Linguistic Situation of Sicily at time of Norman Arrival

Discussion in 'General' started by paul, 13 July 2017.

  1. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    I've been trying to gather a more complete picture of the available information regarding the survival of Romance dialects in Sicily during the Arab and Eastern Roman periods. I've found this forum post. That seems to offer some opinions on this issue, but I'm having a hard time identifying which works are viewed as most reliable on this topic, and what primary sources we have available. Does anyone have any insight?

    Primarily my question is: What evidence do we have to support or refute the question: "Were Romance dialects present in Sicily before the arrival of the Normans?"

    Thanks guys!
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  2. fissatu

    fissatu Member Staff Member

    I can see both sides of the debate. For a long time, the texts I had made it clear that Sicilian was neo-Latin, that is, it didn't descend directly from a Latin spoken in Sicily continuously since the classical age, but rather, it was taken there in the Middle Ages by the Normans and their rag tag army of Southern Italians and Lombards.

    The more modern theories of Latin having been on the island the whole time, including through the Muslim occupation, even being the very first romance language to emerge from vulgar Latin, to be honest, it seems a bit too far-fetched for mine.

    There is not enough evidence to determine one way or the other, but the truth might lie somewhere in between, that some Latin survived, but it was not in large enough numbers to form the basis for Sicilian - I still think that overwhelmingly, Latin comes from the vulgar Latin brought across by the Normans, to which they and the Lombards added a good deal of vocabulary and grammar in the very earliest days (circa 1100AD).

    One idea which has merit (even if a bit speculative) is that even of Eastern Sicilian remained Greek-speaking, a fair bit of Latin had been absorbed into their Koine such that it's not out of the question that upon the arrival of the Normans, it may have been more accurate to speak of a Greco-Latin Koine being spoken in Eastern Sicily.

    When I flick through Giarizzo's Dizionario Etimologico Siciliano, it's remarkable how often he has trouble determining whether a Sicilian word has a Latin derivation or a Greek derivation, or it represents a crossover of both. This appears to suggest a fair bit of entanglement such that even philologists are stumped.
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  3. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    I think this point is particularly interesting. I'm skeptical of going as far as calling it a Greco-Latin Koiné, but to say that the local varieties of Greek contained substantial latin borrowings seems very plausible if not certain. The reason I'm skeptical of a mixed-language itself is that the entire neighbourhood at this time was Greek speaking, and had been Greek speaking for a very long time. But to say that many words likely had overlapping origins I think is clearly proved, and I think you could even expand that to the semitic vocabulary in Sicilian, which often also has greek origins. I enjoyed your reply, thank you.
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  4. Peppe

    Peppe New Member

    Check Sam Wolfe in the he has very good papers of the norman period sicilian... If I well remember I've sent u something of him in the past
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  5. Ruggero II

    Ruggero II New Member

    I still think that overwhelmingly, Latin comes from the vulgar Latin brought across by the Normans, to which they and the Lombards added a good deal of vocabulary and grammar in the very earliest days (circa 1100AD).

    If Sicilian came with Normans and Lombards that's why it is not a Gallo-Romance but an Italo-Dalmatian so?
  6. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    When we talk about the Romance brought by the Normans we have to consider that actual number of Normans and Lombards as a total of the population of Sicily were never large. But in the areas where settlement was heavy, we do in fact see Gallo-Romance, the Gallo-Italic of Sicily (same for Basilicata). Which was much more widespread in the past. It's also important to remember that the Normans were established in Calabria and southern Italy before their conquest of Sicily. Furthermore, Ligurian and 'Provençal' (this term is loaded) were a big factor as well. Finally the last important part of the soup is that it seems important to factor in that some ecclesiastical latin may have entered directly into sicilian, as regions we're actively being 'latinised'. That however is a thesis I need to explore more, as it comes from a few casual references in books and the reality that Sicily appears to have some evolutions directly from Late Latin rather than through one of the varieties that went into the 'proto-sicilian soup'.
  7. fissatu

    fissatu Member Staff Member

    ...further to that, hinted by Paul, a large number of Campanians either accompanied the Normans/Lombards, and/or migrated soon after.
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  8. Ruggero II

    Ruggero II New Member

    The latin repopulation was strong from XI to XIII century but to replace expelled and deported muslims not to change the language.

    What about the Epitaffio di Zoe from Acate?


    Come e quando si andò formando la lingua siciliana? Impossibile dare risposte certe, non solo per mancanza di reperti sufficienti ma anche perché il processo è stato complesso. Il cosiddetto "Epitaffio di Zoe" (VI sec. d.C.) è, forse, la prima testimonianza che abbiamo di un Latino che si sta volgarizzando in "direzione siciliana" (in rosso e verde evidenzio tali "sicilianizzazioni"). Durante il periodo arabo (X sec.) sono attestati alcuni termini già pienamente siciliani (seppur scritti con la pronuncia araba) e nel periodo normanno (XI sec.) troviamo, oltre che altri termini, la prima attestazione - seppure in latino - della maniera tutta siciliana di usare la ripetizione di un sostantivo indicante un luogo fisico per significare una estensione nello spazio di tale luogo.
    [ Nell'immagine, una slide di una mia conferenza in cui, nell'ordine, è possibile leggere:
    1. Il testo originario dell'Epitaffio di Zoe
    2. Lo stesso testo tradotto in Latino classico
    3. Lo stesso testo tradotto in Italiano
    4. Un esempio ancora "vivo" di scomparsa di D comparabile a quella evidenziata in verde nell'Epitaffio di Zoe nella parola AIVRATI
    5. Alcuni termini attestati nel periodo arabo
    6. Alcuni termini attestati nel periodo normanno ]
  9. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    That's kind of an oversimplified assessment of the situation. I would suggest a few books to give a better understanding of the nuances here. Linguistically, and socially I would be careful about anything you read that talks about Muslims in Sicily, people love to politicise that history when in reality the better scholarship shows how nuanced and human the situation was. Also don't forget that Latin vs Greek Rite/Language was also a religious divide that the Normans used in their political maneuvering. Metcalfe's book do a good job discussing what a "Latin" person meant as well.

    I would start with:
    Language and linguistic contact in ancient Sicily (for the older history)
    Metcalfe's books (many available free online in PDF) (better for norman period)

    Regarding the epitaph, it's a cool and very interesting piece of linguistic data, and an important one. But the conclusions the image makes are exaggerated. I will conclude with this sentence, when speaking about Sicily, the tendency of modern (not contemporary) linguists was to focus heavily from a monolingual perspective, when in fact bilingualism or even polyglotism is very important to Sicilian linguistics. Dr Olga Tribulato's book makes this case very well. I hope that helps provide a starting point for your research.
  10. Ruggero II

    Ruggero II New Member

    No problem, i'm graduate in history and i know what are the best books about this situation. You should read all the production of Centro Studi Normanno-Svevi for a better clear situation as well as other production of Renda, Hamel, Cancila and other Sicilian historians. About the linguistic and society latinization you can read the production of Charles Dalli of University of Malta :)
  11. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    Would you mind providing a couple specific recommendations on materials you really liked? I'm happy to do some reading if I can find copies so that we can better expand our understandings of each other's perspectives.
  12. Ruggero II

    Ruggero II New Member

  13. Ruggero II

    Ruggero II New Member

    when in fact bilingualism or even polyglotism is very important to Sicilian linguistics

    At the time of Ruggero II Palermo was tri-lingual, you can see it in an iscription in royal palace.
  14. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    I just finished two papers, they're quite lovely, I actually remember reading one of these papers! I particularly enjoy that despite the rather...excited titles, he does a good job of avoiding the tropes of 'battle of civilisations' and 'convivencia' in order to find a more nuanced perspective. Particularly avoiding projecting the present into the past. He's referencing a lot of the same sources found in some of my other favourite authors on the period. Thank you for sharing.

    I think perhaps the disconnect in our conversation is that both of us are looking for a more 'multifactorial' understanding to Sicily's Latinisation. For example, I think that muslim deportations were only a factor in the immigrations. Depopulation due to the years and years of conflict, as well as conversions, rewarding loyal allies, better population control, the conflict with the pope, as well as other factors all formed components of the need for immigrants. But consistently the "Latin" nature of the process is evidenced, both Dalli and Metcalfe both reference the settlement of Patti which specifically references that only "Latins" be allowed, but in reality we see that what is "Latin" is quite complicated and often limited to which church the settlers followers, or at least claimed to follow when offered land.

    But to your point, maybe you're communicating that the Latinisation of Sicily being a directed policy of language shift or assimilation would also be an exaggeration, and I hope that didn't appear to be my point as it's not my belief. The Normans clearly wanted to privilege 'Latins', but that policy I think the evidence shows was more economic, social and political rather than linguistic in its character. Particularly after the settlement of the conflict with the pope and the ending of the more lavish patronage to the Greek rite Christians of the island. Ultimately, I think at this time period linguistic and religious identity were fairly closely connected as community identities, with massive amounts of bilingualism, biculturalism and every shade of complexities in between.

    Anyway, I hope that clarifies my point of view, I didn't mean to come off as condescending to your understanding of the situation. As you may have seen... in other areas of discussion there is a lot of bad information available about Sicily out there, and we never know who shows up here. Most of us know each other from the groups and such so we better know each other's perspectives etc. Regardless, welcome!
  15. fissatu

    fissatu Member Staff Member

    I have no trouble believing Latin survived until 550AD (approximate time when Sicily came under the rule of the Byzantines, following a brief period of rule from the Ostrogoths, who themselves were probably latinised at that point).

    The real question is how much Latin had survived 500 years later.

    We know that under the 250 year muslim rule, that Greek and the Eastern rite had survived in NE Sicily - the evidence is pretty slim that Latin had survived - as in an extant romance language (as opposed to Arab and Greek koine with some latin words).
  16. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    Well put Joey, what I personally didn't realise until I did my research on this specific topic was the actual length of time involved, about 550 ACE to 1050 ACE. We're actually talking about a 500 year period. That's really long. Through which I think romance could have survived if it wasn't already fairly limited in Sicily to begin with. In Tribulato's book she proposes the idea that all of Sicily was a border zone, rather than the clean east/west divide common on older linguistic maps. Furthermore, there is substantial evidence that lower classes and rural populations even in Western Sicily we're often bilingual with Greek. When we factor in the mostly Greek speaking Jewish communities and the fact that Calabria was also Hellenised it would have made a difficult linguistic situation for Latin in Sicily. I'm not sure how well the Latinised populations of North Africa survived, and if it spread to all levels of society or was constrained by class, I know those communities traditionally were associated with Sicily, but how that relationship evolved I have no idea. I think it's very possible that some bilingualism survived in some little town somewhere, or maybe in a port area dealing with Latin origin ships, Southern Italian Koiné is quite Latin-y, as is Mediterranean Lingua Franca (MLF). Probably the most telling evidence we have that Latin wasn't very widely used in Sicily is that the Diwans produced during the Pre-Norman period don't contain Latin. They are generally speaking Greek/Arabic and rarely Hebrew documents. The fact that the administration of the island didn't deem it important enough to write in it, despite the fact that Latin scribes would have been easy to obtain seems indicative that it's spread must have been quite limited, mixed with bilingualism or confined to a non-literate class.
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  17. Tim

    Tim New Member

    I just read some of those Dalli articles and was fascinated! On that note...

    Paul, I think you must've meant Arabic-speaking? I haven't seen before that the Sicilian Jews were majority Greek-speaking.

    This is an awesome point. As much as I'd love to believe that somewhere in the "soup" was an appreciable, extant strand of Romance, the more I read/follow in this debate, the less I think it was appreciable or extant. Much more probably, the small Campanian influence is the best we'll find of a Southern-Italian-Romance basis in that soup. Otherwise, I really dig the theory of Ecclesiastical Latin being a direct influence along with the Norman/Gallo-Italic languages. I'd love to read a little more on that.
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  18. paul

    paul is a Verified Memberpaul Member Staff Member Standardisation Committee

    I think it's super cool you caught that! I was thinking of clarifying it myself. The Jewish communities of the island were primarily Greek speaking before the Moorish arrival. By the arrival of the Normans they are primarily Arabic speaking. The Jewish community was also particularly well known for its bilingualism as a lot of scribes and administrators came from that community as well.

    Re: Ecclesiastical Latin, The basis for this theory is that we have some evolutions that appear to be directly from a more formal Latin rather than from the already quite developed Latinate varieties spread all over the peninsula. The fact that Sicilian Latin itself (often called Old Sicilian language) looks the way it does offers some evidence for this. But honestly, I have no clue. Please don't quote me on this one.

    @Salvatore you got anything on the last topic?
    Last edited: 13 November 2017
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  19. Ruggero II

    Ruggero II New Member

    Lo scrivo in italiano perché mi viene meglio ad esprimere il concetto. E' da anni che studio il complesso fenomeno della ripopolazione latina in Sicilia iniziata coi Del Vasto e praticamente durata per più secoli (fino al 1600 a Palermo si accoglievano immigrati comaschi per dirne una); Dalli non sbaglia quando dice che queste migrazioni latinizzarono la società a più riprese a scapito di quella greca (quella islamica finì con le deportazioni Federiciane ma già in età dei Guglielmi c'erano stati dei pogrom, leggete Falcando e la sua cronaca sul Regno di Sicilia). Varvaro sostiene che in Sicilia si parlava una sorta di mozarabico, Trovato dice che le genti rurali parlavano il volgare latino, questa lingua di base secondo loro fu arricchita dai nuovi coloni latini (che venivano da più parti d'Italia e ora vi spiego più o meno la distribuzione) che appunto crearono la lingua siciliana di base, lo sviluppo continuò arricchendosi di provenzalismi in età Federiciana poiché la lingua usata dai poeti della scuola siciliana era fortemente influenzata dai provenzali, sebbene questi ultimi non verranno in Sicilia a ripopolarla (solo una piccolissima parte) ma influiranno culturalmente già dall'età normanna. Falcando stesso già parla di colonie lombarde (all'epoca significava tutta l'Italia settentrionale) ben definite e stila un elenco, ma come dice Joey non dimentichiamo la presenza di coloni campano-pugliesi e successivamente pure celanesi (una parte andò a Malta e l'altra in Sicilia). A Patti esiste un decreto dove il vescovo incoraggia queste migrazioni verso la Sicilia purché siano "latini linguae". Vera Von Falkenhausen ha scritto uno studio su queste migrazioni, che si trova nel libro Il mezzogiorno normanno-svevo dell'università di Bari. In definitiva, io sono d'accordo con Trovato che è stato il mio professore, quindi sono di parte, che il siciliano attuale è il risultato del mozarabico di Sicilia con aggiunte e innovazioni da nord (che nel nostro caso vuol dire pure Campania e Puglia) e gallicismi pesanti che hanno notato più o meno tutti gli studiosi. Non credo affatto ad una ri-latinizzazione da zero perché questa teoria è stata poi ritrattata dallo stesso Rohlfs che l'aveva ipotizzata e mi sembra francamente impossibile creare una lingua e un popolo a tavolino.

    Per quanto riguarda la distribuzione dei coloni:

    1) alta presenza gran lombarda nel messinese nebroideo e nell'ennese, in misura minore nel catanese etneo, nel catanese calatino, nell'Ibleo siracusano (al mio paese stesso c'era un quartiere abitato da genovesi) e nello Jato dopo la deportazione dei musulmani
    2) presenza molto importante di campani e pugliesi nel Val di Mazara, tra gli ammiragli del Regno di Sicilia dopo Cristodulo e Giorgio fu Maione che era un latino barese
    3) importanti colonie di mercanti amalfitani (nelle Eolie e a Palermo in particolare ma li trovavi un po ovunque a Siracusa esiste la Via Amalfitania), veneziani (soprattutto a Messina e Siracusa), pisani (le loro immigrazioni verso la Sicilia dureranno fino al 1500 con un picco nel 1406 dopo la conquista fiorentina) e genovesi, in misura minore pure fiorentini, bolognesi e qualche colono anconitano di scarsa rilevanza.
    4) Falcando parla pure di transalpini non solo di Normandia ma è difficile stilare la presenza visto che non si trovano altre fonti primarie
    5) presenza di mercenari aragonesi, catalani, valenciani e maiorchini venuti con Re Pietro I e poi dopo esser divenuti viceregno aragonese, molti finirono ad Atene, Neopatria e Filadelfia ma qualcuno rimase nell'isola
    6) presenza di nobili castigliani
    7) immigrazione di comaschi verso Palermo
    8) a Palermo esiste il quartiere la Loggia che era il quartiere dei mercanti italiani continentali se volete cominciare la vostra ricerca
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