Sardinian language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Sardu, Limba / Lingua Sarda
Native toItaly
Native speakers
ca. 1 million  (1993–2007)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority language in
Regulated byLimba Sarda Comuna code
Language codes
ISO 639-1sc
ISO 639-2srd
ISO 639-3srdinclusive code
Individual codes:
sro – Campidanese
src – Logudorese

51-AAA-s +(Corso-Sardinian)

51-AAA-pd & -pe
Languages and dialects of Sardinia. Sardinian is yellow (Logudorese) and orange (Campidanese).
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Jump to: navigation, search
Sardu, Limba / Lingua Sarda
Native toItaly
Native speakers
ca. 1 million  (1993–2007)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority language in
Regulated byLimba Sarda Comuna code
Language codes
ISO 639-1sc
ISO 639-2srd
ISO 639-3srdinclusive code
Individual codes:
sro – Campidanese
src – Logudorese

51-AAA-s +(Corso-Sardinian)

51-AAA-pd & -pe
Languages and dialects of Sardinia. Sardinian is yellow (Logudorese) and orange (Campidanese).
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Sardinian (Logudorese: sardu/saldu, limba sarda Campidanese: sardu/sadru, lingua sarda) is a Romance language spoken on most of the island of Sardinia (Italy). It is the most conservative of the Romance languages in terms of phonology and is noted for a Paleosardinian substratum.

Since 1997, the languages of Sardinia have been protected and recognised by regional and national laws. Several written standards, including the Limba Sarda Comuna (Common Sardinian Language), have been created in an attempt to unify the two main variants of the language.[3]


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 language of the island. The language is of Latin origin like all Romance languages yet the following substratal influences are possible:

Adstratal influences include:


Sassari's Republic medieval statutes written in the Sardinian language (13th–14th centuries)

The early origins of the Sardinian language (sometimes called Paleo-Sardinian) 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.

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 the Sherden, one of the so-called Peoples 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.[citation needed] 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, both therefore being Indo-European languages, as a consequence of the alleged provenance of Etruscans/Tyrrhenians from that land (as in Herodotus), where effectively the capital town was Sardis.[citation needed] 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 toponym Bonnànnaro). Rohlfs, Butler and Craddock add the suffix -/ini/ (as in the toponym 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). However, these early links proposing a link to a precursor of modern Basque have been discredited by most Basque linguists.[4] 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 -/itanos/ and -/etanos/ (as in the Sardinian Sulcitanos) have been noted as other Paleosardinian elements (viz Terracini, Ribezzo, Wagner, Hubschmid, Faust, et al.).

Linguists like Blasco Ferrer (2009, 2010) or Morvan (2009) have recently attempted to revive the theory of a Basque connection by linking modern surface forms such as Sardinian ospile "fresh natural cover for cattle" and Basque ozpil "id.", Sardinian arrotzeri "vagabond" and Basque arrotz "stranger", Sardinian arru "stone, stony" and Basque arri "stone", Gallurese (South Corsican and North Sardinian) zerru "pig" and Basque zerri "id.". Of interest, and in support to this theory, genetic data on the distribution of HLA antigens have suggested a common origin for Basque and Sardinian people.[5]

Roman period[edit]

The Roman domination, beginning in 238 BC, brought Latin to Sardinia, but this language 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 Nùgoro and many other toponyms). Roman culture, on the other hand, became largely dominant; Barbagia derives its name from the Greek word Ό βάρβαρος-ου, which means "stuttering", due to the fact that its people could not speak Latin well. Cicero, who called Sardinian rebels latrones matrucati ("thieves with rough sheep-wool cloaks") to emphasise Roman superiority, helped to spread this conception.

Modern Sardinian, as it is known today, was the first language to split off from the others that were still developing from Latin, possibly as early as the first century BC.

Other influences[edit]

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 AD, 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 AD, 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 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.

Giudicati (Judicados) period[edit]

Sardinian had once been the official and national language of the Giudicati, Byzantine districts that became independent due to the Arab expansion in the Mediterranean, which obstructed all the connections between the island and Byzantium. Sardinian obviously had a greater number of archaisms and Latinisms than the current language does, not to mention the usage of word letters reflecting the origin of the copyists (the majority of whom were Catalan, Genoese and Tuscan) which are now fallen into disuse. Dante Alighieri stated in De Vulgari Eloquentia (1303-1305) that would expel Sardinians from his work, claiming that they were not Italics and, furthermore, had never developed any Vulgar language of their own in his opinion, preferring to imitate Latin instead (after all, they say "domus nova" and "dominus meus").[6]

Sardos etiam, qui non Latii sunt sed Latiis associandi videntur, eiciamus, quoniam soli sine proprio vulgari esse videntur, gramaticam tanquam simie homines imitantes: nam domus nova et dominus meus locuntur.

The literature in this period is mostly made up by legal documents; here is a list of some of them having been considered worth mentioning, even though it should be noted, before going any further, that it is far from exhaustive: it may seem to you that literature is virtually nonexistent, while there has always been an abundance of poems, for instance (the same is valid for all the other periods which follow this one).

The first document in which some elements of the language make their appearance, dates back to 1063: it is an act of donation to the abbey of Montecassino signed by Barisone I of Torres.[7]

The first document ever written in Sardinian is the Carta Volgare (1070/1080) in old Campidanese.

The "Logudorese Privilege", dating back to 1080, is still being kept in the archives of Pisa:

In nomine Domini amen. Ego iudice Mariano de Lacon fazo ista carta ad onore de omnes homines de Pisas pro xu toloneu ci mi pecterunt: e ego donolislu pro ca lis so ego amicu caru e itsos a mimi; ci nullu imperatore ci lu aet potestare istu locu de non (n)apat comiatu de leuarelis toloneu in placitu: de non occidere pisanu ingratis: e ccausa ipsoro ci lis aem leuare ingratis, de facerlis iustitia inperatore ci nce aet exere intu locu...

The "Donation of Torchitorio", dating back to 1089 and being written in old Campidanese, had been written in San Saturnino church (part of Cagliari diocese) and had been kept in the archives of Marseille:

E inper(a)tor(e) ki l ati kastikari ista delegantzia e fagere kantu narat ista carta siat benedittu...

Another act between the bishop of Civita Bernardo and Benedetto, in charge of the Opera del Duomo located in Pisa, written in Old 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 VillaAlba 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 rnola, 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 rneta testes. Anno dom.milles.centes.septuag.tertio

The second Marsellaise Chart, written in old Campidanese (1190-1206):

In nomine de Pater et Filiu et Sanctu Ispiritu. Ego iudigi Salusi de Lacunu cun muiere mea donna (Ad)elasia, uoluntate de Donnu Deu potestando parte de KKaralis, assolbu llu Arresmundu, priori de sanctu Saturru, a fagiri si carta in co bolit. Et ego Arresmundu, l(eba)nd(u) ass(o)ltura daba (su) donnu miu iudegi Salusi de Lacunu, ki mi illu castigit Donnu Deu balaus (a)nnus rt bonus et a issi et a (muiere) sua, fazzu mi carta pro kertu ki fegi cun isus de Maara pro su saltu ubi si (.... ....)ari zizimi (..) Maara, ki est de sanctu Saturru. Intrei in kertu cun isus de Maara ca mi machelaa(nt) in issu saltu miu (et canpa)niarunt si megu, c'auea cun istimonius bonus ki furunt armadus a iurari, pro cantu kertàà cun, ca fuit totu de sanctu Sat(ur)ru su saltu. Et derunt mi in issu canpaniu daa petra de mama et filia derectu a ssu runcu terra de Gosantini de Baniu et derectu a bruncu d'argillas e derectu a piskina d'arenas e leuat cabizali derectu a sa bia de carru de su mudeglu et clonpit a su cabizali de uentu dextru de ssa doméstia de donnigellu Cumitayet leuet tuduy su cabizali et essit a ssas zinnigas de moori de silba, lassandu a manca serriu et clonpit deretu a ssu pizariu de sellas, ubi posirus sa dìì su tremini et leuat sa bia maiori de genna (de sa) terra al(ba et) lebat su moori (...) a sa terra de sanctu Saturru, lassandu lla issa a manca et lebat su moori lassandu a (manca) sas cortis d'oriinas de(....)si. Et apirus cummentu in su campaniu, ki fegir(us), d'arari issus sas terras ipsoru ki sunt in su saltu miu et (ll)u castiari s(u) saltu et issus hominis mius de Sinnay arari sas terras mias et issas terras issoru ki sunt in saltu de ssus et issus castiari su saltu(u i)ssoru. Custu fegirus plagendu mi a mimi et a issus homi(nis) mius de Sinnay et de totu billa de Maara. Istimonius ki furunt a ssegari su saltu de pari (et) a poniri sus treminis, donnu Cumita de Lacun, ki fut curatori de Canpitanu, Cumita d'Orrù (.......)du, A. Sufreri et Iohanni de Serra, filiu de su curatori, Petru Soriga et Gosantini Toccu Mullina, M(........)gi Calcaniu de Pirri, C. de Solanas, C. Pullu de Dergei, Iorgi Cabra de Kerarius, Iorgi Sartoris, Laurenz(.....)ius, G. Toccu de Kerarius et P. Marzu de Quartu iossu et prebiteru Albuki de Kibullas et P. de zZippari et M. Gregu, M. de Sogus de Palma et G. Corsu de sancta Ilia et A. Carena, G. Artea de Palma et Oliueri de Kkarda (....) pisanu et issu gonpanioni. Et sunt istimonius de logu Arzzoccu de Maroniu et Gonnari de Laco(n) mancosu et Trogotori Dezzori de Dolia. Et est facta custa carta abendu si lla iudegi a manu sua sa curatoria de Canpitanu pro logu salbadori (et) ki ll'(aet) deuertere, apat anathema (daba) Pater et Filiu et Sanctu Ispiritu, daba XII Appostolos et IIII Euangelistas, XVI Prophetas, XXIV Seniores, CCC(XVIII) Sanctus Patris et sorti apat cun Iuda in ifernum inferiori. Siat et F. I. A. T.

Sassari's Republic medieval statutes, written in old Logudorese (1316):

Vois messer N. electu potestate assu regimentu dessa terra de Sassari daue su altu Cumone de Janna azes jurare a sancta dei evangelia, qui fina assu termen a bois ordinatu bene et lejalmente azes facher su offitiu potestaria in sa dicta terra de Sassari...

Finally, the Carta de Logu of the Kingdom of Arborea (1355-1376):[8]


De chi levarit per forza mygeri coyada.

Volemus ed ordinamus chi si alcun homini levarit per forza mugeri coyada, over alcun'attera femina, chi esserit jurada, o isponxellarit alcuna virgini per forza, e dessas dittas causas esserit legittimamenti binchidu, siat iuygadu chi paghit pro sa coyada liras chimbicentas; e si non pagat infra dies bindighi, de chi hat a esser juygadu, siat illi segad'uno pee pro moda ch'illu perdat. E pro sa bagadìa siat juygadu chi paghit liras ducentas, e siat ancu tenudu pro leva­rilla pro mugeri, si est senza maridu, e placchiat assa femina; e si nolla levat pro mugeri, siat ancu tentu pro coyarilla secundu sa condicioni dessa femina, ed issa qualidadi dess'homini. E si cussas caussas issu non podit fagheri a dies bindighi de chi hat a esser juygadu, seghintilli unu pee per modu ch'illu perdat. E pro sa virgini paghit sa simili pena; e si non hadi dae hui pagari, seghintilli unu pee, ut supra.

Catalan period[edit]

The enfeoffment of Sardinia by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297, without his realizing the presence of independent states within it, led to the founding of the Kingdom of Sardinia, to the end of the independence of the island and to a long period of war, which ended only with the decisive Catalan victory at Sanluri in 1409 and the renunciation of the rights of succession signed by William III of Narbonne; since then, any anti-Catalan uprising, such as the rebellion which occurred in Alghero in 1353 and that in Macomer in 1478, had been systematically neutralized. During this period, Aragonese government carried out an assimilation policy that's been almost total in the cities, since both the small bourgeoisie (all of which was of Catalan ancestry) and the clergy choose Catalan as their primary language, thus relegating Sardinian to a secondary position. It is reported by the lawyer Sigismondo Arquer (author of the Sardiniae brevis historia et descriptio) that, while Catalan was a language spoken in the cities, Sardinian would still prevail in the rural areas: that is, most of the Kingdom.

In spite of Sardinian still being the most widely spoken language, little is given to know about it due to the scarcity of written documentation: all we have, however, may well explain the contaminated linguistic forms produced by Catalan, which are still visible even today.

Antòni Canu (1400-1476) - Sa Vitta et sa Morte, et Passione de sanctu Gavinu, Brothu et Ianuariu (15th century, publication dated back to 1557):

Tando su rey barbaru su cane renegadu / de custa resposta multu restayt iradu / & issu martiriu fetit apparigiare / itu su quale fesit fortemente ligare / sos sanctos martires cum bonas catenas / qui li segaant sos ossos cum sas veinas / & totu sas carnes cum petenes de linu...

Rimas Spirituales, a work by Hieronimu Araolla, had been determined to "glorify and enrich Sardinian, our language" (magnificare et arrichire sa limba nostra sarda) just in the same way as Spanish, French and Italian poets had already done for their own languages (see la Deffense et illustration de la langue françoyse, il Dialogo delle lingue):[9] the question of the Sardinian language situation had been posed for the first time ever, and many other authors after him would analyze it in a number of ways.

Antonio Lo Frasso, a poet who had born in Alghero (that's a city he would later remember dearly[10]) but spent all life in Barcelona, is likely to be considered the first intellectual we have testimony of to write lyric poems in Sardinian:[11]

...Non podende sufrire su tormentu / de su fogu ardente innamorosu. / Videndemi foras de sentimentu / et sensa una hora de riposu, / pensende istare liberu e contentu / m'agato pius aflitu e congoixosu, / in essermi de te senora apartadu, / mudende ateru quelu, ateru istadu...

Spanish period[edit]

In 1624, with the reorganization of the monarchy led by the Count-Duke of Olivares, Sardinia finally exits from the Aragonese sphere of influence of and fully enters into the Spanish one. Spanish, unlike Catalan which was adopted to a certain extent by all the bourgeoise, would be perceived as somewhat of an elitist language. Sardinian has been known as the spontaneous linguistic code of Sardinian people, and because of that respected and even learnt by Spanish colonists.[12] The sociolinguistic situation of the language consists of a proficiency, both active and passive, of Catalan and Spanish in the cities, with the latter replacing the first, and a proficiency of Sardinian in all of the villages, as reported by many people such as the Spanish ambassador Martin Carillo (author of the ironic remark about Sardinians: pocos, locos y mal unidos), the anonymous work of Llibre dels feyts d'armes de Catalunya («parlen la llengua catalana molt polidament, axì com fos a Catalunya»), and Baldassarre Pinyes, dean of the Jesuit college located in Sassari, who had been writing in Rome: «per ciò che concerne la lingua sarda, sappia vostra paternità che essa non è parlata in questa città, né in Alghero, né a Cagliari: la parlano solo nelle ville». As for written documentation of Sardinian, we mostly have notary deeds, which are heavily affected by Spanish and Italian contamination forms, and religious works, such as Sa Dottrina et Declarassione pius abundante e Sa Breve Suma de sa Doctrina in duas maneras.

Here is an act, dating back to 1620 and still kept in the archives of Bosa:

Jn Dei nomine Amen, noverint comente sende personalmente constituidos in presensia mia notariu et de sos testimongios infrascrittos sa viuda Caterina Casada et Coco mugere fuit de su Nigola Casada jàganu, Franziscu Casada et Joanne Casada Frades, filios de su dittu Nigola et Caterina Casada de sa presente cittade faguinde custas cosas gratis e de certa sciensia insoro, non per forza fraudu, malìssia nen ingannu nen pro nexuna attera sinistra macchinassione cun tottu su megius modu chi de derettu poden et deven, attesu et cunsideradu chi su dittu Nigola Casada esseret siguida dae algunos corpos chi li dein de notte, pro sa quale morte fettin querella et reclamo contra sa persona de Pedru Najtana, pro paura de sa justissia, si ausentait, in sa quale aussensia est dae unu annu pattinde multos dannos, dispesas, traballos e disusios.

In the meanwhile, the priest Ioan Matheu Garipa, writing his work "Legendariu de Santas Virgines, et Martires de Iesu Christu" highlights the nobility of Sardinian, by claiming it is the closest living language to classical Latin:

Las apo voltadas in sardu menjus qui non in atera limba pro amore de su vulgu [...] qui non tenjan bisonju de interprete pro bi-las decrarare, et tambene pro esser sa limba sarda tantu bona, quanta participat de sa latina, qui nexuna de quantas limbas si plàtican est tantu parente assa latina formale quantu sa sarda.

Piedmontese and Kingdom of Italy[edit]

The outcome of the war of Spanish succession resulted in the island becoming property of Austria, whose sovereignty was later confirmed by the treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt (1713-1714). However, the situation was not supposed to last long; in 1717, a Spanish fleet reoccupied Cagliari and in the following year Sardinia was again ceded to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy in exchange for Sicily.

During the Savoyard period, a number of essays written by intellectuals, such as philologist Matteo Madau[13] and professor and senator Giovanni Spano explicitly posed the Sardinian language question, attempting to find a unified orthography by choosing the Logudorese variety, just like Florentine would later become the basis for what became the official language of Italy;[14] however, the Piedmontese government chose to impose Italian by law in the island on July 1760,[15][16] and since then the usage of Tuscan has been spreading to the detriment of Sardinian, triggering a process that could eventually lead to language death. In spite of such assimilation policies, the anthem of the Piedmontese Kingdom of Sardinia was the Hymnu Sardu (or Cunservet Deus su Re), the lyrics of which are in Sardinian; it was partially substituted by the Savoy's March when all of the Italian peninsula was unified.

During the general mobilization in preparation for entering World War I the Italian Army raised the Sassari Infantry Brigade on 1 March 1915, at Tempio Pausania and Sinnai. Unlike all other Italian infantry brigades, the Sassari one was recruited locally on Sardinia; even most officers hailed from the island. It is actually the sole Italian unit to have a hymn in a regional language: Dimonios, written by Captain Luciano Sechi. This name comes from the attribute Rote Teufel (German for Red Devils, and Dimonios stands for English Devils) given to Sardinian soldiers by Austro-Hungarian enemies during World War I, because of their white and red flashes and their worth in war.

During the Fascist period, especially the Autarchy campaign, regional languages were banned. The restrictions went so far that even personal names and surnames were made to sound more "Italian-sounding".[17] During this period, the Sardinian Hymn of the Piedmontese Kingdom was the sole chance to speak in a regional language in Italy without risking prison, because, as a fundamental part of the Royal Family's tradition, it could not be forbidden. Catholic priests practiced a strict obstructionism against mutos, a form of improvised sung poetry where two or more poets are assigned a surprise theme and have to develop it on the spur of the moment in rhymed quatrains.

Current situation[edit]

A no-smoking sign in both Sardinian and Italian.
Bilingual Italian-Sardinian road sign in Siniscola.

In the last decade, the Sardinian language has been legally recognized (with Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovene, Croatian, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, and Occitan) by the Law 482-1999,[18] 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),[19][20] despite its academic and legal recognition as a different language. Some people still regard the language as a mere Italian dialect[21] (sometimes even at institutional level,[22] in spite of the laws which already exist), as was the custom for all minority and regional languages throughout Italy (even though the majority of scholars abroad[23] stated it should have been considered to be an autonomous group pertaining to the Romantic branch), mainly for either ideological reasons or remnant of old customs still persisting. In either case, Sardinian is still bearing a stigma because of that.[24][25]

Despite the cultural and political campaigns launched in order to put Sardinian on an equal footing with Italian, and any emotive value linked to Sardinian identity, the sociolinguistic situation in Sardinia due to several reasons, mainly political and socioeconomic (the gradual depopulation of the island's interior and rural exodus towards more urbanized and industrialized areas,[26] the language eradication policy such as the forced use of Italian presented as a prerequisite to get jobs and as one of the keys to social advancement, the immigration of people coming from the Italian peninsula over the time, the barriers to communication between the dialectal varieties, the heated debate over the official standardization[27] etc.) has resulted in a constant regression, though it is not homogeneous throughout the island;[28][29] many Sardinians (especially those born in the towns, far more populated than the villages) are raised in families in which bilingual parents spoke to them predominantly Italian, rendering the children monolingual and with little proficiency in Sardinian. Nowadays, Sardinian is a language living in an unstable status of diglossia and code-switching, being put under heavy pressure by Italian; UNESCO classifies the language as endangered as "many children learn the language, but some of them cease to use it throughout the school years";[30] there is a serious decline of language ability from one generation to the next (some reports showed only 13 percent of children speak Sardinian fluently and habitually, most of them living in the subregions of Goceano, Barbagia and Baronìa.[31][32]). Younger generations tend to favor Italian over Sardinian and generally have only a limited knowledge of Sardinian. Furthermore, Italian continues to be predominant in almost every field of public and social life (in spite of bilingual education laws, the use of Sardinian in schools is still strongly discouraged, for instance).[33]

A bill of Monti's government would have further lowered the level of protection of the language,[34] which is already quite low,[35] implementing a distinction between the languages protected by international agreements (German, Slovenian, French and Ladin) and those related to communities that do not have a foreign state behind them. This project, which never came into existence[36] (Italy hasn't ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages yet[37][38]), has nonetheless caused some reaction from some parts of the intellectual and political world of the island.[39][40][41][42][43][44][45] Recently, a number of cases of people wanting to give the exit exam, or part of it, speaking in Sardinian burst onto the social and political scene.[46][47][48][49][50] Whether all the measures to save the language will succeed remains to be seen.


All dialects of Sardinian feature archaic phonetic features when compared to other Romance languages. The degree of archaism varies, with Nuorese (central northeast part of the island) considered the most conservative, though in some cases it has innovated. Evidence from medieval documents indicates that the medieval language spoken over the entirety of Sardinia and Corsica was similar to modern Nuorese; all of the remaining areas are thought to have innovated as the result of heavy external influence from centuries of colonization by Italian and Spanish speakers.

The examples listed below are from the northwestern Logudorese dialect:

Sardinian also features numerous phonetic innovations, including the following:

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- [ʎ], Gasc. -th [c]; cl- > Old Port. ch- [tʃ], Ital. chi- [kj]).

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


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


Nasalm /m/n /n/nny /ɲ/
Plosivep /p/ b /b/t /t/ d /d/dd /ɖ/k /k/ g /ɡ/
Affricatetz /ts/ z /dz/ch, c /tʃ/ g /dʒ/
Fricativeb /β/f /f/ v /v/(th /θ/) d /ð/s, ss /s/ s /z/sc /ʃ/ x /ʒ/g /ɣ/
Tapr /ɾ/
Trillrr /r/
Laterall /l/
Approximantj /j/

The following three series of plosives or corresponding approximants:

In Cagliari and neighbouring dialects the soft [d] is assimilated to the rhotic flap [ɾ] : digitus > didu = diru 'finger'.

Articulation pointlabio-dentaldentoalveolarretroflexpalatalvelarfrom Latin
voicelessptkdouble voiceless
double voicedbbddɖɖkw > bb, bd > dd, etc.
approximantsb [β]d [ð]ɡ [ɣ]single stops






Some permutations of l and r can be observed, in that in most dialects preconsonant l (e.g. lt, lc, etc.) becomes r : L. "altum" > artu, marralzu = marrarzu 'rock'.

In palatal context, Latin l changed into [dz], [ts], [ldz], [ll] or [dʒ] rather than the [ʎ] of Italian: achizare (It. accigliare), *volia > bòlla = bòlza = bòza 'wish' (It. vòglia), folia > fogia = folla = foza 'leaf' (It. foglia), filia > filla = fidza = fiza 'daughter' (It. figlia).


The main distinctive features of Sardinian are :


Sardinia has historically had a small population separated across several isolated cantons. Over time the island's language has formed into two literary and social groups, the northern (named su logudoresu) and the southern (named su campidanesu). The two differ mostly in phonetics, which does not hamper intelligibility among the speakers. There are some other differences between the two, and many dialectal differences within each. These models have created a small but very interesting body of literature.

Sardinian can be divided into the two following macro-dialect groups:

Pre-Latin Sardinian words[edit]

míntza (mitza, miza) '(water) spring'
tzichiría (sichiria, tzirichia) 'dill'
tzingòrra (zingòrra) 'kind of small eel'
tzípiri (tzípari) 'rosemary'
bèga 'damp plain', probable cognate with Portuguese veiga, Spanish vega 'fertile plain'.
cóstiche 'variety of maple'
cúcuru 'top', cucureddu 'pinnacle', 'mound', etc.
sechaju 'year-old lamb' (cf. Basque segaila)
zerru (Gallurese) 'pig' (cf. Basque zerri)
eni 'yew' (cf. enjë 'yew' in Albanian)
thurg-alu 'stream' (cf. Albanian çurg)
drobbalu 'intestine'(cf. Albanian drobolì 'intestine', South Slavic 'drob < ocs. ѫтроба)
golósti, golostriu 'holly' (cf. Illyrian *gol (A. Mayer) 'top, spike' + Slavic ostrь 'thorny')
giágaru (Campidanese) 'hunting dog' (cf. Albanian zagar 'hunting dog')
trúcu 'neck'; var. ciugu, túgulu, Camp. tsuguru (t + L. iugulum)
túgnu, tontonníu 'mushroom' (t + L. fungus)

Other pre-Latin Sardinian words are presented here:

bàcu 'canyon'
garrópu 'canyon'
giara 'tableland'
piteràca, boturinu, terighinu 'way'
tzaurra 'germ'; intzaurru, 'sprout'
araminzu, oroddasuCynodon dactylon 'couch grass'
arbutu, arbutzu, abrutzuAsphodelus ramosus 'asphodel'
atagnda, atzagnddaPapaver rhoeas 'red poppy'
bidduriConium maculatum 'hemlock'
carcuriAmpelodesma mauritanica (a Mediterranean grass)
istiòcoroPicris echioides
curmaRuta chalepensis 'rue'
tinníga, tinnía, sinníga, tsinníga – 'esparto'
tiríaCalicotome spinosa 'thorny broom'
tzichiríaRidolfia segetum (a kind of fennel)
gròdde, marxani 'fox'
irbírru, isbírru, iskírru, ibbírru 'marten'
tilingiòne, tilingròne, tiringoni 'earthworm'
tilipírche, tilibílche 'grasshopper'
tilicúcu, telacúcu, tiligúgu 'gecko', Camp. tsilicitu 'lizard' (pistiloni 'gecko')
tilichèrta, tilighèrta, tilighèlta; calixerta 'lizard', cognate with Latin lacerta.


  1. ^ Sardinian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Campidanese at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Logudorese at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Sardinian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  5. ^ Arnaiz-Villena A, Rodriguez de Córdoba S, Vela F, Pascual JC, Cerveró J, Bootello A. - HLA antigens in a sample of the Spanish population: common features among Spaniards, Basques, and Sardinians. - Hum Genet. 1981;58(3):344-8.
  6. ^ Lib. I, XI, 7
  7. ^ "Archivio Cassinense Perg. Caps. XI, n. 11 " e "TOLA P., Codice Diplomatico della Sardegna, I, Sassari, 1984, p. 153"
  8. ^ Here is the complete text, in case you may want to consult it.
  9. ^ Incipit to "Lettera al Maestro" in "La Sardegna e la Corsica", Ines Loi Corvetto, Torino, UTET Libreria, 1993: Semper happisi desiggiu, Illustrissimu Segnore, de magnificare, & arrichire sa limba nostra Sarda; dessa matessi manera qui sa naturale insoro tottu sas naciones dessu mundu hant magnificadu & arrichidu; comente est de vider per isos curiosos de cuddas.
  10. ^ ...L'Alguer castillo fuerte bien murado / con frutales por tierra muy divinos / y por la mar coral fino eltremado / es ciudad de mas de mil vezinos...
  11. ^ Los diez libros de fortuna d'Amor (1573)
  12. ^ Storia della lingua sarda, vol. 3, a cura di Giorgia Ingrassia e Eduardo Blasco Ferrer
  13. ^ Matteo Madau - Ichnussa
  14. ^ [...]Ciononostante le due opere dello Spano sono di straordinaria importanza, in quanto aprirono in Sardegna la discussione sul "problema della lingua sarda", quella che sarebbe dovuta essere la lingua unificata ed unificante, che si sarebbe dovuta imporre in tutta l'isola sulle particolarità dei singoli dialetti e suddialetti, la lingua della nazione sarda, con la quale la Sardegna intendeva inserirsi tra le altre nazioni europee, quelle che nell'Ottocento avevano già raggiunto o stavano per raggiungere la loro attuazione politica e culturale, compresa la nazione italiana. E proprio sulla falsariga di quanto era stato teorizzato ed anche attuato a favore della nazione italiana, che nell'Ottocento stava per portare a termine il processo di unificazione linguistica, elevando il dialetto fiorentino e toscano al ruolo di "lingua nazionale", chiamandolo "italiano illustre", anche in Sardegna l'auspicata "lingua nazionale sarda" fu denominata "sardo illustre". Massimo Pittau, Grammatica del sardo illustre, Nuoro, pp. 11-12
  15. ^ S'italanu in Sardìnnia, Amos Cardia, Iskra
  16. ^ La "limba" proibita nella Sardegna del '700 (da "Ritorneremo", una storia tramandata oralmente) -
  17. ^ E.g. Lussu became Lusso, Pilu changed to Pilo and so on. A wide range of Sardinian surnames had been affected by this policy.
  18. ^ Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche, Italian parliament 
  19. ^ “Il sardo è un dialetto”: campagna di boicottaggio contro l’editore Giunti
  20. ^ "La lingua sarda a rischio estinzione – Disterraus sardus". 
  21. ^ Cosa, lis dolet? - Novas de s'Isportellu linguìsticu sovra-comunale de Planàrgia e Montiferru otzidentale
  22. ^ I giudici della Cassazione: “Il sardo non è una vera lingua, è solamente un dialetto”. aMpI: “gravissimo attacco alla lingua del popolo sardo” - Il Minuto Notizie Mediterranee
  23. ^ Conferenza di Francesco Casula sulla Lingua sarda: sfatare i più diffusi pregiudizi sulla lingua sarda
  24. ^ La lingua sarda oggi: bilinguismo, problemi di identità culturale e realtà scolastica, Maurizio Virdis (Università di Cagliari)
  25. ^ Sa limba sarda - Giovanna Tonzanu
  26. ^ This phenomenon which is occurring in Sardinia nowadays may be similar to what happened in Ireland long time before: we are referring to the so-called vicious circle of Irish Gaeltacht (Cfr. Edwards 1985).
  27. ^ La standardizzazione del sardo, oppure: quante lingue standard per il sardo? E quali? (Institut für Linguistik/Romanistik)
  28. ^ D’une île l’autre: de la Corse en Sardaigne - Jean-Pierre Cavaillé
  29. ^ "Sardinian language use survey". Euromosaic.  To access the data, click on List by languages, Sardinian, then scroll to Sardinian language use survey
  30. ^ Salminen, Tapani (1993–1999). "UNESCO Red Book on Endagered Languages: Europe:". Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  31. ^ La Nuova Sardegna, 04/11/10, Per salvare i segni dell'identità - di Paolo Coretti
  32. ^ Ai docenti di sardo lezioni in italiano, Sardegna 24 - Cultura
  33. ^ "The internet as a Rescue Tool of Endangered Languages: Sardinian – Free University of Berlin". 
  34. ^ MIUR e limba sarda – ULS Alta Baronia
  35. ^ Sardaigne
  36. ^ Carta delle lingue: una ratifica presunta e una bufala probabile - Giuseppe Corongiu
  37. ^ La mancata ratifica della Carta rivela le “scorrettezze” del Belpaese L'Europa e il sardo: cartellino giallo per l'Italia - Unione Sarda
  38. ^ L’Ue richiama l’Italia: non ha ancora firmato la Carta di tutela - Messaggero Veneto
  39. ^ Il nazionalismo italiano mostra ancora una volta il suo volto feroce contro le minoranze linguistiche – R.Bolognesi
  40. ^ Lingua sarda: CISL, tutelare la specialità dell'isola
  41. ^ Richiesta di estensione massima dei benefici previsti massimi dalla Carta Europea delle Lingue a sardo e friulano
  42. ^ Università contro spending review «Viene discriminato il sardo» – Sassari Notizie
  43. ^ Il consiglio regionale si sveglia sulla tutela della lingua sarda
  44. ^ «Salviamo sardo e algherese in Parlamento»,
  45. ^ Il sardo è un dialetto? – Rossomori
  46. ^ Do you speak... su Sardu? - Irene Bosu , Focus Sardegna
  47. ^ Cagliari, promosso a pieni voti il tredicenne che ha dato l’esame in sardo - Sardiniapost
  48. ^ Eleonora d’Arborea in sardo? La prof. “continentale” dice no - Sardiniapost
  49. ^ Sassari, studente dell’Alberghiero si diploma parlando in sardo - ULS Alta Baronìa (La Nuova Sardegna)
  50. ^ Esame di maturità per la limba: Buddusò, la tesina di Elio Altana scritta in italiano ma discussa in logudorese - La Nuova Sardegna
  51. ^ et ipso quoque sermo Sardorum adhuc retinetnon pauca verba sermonis graeci atque ipse loquentium sonum graecisanum quendam prae se fert - Roderigo Hunno Baeza, Caralis Panegyricus, about 1516, manuscript preserved in the University Library of Cagliari


  • Massimo Pittau, La lingua Sardiana o dei Protosardi, Cagliari, 1995
  • Alberto G. Areddu, Le origini "albanesi" della civiltà in Sardegna, Napoli 2007
  • Gerhard Rohlfs, Le Gascon, Tübingen, 1935.
  • Johannes Hubschmid, Sardische Studien, Bern, 1953.
  • Max Leopold Wagner, Dizionario etimologico sardo, Heidelberg, 1960–1964.
  • Giulio Paulis, I nomi di luogo della Sardegna, Sassari, 1987.
  • Giulio Paulis, I nomi popolari delle piante in Sardegna, Sassari, 1992.
  • Massimo Pittau, I nomi di paesi città regioni monti fiumi della Sardegna, Cagliari, 1997.
  • Giuseppe Mercurio, S'allega baroniesa. La parlata sardo-baroniese, fonetica, morfologia, sintassi, Milano, 1997.
  • H.J. Wolf, Toponomastica barbaricina, Nuoro, 1998.
  • Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, Storia della lingua sarda, Cagliari, 2009.
  • Eduardo Blasco Ferrer, Paleosardo. Le radici linguistiche della Sardegna neolitica, Berlin, 2010.

External links[edit]