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Article

Raeto-Romance: Romansh, Ladin, Friulian  

Luca Melchior

Raeto-Romance languages are spoken in northeastern Italy and (south)eastern Switzerland. They are subdivided into three major groups: Romansh, with about 40,000 speakers in Switzerland; Dolomite Ladin, with about 30,000 speakers in the Italian South Tyrol, Trentino, and Veneto; and Friulian—whose speaker number is estimated between 420,000 and 600,000—in the Italian Friuli and in eastern Veneto. The (supposed) linguistic unity of these subgroups bases on phonological and morphological features like the retention of Lat. clusters C+l, sigmatic noun plural, sigmatic second-person singular ending, palatalization of Lat. c a , g a , and syncope of proparoxytones, which separate them from Italian dialects. Other features, such as verb–subject (clitic) inversion in interrogative sentences, are more or less spread, and others like periphrastic future or differential object marking are characteristic only for one or few subvarieties. The unity (and uniqueness) of the Raeto-Romance group is hardly debated. The three groups do not have a common history and do not correspond to a unique political entity. Therefore, they show different language contact phenomena, whereby Romansh and Dolomite Ladin are characterized by a strong influence from German, while Friulian has been historically influenced by Germanic and Slavic languages, but much more from Venetan and Italian. Standardization efforts do not have the same success in the three areas: rumantsch grischun and Standard Friulian dominate in the official written uses in Grisons and Friuli, whereas the use of ladin dolomitan is more marginal. Romansh and Dolomite Ladin are compulsory subjects in school education while Friulian is only an optional subject.

Article

Catalan  

Francisco Ordóñez

Catalan is a “medium-sized” Romance language spoken by over 10 million speakers, spread over four nation states: Northeastern Spain, Andorra, Southern France, and the city of L’Alguer (Alghero) in Sardinia, Italy. Catalan is divided into two primary dialectal divisions, each with further subvarieties: Western Catalan (Western Catalonia, Eastern Aragon, and Valencian Community) and Eastern Catalan (center and east of Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Rosselló, and l’Alguer). Catalan descends from Vulgar Latin. Catalan expanded during medieval times as one of the primary vernacular languages of the Kingdom of Aragon. It largely retained its role in government and society until the War of Spanish Succession in 1714, and since it has been minoritized. Catalan was finally standardized during the beginning of the 20th century, although later during the Franco dictatorship it was banned in public spaces. The situation changed with the new Spanish Constitution promulgated in 1978, when Catalan was declared co-official with Spanish in Catalonia, the Valencian Community, and the Balearic Islands. The Latin vowel system evolved in Catalan into a system of seven stressed vowels. As in most other Iberian Romance languages, there is a general process of spirantization or lenition of voiced stops. Catalan has a two-gender grammatical system and, as in other Western Romance languages, plurals end in -s; Catalan has a personal article and Balearic Catalan has a two-determiner system for common nouns. Finally, past perfective actions are indicated by a compound tense consisting of the auxiliary verb anar ‘to go’ in present tense plus the infinitive. Catalan is a minoritized language everywhere it is spoken, except in the microstate of Andorra, and it is endangered in France and l’Alguer. The revival of Catalan in the post-dictatorship era is connected with a movement called linguistic normalization. The idea of normalization refers to the aim to return Catalan to a “normal” use at an official level and everyday level as any official language.

Article

Judeo-Spanish (Judezmo, Ladino)  

David M. Bunis

The Ibero-Romance-speaking Jews of medieval Christian Iberia were linguistically distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors primarily as a result of their language’s unique Hebrew-Aramaic component; preservations from older Jewish Greek, Latin, and Arabic; a tradition of translating sacred Hebrew and Aramaic texts into their language using archaisms and Hebrew-Aramaic rather than Hispanic syntax; and their Hebrew-letter writing system. With the expulsions from Iberia in the late 15th century, most of the Sephardim who continued to maintain their Iberian-origin language resettled in the Ottoman Empire, with smaller numbers in North Africa and Italy. Their forced migration, and perhaps a conscious choice, essentially disconnected the Sephardim from the Spanish language as it developed in Iberia and Latin America, causing their language—which they came to call laðino ‘Romance’, ʤuðezmo or ʤuðjó ‘Jewish, Judezmo’, and more recently (ʤudeo)espaɲol ‘Judeo-Spanish’—to appear archaic when compared with modern Spanish. In their new locales the Sephardim developed the Hispanic component of their language along independent lines, resulting in further differentiation from Spanish. Divergence was intensified through borrowing from contact languages of the Ottoman Empire such as Turkish, Greek, and South Slavic. Especially from the late 18th century, factors such as the colonializing interests of France, Italy, and Austro-Hungary in the region led to considerable influence of their languages on Judezmo. In the 19th century, the dismemberment of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires and their replacement by highly nationalistic states resulted in a massive language shift to the local languages; that factor, followed by large speech-population losses during World War II and immigration to countries stressing linguistic homogeneity, have in recent years made Judezmo an endangered language.

Article

Central Italo-Romance (Including Standard Italian)  

Elisa De Roberto

Central Italo-Romance includes Standard Italian and the Tuscan dialects, the dialects of the mediana and perimediana areas, as well as Corsican. This macro-area reaches as far north as the Carrara–Senigallia line and as far south as the line running from Circeo in Lazio to the mouth of the Aso river in Le Marche, cutting through Ceprano, Sora, Avezzano, L’Aquila and Accumoli. It is made up of two main subareas: the perimediana dialect area, covering Perugia, Ancona, northeastern Umbria, and Lazio north of Rome, where varieties show greater structural proximity to Tuscan, and the mediana area (central Le Marche, Umbria, central-eastern Lazio varieties, the Sabine or Aquilano-Cicolano-Reatino dialect group). Our description focuses on the shared and diverging features of these groups, with particular reference to phonology, morphology, and syntax.