Some Fundamentals of Romance Linguistics with Regard to Sardinian


When it comes to consider the vast space that Latin and the Romance languages occupy, geographical, temporal, and social dimensions pop up at least as unavoidable. In coming to grips with the evolution of the vulgar Latin into their extant reflexes, there is also unanimous agreement in regarding vowel quantity, syllable boundaries, and syllable weight as the three main concepts accounting for the progressive stages and the final aspect of the neo-Latin languages today. In reassuming such a theoretical frame, this paper is more particularly intended to give a picture of these features when applied to Sardinian. Its insular development beside the controversy on its alleged non Indo-European origin, the conservative forms the Sardinian took with regard to Latin, or the deep imprint the diverse linguistic superstrata exerted upon it are all these traits that, doubtlessly, contribute to making of the Sardinian a unique Romance standing for its own place in the scene of the minority languages.

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Saumell, J. (2015) Some Fundamentals of Romance Linguistics with Regard to Sardinian. Open Access Library Journal, 2, 1-8. doi: 10.4236/oalib.1101498.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] A = B, B = C, A = C first expounded in Aristotle’s Metaphysics A I, 981a 5-9.
[2] A → B, ¬A = ¬B.
[3] As opposite to the Classical, or Fixed Latin, by vulgar Latin it is here meant the evolving spoken language of the first centuries AD among the populations of the Roman Empire. Cf. Coseriu (1987), p. 56; Alkire-Rosen (2010), p. 5.
[4] From the midst 60’s of the last century onwards the American linguist S. Krashen devoted his effort to reckon the processes and the strategies the speakers of a language L1 put in practice to acquire, make sense, and—in the best of cases—become fully competent in a target language. This altogether gave pace to the theory of the Second Language Acquisition.
[5] E.g. *mi ho messo la tuta; *Giovanna si ha tolto gli occhiali (En.*I was put my sport suit on; *Giovanna was taken her glasses off) Cf. Renzi (1992), p. 195.
[6] E.g. *stasera ho visto a Giovanna (as if in English one would say *I have seen the Giovanna this eve). The reason underpinning the mistake probably owes to the fact that the normal construction in Sardinian is built with preposition, while in Italian is not. With 1.5 m. of speakers, by way of guidance, the Sardinian is the group of kindred dialects to which the Latin gave rise in Sardinia, being exceptions the city of the Alghero, where Catalan is spoken, and the southwestern emplacements of Carloforte and Calasetta, in the islands of S. Petro and S. Antioco, where an archaic form of the dialect spoken in Genoa is preserved, the so-called tabarchino. Cf. Tagliavini (1982), p. 388; Renzi (1992), p. 70.
[7] Dacia was annexed to the Roman Empire under Trajan (98-117 AD).
[8] M. L. Wagner put the cornerstones of all the enterprise to come, but perhaps it was J. Hubschmid who most eagerly defended this position.
[9] This point is expounded in detail in Blasco-Francalacci-Nocentini (2013), pp. 7-34.
[10] This is (ƒ + v > h [Ø] + v).
[11] Such a transitional phoneme is attested for instance in modern Japanese; ふ [hu]. Its correspondent aspirated and bila-bial cognate forms are, of course, contemplated in Japanese, but for the nonnative Japanese speaker it is certainly difficult to tell apart if the sound represented by ふ actually corresponds to [ƒ], to [p] or to a lenited glottid stroke [Ɂu].
[12] Tagliavini (1982), p. 125.
[13] E.g. Lat. quinque [‘kwiķkwe] (En. five) > Log. Kimbe [‘kiɱbe], while in Camp. Cincu [‘tʃiķku]). Cf. Alkire-Rosen (2010), p. 56; Tagliavini (1982), p. 390. The word for “Friday” is not only another sample of this very fact-Log. kenapura whereas in Camp. cenabara (En. pure supper)—but also of a superstratum with evident Semitic roots.
[14] As a result of the victory, Sardinia came to be part of the Carthaginian empire, while Corsica and the Gallura (the northeastern part of Sardinia) were handed down to the Etruscans. To a good extent this was to cause the actual differences between the Sardinian either the Corse and the Gallurean dialect.
[15] Evidence of this influence is the name of the emplacement called Macomer whose purported stem is said to be the Phoenician maqom (En. city, emporium, market). Cf. Wagner (1950), p. 144.
[16] Tagliavini (1982), p. 125.
[17] This is ll [l:] into [ɠɠ:] (l: > ɠɠ:). Regardless of the usage of [ɠɠ:] is namely bound to initial and medial position, it is taken here notwithstanding in virtue of its cacuminal nature. E.g. Lat. CABALLUS> Sar. caddu [‘kwaɠɠ:u]. As a title of anecdote, “caballus” is neither the classical nor the vulgar Latin word for “horse” but EQUUS. Related to the Gr. ϊππος, this would fit in the general and accepted rotation that there is to be found between [p] and [k] in Indo-European. In the opinion of the romanist J. Coromines “caballus” would rather be a loanword from a Gallic language that Latin incorporated by the second century BC. Cf. Coromines (1992), p. 647.
[18] Tagliavini (1982), pp. 122.
[19] Renzi (1992), pp. 170-171; Tagliavini (1982), p. 392.
[20] E.g. Log. sorra results from the Lat. soror in the nominative not in the accusative sororem (En. sister). Renzi (1992), p. 140.
[21] Lat. iuba > Camp. yuba (En. mane); Lat. coniugare> Log. koyuare (En. to get married); Lat. porcus aper > Log. porkavru (En. wild boar). As regards this last one, it is also attested the form porcu arestu. Cf. Tagliavini (1982), p. 392. What really matters, nonetheless, is the fact that in the majority of Romance languages (Cat. senglar, Fr. sanglier, It. cinghiale) the wild boar is named by the purported Latin stem singŭlāre, i.e. single, alone.
[22] Cf. Strabo Geography XVI, 1, 17-18. Both, (Il)-ienses and (Ogli)-astra, are recalling the purported connection of the Proto-Basque with Palaeosardinian.
[23] The purported date for the rising of the Cohors Aquitanorum can be traced back to the first century BC, in particular, by the time of Augustus.
[24] This fact is deemed to have strengthened both of the layers in the non Indo-European linguistic substratum of the Sardinian above described, the Bascoid and the Phoenician.
[25] Coseriu (1987), pp. 53-54.
[26] These being ī, Ĭ, ē, Ě, ā, Ă, Ŏ, ō, Ŭ, ū and resulting from the two basic quantities (long and short) multiplied by the five basic vocalic timbres/pitches (a, e, i, o, and u).Yet, properly speaking, since [a] lost its quantity in a very early stage of the process the different vocalic phonemes in the system could be reduced to 9. Cf. Alkire-Rosen (2010), p. 9.
[27] As it goes, for instance, in modern Slovak and other languages of inflecting type. From a typological point of view the main difference one might find between the Latin and the Romance languages is that the former is regarded as a synthetic language while the Neo-Latin ones are said to be analytic. Cf. Renzi (1992), p. 306; Coseriu (1987), p. 61. At any rate, in Latin and in ancient Greek the substantives neutral-characterized by the oblique case due to the absence of barytonesis in the vocative singular-present the same form for almost three different syntactic functions (casus rectus). Hence the way to say in Latin make a mistake or to be wrong was aequivocare, i.e. to call two things by the same word. The misunderstandings provoked by this phenomenon did not pass unnoticed and it was very soon described. In Categories 1a 1-15, for instance, Aristotle made reference to this by the tenet “paronymy”.
[28] It is credited that by the sixth century AD the language(s) spoken in Sardinia did no longer reflect the written Latin in the texts, up to the point that Latin became unintelligible to Sardinian speakers (and vice versa). The gradual and irreversible drift of the newborn Sardinian away from the Latin ended up constituting the Sardinian into a completely different linguistic entity. As a similar process is deemed to have occurred with the majority of the Neo-Latin languages there is no room for a doubt about the real novelty the Romance languages entrained with regard to Latin. Pulgram’s view is somewhat contrary to this, since he claims to be a continuity between the Latin spoken and the Romances, whereby the blank to which we refer is in Pulgram’s opinion of diasystemic or diamessic nature, this is, between the way(s) the Latin was spoken and the way it was written, i.e. within a very and single language. Cf. Pulgram (1987), pp. 189-191.
[29] That is to say: ī, Ĭ>[i]; ē, Ě>[e]; ā, Ă>[a]; ō, Ŏ>[o]; ū, Ŭ>[u].
[30] Lat. FīLIUM> Sar. fillu [‘fil:u] as well as Lat. PĬRA> Sar. pira [‘pira].
[31] In virtue of the LQC, [ε] and [ɔ] in Italian are the respective outcome of the Ě and the Ŏ in Latin. It is important to note that these two phonemes would experience a process towards diphthong in open (light or free) syllable, e. gr. Lat. DĚCEM > It. dieci [‘dȷe(t)ʃi]; Lat. ŎVUM > It. uovo [‘uoβo]. The typical paragogic vocalism that Sardinian speakers deploy ( tui pigas [‘tui’βiɣaza]) is strongly contrasting with the fall of the final etymological -s in the majority of dialectal forms developed in the Italic peninsula and in Rumania, this being in turn a definite difference between Western and Eastern romances. Cf. Renzi (1992), p. 197. On the other hand, nonetheless, the paragogic vocalism is said to be of epenthetic nature, contributing in a way to the apparent predilection of Sardinian for free—or light—syllabic unities, this is, not blocked by a consonant. Cf. Blasco (2009), p. 92; Herman (1987), p. 97; Alkire-Rosen (2010), p. 12.
[32] By metaphony it is intended the assimilatory rising of vowels in anticipation of a following, higher, phoneme, typically a high vowel or a glide. Cf. Penny (2002), p. 47.
[33] Renzi (1992), pp. 58-59.
[34] While i and u are considered high vowels, a, e, and o are regarded as middle or low ones.
[35] In accordance with the metaphony we get then Camp. bene [‘bεne] < Lat. BɛNE (En. well); Camp. coda [‘kɔðea] < Lat. CODAM (En. tail).
[36] Started to be written in the second and the third century AD with the aim of representing the popular speech in Egypt, the Coptic clearly falls out of the category of a Romance, belonging in fact to the branch of the Hamito-Semitic languages. If it is brought up here it is in order to enhance the influence of the Greek superstratum. By judging the often presence of itacism in some dialectal forms of the Coptic, specially the Lycopolitan, one might presume that itacism was already a linguistic dominant during the Roman Imperial period.
[37] Cf. Ledgeway (2012), pp. 100-101.
[38] Regardless of the dissent as regards the dates given, the point is that many Sardinian authors composed and wrote in Catalan during the Catalan dominion, as well as the Spanish was the official language of the laws and the instruction until the 1720.
[39] Cat. Baldufa > Camp. bardunfola (Cagliari), budrunfa (San Sperate); Cat. rata-pinyada/rat-penat > Camp. ratapignata (only in Cagliari)—while in the small village of Seulo this winged mammal is known by fericonca elsewhere in Sardinia is called zurrundeddu)—; Cat. cadira > Camp. cadira.
[40] Tagliavini (1982), p. 391. The fundamentals of Indo-European linguistics point to the fact that the apparition of the article as semantic item is one of the latest turns that some—not all—European languages took. As to Sardinian concerns, it suffices to say that neither there are forms of definite article nor traces of indefinite one prior to the Middle Ages. Renzi (1992), pp. 143-144.

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