Sardinian language

Sardinian language

Infobox Language
nativename=Sardu, Saldu
states=Italy, Australia, Germany, USA, UK
speakers=1.85 million [cite web |url= |title=Sardinian (Campidanese & Logudorese) |accessdate=2008-08-20 |author=Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. |year=2005 |work=Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition |publisher=SIL International]
fam4=Southern Romance
agency=Limba Sarda Comuna (Common Sardinian Language) code
ld1=Sardinian (macrolanguage)|ld2=Campidanese|ld3=Gallurese|ld4=Logudorese|ld5=Sassarese

Sardinian (Sardu, Saldu) is, after Italian, the main language spoken in the island of Sardinia, Italy, remarkable for being the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and for its Paleosardinian substratum.



The Sardinian language can be divided into the following main subregional language groups clearly identified by isogloss bundles:

* Sardinian proper, characterised by a plural in "-s" and definite articles derived from the Latin IPSUM
** "Northern", the most conservative dialect
*** "sas limbas" — 'the languages'
*** "sas abbas" — 'the waters'
** "Central", considered to be a transitional dialect between Northern and Southern Sardinian
*** "is limbas" — 'the languages'
*** "is abbas" — 'the waters'
** "Southern", more influenced by continental Italian dialects:
*** "is linguas" — 'the languages'
*** "is acuas" — 'the waters'
* Corso-Sardinian dialects, spoken in the extreme north of Sardinia, are sometimes considered as independent languages or to be part of the Corsican language rather than Sardinian. They are characterised by a plural in "-i" and definite articles derived from the Latin ILLUM
** Sassarese ("G-shape")
*** "eba" — 'water'
*** "garri" — 'meat'
*** "eu digu" — 'I say'
** Gallurese ("C-shape")
*** "e'a" — 'water'
*** "carri" — 'meat'
*** "eu dicu" — 'I say'

The survival of a dialect of Catalan in the town of Alghero is a consequence of the historical influence of Catalonia in Sardinia.


All dialects of Sardinian feature archaic phonetic features when compared to other Romance languages. The degree of archaism varies, with Nuorese considered the most conservative. The examples listed below are from the northwestern Logudorese dialect:
* The Latin short vowels IPA| [i] and IPA| [u] have preserved their original sound (in Italian and Spanish they became IPA| [e] and IPA| [o] , respectively; in Portuguese and Catalan the IPA| [u] was also kept but written as an 'o'). For example: "siccus" > "sicu" 'dry' (Italian "secco", Spanish "seco").
* Preservation of the plosive sounds IPA| [k] and IPA| [ɡ] before front vowels IPA| [e] and IPA| [i] in many (though not all) words. For example: "kentu" 'hundred'; "dèke" 'ten' or "gheneru" 'son in law' (Italian "cento, dièci, genero" with IPA| [tʃ] and IPA| [dʒ] ).
* Absence of diphthongizations found in other Romance languages. For example: "potest" > "podet" 'he can' (Italian "può", Spanish "puede"); "bonus" > "bónu" 'good' (Italian "buono", Spanish "bueno").

Sardinian also features numerous phonetic innovations, including the following:
* The transformation of Latin "-ll-" into a retroflex IPA| [ɖɖ] . For example: "bellus" > IPA| [ˈbeɖ.ɖu] 'pretty', "villa" > IPA| [ˈbiɖ.ɖa] 'villa'.
*The consonant clusters "-ld-" and "-nd-" were similarly affected: "soldus" > IPA| [ˈsoɖ.ɖu] 'money'; IPA| [ab.boɳ.ˈɖan.tsi.a] 'abundance'.
* The evolution of "pl-, fl, cl-" into "pr-, fr, cr-" as in Portuguese and Galician; for example: "platea" > "pratza" 'plaza' (Portuguese "praça", Galician "praza", Italian "piazza"), "frúsciu" 'flabby' (Port. and Gal. "frouxo"), "ecclesia" > "crexia" 'church' (Port. "igreja", Gal. "igrexa", It. "chiesa").
* Transformations like "abbratzare > abbaltzare" 'to embrace'.
* Vowel prosthesis before an initial "r" in Campidanese like in Basque or Gascon: "regem > urrei = re, gurrèi" 'king'; "rotam > arroda" 'wheel' (Gascon "arròda"); "rivum" > Sard. and Gasc. "arríu" 'river'.
* Vowel prosthesis in Logudorese before an initial "s" followed by consonant, like in Western Romance: "scriptum" > "iscrítu" (Spanish "escrito", French "écrit"), "stellam" > IPA| [ĭ.ˈstɛɖ.ɖu] 'star' (Spanish "estrella", French "étoile").
* Except for the Nuorese dialects, Latin single voiceless plosives IPA| [p, t, k] in position became voiced approximants, and single voiced plosives IPA| [b, d, g] were lost: IPA| [t] > IPA| [d] (or rather its soft counterpart IPA| [ð] ): "locum" > IPA| [ˈlo.ɡu] (It. "luògo"), "caritatem" > IPA| [ka.ri.ˈ] (It. "carità"). Note that these processes also apply across word boundaries: "porku" (pig) but "su borku" (the pig); "domo" (house) but "sa omo" (the house).

While the latter two features were acquired during the Spanish domination, the others reveal deeper relations between ancient Sardinia and the Iberian world. Note that retroflex "d, l" and "r" are found not only in southern Italy and Tuscany but also in Asturias. They were probably involved in the palatalization process of the Latin clusters "-ll-", "pl-", "cl-" (-"ll"- > Cast. and Cat. "-ll-" IPA| [ʎ] , Gasc. "-th" IPA| [c] ; "cl-" > Old Port. "ch-" IPA| [tʃ] , Ital. "chi-" IPA| [kj] ).

Sardinian has the following phonemes (according to Blasco Ferrer):


The five vowels IPA|/a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/ (without length differentiation).

tops and corresponding approximants

The following three series of plosives or corresponding approximants:
*Voiceless stops derive from their Latin homologue in composition after another stop; they are reinforced (double) in initial position but this reinforcement is not written since it does not produce a different phoneme.
*Double voiced stops (after another consonant) derive from their Latin homologue in composition after another stop;
*Weak voiced "stops" which are in fact IPA|/β, δ, ğ/ = IPA| [β, ɹ, ɣ] approximants after vowels, as in Spanish. They derive from single Latin stops either voiced or not. In Cagliari the soft IPA| [d] can be assimilated to a flap IPA| [ɾ] (evoking Basque "irudi = iduri" 'to seem', "ideki" 'to take out' > "ireki" 'to open'): "digitus" > "didu" = "diru" 'finger'.

*Retroflex IPA|/ɖɖ/ (written "dh") derives from a former retroflex lateral IPA|/ɭɭ/.
*A former voiced palatal plosive IPA|/ɟ/ (like the Hungarian "gy") > IPA|/ɡ/ (to be confirmed).


*The labiodental IPA|/f/ (sometimes pronounced IPA| [ff] or IPA| [v] in initial position) and IPA|/v/;
** some mutations from IPA|/v/ to IPA|/b/ can be observed ("vipera > bibera" 'viper'). In central Sardinian the sound IPA|/f/ disappears: a behavior that evokes the transformation IPA|/f/ > IPA|/h/ known in Gascon and Castilian.
*IPA| [θ] written "th" (like in English "thing"), the voiceless dental fricative, is a dialectal variant of the phoneme IPA|/ʦ/.

*IPA|/ss/ e.g. "ipsa > íssa"
*IPA|/z/ the voiced corresponding consonant that was introduced during the 1st century B.C. through Greek loanwords such as "Zmirne, gaza", etc. and, as in Italian:
*IPA|/ʃ/ pronounced IPA| [ʃ] or IPA| [ʃʃ] = IPA| [ʃ.ʃ] , written "sc" before "i" or "e". This phoneme also has a voiced allophone IPA| [ʒ] which is often spelled with the letter "x".


*IPA|/ʦ/ (or IPA| [tʦ] ) a dentoalveolar affricate written "tz", that corresponds to Italian "z" or "ci-", natural evolution of IPA|/t/ before IPA|/i/.
*IPA|/ʣ/ (or IPA| [dʣ] ), written "z", corresponds to Italian "gi-" ("ggi-", respectively).and from Italian:
*IPA|/ʧ/ written "c" before "e" or "i".
*IPA|/ʤ/ written "g" before "e" or "i".


*IPA|/m/, IPA|/mm/
*IPA|/n/, IPA|/nn/
*IPA|/ɲɲ/ written "gn", the palatal nasal


*IPA|/l/ (or IPA| [ll] ), double when initial
*IPA|/ɭ/ a retroflex "l" that was used in Old Sardinian in place of Latin double "-ll-", and became a retroflex "d" (Blasco Ferrer 69).
*IPA|/ɾ/ a flap written "r"
*IPA|/r/ a trill written as in Spanish, Catalan or Basque "rr".Some permutations of "l" and "r" can be observed: "marralzu = marrarzu" 'rock'.In palatal context, Latin "l" changed into IPA| [ʣ] , IPA| [ʦ] , IPA| [lʣ] , IPA| [ll] or IPA| [ʤ] rather than IPA| [ʎ] : "achizare" (It. "accigliare"), "*volia > bòlla = bòlza = bòza" 'wish' (It. "vòglia"), "folia > fogia = folla = foza" 'leaf' (It. "foglia"), "filia > filla = fitza = fiza" 'daughter' (It. "figlia").


The main distinctive features of Sardinian are :
*The plural marker is "-s" (from the Latin accusative plural) as in the Western Romance languages (French, Occitan, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician): "sardu, sardus"; IPA| [puɖɖa] , IPA| [puɖɖas] 'hen'; "margiane, margianes" 'fox'. In Italo-Dalmatian languages such as Italian or in Eastern Romance languages such as Romanian, the plural ends with "-i" or "-e".
*Sardinian uses a definite article derived from the Latin "ipsus": "su, sa", plural "sos, sas". Such articles are common in Balearic Catalan and used to be common in Gascon.
*A periphrastic construction of the form 'to have to' (late Latin "habere ad") is used as future: "apo a istàre" 'I will stay'.
*For prohibitions, a negative form of subjunctive is used: "non bengias!" 'don't come!' (compare Spanish "no vengas").

Pre-Latin Sardinian words

*Phoenician words::"míntza" ("mitza, miza") '(water) spring':"tzichiría" ("sichiria, tzirichia") 'dill':"tzingòrra" ("zingòrra"), kind of small eel:"tzípiri" ("tzípari") 'rosemary'

*Possible Iberian or Basque words::"cóstiche" 'variety of maple' (cf. Bas. "gastigar" 'maple'):"cúcuru" 'top'; e.g. "cucuredhu" 'pinnacle', 'mound', etc. (cf. Bas. "kukur" 'summit'):"giágaru" (Campidanese) 'hunting dog' (cf. Bas. "tsakurr" 'dog'):"golósti" 'holly' (cf. Bas. "gorosti"):"sechaju" 'year-old lamb' (cf. Bas. "segaila" 'year-old kid')

*Latin words prefixed with the pre-Latin article "t(i)-"::"tilichèrta" 'lizard' ("ti" + L. "lacerta"):"tilingiòne" "worm" ("ti" + L. "lumbricum" 'earthworm'):"trúcu" 'neck'; var. "ciugu, túgulu" ("t" + L. "jugulum"):"túgnu, tontonníu" 'mushroom' ("t" + L. "fungus")

Other pre-Latin Sardinian words are presented here:
*geographical terms::"bèga" 'damp plain' probable cognate with Portuguese "veiga", Spanish "vega" 'fertile plain' (Basque "*ibaika").:"bàcu" 'canyon':"garrópu" 'canyon':"giara" 'tableland':"míntza" 'spring' / 'manantial' / 'sorgènte'.:"piteràca, boturinu, terighinu" 'way'

*plant names::"tzaurra" 'germ'; "intzaurru", 'sprout':"araminzu", "oroddasu" — "Cynodon dactylon" 'couch grass':"arbutu", "arbutzu", "abrutzu" — "Asphodelus ramosus" 'asphodel' (although in Latin "arbustus" means 'bush', 'shrub'):"atagnda, atzagndda" — "Papaver rhoeas" 'red poppy':"bidduri" — "Conium maculatum" 'hemlock':"carcuri" — "Ampelodesma mauritanica" (a Mediterranean grass):"istiòcoro" — "Picris echioides":"curma" — "Ruta chalepensis" 'rue':"tinníga, tinnía, sinníga" — 'esparto':"tiría" — "Calicotome spinosa" 'thorny broom':"tzichiría" — "Ridolfia segetum" (a kind of fennel)

*animal names::"gròdde" 'fox':"irbírru, isbírru, iskírru, ibbírru" 'marten':"tilingiòne, tilingròne, tiringoni" 'earthworm':"tilipírche, tilibílche" 'grasshopper':"tilicúcu, telacúcu, tiligúgu" 'gecko':"tilichèrta, tilighèrta, tilighèlta; calixerta" 'lizard', cognate with Latin "lacerta".

History and origins

The history of the island of Sardinia, relatively isolated from the European continent up into modern times, led to the development of a distinct Romance language, which even now preserves traces of the indigenous pre-Roman languages of the island. The language is of Latin origin like all Romance languages yet the following substratal influences are likely:


Adstratal influences include:



The early origins of the Sardinian language (sometimes called "Paleosardinian") are still obscure, due mostly to the lack of documents, as Sardinian appeared as a written form only in the Middle Ages. There are substantial differences between the many theories about the development of Sardinian, so opposite results are sometimes produced.

Many studies have attempted to discover the origin of some obscure roots that today could legitimately be defined as indigenous, pre-Romance roots. First of all, the root of "sard", present in many toponyms and distinctive of the ethnic group, is supposed to have come from a mysterious people known as the "Shardana", "the people of the sea".

Massimo Pittau claimed in 1984 to have found in the Etruscan language the etymology of many other Latin words, after comparison with the Nuragic language. If true, one could conclude that, having evidence of a deep influence of Etruscan culture in Sardinia, the island could have directly received from Etruscan many elements that are instead usually considered to be of Latin origin. Pittau then indicates that both the Etruscan and Nuragic languages are descended from the Lydian language, therefore being both Indo-European languages, as a consequence of the alleged provenance of Etruscans / "Tirrenii" from that land (as in Herodotus), where effectively the capital town was Sardis. Pittau also suggests, as a historical point, that the Tirrenii landed in Sardinia, whereas the Etruscans landed in modern-day Tuscany. Massimo Pittau's views however are not representative of most Etruscologists.

It has been said that Paleosardinian should be expected to have notable similarities with Iberic languages and the Siculian language: the suffix "-'ara", for example, in proparoxytones (Bertoldi and Terracini proposed it indicated plural forms). The same would happen (according to Terracini) for suffixes in -/àna/, -/ànna/, -/énna/, -/ònna/ + /r/ + paragogic vowel (as in the surname Bonnànnaro). Rohlfs, Butler and Craddock add the suffix -/ini/ (as in the surname Barùmini) as a peculiar element of Paleosardinian. At the same time, suffixes in /a, e, o, u/ + -rr- seem to find a correspondence in northern Africa (Terracini), in Iberia (Blasco Ferrer), in southern Italy and in Gascony (Rohlfs), with some closer relation to Basque (Wagner, Hubschmid). Suffixes in -/ài/, -/éi/, -/òi/, and -/ùi/ are common to Paleosardinian and northern African languages (Terracini). Pittau underlined that this concerns terms originally ending in an accented vowel, with an attached paragogic vowel; the suffix resisted Latinization in some toponyms, which show a Latin body and a Nuragic desinence. On this point, some toponyms ending in -/ài/ and in -/asài/ were thought to show Anatolic influence (Bertoldi). The suffix -/aiko/, widely used in Iberia, and perhaps of Celtic origins, as well as the ethnical suffix in -/itani/ and -/etani/ (as in the Sardinian "Sulcitani") have been noted as other Paleosardinian elements (viz Terracini, Ribezzo, Wagner, Hubschmid, Faust, et al).


The Roman domination, beginning in 238 BC, obviously brought Latin to Sardinia, but Latin was not able to completely supplant the Pre-Roman Sardinian language. Some obscure roots remained unaltered, and in many cases it was Latin that was made to accept the local roots, such as "nur" (in Nuraghe, as well as Nuoro and many other toponyms). Roman culture, on the other hand, was undoubtedly dominant; Barbagia derives its name from the Greek word Ό βάρβαρος-ου that means stuttering because its people couldn't speak Latin well. Cicero, who called Sardinians "latrones matrucati" (thieves with rough sheep-wool cloaks) to emphasise Roman superiority, helped to spread this conception.

Other influences

During this time period, there was a reciprocal influence between Corsica and a limited area of northern Sardinia. On the southern side, though, the evidence favors contacts with Semitic and (later) Byzantine languages. In the 1st century AC, some relevant groups of Hebrews were deported to Sardinia, bringing various influences; the Christianization of the island would probably have brought Hebrews to convert to a sort of independent cult of Sant'Antioco (perhaps a way to preserve some aspects of their ethnicity under a Christian form), still present in Gavoi. This contact with Hebrews, followed by another deportation of Christians, presumedly lasted for a couple of centuries, and makes it likely that by the 3rd century AC, Vulgar Latin began to dominate the island.

This eventual Latin cultural domination thus makes Sardinian a Romance language, or more precisely an archaic neo-Latin language, whose main characteristics are an archaic phonetic and morphosyntactic phenomena.

After this domination, Sardinia passed under the control of the Eastern Roman Empire, and more influences are derived from this culture. The Greek language that was the main reference of Byzantines did not, however, enter into the structure of Sardinian (still a Romance language) except for in some ritual or formal formulas that are expressed in Latin using Greek structure. Much evidence for this can be found in the "Condaghes", the first written documents in Sardinian.

Some toponyms show Greek influence as well, such as Jerzu, commonly presumed to derive from the Greek "khérsos" (untilled), together with the personal names Mikhaleis, Konstantine, and Basilis.

Historical documents

Act between Bernardo, the bishop of Civita, and Benedetto, administrator of the Primaziale di Pisa in Logudorese (1173):

"Ego Benedictus operaius de Santa Maria de Pisas Ki la fatho custa carta cum voluntate di Domino e de Santa Maria e de Santa Simplichi e de indice Barusone de Gallul e de sa muliere donna Elene de Laccu Reina appit kertu piscupu Bernardu de Kivita, cum Iovanne operariu e mecum e cum Previtero Monte Magno Kercate nocus pro Santa Maria de vignolas... et pro sa doma de Villa Alba e de Gisalle cum omnia pertinentia is soro.... essende facta custa campania cun sii Piscupu a boluntate de pare torraremus su Piscupu sa domo de Gisalle pro omnia sua e de sos clericos suos, e issa domo de Villa Alba, pro precu Kindoli mandarun sos consolos, e nois demus illi duas ankillas, ki farmi cojuvatas, suna cun servo suo in loco de mola, e sattera in templo cun servii de malu sennu: a suna naran Maria Trivillo, a sattera jorgia Furchille, suna fuit de sa domo de Villa Alba, e sattera fuit de Santu Petru de Surake ....... Testes Judike Barusone, Episcopu Jovanni de Galtellì, e Prite Petru I upu e Gosantine Troppis e prite Marchu e prite Natale e prite Gosantino Gulpio e prite Gomita Gatta e prite Comita Prias e Gerardu de Conettu ........ e atteros meta testes. Anno dom.milles.centes.septuag.tertio"

Cultural status

Although not taught in school, the Sardinian language is one of the principal elements of Sardinian cultural heritage, and there is great activity of late dedicated to studying the language and acknowledging its importance. The recognition of the Sardinian language as a characteristic ethnic element is supported not only by independentist movements, but is also supported by a wide percentage of local population as a whole, as well as the international support of the Sardinian diaspora.

The Sardinian language has recently been recognised as an official regional language by the Sardinian Autonomous Region; it can therefore be used for official purposes on the island. The debate as to its legality had become quite dramatic by the 1980s: at Alghero's Fertilia international airport, in a Sardinian Catalan-speaking area, an employee was heard over the loudspeakers (provocatively) announcing the flights in Italian, English and Sardinian Catalan. The employee was fired and penally condemned, causing widespread Sardinian nationalist sentiment, sometimes including violent political disputes which finally led to the law officialising the language. (Note that it must be said that in Alghero the need of diversifying the cultural position was perhaps even more urgent, since in its origins and its history are the distinctive signs of an ethnic "enclave" surrounded by a Sardinian culture, which in turn has been oppressed by an external culture.)

In the last decade, the Sardinian language has been recognized officially from a legal point of view (law 482/1999 about minority languages in Italy), yet its actual acknowledgement in the present-day life is hard. For example in many Italian libraries and Universities the books about Sardinian language are still grouped under the labels "Linguistica italiana" (Italian linguistics), "Dialetti italiani" (Italian dialects) or "Dialettologia italiana" (Italian dialectology) since this language is perceived as a dialect despite its legal recognition as a language.

ardinian in Italy

Siniscola.] The national anthem of the Kingdom of Sardinia (and Piedmont) was the "Hymnu Sardu" (or "Cunservet Deus su Re"), the lyrics of which are in the Sardinian language. It was partially substituted by the Savoy's March when Italy was unified. During the Fascist period, especially the Autarchy campaign, foreign languages were banned. The restrictions went so far that even personal names and surnames were made to sound more "Italian-sounding". During this period, the Sardinian Hymn was the sole chance to speak in a foreign language in Italy without risking prison, because, as a fundamental part of the Royal Family's tradition, it could not be forbidden.

Sardinians took advantage of this possibility to express their opposition to Fascism by singing the Hymn, as did King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy on several official occasions, when the Crown needed to remind Mussolini of its superior position. To reduce this potentially dangerous bit of "propaganda" which was being "innocently" whistled and sung in Sardinian streets, Mussolini was forced to find urgent remedies: Achille Starace (national secretary of the Fascist party) "genially" imposed the use of "Orbace" (a poor Sardinian wool) as the national cloth for the uniforms of the Militia, while on a cultural level Mussolini himself officially recognised on repeated occasions the effective value of Sardinian poets and writers, still on the border of the limits of the law. These cautious attentions for the island also included the saning of wide areas of the region ("bonifiche") and the implementation of commerce and industry.

The Catholic priests too, friendly to Fascism after the "Concordato" of 1929, started explaining that Latin (which was allowed), although very similar to Sardinian, was not Sardinian (the Holy Mass was still in Latin) and practiced a strict obstructionism against "on-the-fly poetry", a genre of popular art expressed in public shows in Sardinia, in which two or more poets are assigned a surprise theme and have to develop it on the spur of the moment in rhymed quatrains.

In the Italian army, the infantry corps of "Brigata Sassari" (Sassari's Brigade) was the sole unit allowed to have a separate hymn in the Sardinian language ("Dimonios" - ancient local pagan devils), being the brigade composed exclusively by Sardinian soldiers, the only such brigade in Italy. As a form of respect to "Brigata Sassari", who performed well in World War I, any military important operation in Sardinia is named after the last words of "Dimonios": "Fortza Paris" (loosely, "let's combine our strength").

External links

* [ SardegnaCultura lingua sarda] - The section "Lingua Sarda" in the official cultural site from the Regional Sardinia administration.
* [ University of Berlin] - Contains many links and other information about the language.
** [ Ethnologue report for Sardinian, Campidanese]
** [ Ethnologue report for Sardinian, Gallurese]
** [ Ethnologue report for Sardinian, Logudorese]
** [ Ethnologue report for Sardinian, Sassarese]
* [ limbasarda] - Grammar for beginners
* [ A mailing list for Sardinian-speakers]
* [ Legge n. 482 - 15 Dicembre 1999, "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche"] - Italy's Law on regional and minority languages (in Italian)
* [ Legge regionale n. 26, del 15 ottobre 1997, "Promozione e valorizzazione della cultura e della lingua della Sardegna"] - Sardinia Regional law on the protection of Sardinian language (in Italian)
* [ Accademia campidanese di lingua sarda] (in Campidanese)


*Eduardo Blasco Ferrer: Mensching, 1969 Dubious|date=March 2008
*Gerhard Rohlfs: Le gascon, 1935.

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