Il Siciliano Posted by Bridgette on Sep 19, 2020 in Culture, History
Ciao di nuovo!
Today, I want to talk about the language of Sicily: u sicilianu. Some people would simply say it is a dialect of Italian, some an accent, but really – it is a language itself that is now actually recognized by UNESCO. Like perhaps some of you, the first time I went to Sicily I stared at quite a few people wide-eyed with wonder, incapable of understanding a single word of what they were saying. It was a bit frustrating to say the least, but now I have grown to really appreciate and love the uniqueness that is the Sicilian language.
As linguists understand, Sicilian is a language that actually preceded Italian and can be dated back to 700 A.D. (Remember, Dante established the Italian language in the 14th century.) Given the geographical location of Sicily, many inhabitants have passed through it throughout history, leaving their linguistic mark on the language. From the Semitic languages of Phoenician and Punic, the languages of the Carthaginians, then Greek, and then finally Latin, through the Romans.
As a language, Sicilian also has dialects derived from it. Wikipedia gives us a list of all of these as follows:
- Western Sicilian (Palermitano in Palermo, Trapanese in Trapani, Central-Western Agrigentino in Agrigento)
- Central Metafonetic (in the central part of Sicily that includes some areas of the provinces of Caltanissetta, Messina, Enna, Palermo and Agrigento)
- Southeast Metafonetic (in the Province of Ragusa and the adjoining area within the Province of Syracuse)
- Ennese (in the Province of Enna)
- Eastern Non-Metafonetic (in the area including the Metropolitan City of Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, as Catanese, and the adjoining area within the Province of Syracuse)
- Messinese (in the Metropolitan City of Messina, the third largest city in Sicily)
- Eoliano (in the Aeolian Islands)
- Pantesco (on the island of Pantelleria)
- Reggino (in the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria)
Now that we have established that Sicilian is in fact a language, let’s take a look at some specific expressions that you can use next time you’re there!
Nun lu capisciu – non capisco – I don’t understand
Nun lu sacciu – non lo so – I don’t know
Pi fauri, parra chiù adaciu – per favore, parla più lentamente – please speak slower
Ngrisi parri? – parli inglese? – do you speak English?
M’â scusari – scusa – sorry
Assai avi ca nun ni videmu – da quanto tempo non ti vedo – long time no see
Here is a video of a simple breakdown of some expressions in Italian and Sicilian:
Now, if you really want to laugh (and/or scratch your head) listen to these two Sicilian women present some common Sicilian (Catanese) phrases and expressions:
Allora, voi avete capito tutto o non? So, did you understand everything or not? Do you know some other Sicilian sayings? Write them down below!