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I'm interested in languages and dialects and have heard that Sardinian is one of the most distinct varieties spoken in Italy.

I would like to ask whether most Italian speakers would consider Sardinian to be a dialect or a separate language?

And what would Sardinians / Sardinian speakers think?

Would a person from a distant part of Italy understand a person speaking Sardinian?

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Questions about dialects are off-topic, please check meta.italian.stackexchange.com/questions/31/… –  They call me Trinity Dec 11 '13 at 8:00
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Then the site is misnamed. It should be "Standard Italian". Which is of course also a dialect. –  hippietrail Dec 11 '13 at 8:02
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And feel free to chase away more new contributors with popular questions from your site struggling for questions. (-: –  hippietrail Dec 11 '13 at 8:29
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Please, share your opinion on meta (see the URL above, or open a new topic). This is a beta site, the house rules are not yet written in stone; your contribution can make the difference. –  They call me Trinity Dec 11 '13 at 12:27
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@TheycallmeTrinity I think this is perfectly on-topic because it asks about the relation between italian and another, related language. So, I agree with the owner of the question, mostly because this is not a question about how to say something in Sardinian or whatever, but with how to define a border, which furnishes an enrichment to knowledge of Italian itself. –  martina Dec 11 '13 at 20:12

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Sardinian is a language of its own, derived directly from Latin. So Italian and Sardinian can be considered "siblings". There are some terms in common, and my guess here is that since Sardinian is oral in nature (lack of writings during its history), many words have been lost or forgotten (for example, the word for rainbow is arcu 'e sole, but I doubt many know it).

What happened is that due to its isolation, since it's spoken in an island, the language evolved much less and slower compared to Italian.

For example, in Italian we had the loss of -um/-us endings replaced by -o, but as far as Sardinian is concerned, only the finals were dropped, leaving a lot of words with -u. This might not be a valid general rule since we say "Sardinian" for convenience, but the truth is that there are many varieties across the island, the closer a village/town is to yours, the closer the language. So someone from the north wouldn't understand what someone from the south speaks.

There are also differences in grammar. An example is the possessive which is usually put after the noun that it affects.

As I said, some terms are in common, but generally someone from other parts might not understand it, if any. For example:

it. Cosa stai dicendo?
en. What are you saying?
sar. Itte sese nande? (This should be read as "itte sernande")

Nande comes from "narrere" (to say), which is the same verb as "narrare" (to tell a story) in Italian.

Note that many things in this answer refer to the variety I speak, so others Sardinians might disagree about words or expressions. However the rest, which is what your question is about, is true for everyone.

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Alemanno, bravu, +1. –  Kyriakos Kyritsis Dec 10 '13 at 18:37
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@KyriakosKyritsis AleNanno! :D –  Alenanno Dec 10 '13 at 18:38
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To see more details on the various dialects of Sardo see the Wikipedia page on lingua sarda, which has quite extensive information. –  nico Dec 11 '13 at 7:34

Sardinian is a language, just like Italian, Lombard, Piedmontese, Occitan, Catalan and so on. The only reason why a speech is called a language or a dialect is just due to historical or political reasons. To call a speech a language implies considering it as official or having some (important) acknowledgement. Nevertheless, linguists tend to call a dialect any variant of the same speech (eg, American, Australian, Scottish and British are all dialects of the English language), while when two speeches are not mutually understandable, then they are called languages. As Sardinian (or Lombard, Piedmontese, Italian, etc...) is not mutually understandable with any of the speeches used elsewhere, it must be called a language.

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"Scottish" is a special case. This label could apply to three separate speech varieties. Scottish Gaelic is a Celtic language. Scottish English is a dialect of English. Scots is the closest relative of English and shares a common ancestor rather than having ever split off from British English. It has shared some evolution with English and had a steadily increasing amount of influence from English so that many people are ignorant of its origins and assume it's a dialect. –  hippietrail Jun 4 at 23:50
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By the way, you contradict yourself when you say "the only reason why a speech is called a language or a dialect is just due to historical or political reasons" and then go on to explain in some detail the other reason, which is that employed in linguistics and often denied in politics. –  hippietrail Jun 4 at 23:51
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"a language is a dialect backed by an army" (quote) –  mau Jun 5 at 7:14
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@hippietrail by Scottish I mean Scottish English, I don't mean the Scottish Gaelic. Maybe I wasn't clear enough. However, what I mean is that linguists define a language based on mutual intelligibility, while "politicians" (ie, governments) define a language what "gathers" a nation. As an example, Moldovan and Romanian are considered two different languages even if they are just two variants (perfectly mutually understandable) of the same speech. On the contrary, e.g. Bavarian is considered to be a dialect of Standard German, while a German a cannot understand a Bavarian's speech. –  ragnar Jun 5 at 8:55
    
@ragnar: Actually in Moldova at this time it is accepted that the language is Romanian. In Transnistria I'm not sure if they insist Moldovan is a separate language but they do still use the Cyrillic alphabet. But yes there are two reasons why varieties are called a language or a dialect just as you explain in your comment. –  hippietrail Jun 5 at 9:44

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