Sicilian (U Sicilianu, Lingua Siciliana) is the Romance language spoken in Sicily, Italy.
It is currently spoken by the 5,000,000 inhabitants of Sicily, plus another 2,000,000 Sicilians around the world.
Before the Roman conquest, Sicily was occupied by remnants of the autochthonic populations (Siceli, Sicani, Elymi) as well as by Greeks and Phoenicians.
Vulgar Latin was spoken by the Roman occupation troops who garrisoned Sicily after Rome annexed the island (after the end of the First Punic War, c 261 BC), and the Sicilian language developed from this vernacular Latin spoken in Sicily. For a brief period after the fall of Rome, Goth and Visigoth barbarians managed to gain some degree of political/military control on the island, but their presence did not impact the Sicilian language.
In AD 535, Emperor Justinian I made Sicily a Byzantine province, and for the second time in Sicilian history, the Greek language became a familiar sound across the island. As the power of the Byzantine Empire waned, Sicily was once again invaded by a distant people. The Arabian Emirs who ruled Sicily, however, were progressive monarchs; during their reign, the Sicilian people enjoyed economic prosperity, and intellectual enlightenment. But the Arabs did more than simply influence the local dialect, they gave the island people a gift of knowledge in the form of architecture, science, and mathematical skills that would benefit all future generations of Sicilians.
Successive conquests by the Normans, Spaniards, Catalans, and finally, unification with Italy, also made significant contributions to Sicilian culture.
Sicilian is estimated to have millions of speakers. However, it remains very much a home language spoken among peers and close associates. The regional Italian dialect has encrouched on Sicilian, most evidently in the speech of the young generations.
Poets in Sicily sometimes write in Sicilian. However, most speakers are literate in Italian, not Sicilian.
The education system does not support the language. Local universities do not carry courses in Sicilian.
Last updated: 08-24-2005 20:29:18