I've been reading a bit of Camilleri recently. I've actually found the language easy to understand. But there's one specific thing I don't get, and that's his (very consistent) use of grave accent in some penultimate syllables, such as Vigàta or nirbùso.

What is that supposed to convey? In both cases I think stress would end up in the same place without an accent mark. I'm also not aware of any special vowel quality that wants to be indicated that way. Does anyone have a hint?

  • I think it's just Camilleri's mannerism.
    – egreg
    Dec 15 '16 at 20:49
  • I think it is to depict the way the words would be pronounced with a sicilian accent. Mar 20 '20 at 16:05

While this question is borderline off-topic (referring as it does not only to Sicilian, which is a different language from Italian, but to a fictional form of it), the answer is simple: in Italian – and by implication in the linguistic forms made up by Camilleri – you mark the accent on a polysyllabic word to make sure that the right syllable is stressed (apart from rare cases as pésca/pèsca), even if it is on the penultimate syllable (since an Italian word without a written accent isn't necessarily stressed on the penultimate syllable).

In Italian the only compulsory graphical accents are on the polysyllabic words with the stress on the last syllable and some monosyllabic ones. You might mark it sometimes on other words if there is a pair of ambiguous ones (prìncipi vs. princìpi, but the latter would be better written as principî) or, as in this case, on very uncommon or made up words, and some proper nouns.

  • Is there a Sicilian stack exchange? Either way, do you mean you mark the accent in words unknown to the general public, and that would justify/explain it here? (I ask this because most common words with penultimate or antepenultimate stress do not have a graphical accent, so my question is what led to its use by Camilleri, which I can only imagine is based on what Italian orthographic traditions prescribe.)
    – entonio
    Dec 15 '16 at 16:08
  • But, when I read Camilleri, I think I'm reading regional Italian, not Sicilian.
    – Charo
    Dec 15 '16 at 16:13
  • 1
    I don't believe there is a Sicilian SE. As to the rest of your comment: you normally do not mark the accent (apart from the words with the stress on the last syllable). You might mark it sometimes for ambiguous words (prìncipi vs. princìpi, but the latter would be better written as principî) or, as in this case, for very uncommon or made up words, and some proper nouns.
    – DaG
    Dec 15 '16 at 16:17
  • @Charo: Actually, you are reading a language made up by Camilleri, and presented very cleverly (by putting words in context or explaining them the first time they come up) so to make it easily understandable.
    – DaG
    Dec 15 '16 at 16:19
  • 1
    I've read a number of books in standard italian. I find Camilleri's language(s) (he goes from standard italian to almost pure sicilian according to circumstance) actually closer than italian to my native portuguese - in many idioms, words and to some extent the sound laws. Beforehand, I had expected it would be more challenging than italian, since the land distance land is bigger. On an unrelated note, for me, italian, neapolitan and sicilian are close enough to one another to justify using similar orthographic conventions.
    – entonio
    Dec 15 '16 at 16:34

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