La Dolce&Gabbana Vita, Sicilian Style
In bringing Sicilian-themed attire to the catwalks of Milan, Dolce and Gabbana bridge between two very distinct regions of Italy, culturally and even linguistically. Milan’s historical connections are to the Germanic-speaking Lombards and northern France; it is thus unsurprising that it has become the leading center of high fashion, alongside Paris. The Italian variety spoken in Milan, Piedmontese, is more similar to standard French than it is to Standard Italian or southern Italian dialects. Lexical and grammatical differences between Piedmontese and Standard Italian are so great that many linguists consider the former to be a separate language. For example, the Piedmontese word for ‘work’ is travajé, a cognate with the French travailler and not the Italian lavorare, and the word for ‘apple’ is pom, a cognate with the French pomme and not the Italian mela. Like northern French patois and Standard French, Piedmontese bears an imprint of Germanic grammatical influences. For example, yes/no questions in Piedmontese can be formed by subject-verb inversion and the use of an enclitic pronoun at the end of the verbal form, which is not possible in Romance varieties outside the Germanic sphere of influence: Piedmontese Veus-to…? ‘Want-you…?’ is similar to the Standard French Veux-tu…? but no comparable form is found in Standard Italian or in Spanish.
Sicily, never fully Romanized, was influenced more by the Greeks and the Saracens, the Normans and the Aragonese. Linguistically, Sicilian—which most linguists also consider to be a separate language rather than a dialect of Italian—bears traces of all these influences, with words from Greek (pistiari ‘to eat’ from apestiein), Arabic (giuggiulena ‘sesame seed’ from giulgiulan), Norman French (raggia ‘anger’ from rage) and Catalan (ammucciari ‘to hide’ from amagar). While Sicilian is still widely spoken on the island, it is limited mostly to home use because the education system does not support the language. It is thus considered to be a vulnerable language, despite having some 5 million speakers. Piedmontese is spoken by nearly 2 million people, but its future is even less promising because children no longer learn the language as their mother tongue in the home.
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