In this issue we will explain the relationship between the Sardinian and Corsican languages. We begin by acknowledging that Corsica is, by legal definition, French. However, Corsica was part of the Republic of Genoa for centuries until 1768, when the Republic ceded the island to France, one year before the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte in the capital city of Ajaccio. Nonetheless, it’s hardly French. Corsica is one of the “three sister” islands of the Mediterranean, the other two are Sardinia and Sicily. Those other islands are part of Italy. That should immediately tell you something is amiss about Corsica being politically French, but not geographically or culturally.
Corsicans don’t identify as Italians simply because Corsica was never part of a unified Italy and centuries have passed since the island was under Italic rule. Many actually know they are an Italic people and Corsican is considered an Italian dialect connected to the Tuscan varieties from the Italian peninsula, and therefore also to the Florentine-based standard Italian. Corsicans who spoke an Italian dialect now must use French after standard Italian was removed as the official language in May 1859. However, many support the Italian national team instead of the French one during football events. This is hardly surprising because Corsica is much closer to Italy than Sardinia. Traveling around the island by boat there is still a view of the island of Elba and of mainland Italy. If you are on Sardinia, or on a boat off the shores of Sardinia, the Italian mainland is hidden by the curvature of Earth and there are no islands in between. This geographic fact is one factor which explains the close relationship between the two languages.
Factually, both Sardinian and Corsican are both neo-Latin languages. However, their histo-ries are different. The Corsican language can be associated with the Vulgar Latin languages of central Italy, while Sardinian is a Vulgar Latin language on its own. On French-owned Corsica, the heritage language is basically an Italian dialect while Italian Sardinians speak a language that loosely resembles Italian and has the status as a distinct language while the heritage language of French Corsicans is an Italian dialect related to Tuscan.
Mind that when we say “Sardinian” here, we mean Campidanese and Logudorese in all their dialects and variants. The language spoken in the Northeastern region of Sardinia, Gallura, is more similar to Corsican than to other Sardinian languages.
Here are some examples to compare:
English: What a beautiful day it is.
Italiano: Che bella giornata è.
Sardu: Su bòidu die est.
Corsu: Chì bellu ghjornu hè.