Differences Between Sicilian And Italian Languages

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Because Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy, you would probably assume that the Sicilian language is a dialect of the Italian language. And if you are planning a trip to Sicily soon, you might be thinking of learning a few Italian words to get by. While most Sicilians understand Italian, they do also have their own language.

Sicilian and Italian are two separate languages. Most Sicilians speak Italian but they often speak dialetto (Sicilian dialect) of their hometown rather than Siciliano. Most Italians, on the other hand, do not understand spoken Sicilian. The Sicilian and Italian languages differ in grammar, vocabulary, and even in pronunciation.

That said, if you’ve already learned some Italian and you’re traveling in Sicily, it’s considered normal and polite for locals to converse with you in Italian. Typically Sicilian would be used with other people that they already know are locals. So if you want to learn some Sicilian, feel free to go for it but it’s not required if you already know how to get by in Italian.

In this article, we will take a deeper look at how the Sicilian and Italian languages differ from one another. We will talk about their grammatical differences, how their vocabulary differs, and how different both languages are phonetically.

History Of The Sicilian Language

History Of The Sicilian Language

Sicilian is sometimes described as a dialect of the Italian language, however it is actually a separate language and is spoken mainly on the island of Sicily. Sicilian language is a Romance language that was derived from Latin roots and other languages spoken by different people who occupied the island many years ago.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is located in the south of the Italian peninsula (southern Italy). Sicily was dominated by a lot of foreign powers that contributed to the Sicilian language and Sicilian culture. Aside from having Latin roots, the Sicilian language also has elements of Arabic, French, Greek, Spanish, Catalan, Occitan, Lombard, and Germanic languages.

History Of The Italian Language

History Of The Italian Language

Unlike the Sicilian language, the Italian language is derived directly from Latin and is pretty much entirely based on the Latin language. It is also a Romance language and is considered the closest language to Latin. The Italian language, however, did not come from Classical Latin. It came from “Vulgar Latin” which was spoken during the Middle Ages. Vulgar Latin was spoken by commoners of ancient Rome while Classical Latin was used for scholarly and literary expressions.

Are Sicilian And Italian Different Languages?

Are Sicilian And Italian Different Languages

Both languages have Latin roots but are Sicilian and Italian the same thing? Sicilian and Italian are actually different languages. To understand how Sicilian and Italian differ from one another, it is important to know how their grammar, vocabulary, and even phonetics work.

Grammar

Italian and Sicilian languages have something in common with both being Romance languages. However, both languages differ grammatically.

The Italian language has different plural forms according to gender while Sicilian languages use the same conjugations for masculine and feminine nouns as well as plural ending verbs. Both Sicilian and Italian languages also have different verb conjugations and their words typically have different roots and endings. The Sicilian language also uses different pronouns when talking about people or objects.

Here are the pronouns of the Sicilian and Italian languages:

EnglishSicilianItalian
Iİulo
YouTuTu
HeİdduLui
SheİddaLei
WeNuàutriNoi
YouVuàutriVoi
They (m)İddiLoro
They (f)İddeLoro

Vocabulary

As we said earlier, both the Sicilian and Italian have different conjugations, and their words have different roots and endings. For example, Please in Italian is Per favore while it is Pi fauri in Sicilian.

The Italian language is also directly derived from Latin which is why their words are closer to Latin. With the Sicilian language being influenced by a lot of languages, you will find that their vocabulary is different from the Italian language. You will also find that some Sicilian vocabulary does not sound Italian.

Let’s take a look at some Italian and Sicilian words:

EnglishSicilianSicilian word derived from:Italian
SnailBabbaluciuArabic “Babus”Lumaca
CherryCirasaGreek “Kerasos”Cilegio
TissueMuccaturiFrench “Mouchoir”Fazzoletto

Phonetics

​​The Italian and Sicilian languages are not only different in terms of grammar and vocabulary, but they are also different phonetically. Being exposed to different languages influenced the Sicilian accent. This makes it different from a standard Italian accent.

Italians pronounce their vowels typically the same while Sicilian vowels are often pronounced differently. Vowel reduction is a change in the acoustic quality of the vowel. In the Sicilian language, the change in vowel pronunciation depends on how the word’s vowel is stressed. For example, the “a” vowel may be pronounced as “ah” or “uh” depending on if the vowel is stressed or unstressed. 

Aside from having stressed and unstressed vowels, the Sicilian language also has consonant changes and doubling in which “ll” (double l) becomes “dd”. For example, the word “bello” (beautiful) in Italian becomes “beddu” in Sicilian. Another example is the word “cavallo” (horse) in Italian changes into “cavaddu” in Sicilian. In some cases, the letter “b” also becomes “v” while the letter “g” is lightly or silently pronounced in the Sicilian language.

Can Sicilians And Italians Understand Each Other?

Can Sicilians And Italians Understand Each Other

The Italian language is actually spoken in Sicily and is the official language so most Sicilians can definitely understand Italian. However, the same cannot be said for Italians. Since Sicilian is a different language and Italian is Italy’s official language, most Italians do not understand spoken Sicilian. This is because the Italian language is more commonly used than the Sicilian language.

Conclusion

Both the Sicilian and Italian languages share Latin roots but the Italian language is entirely based on Latin while the Sicilian language has elements from other languages. Sicilian and Italian are different languages and if you are going to Sicily anytime soon and are learning some Italian words, do not worry. Most Sicilians understand and speak Italian. It’s just that they also have their own language.

We hope this article answers your question about the differences between the Italian and Sicilian languages. If you have any other questions, let us know via the contact form on our website!

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