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Does syntactic microvariation across Campidanese correlate with dialect sub-areas?


While several studies have been devoted to Sardinian syntax over the past few decades (cf. Pittau 1972: 127-159 for Nuorese, Jones 1988a-b, 1993 for the dialect of Lula, province of Nuoro, Bentley 2004, 2011, Remberger 2006, Mensching & Remberger 2010, Jones 1995, Virdis 2000, Cristofaro & Giacalone Ramat 2005, Cuzzolin 2005), the focus has been initially above all on Logudorese (the central-northern subdivision), while Campidanese (i.e. the dialects spoken in the southern half of the island) has not attracted as much attention. True, remarks on Campidanese syntax are found in descriptive and/or prescriptive work on Sardinian such as Blasco Ferrer (1986: 81ff.), Blasco Ferrer & Contini (1988: 841ff), and, more recently, Campidanese too has been the object of dedicated syntactic studies: Puddu (2005), for instance, deals with reflexive constructions in southern Campidanese, and both the large-scale projects on which Bentley (2004, 2010, 2011) and Manzini & Savoia (2005, 2007) are based cover several Campidanese varieties. Yet, it remains generally true that Campidanese has received, in the literature on syntax, less attention than Logudorese.

On the other hand, the internal classification of Sardinian has been thoroughly investigated, the most articulated classification of Sardinian available to date being the one provided by Virdis (1988). Virdis distinguishes 4 main dialect groups within Sardinian stricto sensu (i.e., to the exclusion of the northern stripe of the island, where Gallurese and Sassarese diverge radically from the varieties spoken to the south): Logudorese, Nuorese, Arborense and Campidanese. For Campidanese, furthermore, his classification distinguishes seven main sub-varieties:


i. Core Campidanese  
  a. Cagliaritano, spoken in Cagliari, in its immediate hinterland and along the shores of its bay;
  b. Central Campidanese, spoken in some villages near Cagliari (Quartu Sant’Elena, Selargius, Monserrato), and in the sub-regions called Gerrei and Sarcidano
  c. Central-Western Campidanese, spoken on the Campidano plain, from the territories to the  North of Cagliari northwestwards to Oristano:
ii. Peripheral varieties of Campidanese  
  d. Sulcitano, spoken in the homonymic mountainous region in the south western part of the island, characterized by some conservative features;
  e. Sarrabense, spoken in the region called Sarrabus, to the  North East of Cagliari;
  f. Ogliastrino, spoken in the south eastern part of the island, along the Tyrrhenian coasts of Sardinia;
  g. Southern Barbaricino (Aritzo, Belvì, Desulo, Tonara), spoken in the central part of the island, at the foot of the Gennargentu mountains.

As said above, Arborense is for Virdis (1988) a separate subgroup. On the other hand, other classifications (cf. Wagner 1951, Blasco Ferrer 1984) lump together Arborense with (1ii f-g), and consider this in globo as a transitional area (or ‘grey zone’) between Campidanese and Logudorese. Both classifications have been based primarily on phonetic-phonological isoglosses.

In our research, we intend to explore the import of morphosyntactic variation for the issue of the classification of the subareas of Campidanese. As a first testing ground, we chose two specific data domains: perfective auxiliary selection and the selection of the verb (‘be’ and/or ‘have’, like in perfective auxiliation) occurring in existential clauses. While both topics have been covered in recent large scale studies (especially Bentley 2008-13 and Manzini & Savoia 2005), the results have not been exploited for the issue of dialect sub-classification. This is what we intend to do. Based on dedicated fieldwork in Cagliari and a dozen further points from the different Campidanese subareas, we shall first ascertain how the selection of ‘have’/’be’ in perfective periphrastics and in existential works (the null hypothesis being that the two can be reduced to one syntactic rule, as has been shown for Logudorese by La Fauci & Loporcaro 1993, 1997), and then check the areal distribution of the syntactic rules so formulated, with an eye on the coextensiveness or non-coextensiveness of the areas covered by such rules with the subdivisions listed in (1).

Michele Loporcaro and Ignazio Putzu, Variation in auxiliary selection, syntactic change, and the internal classification of Campidanese Sardinian, in Giulio Paulis, Immacolata Pinto and Ignazio Putzu (eds.), Repertorio plurilingue e variazione linguistica a Cagliari, Milan: FrancoAngeli 2013, 200-244.

Project leadership

Michele Loporcaro

In collaboration with

Ignazio E. Putzu (University of Cagliari)


Regione Autonoma della Sardegna