Endangered Language Alliance
Speakers’ attitudes towards Sicilian are improving, but people appear to be split about passing Sicilian on to following generations. Most of the population believes that Sicilian should be studied at school and used in playful conversation, and a majority feel that those who cannot speak Sicilian are not good Sicilians (Lo Piparo et al. 2008). Largely symbolic legislative attempts at recognizing and encouraging the study of Sicilian have been passed in 1953 and 1981. Writing in Sicilian is limited by the lack of a fully unified, widely known orthography.
A more comprehensive list of books and papers on Sicilian can be found at http://www.csfls.it/papers/.
The list of linguistic influences on Sicilian is as long as the list of conquerors and traders who have come to Sicilian-speaking regions. Pre-Roman Conquest, there were prehistoric Mediterranean, Phoenician (Punic), and ancient Greek influences, beginning with the formation of “Magna Graecia” colonies in the 7th Century B.C.E.:
|Babazein||Babbiari||To kid around|
The Romans conquered Sicily in the 4th Century B.C.E.:
|Ante oram||Antura||A while ago (an hour ago)|
Sicily was conquered by the Arabs in 820 C.E.:
|Qafiz||Cafisu||Measure for liquids|
The Norman French first invaded the island in 1061 (after already controlling Southern Calabria and Apulia):
When the Kingdom of Aragon conquered Sicily in 1282, it brought both Aragonese and the closely related Catalan language to Sicily. When the united Kingdom of Aragon and Castile was created in 1469, Spanish rule and language use followed, lasting some three centuries:
Approximately a century of Austro-Hungarian rule also left a few traces:
|Rank||Arancari||To plod along|
|Sparen||Sparagnari||To save (money)|
Sicily was unified with Italy in 1861. The effects of Italian on Sicilian have been substantial and are increasing, given both the similarity between these two related languages and the effects of Italian teaching, bilingualism, and internal migration.
In New York, Sicilian has come into direct and frequent contact with both standard Italian and other regional Italian varieties, particularly southern ones such as Calabrese and Napolitano, influencing the particular and possibly unique Southern Italian variety spoken in New York. Beyond language, there is a strong and distinctive tradition of Sicilian music and food known throughout Italy and the world. Arba Sicula is a nonprofit based in New York which is particularly active in promoting Sicilian language and culture. Società Concordia Partanna is a century-old social club in Ridgewood, made up of paesani from the town of Partanna, that has hosted ELA researchers on multiple occasions. ELA looks forward to working with members of Arba Sicula and others to record speakers, poets (such as the distinguished Sicilian-American poet Nino Provenzano), and others in the community.