Sardinian is not a dialect it is a language. The most widely spoken language in Sardinia may be Italian, but the Sardinian language known as Sardo is still widely spoken among locals. It’s a rich and beautiful language. Today, there are over 1,350,000 native or second-language speakers of Sardinian.
Out of all the romance languages (including French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian) Sardo is considered to be the closest descendant of Latin with only an 8% difference in vocabulary, syntax, and phonology. Sardo is unintelligible to Italians, it feels much similar to Spanish than Italian.
Sardo was officially recognised by regional law in 1997, then two years later it was recognised at the national level.
It may be a language closely related to Latin, but much like Sardinians history, it has had many outside influences such as Arabic, Byzantine Greek, Ligurian, Catalan, Spanish, and more recently Italian.
The Sardinian language is fragmented into different dialects varying from area to area throughout the island. Neighbouring villages in Sardinia often have different variations on the language. Locals can easily spot an outsider, even if they’ve only travelled 10km.
The Different Sardinian Dialects
In Sardinia, there are four main dialects of the Sardinian language. Logudorese, Campidanese, Gallurese, and Sassarese. Logudorese and Campidanese are the main two Sardinian dialects and have written standards.
The Logudorese dialect sometimes called Sard or Sardarese is spoken in central northern areas of the island, there are over half-a-million speakers. This dialect also breaks down into many other sub-dialects with various changes such as Northern Logudorese, Nuorese, and Central Logudorese.
Campidanese also is known as Sardu is spoken in the central-southern areas of Sardinia, including the capital of Cagliari. It is quite distinct from other Sardinian dialects. From Campidanese, there are six sub dialects: Arborense, Cagliaritano, Meridonale, Ogliastrino, Guspines, and Villacidrese. The dialect has been influenced heavily by the Spanish and Catalonian. Also, Italian words that arrived in Sardinia later, were often changes to appear more Sardinia, by changing the O vowel at the end of a word to a U.
Gallurese is spoken by 100,000 Sardinians in the Region of Gallura. It is considered a mix of Sardinian, and Corsican. The most antique records of the language come from the 17th century, in the form of poems. There is a strong relation to the south of Corsica, but the dialect was also later influenced by the Logudese dialect, that was in use to the south of Gallura.
Sassarese like Gallurese is another dialect that is a combination of the Corsican language and Sardo. The two islands have been isolated together for centuries, and share many cultural aspects. More than half the population of Sassari speak Sassarese, and there are other Sassarese speaking towns such as Porto Torres and Sorso.
An Endangered Language
Sardinian may be a protected language but it is still endangered. It is spoken widely among the older population of Sardinia but has dropped to less than 13% among Sardinian children.
The language is spoken at home, but the Sardinians often prefer to speak Italian outside the house. The dominance of Italian in schools and mass media has pushed Sardinians further away from their native language.
Unfortunately, Sardo is not taught in Sardinian schools, aside for a few experimental classes. The language was looked down upon, causing many local speakers to view this rich and elegant language with shame. Today, many Sardinians are rediscovering pride in speaking the native national language.
Some towns provide Sardinian languages courses for those interested. There are several well-known Sardinian language music groups such as Tazenda, which continue to promote Sardinia and perform songs in Sardo to crowds of Sardinians singing along with the lyrics.
Examples Of The Sardinian Language
Non Potho Reposare is a popular cultural song in Sardinia, it’s was written 100 years ago. The first verse below is in Sardinia, translated into Italian, and English below.
Non potho reposare amore ‘e coro
Pensende a tie so donzi momentu
No istes in tristura, prenda ‘e oro
Ne in dispiachere o pensamentu
T’assicuro ch’ a tie solu bramo
Ca t’amo forte t’amo, t’amo, t’amo
Non posso riposare, amore del mio cuore,
Ti penso ogni momento
Non essere triste, mio gioiello dorato,
Né dispiaciuta o preoccupata.
Ti assicuro di desiderare solo te
Perché ti amo tanto ti amo, ti amo, ti amo
The love of my heart can’t rest
thinking you every moment
Don’t be sad gold jewel
Don’t be sorry or worried
I assure you that I desire only you
I love you strongly, I love you, I love you
The Brief History Of The Sardinia Language
The language of a country or island is the result of a series of historic events that can only be determined upon future reflection. What led to the introduction and learning of Latin in Sardinia, then why was it abandoned, and why did it disappear to be replaced with Sardo?
The Lliensi or ancient Nuraghic people of Sardinia were opposed to the Carthaginian rule and took refuge among the mountains. The Romans that had been trying to conquer Sardinia since 400bc, finally took it in 238ac, following the second Punic war against Carthage.
The first areas of Sardinia influenced by Latin were Cagliari, and Porto Torres, while the central regions of Sardinia remained conservative and protective.
The native Sardinians joined a Carthage revolt in 215bc against the Romans legions in Sardinia known as the battle of Decimomannu, but the insurgency was crushed. The Carthaginian army later fled to Africa and left the Nuragic people to face severe repression from Rome.
Due to its isolation from the mainland, the Sardinian language was able to retain many of its similarities with Latin, evolving uniquely away from the influence of other romance languages.
Once Latin has made its roots in Sardinia, it was influenced by other cultures for the next two thousand years, giving us the Sardinian language of today. Influenced by the Bizantine, The Pope, Arabs, Kingdom Of Aragon, Spanish, and the pre-Latin languages of Sardinia.
The influence of Italian on the Sardinian didn’t stop, even when the Sardinia was ruled by the Aragonese and then Spanish, the young Sardinians prefered to study in the Italian universities of Pisa and Bologna.
With Italian as the national language, Sardinian then declined politically to the position of dialect, but from linguistic history, the Sardinian language remains an independent language with distinctive features that make it different from the other Romance languages.
The Sardinian language of today, allows Sardinians to communicate spirituality, a language of a fascinating lineage, all the way through history, reuniting with the centuries of the Nuraghi.