Introduction to the Sardinian language
The island of Sardinia lies of the west coast of Italy, and its inhabitants speak a unique native tongue known as Sardinian. Like Italian, Sardinian is a Romance language, which means that it developed from Latin. However, Sardinian developed separately from the rest of the continental Romance languages, a legacy that bequeathed it a distinct vocabulary, grammar and sound from Italian. In fact, linguistically, Sardinian is in many ways the closest living relative of Latin.
Nowadays, most Sardinians speak Standard Italian. Still, a bit of Sardinian will help you impress the locals, especially in the interior and the south of the island - this site will give you pronunciation tips, phrases and grammar tips to do just that.
Sardinian has no standard spelling system, so there's quite a bit of variation. For example, some speakers write the sound "dz" (as in ads) as "z" - the way you would in Italian - while others write "dz". Fortunately, learning to pronounce Sardinian is straightforward, and the language tends to be spelled the way it sounds. There are many similarities between Sardinian and Italian pronunciation.
The pronunciation below reflects the central Sardinian dialects (Logudorese and, to an extent, Nuorese). Campidanese sounds similar, but Gallurese and Sassarese are quite distinct.
|Vowels||sounds like||IPA pronunciation|
|Consonant clusters||sounds like||IPA pronunciation|
Other features of Sardinian include a lack of diphthongs and metathesis involving r (e.g. britzichetta bicycle, from *bitzicretta). A more detailed account of Sardinian pronunciation would consider the lenition of p/b, t/d & c/g, the progressive contiguous assimilation of s and the raising of e & o when they occur immediately before a syllable with i or u.
|Bonas dies!||[bɔ-nar di-ε-zε]||Hello! / Hi!|
|Pro praghere.||[po pra-gε-rε]||Please.|
|Gratzias meda.||[gra-tsiar mε-ða]||Thanks a lot.|
|De nudda.||You're welcome.|
|Bona tarde.||Good afternoon.|
|Bona notte.||Good evening/night.|
|a faeddas||do you speak|
|A faeddas s'ingresu?||Do you speak English?|
|non faeddo su sardu||I don't speak|
|non isco||I don't know|
|unu pagu||a bit|
|unu pagu de||a bit of|
|unu pagu de sardu||a bit of Sardinian|
|Ite ti nas?||What's your name?|
|Mi naro ____.||My name is ____.|
|Praghere.||[pra-gε-rε]||Nice to meet you.|
|unu, duos, tre||one, two, three|
|battor, chimbe, ses||[ba-tɔ-rɔ, kim-bε, sε-zε]||four, five, six|
|sete, oto, nove, deghe||seven, eight, nine, ten|
|Inuve est...?||Where is...?|
|su ristorante||the restaurant|
|su caffè||the café|
|A b'est...?||Is there...?|
Sardinian grammar works a lot like other Romance languages.
Nouns are masculine or feminine, and take either a masculine or feminine article: su binu (the) wine, sa petha (the) meat. This is true for plural nouns, too: sos ristorantes (the) restaurants, sas citades (the) cities.
Verbs do much of the heavy lifting in a sentence, and do not require a subject to express a complete thought: naro I say (but you can use the pronoun for emphasis: dego naro I say). This is because, as in other Romance languages, verbs have six forms that plainly show the person performing the action. For example:
|mandico||I eat||mandicamus||we eat|
|mandicas||you eat||mandicadzis||all of you eat|
|mandicat||he/she/it eats||mandìcanta||they eat|
The endings vary depending on the verb's type (-are/-ere/-ire) and the tense/mood of the verb (e.g. if the verb's action happened in the past). Sardinian uses verb phrases to express many tense/moods - the past tense is structured like apo mandicatu I ate (lit. "I have eaten") and the future as deo mandicare I will eat (lit. "I ought to eat").
Also, not all verbs take regular endings. Here's a useful example of an irregular Sardinian verb:
|soe||I am||semus||we are|
|ses||you are||sedzis||all of you are|
|est||he/she/it is||suntu||they are|
Again, notice that subject pronouns are optional and add stress/emphasis if you include them: nois semus WE are vs. semus we are; tue ses YOU are vs. ses you are. Sardinian also has a wide range of clitic object pronouns, which build around the verb: lu mandico "I eat it"; nde mandico tres "I eat three of it/them"; bi nde sun tres "there are three of them".
Sentences follow the basic word order subject (optional) + verb + object, although word order is less fixed than in English. When asking a question, Sardinian speakers use a question word (Chine ses? Who are you?; Ite est? What is it?) or use the question particle "a" (A lu mandicas? Do you eat it?; A nde cheres? Do you want some?).
Much of my understanding of the language comes from the growing body of Sardinian websites accessible on the internet (that is, websites in Sardinian rather than about Sardinian). If you already have a sturdy knowledge of Italian and some grammar smarts, and want to learn more, I highly recommend that you search for and read through Sardinian webpages. Start by typing in some of the words and phrases you learned on this page.
Still, I am indebted to the wonderful but out-of-print The Romance Languages (Routledge) for my foundation in the language.