo)
  • spagnari - to be frightened ( cross over of Sic. appagnari with Sp. espantarse), (Giarrizzo)
  • spatari - to impede or disarm someone of his sword (from espadar), (Giarrizzo)
  • sulità or sulitati – solitude (from soledad), (Giarrizzo).

Since the Italian Unification
Italian unification
Italian unification was the political and social movement that agglomerated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of Italy in the 19th century...

 (the
Risorgimento of 1860–1861), the Sicilian language has been significantly influenced by (Tuscan) Italian. This process has quickened since World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 due to improving educational standards and the impact of mass media, such that increasingly, even within the family home, Sicilian is not necessarily the language of choice. The Sicilian Regional Parliament recently voted to make the teaching of Sicilian a part of the school curriculum at primary school level, but as of 2007 only a fraction of schools teach Sicilian. There is also little in the way of mass media offered in Sicilian. The combination of these factors means that the Sicilian language continues to adopt Italian vocabulary and grammatical forms to such an extent that many Sicilians themselves cannot distinguish between correct and incorrect Sicilian language usage.

Unique sounds

Sicilian has a number of consonant sounds which, though not unique to Sicilian, certainly set it apart from the other major Romance languages. The most unusual sounds include, but are not limited to, the retroflex consonant
Retroflex consonant
A retroflex consonant is a coronal consonant where the tongue has a flat, concave, or even curled shape, and is articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. They are sometimes referred to as cerebral consonants, especially in Indology...

s or cacuminals (Cipolla 2005).
  • DD — The -ll- sound (in words of Latin origin, for example) manifests itself in Sicilian as a voiced retroflex plosive
    Voiced retroflex plosive
    The voiced retroflex plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is d`. The IPA symbol is a lowercase letter d with a rightward-pointing tail protruding...

     with the tip of the tongue curled up and back, a sound which is not part of standard (Tuscan) Italian. In standard literary Sicilian, this sound is written simply as
    -dd- (but can also be found written ḍḍ, ddh or ddr). The sound itself is not [d] but rather ɖ. For example, the Italian word bello ˈbɛllo is beddu ˈbɛɖɖu in Sicilian. For comparison, this sound also appears in Sardinian
    Sardinian language
    Sardinian is a Romance language spoken and written on most of the island of Sardinia . It is considered the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and is noted for its Paleosardinian substratum....

    , as well as many Indian languages such as Bengali
    Bengali language
    Bengali or Bangla is an eastern Indo-Aryan language. It is native to the region of eastern South Asia known as Bengal, which comprises present day Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal, and parts of the Indian states of Tripura and Assam. It is written with the Bengali script...

     and Hindi
    Hindi
    Standard Hindi, or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi, also known as Manak Hindi , High Hindi, Nagari Hindi, and Literary Hindi, is a standardized and sanskritized register of the Hindustani language derived from the Khariboli dialect of Delhi...

     as well as in Norwegian
    Norwegian language
    Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken primarily in Norway, where it is the official language. Together with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional variants .These Scandinavian languages together with the Faroese language...

     and Swedish
    Swedish language
    Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken by approximately 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish...

    , as in westernmost dialects of another romance language, Asturian
    Asturian language
    Asturian is a Romance language of the West Iberian group, Astur-Leonese Subgroup, spoken in the Spanish Region of Asturias by the Asturian people...

     also in words with latin -ll-.
  • DR, TR — Similarly, Sicilian has a unique pronunciation of the digraphs
    Digraph (orthography)
    A digraph or digram is a pair of characters used to write one phoneme or a sequence of phonemes that does not correspond to the normal values of the two characters combined...

     
    -tr- and -dr- not common to Italian. The sound of -tr- is exactly like that heard in English tree and the sound of -dr- exactly like the digraph heard in English dragon.
  • RR — The Sicilian consonant cluster
    Consonant cluster
    In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

     
    -rr- also differs from Italian in that it is a Voiced retroflex sibilant ([ʐ] according to IPA
    International Phonetic Alphabet
    The International Phonetic Alphabet "The acronym 'IPA' strictly refers [...] to the 'International Phonetic Association'. But it is now such a common practice to use the acronym also to refer to the alphabet itself that resistance seems pedantic...

     notation). At the beginning of a word, the single letter
    -r- is similarly always pronounced double, though this is not indicated orthographically. Therefore, the -rr- sound heard in the words riccu and terra is similar to the 'zh' sound in English vision or the 'j' sound in French jour. This phenomenon, however, does not include words that include an 'r' resulting from rhotacism
    Rhotacism
    Rhotacism refers to several phenomena related to the usage of the consonant r :*the excessive or idiosyncratic use of the r;...

     (
    renti from denti) or assimilation
    Assimilation (linguistics)
    Assimilation is a common phonological process by which the sound of the ending of one word blends into the sound of the beginning of the following word. This occurs when the parts of the mouth and vocal cords start to form the beginning sounds of the next word before the last sound has been...

     (
    ranni from granni).
  • STR — The trigraph
    Trigraph
    A trigraph is a group of three symbols, most commonly letters.Trigraph can mean:-Computing:* Digraphs and trigraphs, groups of characters used to symbolise one character...

     
    -str- in Sicilian is quite different from the Italian form of the trigraph. The t is not pronounced at all and there is a faint whistle between the s and the r, the latter not being trilled
    Trill consonant
    In phonetics, a trill is a consonantal sound produced by vibrations between the articulator and the place of articulation. Standard Spanish <rr> as in perro is an alveolar trill, while in Parisian French it is almost always uvular....

     as would be the case in Italian (Cipolla 2005). An example of this trigraph is the
    shr sound heard in English shred.

  • Latin FL — The other unique Sicilian sound is found in those words that have been derived from Latin words containing -fl-. This has generally become fi in Italian, for example, fiume from Latin flumen (river). In standard literary Sicilian, the sound is rendered as ci (representing the voiceless palatal fricative
    Voiceless palatal fricative
    The voiceless palatal fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is . The symbol ç is the letter c with a cedilla, as used to spell French words such as façade...

     [ç]), e.g.
    ciumi or /çjumi/, (but can also be found in written form as hi, sci, x or çi). The sound approximates to an allophone
    Allophone
    In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

     of English language
    English language
    English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

     /h/ before /ju/ as in words like
    huge, but slightly more fricative (Cipolla 2005).
  • Sicilian Vowel System — One obvious difference from Italian is what linguists describe as the Sicilian Vowel System
    Sicilian Vowel System
    The Sicilian vowel system is characteristic of the dialects of Sicily, Southern Calabria, and Salento. It may alternatively be referred to as the Sicilian vocalic scheme or the Calabro-Sicilian vowel system....

    . Unlike the seven vowels shared by Italian, Vulgar Latin
    Vulgar Latin
    Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

    , and many other Romance languages, the Sicilian Vowel System only includes five:
    a a, è ɛ, i i, ò ɔ, u u. This results in the unstressed vowel o of Latin becoming an unstressed u in Sicilian (Hull). This causes the vowel u to have a far greater presence than the vowel o in Sicilian, while the opposite is true of other Romance languages such as Spanish and Italian (notwithstanding the conservative nature of Sicilian which retains the vowel u of the Latin stems -us and -um). Likewise, the unstressed vowel e of Latin becomes unstressed vowel i in Sicilian. As a result, the vowel i has a much greater presence than vowel e in Sicilian. In addition, one will never find a Sicilian word ending in the unaccented vowels e or o, with the exception of monosyllabic conjunctions. Due to the influence of Italian in the media post-World War II, as well as the recent influx of English terminology related to technology and globalization, there is an increasing number of words entering the Sicilian lexicon that do not adhere to the Sicilian Vowel System. However, the future of these borrowings is uncertain as Sicilian has always Sicilianized foreign loanwords over time in the past.
  • Consonantal Palatalization — A further range of consonantal sound shifts occurred between the Vulgar Latin introduced to the island following Norman rule and the subsequent development of the Sicilian language. These sound shifts include: Latin -nd- to Sicilian -nn-; Latin -mb- to Sicilian -mm-; Latin -pl- to Sicilian -chi-; and Latin -li- to Sicilian -gghi- Pitrè 1875.

Gemination and contractions

Rarely indicated in writing, spoken Sicilian exhibits syntactic doubling
Syntactic doubling
Syntactic gemination, or syntactic doubling, is an external sandhi phenomenon in Italian and some other Western Romance languages. It consists in the lengthening of the initial consonant after words of certain categories....

 or
raddoppiamento (Cipolla 2005), which means that the first consonant of a word is lengthened when it is preceded by a vowel in the preceding word, e.g. è bonu [ebˈboːnu]. This process of lengthening is also called gemination
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

, which is a general term used for the lengthening of any sound.

The letter
j at the start of a word can have three separate sounds, depending on what precedes the word (Cipolla 2005). For instance, in jornu (day), the j is pronounced [j] as in English y, [ˈjornu]. However, after a nasal consonant
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

, it is pronounced [dʒ] as in
un jornu, [unˈdʒoɾnu] (which English speakers might spell as "unjornu", with the j sound in "jelly"). Tri jorna (three days) is pronounced [triˈgjoɾna], the j becoming [ɡj] (like English gu in "ague"), after a vowel.

Another difference between the written and spoken languages is the extent to which contractions
Contraction (grammar)
A contraction is a shortened version of the written and spoken forms of a word, syllable, or word group, created by omission of internal letters....

 will occur in everyday speech. Thus a common expression such as
avemu a accattari... (we have to go and buy...) will generally be reduced to amâ 'ccattari when talking to family and friends (Bonner).

The circumflex
Circumflex
The circumflex is a diacritic used in the written forms of many languages, and is also commonly used in various romanization and transcription schemes. It received its English name from Latin circumflexus —a translation of the Greek περισπωμένη...

 is commonly used in denoting a wide range of contractions in the written language, in particular, the joining of simple prepositions and the definite article. Examples:
di lu = (of the), a lu = ô (to the), pi lu = (for the), nta lu = ntô (in the), etc. (Bonner).

Gender and the formation of plurals

Generally speaking, Sicilian has the same ending for feminine nouns (and their adjectives) as does Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

, that being the [a], for example:
casa (house), porta (door), carta (paper), but there are exceptions to this rule, for example, soru (sister), ficu (fig). Whereas Italian uses [o] as the ending for masculine nouns, Sicilian generally uses [u], for example: omu (man), libbru (book), nomu (name). The ending i can be either masculine or feminine, as in Italian the ending e can be of either gender.

Unlike Italian, Sicilian uses one letter,
i, to denote the plural for both masculine and feminine nouns, for example: casi (houses), porti (doors), tàuli (tables). There are also many exceptions to this rule which are not always shared by Italian, for example: òmini (men), libbra (books), jorna (days), jòcura (games), manu (hand/hands), vrazza (arms), jardìna (gardens), scrittura (writers), signa (signs), etc. (Bonner).

Omission of initial Latin "i"

In the vast majority of instances where the originating Latin word has had an initial "i", the Sicilian has dropped it completely. This can also happen occasionally where there was once an initial "e", and to a lesser extent "a" and "o". Examples:
mpurtanti (important), gnuranti (ignorant), nimicu (enemy), ntirissanti (interesting), llustrari (to illustrate), mmàggini (image), cona (icon), miricanu (American), etc. (Camilleri 1998).

Verb "to have"

Unlike Italian, Sicilian only has one auxiliary verb
Auxiliary verb
In linguistics, an auxiliary verb is a verb that gives further semantic or syntactic information about a main or full verb. In English, the extra meaning provided by an auxiliary verb alters the basic meaning of the main verb to make it have one or more of the following functions: passive voice,...

,
aviri, to have. This is a characteristic that it shares with Catalan
Catalan language
Catalan is a Romance language, the national and only official language of Andorra and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencian , as well as in the city of Alghero, on the Italian island...

 and Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

.
Sicilian also uses the verb "to have" to denote obligation (as is used in languages like Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

, English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, Neapolitan
Neapolitan language
Neapolitan is the language of the city and region of Naples , and Campania. On October 14, 2008 a law by the Region of Campania stated that the Neapolitan language had to be protected....

 and in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

. For example:
avi a jiri
The verb "aviri" is also used to form the future tense in Sicilian, as it no longer has a Simple Future construction. This is an ancient feature, also found in Sardinian. For example:
avi a cantari — English: "[he/she] will sing" (Bonner).

Verb "to go" and the periphrastic future

Like French, Spanish, and English, but unlike Italian, Sicilian may use the verb
jiri, to go, to signify the act of being about to do something. Italian does not use the verb andare, to go, in this way. For example: vaiu a cantari , in English "I'm going to sing" or, literally, "I go to sing." In this way, jiri + a + infinitive can also be a way to form the simple future construction (Bonner).

Tenses and moods

The main conjugations in Sicilian are illustrated below with the verb
èssiri, "to be" (Pitrè 1875).
Infinitive èssiri / siri
Gerund essennu / sennu
Past participle statu
Indicative ju tu iddu nuàutri vuàutri iddi
Present sugnu esti / è semu siti sunnu / sù
Imperfect era eri era èramu èravu èranu
Preterite fui fusti fu fomu fùstivu foru
Future¹ - - - - - -
Conditional² ju tu iddu nuàutri vuàutri iddi
  fora fori fora fòramu fòravu fòranu
Subjunctive ju tu iddu nuàutri vuàutri iddi
Present sia si'/fussi sia siamu siati sianu
Imperfect fussi fussi fussi fùssimu fùssivu fùssiru
Imperative   tu vassìa³   vuàutri
    fussi   siti


1. The Simple Future tense in Sicilian is no longer in use. However the Sicilian language employs several possible methods of expressing the future tense:
1) by simply using the present indicative, usually preceded by an adverb of time:
Stasira vaiu ô tiatru — This evening I [will] go to the theatre; or, using a similar English construction, This evening I am going to the theatre
Dumani ti scrivu — Tomorrow I [will] write to you.
2) by using a compound form consisting of the appropriate conjugation of aviri a ("have to") in combination with the infinitive form of the verb in question:
Stasira haju a gghìri/ìri ô tiatru — This evening I will [/must] go to the theatre.
Dumani t'haju a scrìviri — Tomorrow I will [/must] write to you.
In speech the contracted forms of aviri often come into play:
haju a/hâ/hê; hai a, havi ahavâ, avemu ahamâ; aviti ahatâ
Dumani t'hâ scrìviri — Tomorrow I will [/must] write to you (Bonner).


2. The Conditional tense has also fallen into disuse. The Conditional has two tenses:
1) The Present Conditional tense, which is replaced by either:
i) the Present Indicative:
Cci chiamu si tu mi duni lu sò nùmmaru — I [would] call her if you [would] give me her number, or
ii) the Imperfect Subjunctive:
Cci chiamassi si tu mi dassi lu sò nùmmaru — I'd call her if you would give me her number; and
2) the Past Conditional tense, which is replaced by the Past Perfect Subjunctive:
Cci avissi jutu si tu m'avissi dittu [/diciutu] unni esti / e — I'd have gone if you would have told me where it is.
Note that in a hypothetical statement, both tenses are replaced by the Imperfect and Past Perfect of the Subjunctive:
Si fussi riccu m'accattassi nu palazzu — If I were rich I would buy a palace.
S'avissi travagghiatu nun avissi patutu la misèria — If I had worked I wouldn't have suffered the misery (Bonner 2001).


3. The 2nd person singular (polite) of the Imperative does not follow the same pattern as the rest of the tense. The 2nd person singular and plural employ the Present Indicative in place of the Imperative, while the 2nd person singular (polite), because of its formality, employs the Present Subjunctive, which makes it less of a command and more of a request.

Examples of the written language

A range of extracts are offered below to illustrate the written form of Sicilian over the last few centuries, starting with a translation of the Lord's Prayer
Lord's Prayer
The Lord's Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew as part of the discourse on ostentation in the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke, which records Jesus being approached by "one of his...

 (Bonner), through to extracts from three of Sicily's more celebrated poets: Antonio Veneziano, Giovanni Meli
Giovanni Meli
Giovanni Meli was a Palermitan Sicilian poet and man of letters. After studying philosophy and medicine he worked as a doctor in Cinisi in the province of Palermo...

 and Nino Martoglio
Nino Martoglio
Nino Martoglio was a Sicilian writer, a publisher, a journalist and a producer of theatrical works. He wrote mostly in Sicilian and likewise, his theatrical works were mostly in Sicilian. He founded a theatre company in Catania in the early part of the 19th century...

. The Lord's Prayer is written with three variations: a standard literary form from the island of Sicily, a southern Calabria
Calabria
Calabria , in antiquity known as Bruttium, is a region in southern Italy, south of Naples, located at the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula. The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro....

n literary form and a southern Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

n literary form.

Lu Patri Nostru

Sicilian (Sicily) Calabro-sicilian (southern Calabria) Salentino (southern Apulia, around Lecce) Italian Latin
Patri nostru, ca siti ntrô celu, Patri nuastru ca siti 'ndu cialu Sire nesciu ca stai an cielu Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli, Pater noster, qui es in caelis,
Santificatu fussi lu Vostru nomu. Fussa santificatu u nomi tua. Cu'bbessa santificatu lu nume tou. Sia santificato il tuo nome. Sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Viatu vinissi lu Vostru regnu. Vinissa u riagnu tua. Cu'bbegna 'mprima lu regnu tou. Venga il tuo regno. Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fatta fussi la Vostra Vuluntati Fussa sempi fatta a vostra vuluntà Cu'bbessa sempre fatta la Vuluntate toa Sia fatta la tua volontà Fiat voluntas tua
Comu ntrô celu accussì ntra terra. Cumu 'ndu cialu acccusì 'nda terra. Comu an cielu cussì an terra. Come in cielo così in terra. Sicut in caelo et in terra.
Dàtini sta jurnata lu nostru panuzzu, Dani goi u nuastru pani quotidianu, Dànnilu osce lu pane quotidianu nesciu, Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano, Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,
E pirdunàtini li nostri piccati E pirdunani i nuastri piccati E perdunanni li peccati nesci E rimetti a noi i nostri debiti Et dimitte nobis debita nostra
Accussì comu nuiàtri li pirdunemu ê nostri nìmici. Cumu nui i rimintimu ari nuastri debbitori. Cussì comu nui li rimentimu a li nemici nesci. Come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori. Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
E nun lassàtini cascari ntrâ tintazzioni, E non ni ndurri ndâ tendazziuna, E nu' lassare cu cadimu 'n tentazzione, E non ci indurre in tentazione, Et ne nos inducas in tentationem,
Ma scanzàtini dû Mali. Ma libbirini du Mali. Ma 'lléandenni te lu male. Ma liberaci dal male. Sed libera nos a malo.
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Celia, Lib. 2

(ca. 1575–1580)
Sicilian Italian English
Non è xhiamma ordinaria, no, la mia, No, la mia non è fiamma ordinaria, No, mine is no ordinary flame,
è xhiamma chi sul'iu tegnu e rizettu, è una fiamma che sol'io possiedo e controllo, it's a flame that only I possess and control,
xhiamma pura e celesti, ch'ardi 'n mia; una fiamma pura e celeste che dientro di me cresce; a pure celestial flame that in me grows;  
per gran misteriu e cu stupendu effettu.   da un grande mistero e con stupendo effetto. by a great mystery and with great effect.
Amuri, 'ntentu a fari idulatria, l'Amore, desiderante d'adorare icone, Love, wanting to worship idols,
s'ha novamenti sazerdoti elettu; è diventato sacerdote un'altra volta; has once again become a high priest;
tu, sculpita 'ntra st'alma, sìa la dia; tu, sculpita dientro quest'anima, sei la dea; you, sculpted in this soul, are the goddess;
sacrifiziu lu cori, ara stu pettu. il mio cuore è la vittima, il mio seno è l'altare. my heart is the victim, my breast is the altar.


(sourced directly from Arba Sicula Volume II, 1980)

Don Chisciotti e Sanciu Panza (Cantu quintu)

(~1790)
Sicilian English
Stracanciatu di notti soli jiri; Disguised he roams at night alone;
S'ammuccia ntra purtuni e cantuneri; Hiding in any nook and cranny;
cu vacabunni ci mustra piaciri; he enjoys the company of vagabonds;
poi lu so sbiu sunnu li sumeri, however, donkeys are his real diversion,
li pruteggi e li pigghia a ben vuliri, he protects them and looks after all their needs,
li tratta pri parenti e amici veri; treating them as real family and friends;
siccomu ancora è n'amicu viraci since he remains a true friend
di li bizzarri, capricciusi e audaci. of all who are bizarre, capricious and bold.

(Meli 1995)

Briscula 'n Cumpagni

(~1900; trans: A game of Briscula amongst friends)
Sicilian Italian English
Càrricu, mancu? Cca cc'è 'n sei di spati!... Nemmeno un carico? Qui c'è un sei di spade!... A high card perhaps? Here's the six of spades!...
E chi schifiu è, di sta manera? Ma che schifo, in questo modo? What is this rubbish you're playing?
  Don Peppi Nnappa, d'accussì jucati?   Signor Peppe Nappa, ma giocate così?   Who taught you to play this game?
Misseri e sceccu ccu tutta 'a tistera, Messere e asino con tutti i finimenti, My dear gentlemen and donkeys with all your finery,
  comu vi l'haju a diri, a vastunati,   come ve lo devo dire, forse a bastonate,   as I have repeatedly told you till I'm blue in the face,
  ca mancu haju sali di salera!   che non ho nemmeno il sale per la saliera!   I ain't got nothing that's even worth a pinch a salt!

(Martoglio 1993)

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
    Arancini
    Arancini or arancine are fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs, said to have originated in Sicily in the 10th century. Arancine are usually filled with ragù , tomato sauce, mozzarella, and/or peas....

    (from arancinu): arancino, a Sicilian cuisine specialty;
  • canestrato (from ncannistratu): a cheese typical of Sicily;
  • cannolo
    Cannoli
    Cannoli are Sicilian pastry desserts. The singular is cannolo , meaning "little tube", with the etymology stemming from the Latin "canna", or reed. Cannoli originated in Sicily and are an essential part of Sicilian cuisine...

    (from cannolu): cannolo, a Sicilian pastry;
  • cannolicchio (from cannulicchiu): razor-clam;
  • carnezzeria (from carnizzaria): butcher's shop;
  • caruso (from carusu): boy;
  • cassata
    Cassata
    Cassata or Cassata siciliana is a traditional sweet from the area of Palermo, Sicily, Italy. Cassata may also refer to a Neapolitan ice cream containing candied or dried fruit and nuts....

    : cassata, a Sicilian pastry;
  • cirneco
    Cirneco dell'Etna
    The Cirneco dell'Etna is a small breed of dog originally from Sicily. This hound was historically used to hunt rabbits and can work for hours without food or water. The breed also has a keen sense of smell and is primarily built for endurance over harsh terrain such as that of Mount Etna...

    (from cirnecu): a small breed of dogs common in Sicily;
  • cosca
    Cosca
    The word cosca is a Sicilian word which refers to any plant – such as the artichoke or the thistle – whose spiny closely folded leaves symbolize the tightness of relationships between members of the Mafia. In the English language this is best described as a clan. It is often used as a synonym for...

    : 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 Pantelleria
    Pantelleria
    Pantelleria , the ancient Cossyra, is an Italian island in the Strait of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea, southwest of Sicily and just east of the Tunisian coast. Administratively Pantelleria is a comune belonging to the Sicilian province of Trapani...

    ;
  • intrallazzo (from ntrallazzu): illegal exchange of goods or favours, but in a wider sense also cheat, intrigue;
  • marranzano
    Jew's harp
    The Jew's harp, jaw harp, mouth harp, Ozark harp, trump or juice harp, is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world; a musician apparently playing it can be seen in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC...

    (from marranzanu): Jew's harp
    Jew's harp
    The Jew's harp, jaw harp, mouth harp, Ozark harp, trump or juice harp, is thought to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world; a musician apparently playing it can be seen in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC...

    ;
  • 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
    Pizzo (extortion)
    In Southern Italy, the pizzo is protection money paid by a business to the Mafia, usually coerced and constituting extortion. The term is derived from the Sicilian pizzu . To wet someone's beak is to pay protection money...

    (from pizzu): literally meaning beak in Sicilian, it is protection money paid to the Mafia; it comes from the saying fari vagnari a pizzu (to wet one's beak).
  • quaquaraquà: person devoid of value, nonentity; (onomatopoeia?; "the duck wants a say")
  • scasare (from scasari): to leave en masse (means literally to move home);
  • stidda (it.: stella): lower Mafia organization.

Sicily

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
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 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.

Diaspora

Outside Sicily, there is an extensive diaspora living in several major cities across North and South America, as well as other parts of Europe and Australia. The Sicilian-language respectively is spoken to varying extents within families and communities, however has no recognized status nor programmes established to preserve the language. Most Sicilians abroad are bi- or trilingual with Standard Italian
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

 and/or the host country language, be it English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

, French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, or Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

.

Other words/phrases

Sicilian phrase = Italian translation (English translation)
  • Fà[ci]ri na bedda fiùra = fare una bella figura (to make a good impression)
  • Vinu = vino (wine)
  • òmu = uomo (man)
  • fìmmina = donna (woman)
  • dabbanna = l'altra parte (The other side)
  • docu = lì (There)
  • vussìa = Lei (you -polite form-)
  • Accura! = Stai attento! (Be careful!)
  • Iddu = lui (him/he)
  • Idda = lei (her/she)
  • Cu paja prima, pistìa li pisci fitùsi = chi paga prima, mangia il pesce puzzolente (he who pays before seeing the goods gets cheated) literally: "who pays before, eat smelly fish"

See also

  • Sicily
    Sicily
    Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

  • Sicilian School
    Sicilian School
    The Sicilian School was a small community of Sicilian, and to a lesser extent, mainland Italian poets gathered around Frederick II, most of them belonging to his court, the Magna Curia. Headed by Giacomo da Lentini, they produced more than three-hundred poems of courtly love between 1230 and 1266,...

  • Siculo-Arabic
    Siculo-Arabic
    Siculo-Arabic was a variety of Arabic spoken in Sicily and Malta between the ninth and the fourteenth centuries. It is extinct in Sicily, but it has developed into what is now the Maltese language on the islands of Malta....

  • Sicilian Vowel System
    Sicilian Vowel System
    The Sicilian vowel system is characteristic of the dialects of Sicily, Southern Calabria, and Salento. It may alternatively be referred to as the Sicilian vocalic scheme or the Calabro-Sicilian vowel system....



External links

www.linguasiciliana.org www.linguasiciliana.it
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