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Language of Corsica: An ancient dialect endures


Italian-American Herald
From the 9th century on, the language of Tuscany contributed to the development of the Corsican language. Prior to this, the language spoken on the island was tied to a Sardinian language influenced by the Catalan imposed on Sardinia under Catalonian-Aragonian domination. After that,
the Corsican language was incontestably infused with a Dantesque color. The language today, because of the island’s geographic isolation and suppression under French rule, is one of the few ancient dialects to have survived significant linguistic changes over the centuries.
Linguistic links can also be found with certain southern dialects of Italy, notably Calabrian, while the Genoese, despite a political domination of five centuries had left little of their dialect after they themselves adopted Tuscan as a written language. A curious link exists between the dialects of Gallura, in the north of Sardinia, which is closely related to one spoken in the south of Corsica. This occurred because of a migration of Corsican shepherds at the beginning of the 17th century.
While there were cross-mixtures of various Italian dialects and local regional jargon on the island, linguistic pockets were formerly set up which constitute originality in Corsica itself. An example is the dialect of Bonifacio which is from the language spoken by Genovese settlers from the Liguria region who settled in the area in the 13th century. In and around Carghiese the dialect was heavily influenced by Greek settlers, from the region of Laconia Maina in Greece, who settled in the area in the
17th and 18th centuries. Only a few families continue to
use the language, most during the liturgy.
The influence of French developed slowly from the annexation of 1769 during a process of transculturation which lasted nearly one century. First, there was a vigorous policy of Frenchyfing, then came the school laws, the emigration towards the colonial Empire, the passing of laws making French the only
official language.
Today, the access to the status of language for the old Corsican idiom is not without any problems: always minimized between two prestige languages, it searches for its way in a still alive reality where oppositions enter unity/diversity, oral/written, norm/use, in strong complex functioning of diglossia, (coexistence of two varieties of the same language in a speech community, with each variety being more or less standardized and occupying a distinct sociolinguistic niche) analyzed in the light of sociolinguistic recognized concepts, recognition/birth, elaboration, distance, popular will.
In this problem, the writing of Corsican, its literary illustration, its teaching and the university research, its daily and media use, in a diversified range of functions and registers fit in. The developments in each of these domains will depend on the vitality of the new speakers and writers of Corsican, on the richness and the sincerity of the public debate, on the collective will and on the cohesion of the user community, to not talk about the quality of
the measures of the policy of the language which will be proposed to it.
Here are two Corsican proverbs that are also used in Italy. Compare them to further reinforce the true Italian heritage
of Corsican.
Corsican: Aiuta ti, Diu t’aiuta.
Italian: Aiutati, che Dio ti aiuta.
«English figurative: God helps those who help themselves.
Literal translation: Help yourself, God
will help you.

Corsican: Chi va pianu va sanu E chi va sanu va luntanu.
Italian: Chi va piano va sano e va lontano.
English literal translation: He who goes slowly, goes surely; and he who goes surely, goes far. IAH

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