Dialects entangled

Project outline

'Dialects entagled' focuses on the development of the Albanian (Arbëreshë) dialects spoken in three regions of Southern Italy in light of their contact with different Southern Italian Dialects as well as with standard Italian. The Arbëreshë dialects have not received much attention from the scientific linguistic community so far, and therefore, a number of varieties remain undocumented or at best understudied. Moreover, the insights that these varieties can provide to our general understanding of language contact phenomena have not been explored.
The Arbëreshë communities migrated to Southern Italy following the Ottoman invasion of the Balkan region. Since their migration, the dialects of these communities have been strongly influenced by Southern Italian dialects (SIDs), producing contact outcomes stretching from lexical borrowings via phonological adaptation to syntactic convergence. Here are a few of the more notable cases:

- Delateralization of the velar lateral /ɫ/ to /γ/ or /ʁ/. The /γ/ is mainly found in the Arbëreshë of Molise, e.g., /diaγ/ ‘boy’ for diall, /diaɫ/; whereas /ʁ/ is typical for few dialects in the area of Crotone (Calabria), e.g., /doʁa/, ‘I went out’ for dolla /doɫa/ 
- Loss of inflection in the preposed article, e.g., in the sentence gazin’ e ka i humbët, ‘he has profound joy over it’, where nom.sg.m. i serves as the preposed article of humbët ‘deep’, instead of standard Albanian acc.sg.m. të [cf. St. Albanian gazin(acc) e(acc)  ka të humbët (acc)] 
- Formation of periphrastic progressive and ingressive tenses calqued on Italian. For example: Ish e hanja buk kur ra këmbora ‘I was eating bread when the bell rang’, literally ‘I was and I ate bread, when the bell rang’, calqued on Italian stavo mangiando, with 1s.impf. ish translating stavo [St. Albanian Po haja bukë kur ra zilja with the non-periphprastic 1sg.impf. haja and the progressive particle po]

The main goal of the project is twofold: first, it will extend the study of language contact between Arbëreshë and SIDs starting from a few isolated case studies and arriving at a broader and more integrated level of description and explanation of language contact phenomena. Then, building on recent insights in general contact linguistics (Thomason and Kaufman 1988, Van Coetsem 1988, Winford, 2003, Matras 2009), the project will focus on the development of the Arbëreshë dialects, isolating internal vs. external factors of change. At the same time, it will provide a more general insight into the contact phenomena at play in similar contact situations, between languages of the same structural distance.
In order to achieve its goal, the project will provide a contrastive analysis of three pairs of Arbëreshë & Southern Italian dialects: one in Calabria, one in Molise, and one in Sicily. These are three very clearly distinct areas of settlement of the Albanian communities and the SIDs with which Albanian has been in contact belong to three distinct groups. Based on the hypothesis that the Arbëreshë varieties were relatively uniform in structure, taking three different contact dialects will allow a distinction between, on the one hand, the influence on linguistic transfer of accidental, local circumstances, and, on the other hand, the effect of the structural properties of the contact languages.

Project members

Researchers involved in this project are prof.dr Roberta D'Alessandro, prof.dr Marc van Oostendorp and dr. Michiel de Vaan.
Borana Lushaj is working on this project as a PhD-student.

Last Modified: 27-03-2012