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  1. #1

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    Ciao a tutti.

    Does anyone have any resources or ideas regarding the Sicilian language (Sicilianu) and the Calabrian language (Calavrise)?

    I am starting a group with some friends with a focus on southern Italian languages and cannot find any solid references. Any help would be appreicated.

    Grazie.

  2. #2

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    Ciao a tutti.

    Does anyone have any resources or ideas regarding the Sicilian language (Sicilianu) and the Calabrian language (Calavrise)?

    I am starting a group with some friends with a focus on southern Italian languages and cannot find any solid references. Any help would be appreicated.

    Grazie.

  3. #3


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    Hi:
    Perhaps this web site may be useful:
    Dialettando

  4. #4
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    I believe this is the #1 website for the Sicilian language:
    http://www.linguasiciliana.org/

  5. #5

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    Interesting, my problem is the opposite. I ONLY know how to speak the Sicilian dialect and want to know the best way to go about learning Italian. We will be moving to Sicily this summer but need a great source so that I will be able to communicate with everyone in a socially accepted way.

    Any resources for teaching a Sicilian Italian?

  6. #6


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    As far as I know, you'll learn it in a regular class IF you forget all about the sicilian, at least in class.

    A regular class is meant to teach Italian to a non Italian speaker.

    Baciamo le mani
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    "Your mind not only wanders, it sometime leaves completely..."

  7. #7

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    i wouldn't imagine that it would be TOO difficult since sicilian is fairly similar to italian. i think if you just ask people there to speak italian with you instead of sicilian you'll learn it much more quickly.

  8. #8


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    Natalina, I know quite a bit of Italian dialects of the north (Milanese, Mantovano, Parmigiano), and I am obviously a proficient Italian speaker, reader and writer (maybe just because I am Italian). I also understand several other dialects, and know how to speak a little bit of Roman and of modern Neapolitan (the stricter, older versions are completely off-limits to me). From this knowledge basis I can telly youat Sicilian dialects, while being fascinating, are completely different from standard Italian.
    You may just check out the novels by Andrea Camilleri. Montalbano's creator wtires his novels in Italian, but incorporating a wealth of dialectal words like "taliare". Now, "taliare" sounds like the Italian verb "tagliare", to cut, but it eactually means to look at (guardare)! Here you can find a Montalbano.Italian small dictionary of the most commonly used such words and expressions used by Camilleri. I can assure you that nobody that is not of Sicilian origin (and with the knowledge of the dialect, because my friend Gabriele's father was born in Sicily, but he never used the dialect since mving with his parents to Prato) would understand that a "cacòcciola" is an artichoke ("carciofo", which in Milanese is called "articiocc"!).
    Alice Twain
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  9. #9
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">You may just check out the novels by Andrea Camilleri. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>


    LOVE these books.

    And, you're right, Alice Twain, it's a great way to get used to Sicilian dialect for us Italian-as-a-second-language speakers.

    I studied Camilleri in college and my professor said that the "dialect" he uses is not TRUE Sicilian, but a sort of mix between made up dialect and real dialect. Is this true?

    We also debated whether or not Camilleri's use of dialect in the book was offensive and stereotypical of poor/uneducated people. ...I digress.

    Either way I LOVED his books. (We studied most closely , "Gli arrancini di Montalbano") and would reccommend reading them even if you don't have any interest in Sicilian dialect!

  10. #10

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    hmm well i'm no expert on sicilian but i can understand at least some of it when people speak it around me. i get lost of course if they speak too quickly but i can generally at least kinda keep up with the conversation. but like i said i'm no expert, maybe i thought i was understanding when i really wasn't! hahaha

  11. #11

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    Many thanks for the references. I managed to find a dictionary this week so I'm very happy with that too.

    As for Sicilian being similar to Italian? Two completely distinct languages, the first actually exerting a lot of influence of the latter (Sicilian being Italy's first literary language). Sicilian may be an Italian dialect but it is definitely not a dialect of Italian Same with Calabrese. It is different again. So, in a sentence one would say, "I speak Sicilian" or "I speak an Italian dialect.." Alas, this language is not supported by the Sicilian education system which is why I seek resources to further my knowledge of this endangered tongue.

    My friend tells me that standard Italian is not the way to go when living in Sicily considering that you will find a large number of people in Sicily who simply do not speak standard Italian (mainly regional Italian - another dialect), particularly if you are over 35 so if you're moving to Sicily.....*shrugs shoulders*

    But thanks for responding to this thread. I continue my search!

    PS. Camilleri, a graduate of Italian literature, writes in Italian but does use Sicilian phrases and grammar in parts. (I have the DVD set of Montalbano - not because of the Sicilian connection but because the actor who plays him is so fine. I know. So shallow. But ah, who cares? )

  12. #12
    The last two Camilleri books in the Montalbano series that I picked up at Feltrinelli in Rome and in Palermo are most definitely written - not only in part; not only in the dialogues but also in the narrative - in dialect. I have no way of knowing whether it is "true" Sicilian or not, but it is very different from Italian.

  13. #13

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    For what it is worth, enjoy this
    Sicilian Wikipedia

  14. #14


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    Piccolina, that's right. Camilleri does not write just a mix of Italian and Sicilian dialect but also creates some of his own dialect, just like he created Vigata.
    As for the offensiveness of the dilaect used by Camilleri, let me say that there is no such problem here in Italy. While dialects are certainly receeding in importance, they are still very much present in our everyday life. Probvably the only part of Italy where people speak mostly in Italian (although not without dialectalisms) is Milano (No, not in Tuscany! People there speak their own dialect that only happens to resemble very closely standard Italian, but that's NOT Italian!) is MIlano, but as soon as you live the city and its immediate surroundsings you are back into dialect land. I have several friends of my own age who speak mostly in dialect with their families or even who think in dialect and then translate in Italian.
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  15. #15

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    Some people understand and use the dialect you describe as being made up, Alice

    An example in English would be that I realise that rap songs by, say, 50Cent are constructed in English but I barely understand what is being said. Some would say that this 'slang' is made up but as meaning is conveyed and understood by another party, particularly a wider part of a community, it's still language. Same applies for other dialetti

    Dialect is simply a variation of language in that it is able to be understood between parties. Languages such as Sicilian are deemed as dialects in Italy and surrounds but, linguistically, are very distinct from Italian and could be rightly seen as languages unto themselves. This is what happened to Irish language (Gaeilge) and Gaelic (Scottish/Gahlidg). Both were originally one language, developed as dialect but Scots Gaelic eventually became so distinct from the Irish that nowadays both are deemed as being languages in their own right.

    But I wasn't looking for confirmation that Sicilian is a language in its own right, I was just looking for resources in that language

  16. #16
    Hey Bella Figura-

    I agree with your view on language. That it is not just about strict grammar, or the use of "real words" versus "slang." That's what makes language so great and fluid!

    But,

    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Some people understand and use the dialect you describe as being made up, Alice </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I think that Camilleri even admittted to making words up for his Montalbano books. Not all of it, but just as Vigata is a place of his creation, so is some of the language. I don't think Alice was discreditting Sicilian dialect , just making an observation on his books.

    I suggest googling Sicilian singers/writers. You could listen to the dialect in song and discuss the meaning. Or read some passages from your favorite Sicilian authors and analyze it that way.

  17. #17
    Interesting discussion of dialects. I am going to Sicily next June with family from Italy and would like to learn some Sicilian. I checked the web sites mentioned, but my Italian is a "work in progress" so I need some English to help me through it. Something like English to Italian to Sicilian. Can someone suggest a resource? Thanks, Jim Daughan

  18. #18
    Unless you will be meeting Sicilians in rural areas or small villages, I do not think that you will need to know Sicilian. In five trips to Sicily that admittedly did not include anywhere very far off the beaten track, I have never encountered anyone who did not speak Italian. Also, chances are that the Italians with whom you will visit Sicily will have no knowledge of Sicilian either.

    There is also the danger, if you try to learn two languages - Italian and Sicilian dialect - at the same time, that they will become confused in your mind and prevent you from mastering either.

    So my suggestion would be to continue with your Italian studies and leave Sicilian aside. And if you do happen to encounter someone who speaks only Sicilian, there is sure to be someone at hand to "interpret" for you into Italian.

  19. #19

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    Here is a website with a dictionary of words from a village in Calabria:

    http://www.galluccifausto.it/badolat...etto/index.asp

    Be aware, though, that many words change in dialect even from village to village--just to make things a little more interesting! And this says nothing about the different accents...

    As for a text, though, check out this collection of southern Italy poetry with Italian, English, and dialect translations (disputing the claim that dialects are only spoken):

    Dialect Poetry of Southern Italy: Texts and Criticism, edited by Luigi Bonaffini, Legas 1997.

    Best of luck to your group

  20. #20


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    Also, everybody don't forget that people in Sicily go to school and in school standard italian is sp0klen, watch TV and listen to the radio, and standard Italian is usd in both, and read books and newspapers, which ar eprinted in standard Italian. Sicily is not a foreign country, it's still Italy, and while it may rightfully pride itself of is traditions and dialects, it's also part of the italian culture. Enverybody anyone will meet there, except maybe for the oldest, will speak Italian!
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  21. #21

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    Very true about everyone at least being able to understand Italian because of the media/television. Here in Calabria, I speak Italian to everyone but often receive responses in dialect, which means I've had to train my ear to that as well. In fact, most of my conversations now are, on my side, Italian with some words in dialect thrown in, and on the other side, Calabrese with some Italian thrown in.

    Overall, though, I would recommend learning standard Italian first; for one, it's far more practical as you can travel all around the country confident in your language skills.

    And at least from my experience, the dialect has come much easier as my basic knowledge of Italian has increased. In Calabrese and Sicilian, along with many unique words, there are also simply a lot of vowel changes (that "u" that seems to invade the southern dialects), so once you know "sono" for "I am," "sugnu" (roughly pronounced "soon-you") doesn't seem so, well, foreign.

    Or, in other words, to pick up a previous thread..."Montalbano sugnu!"

  22. #22


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    Having lived in Sicily for four years and having worked in a Sicilian company for a Sicilian family ... the basic Sicilian "language" is neither "easy" to learn nor easy to understand for a non-native Italian speaker. "O" is nearly always replaced by a "U" in many words and pronunciations are difficult as the tone of voice and inflections are different. I remember having to practice for hours the pronunciation of words as simple as you, me, his, her, its, where, every (and many others). For instance, the words for "where", "he", "she" are entirely different words than the standard Italian, along with the pronunciation. The "standard" numbers are a bit different as well, including their pronunciation. "Tre" is not with the rolled "r" ("trrray")-- it's pronounced "tree" with a hard "r", as an example. "Due" is pronounced "dewey", quattru, cinqu, unnici (undici), and so on. To listen to Sicilians converse is to be naturally confused (especially for one who speaks in the Roman dialect!). Add in all the double consonants and their special pronunciations (unlike standard pronunciations for double consonants in Italian) ...

    As for Sicilians not speaking "Italian" -- true, you will find in many rural areas that the elders will be speaking dialect and many have difficulty understanding your "Italian". My first landlady and I couldn't understand each other Kids (including teens) that are raised in the smaller towns are speaking dialect when amongst their parents and friends, but can speak outside of the Sicilian dialect.

    At Ottobrata in Zafferana one year I found a Sicilian-Italian dictionary -- it was great fun and I would do the "wait while I look up the word" thing many times

  23. #23


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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by testadura:
    Very true about everyone at least being able to understand Italian because of the media/television.
    </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
    Testadura - just wanted to say I love your name. I can hear my parents calling me that if I was being particularly obstinate.

  24. #24


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    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by MariaV:
    "Tre" is not with the rolled "r" ("trrray")-- it's pronounced "tree" with a hard "r", as an example. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
    At high school, one year, I used to have a teacher from Palermo. He had a very strong accent, although he spoke grammatically perfect Italian. On occasions he even made his accent stronger. There was this classmate of mine, a 2 meters tall very lean guy who later moved to Japan, who found this hilarious. At times there was this gag. The teacher would say something more accented than usual. Dimitri, my schoolmate, would giggle (he seemed to giggle a lot at the time!), the teacher, would catch him and in his best Palermitano accent would say "Dimitri, perché mi guardi e ridi" (Dimitri, why you look at me and laugh), which actually sounded "Dddimicri, p'ecchè mi guargi e rrigi", and we all laughed.
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  25. #25

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    Ciao a tutti!!!

    I am fascinated by the posts being logged here. I can tell you all of the frustrations i having grown up with friends and relatives who only spoke the Calabrese dialect only to be told at Italian school that my Calabrese is 100% but I need to work on my Italian. Even in Sydney the Italians here have assimilated english into Italian, complete with the correct grammar. For example, "pushare" or "pushando" or even "smashare" (pronouce the words and you'll get what they mean). I've been been told by my Italian teacher that the siciliani in brooklyn have their own language "Brookolini"!

    Anyway, I also understand the frustration I believe you can speak a dialect and then giong to another town in the same region and having to learn a new language! Here I was thinking that Calabrese is Calabrese is Calabrese! Oh well, just never ask someone in Rome "Dove posso cachiare i soldi?" How was I supposed to know that cachiare means to hunt when my family use it to mean "get"!

    I do believe that at my italian school there is a dialect dictionary. I will confirm tonight if this is the case but please keep up the blogs, their fantastic to read.

    PS, if you are after some siciliano dialect songs try listening to Luna Mezz'o Mare by Luigi (Lou) Prima or Patrizio Buanne. It's an old Siciliano song (as least I hope it is), or try listening to Toto Cutungo. I do apologise if I am mistaken, but if you want to learn the proper Siciliano just live with my dad's relatives in Sydney, they all speak Siciliano (it's my mum's relatives who speak Calabrese).

  26. #26


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    Toto Cutugno, I am sorry to report, not only writes really very, very ugly songs, he also writes them in standard Italian. For music sung in Sicilian, check out Roy Paci & Aretuska instead.
    Alice Twain
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