Languages of the Mediterranean

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Languages of the Mediterranean
Mediterranean linguistic spaces:
Upper Balkans and the Italic
peninsula
Eda Derhemi
The Mediterranean area: three main points of
the presentation and the area I discuss
1. Against an essentialist approach of the Mediterranean
2. Mediterranean as a contested space
3. Mediterranean: ideal space for communication but also isolation, innovations but also conservatism
“Mediterraneo” – 1991 film of Gabriele Salvatores
• Italiani, turchi: una faccia, una razza!
[Italians, Turks: one face, one race/kind]
In 1941, a group of Italian soldiers are forgotten (on duty) on a Greek
island in the Aegean sea. They are absorbed into the life, heat and
landscape of the island and are able to return to Italy only after WWII.
The excerpt shows the moment they encounter Aziz, a Turk who comes
to the island in a small boat. They smoke hashish together. Aziz seems
not to know much about the war. At last the Italians realize that Aziz
has stolen all their weapons in order to sell them. This excerpt will be
referred to more than once during the presentation. Focus on the use of
the aphorism “Una faccia, una razza” at the beginning and the end of
this excerpt.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8kfPlXxIrE
0:40-Antalia
5-5:20 6-end
1. Against an essentialist approach to the
Mediterranean
• Analysis of the concept of Mediterranean “race” vs.
Mediterranean language
• From ‘Frankish’ or ‘Sabir’ to Mussolini
• Appearing harmless in all the languages of the area
(as “kind”, “type”), the concept of Mediterranean
“race” is a concept socially constructed and used for
political purposes
2. The Mediterranean as a contested
space: the case of the Balkan coast
• “the most ancient
language of all”- from
exclusion to a desperate
search for centrality
• The symbolic hierarchy
of alphabets
• Toponymy war and
linguistic purism
• Language proliferation
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
and Marshal Tito
Linguistic map of ex-Yugoslavia –
Trudgill: “75% spoke Serbo-Croatian”
National
Geographic
map of
1990
Excellent reading:
many languages or
our language?
“Mare Nostrum” again?
http://www.rferl.org/content/Serbian_Croatian_Bosnian_or_Montenegrin_Many
_In_Balkans_Just_Call_It_Our_Language_/1497105.html
3. Mediterranean: ideal space for communication but also
isolation; innovation but also conservatism
Civita di Bagnoregio (Lazio) an Etruscan town
continuously inhabited from 8th BC – hypothesis
of “la gorgia toscana” ‘k’ vs ‘kh’ (la casa> la hasa)
Veneto, Sardinia and Sicily
• The story of the Lion of
Piraeus who carries on his
back Athens, Turkey, Venice,
Scandinavia and more
• Sardinia: conservatism of the
varieties; short vowels ‘I’ and
‘u’ of the Old Latin still alive;
Punic word ‘zippiri’
• Sicily- layers of living old
influences: Arabic and
Norman/Gallo-Italic French
• Siculo-Arabic in Malta
The story of the Lion of Piraeus
The Arsenal of Venezia
The runic inscription on the lions
shoulder
A replica of the Lion in the Port
of Piraeus (Athens) today
RUNES, Scandinavia and Rhaetia
The Runic alphabet used in Germanic
languages after II century AD
A Rune stone in Sweden from 11th century
(age similar to that of the Lion’s inscription)
Sardinia and Sicily
Kitab-Ä Bahriye (Book of
Navigation) of Piri Reis
Sicilian differences from the rest of the
dialect continuum
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Sicilian
Accattari
Addumari
Custureri
Racina
Rinauda
Travaghiari
Italian
comprare
accendere
sarto
uva
volpe
lavorare
French
acheter
allumer (retroflex ‘d’)
couturier
raisin
renard
travailler
English
buy
turn on
tailor
grape
fox
work
ARABIC Toponymy
• Marsala (Marsa= port),
Misilmeri, da Menzel-el-Emir (‫)منزل األمير‬
(villaggio dell'Emiro),
• all the Sicilian cities with ‘cal’, like Caltanisetta, Calatafimi, Caltavuturo etc,
where Qal’a = castle/fortress in Arabic);
Final point: Overlooked features of the Mediterranean
linguistic space
Catalan map
of the
Mediterranean:
1375
1. Besides the linguistic influences from the sea, those from the land are also
significant molders of the existing Mediterranean languages, history and culture;
2. Interconnection and innovations have co-existed with linguistic isolation and
conservatism;
3. Mediterranean solidarity is not more recurring than Mediterranean animosity;
4. The Southern Mediterranean (non-European) influence on the Mediterranean
linguistic and cultural space is very significant;
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