(Sardu, Limba Sarda) is, after
Italian, the main language spoken
on the island of Sardinia, Italy.
is considered the most conservative of the Romance languages
in terms of phonology
and is noted for its Paleosardinian
The Sardinian language can be divided into the following main
subregional language groups clearly identified by isogloss
survival of a dialect of Catalan in the
town of Alghero is a
consequence of the domination of Catalonia over Sardinia as part of the Catalan-Aragonese
- Sardinian proper, characterised by a plural in
-s and definite articles derived from the Latin
- Northern, the most conservative dialect
- sas limbas — 'the languages'
- sas abbas — 'the waters'
- Central, considered to be a transitional dialect
between Northern and Southern Sardinian
- is limbas — 'the languages'
- is abbas — 'the waters'
- Southern, more influenced by continental Italian
- is linguas — 'the languages'
- is acuas — 'the waters'
- Corso-Sardinian dialects, spoken in the
extreme north of Sardinia, are sometimes considered as independent
languages or to be part of the Corsican language rather than Sardinian.
They are characterised by a plural in -i and definite
articles derived from the Latin ILLUM
- Sassarese (G-shape)
- eba — 'water'
- garri — 'meat'
- eu digu — 'I say'
- Gallurese (C-shape)
- e'a — 'water'
- carri — 'meat'
- eu dicu — 'I say'
(Spain did not exist at the time and only came into
existence after the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon
and Isabel of Castile
in the XV Century). The
Sardinian language is mainly based on Latin, Italian, and
Castilian, although you may find German and English routest
throughout the language.
All dialects of Sardinian feature archaic phonetic features when
compared to other Romance
. The degree of archaism varies, with Nuorese
considered the most conservative. The examples listed below are
from the northwestern Logudorese dialect:
- The Latin short vowels and have preserved
their original sound (in Italian
and Spanish they became and ,
respectively; in Portuguese and
Catalan the was also kept but
written as an 'o'). For example: siccus >
sicu 'dry' (Italian secco, Spanish
- Preservation of the plosive sounds and before front vowels and
in many (though not all) words. For example:
centum > kentu 'hundred';
decem > dèke 'ten' or
gener > gheneru 'son in law' (Italian
cento, dièci, genero with and ).
- Absence of diphthongizations found in
other Romance languages. For example: potest >
podet 'he can' (Italian può, Spanish
puede); bonus > bónu 'good'
(Italian buono, Spanish bueno).
Sardinian also features numerous phonetic innovations, including
latter two features were acquired during the Spanish
domination, the others reveal deeper relations between ancient
Sardinia and the Iberia
world. Note that retroflex d, l
and r are found not only in southern Italy and Tuscany but also in Asturias.
- The transformation of Latin -ll- into a retroflex . For example:
bellus > bellu 'pretty',
villa > villa 'villa'.
- The consonant clusters -ld- and -nd- were
similarly affected: soldus > 'money';
abundantia > 'abundance'.
- The evolution of pl-, fl, cl- into
pr-, fr, cr- as in Portuguese and
Galician; for example:
platea > pratza 'plaza' (Portuguese
praça, Galician praza, Italian piazza),
fluxus > frúsciu 'flabby' (Port. and Gal.
frouxo), ecclesia > crexia
'church' (Port. igreja, Gal. igrexa, It.
- Transformations like
abbaltzare 'to embrace'.
- Vowel prothesis before
an initial r in Campidanese like in Basque or Gascon: regem >
urrei = re, gurrèi 'king';
rotam > arroda 'wheel' (Gascon
arròda); rivum > Sard. and Gasc.
- Vowel prothesis in Logudorese before an initial s
followed by consonant, like in Western Romance:
scriptum > iscrítu (Spanish
écrit), stellam > 'star' (Spanish
estrella, French étoile).
- Except for the Nuorese dialects, Latin single voiceless
plosives in intervocalic
position became voiced approximants, and single voiced
plosives were lost: > (or rather its soft counterpart ):
locum > (It. luògo),
caritatem > (It. carità). Note that these
processes also apply across word boundaries: porku (pig)
but su borku (the pig); domo (house) but sa
omo (the house).
were probably involved in the palatalization process of the Latin
- > Cast.
and Cat. -ll
- , Gasc. -th
- > Old Port.
- , Ital. chi
Sardinian has the following phonemes (according to Blasco Ferrer
The five vowels (without length differentiation).
The following three series of plosives or corresponding
Cagliari the soft can
be assimilated to a flap (evoking Basque irudi =
iduri 'to seem', ideki 'to take out' >
ireki 'to open'): digitus > didu
= diru 'finger'.
- Voiceless stops derive from their Latin homologue in
composition after another stop; they are reinforced (double) in initial position but this
reinforcement is not written since it does not produce a different
- Double voiced stops (after another consonant) derive from their
Latin homologue in composition after another stop;
- Weak voiced "stops", sometimes transcribed , which are in fact
approximants after vowels, as in Spanish. They derive from single
Latin stops either voiced or not.
- Retroflex (written dh) derives from a former retroflex
- A former voiced palatal plosive (like the Hungarian gy) > (to be
- The labiodental (sometimes pronounced or in initial position)
- some mutations from to can be observed
(vipera > bibera 'viper'). In central
Sardinian the sound disappears: a behavior that evokes the
transformation > known in Gascon and Castilian.
- written th (like in English thing), the
fricative, is a dialectal variant of the phoneme .
- e.g. ipsa > íssa
- the voiced corresponding consonant that was introduced during
the 1st century B.C. through Greek
loanwords such as Zmirne,
and, as in Italian:
- pronounced or = , written sc before i or
e. This phoneme also has a voiced allophone which is often
spelled with the letter x.
- (or ) a denti-alveolar affricate written tz, that corresponds to
Italian z or ci-, natural evolution of before
- (or ), written z, corresponds to Italian gi-
and from Italian:
- written c before e or i.
- written g before e or i.
- (or ), double when initial
- a retroflex l that was used in Old Sardinian in place
of Latin double -ll-, and became a retroflex d
(Blasco Ferrer 69).
- a flap written r
- a trill written as in Spanish,
Catalan or Basque rr.
Some permutations of l
can be observed:
'rock'.In palatal context,
changed into , , , or rather than :
'wish' (It. vòglia
'leaf' (It. foglia
'daughter' (It. figlia
The main distinctive features of Sardinian are :
- The plural marker is
-s (from the Latin accusative
plural) as in the Western
Romance languages (French,
Occitan, Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician): sardu, sardus; ,
'hen'; margiane, margianes 'fox'. In Italo-Dalmatian
languages such as Italian or in
Eastern Romance languages such as
Romanian, the plural ends with
-i or -e.
- Sardinian uses a definite article derived from the Latin
ipsus: su, sa, plural sos, sas. Such
articles are common in Balearic Catalan and
used to be common in Gascon.
- A periphrastic construction of the
form 'to have to' (late Latin habere ad) is used as
future: apo a istàre 'I will stay'.
- For prohibitions, a negative form of subjunctive is used:
non bengias! 'don't come!' (compare Spanish no
Pre-Latin Sardinian words
- míntza (mitza, miza) '(water) spring'
- tzichiría (sichiria, tzirichia) 'dill'
- tzingòrra (zingòrra), kind of small eel
- tzípiri (tzípari) 'rosemary'
- cóstiche 'variety of maple' (cf. Bas.
- cúcuru 'top'; e.g. cucuredhu 'pinnacle',
'mound', etc. (cf. Bas. kukur 'summit')
- giágaru (Campidanese) 'hunting dog' (cf. Bas.
- golósti 'holly' (cf. Bas. gorosti)
- sechaju 'year-old lamb' (cf. Bas. segaila
- Latin words prefixed with the pre-Latin article
- tilichèrta, Camp. tzilikitu 'lizard'
(ti + L. lacerta)
- tilingiòne "worm" (ti + L. lumbricum
- trúcu 'neck'; var. ciugu, túgulu, Camp.
tsuguru (t + L. jugulum)
- túgnu, tontonníu 'mushroom' (t + L.
Other pre-Latin Sardinian words are presented here:
- bèga 'damp plain' probable
cognate with Portuguese
veiga, Spanish vega 'fertile plain' (Basque
- bàcu 'canyon'
- garrópu 'canyon'
- giara 'tableland'
- míntza 'spring' / 'manantial' / 'sorgènte'.
- piteràca, boturinu, terighinu 'way'
- tzaurra 'germ'; intzaurru, 'sprout'
- araminzu, oroddasu — Cynodon
dactylon 'couch grass'
- arbutu, arbutzu, abrutzu —
Asphodelus ramosus 'asphodel'
(although in Latin arbustus means 'bush', 'shrub')
- atagnda, atzagndda — Papaver rhoeas 'red poppy'
- bidduri — Conium maculatum 'hemlock'
- carcuri — Ampelodesma
mauritanica (a Mediterranean grass)
- istiòcoro — Picris
- curma — Ruta chalepensis 'rue'
- tinníga, tinnía, sinníga, tsinníga — 'esparto'
- tiría — Calicotome
spinosa 'thorny broom'
- tzichiría — Ridolfia segetum (a kind of
- gròdde, marxani 'fox'
- irbírru, isbírru, iskírru, ibbírru 'marten'
- tilingiòne, tilingròne, tiringoni 'earthworm'
- tilipírche, tilibílche 'grasshopper'
- tilicúcu, telacúcu, tiligúgu 'gecko', Camp. tsilicitu 'lizard'
- tilichèrta, tilighèrta, tilighèlta; calixerta
'lizard', cognate with Latin lacerta.
History and origins
The history of the island of Sardinia
relatively isolated from the European
continent up into modern times, led to the development of a
distinct Romance language, which even now preserves traces of the
indigenous pre-Roman languages of the island. The language is of
origin like all Romance languages yet
the following substratal
Adstratal influences include:
The early origins of the Sardinian language (sometimes called
) are still obscure, due mostly to the lack
of documents, as Sardinian appeared as a written form only in the
. There are substantial
differences between the many theories about the development of
Sardinian, so opposite results are sometimes produced.
Many studies have attempted to discover the origin of some obscure
roots that today could legitimately be defined as indigenous,
pre-Romance roots. First of all, the root of sard
in many toponyms and distinctive of the ethnic group, is supposed
to have come from a mysterious people known as the Shardana
, "the people of the sea".
Massimo Pittau claimed in 1984 to have found in the Etruscan language
of many other Latin words, after
comparison with the Nuragic
true, one could conclude that, having evidence of a deep influence
of Etruscan culture in Sardinia, the island could have directly
received from Etruscan many elements that are instead usually
considered to be of Latin origin. Pittau then indicates that both the
Etruscan and Nuragic languages are descended from the Lydian language, therefore being both
Indo-European languages, as
a consequence of the alleged provenance of Etruscans/Tirrenii from that land (as in Herodotus), where effectively the capital town was
Pittau also suggests, as a historical
point, that the Tirrenii landed in Sardinia, whereas the Etruscans
landed in modern-day Tuscany
Pittau's views however are not representative of most
It has been said that Paleosardinian should be expected to have
notable similarities with Iberic
and the Siculian
, for example, in proparoxytones
(Bertoldi and Terracini
proposed it indicated plural forms). The same would happen
(according to Terracini) for suffixes in -/àna/, -/ànna/, -/énna/,
-/ònna/ + /r/ + paragogic
vowel (as in the
surname Bonnànnaro). Rohlfs, Butler and Craddock add the suffix
-/ini/ (as in the surname Barùmini) as a peculiar element of
Paleosardinian. At the same time, suffixes in /a, e, o, u/ +
-rr- seem to find a correspondence in northern Africa (Terracini), in Iberia (Blasco
Ferrer), in southern Italy and in Gascony (Rohlfs),
with some closer relation to Basque
Suffixes in -/ài/, -/éi/, -/òi/, and
-/ùi/ are common to Paleosardinian and northern African languages
(Terracini). Pittau underlined that this concerns terms originally
ending in an accented vowel, with an attached paragogic
vowel; the suffix resisted Latinization
in some toponyms
, which show a Latin body
and a Nuragic desinence. On this point, some toponyms ending in
-/ài/ and in -/asài/ were thought to show Anatolic influence
(Bertoldi). The suffix -/aiko/, widely used in Iberia, and perhaps
of Celtic origins, as well as the ethnical suffix in -/itani/ and
-/etani/ (as in the Sardinian Sulcitani
) have been noted
as other Paleosardinian elements (viz Terracini, Ribezzo, Wagner,
Hubschmid, Faust, et al.).
Roman domination, beginning in 238 BC, obviously brought
Latin to Sardinia, but Latin was not able to
completely supplant the Pre-Roman Sardinian language.
obscure roots remained unaltered, and in many cases it was Latin
that was made to accept the local roots, such as nur (in
Nuraghe, as well as Nuoro and many
Roman culture, on the other hand, was
undoubtedly dominant; Barbagia derives its name from the Greek word
Ό βάρβαρος-ου that means stuttering because its people couldn't
speak Latin well. Cicero
, who called
Sardinians latrones matrucati
(thieves with rough
sheep-wool cloaks) to emphasise Roman superiority, helped to spread
this time period, there was a reciprocal influence between Corsica and a limited area of northern Sardinia.
the southern side, though, the evidence favors contacts with
and (later) Byzantine
languages. In the 1st century
AC, some relevant groups of Hebrews were
deported to Sardinia, bringing various influences; the Christianization of the island would
probably have brought Hebrews to convert to a sort of independent
cult of Sant'Antioco (perhaps a way to preserve some aspects of their
ethnicity under a Christian form), still present in Gavoi.
contact with Hebrews, followed by another deportation of
Christians, presumedly lasted for a couple of centuries, and makes
it likely that by the 3rd century AC, Vulgar Latin
began to dominate the
This eventual Latin cultural domination thus makes Sardinian a
Romance language, or more precisely an archaic neo-Latin language,
whose main characteristics are an archaic phonetic and
After this domination, Sardinia passed under the control of the
Eastern Roman Empire, and more influences are derived from this
culture. The Greek language that was the main reference of
Byzantines did not, however, enter into the structure of Sardinian
(still a Romance language) except for in some ritual or formal
formulas that are expressed in Latin using Greek structure. Much
evidence for this can be found in the Condaghes
, the first
written documents in Sardinian.
toponyms show Greek influence as well, such as Jerzu, commonly
presumed to derive from the Greek khérsos (untilled),
together with the personal names Mikhaleis, Konstantine, and
The Sardinian language is one of the principal elements of
Sardinian cultural heritage, and there is great activity of late
dedicated to studying the language and acknowledging its
importance. The recognition of the Sardinian language as a
characteristic ethnic element is supported not only by independentist
movements, but is also
supported by a wide percentage of local population as a whole, as
well as the international support of the Sardinian diaspora
The Sardinian language has recently been recognised as an official
by the Sardinian
Autonomous Region; it can therefore be used for official purposes
on the island. The debate as to its legality had become
quite dramatic by the 1980s: at Alghero's Fertilia
international airport, in a Sardinian Catalan-speaking area, an
employee was heard over the loudspeakers (provocatively) announcing
the flights in Italian, English and Sardinian
The employee was fired and penally condemned,
causing widespread Sardinian nationalist sentiment, sometimes
including violent political disputes which finally led to the law
officialising the language. (Note that it must be said that in
Alghero the need of diversifying the cultural position was perhaps
even more urgent, since in its origins and its history are the
distinctive signs of an ethnic enclave
surrounded by a
culture, which in turn has been
oppressed by an external culture.)
In the last decade, the Sardinian language has been recognized
officially from a legal point of view (law 482/1999 about minority
languages in Italy), yet its actual acknowledgement in the
present-day life is hard. For example in many Italian libraries and
Universities the books about Sardinian language are still grouped
under the labels Linguistica italiana
linguistics), Dialetti italiani
(Italian dialects) or
(Italian dialectology) since this
language is perceived as a dialect
its legal recognition as a language
Sardinian in Italy
The national anthem of the Kingdom of Sardinia
) was the Hymnu Sardu
(or Cunservet Deus su
), the lyrics of which are in the Sardinian language. It was
partially substituted by the Savoy
when Italy was unified. During the Fascist
period, especially the Autarchy
foreign languages were banned. The restrictions went so far that
even personal names and surnames were made to sound more
"Italian-sounding". During this period, the Sardinian Hymn was the
sole chance to speak in a foreign language in Italy without risking
prison, because, as a fundamental part of the Royal Family's
tradition, it could not be forbidden.
Sardinians took advantage of this possibility to express their
opposition to Fascism by singing the Hymn, as did King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
several official occasions, when the Crown needed to remind
of its superior position.
To reduce this potentially dangerous bit of "propaganda" which was
being "innocently" whistled and sung in Sardinian streets,
Mussolini was forced to find urgent remedies: Achille Starace
(national secretary of the
Fascist party) "genially" imposed the use of Orbace
(a poor Sardinian wool) as the national
cloth for the uniforms of the Militia
, while on a cultural level Mussolini
himself officially recognised on repeated occasions the effective
value of Sardinian poets and writers, still on the border of the
limits of the law. These cautious attentions for the island also
included the saning of wide areas of the region
) and the implementation of commerce and
The Catholic priests too, friendly to Fascism after the
of 1929, started
explaining that Latin
(which was allowed),
although very similar to Sardinian, was not Sardinian (the Holy
Mass was still in Latin) and practiced a strict obstructionism
, a genre of popular art expressed in public shows
in Sardinia, in which two or more poets are assigned a surprise
theme and have to develop it on the spur of the moment in rhymed
In the Italian army, the infantry corps of Brigata Sassari
(Sassari's Brigade) was
the sole unit allowed to have a separate hymn in the Sardinian
- ancient local pagan devils), being
the brigade composed exclusively by Sardinian soldiers, the only
such brigade in Italy. As a form of respect to Brigata
, who performed well in World
, any military important operation in Sardinia is named
after the last words of Dimonios
: Fortza Paris
(loosely, let's combine our strength
- Eduardo Blasco Ferrer: Mensching, 1969
- Gerhard Rohlfs: Le gascon, 1935.