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date: 29 November 2022

Romance in Contact With Semiticlocked

Romance in Contact With Semiticlocked

  • Daniele BaglioniDaniele BaglioniDepartment of Humanities, Ca' Foscari University of Venice

Summary

All through their history, Romance languages have been variously influenced by Arabic and Hebrew. The most relevant influence has been exerted by Arabic on Ibero-Romance and Sicilian in the Middle Ages, from, respectively, the Umayyad conquest of al-Andalus (711–716) and the Aghlabid attack on Sicily (827). Significant factors favoring Romance–Arabic contact have also been trade in the medieval Mediterranean (especially between Italy and the Crusader States), scientific translations from Arabic into Latin (notably those made in 13th-century Castilia), and medieval and early modern travelogues and pilgrimages, whereas of lesser importance are more recent lexical exchanges due to colonialism in North Africa and immigration, which have had a considerable impact on French. As for Hebrew, its influence has been quantitatively less relevant and mostly mediated through other languages (Greek and Latin, the Judeo-Romance languages, English). Still, it is of capital importance on a cultural level, at least as far as biblical loanwords shared by all Romance languages are concerned.

Effects of Semitic influence on Romance are almost exclusively limited to lexical borrowing, in the form of both loanwords and loan translations, regarding several semantic fields, such as agriculture, architecture, clothing, medicine, natural sciences, and seafaring (Arabic); religion and liturgy (Hebrew); and anthroponomy (Hebrew and Arabic). Only in individual dialects does structural interference occur, as is the case with pantesco, the Sicilian variety of Pantelleria, which shows traces of both phonological and syntactic contact-induced changes. Finally, though not belonging to the Romance linguistic family, a very peculiar case is represented by Maltese, the Semitic language of Malta that, throughout its history, has been strongly influenced by Sicilian and—to a lesser extent—by Italian both in its lexicon and in its grammar.

Subjects

  • Historical Linguistics
  • Language Families/Areas/Contact

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