The coexistence over centuries of Romance-speaking and Semitic peoples in the Mediterranean area has led to reciprocal linguistic influence and contact phenomena. All Romance languages have been involved in this process, although some of them, such as Romanian, only superficially and indirectly. For what concerns the Semitic counterparts, the major role has been played by Arabic in the Middle Ages, not only in Moorish Spain (711–1492) and in the Emirate of Sicily (831–1072), where interlinguistic contact was daily and intense, but also in Provence and in the main ports of Continental Italy (Pisa, Genoa, Venice), thanks to their commercial relations with the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. In addition, a consistent amount of Arabic intellectual lexicon has entered the Romance languages through the translations of scientific treaties, generally through the mediation of Latin. Hebrew has also given a significant contribution, both via the translations of the Bible and, from the Late Middle Ages on, through the oral interaction of the local Jewish communities with non-Jews. In both cases contact has been indirect, since biblical loanwords have been mediated first by Greek and later by Latin, whereas the rest of the borrowings has been transmitted by the Judeo-Romance languages. The other Semitic languages have had no influence on Romance, except for a very limited number of Amharic loanwords to be found in Italian, as a consequence of Italian Colonialism in East Africa (1882–1936). Although Medieval Spanish and Sicilian display traces of Arabic interference at all levels, including phonology, morphology and syntax, in most Romance languages effects of contact with Semitic are limited to lexicon. These comprise both direct borrowings and structural calques, as far as Arabic and—to a lesser extent—Hebrew are concerned, and pertain to several semantic ambits, such as trade, anatomy, astronomy, and botany (Arabic); religious rituals and practices (Hebrew); and, more generally, daily life, especially in peculiar sociolects and slangs. A case apart is represented by Maltese, a Western Arabic dialect deeply influenced by Italo-Romance (notably Sicilian) from the Middle Ages until the first half of the 20th century, which is a unique example of Romance-Semitic mixing not only at a lexical, but also at a phonological and morphosyntactic level.

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.

Romance in Contact with Semitic

Baglioni
2021

Abstract

The coexistence over centuries of Romance-speaking and Semitic peoples in the Mediterranean area has led to reciprocal linguistic influence and contact phenomena. All Romance languages have been involved in this process, although some of them, such as Romanian, only superficially and indirectly. For what concerns the Semitic counterparts, the major role has been played by Arabic in the Middle Ages, not only in Moorish Spain (711–1492) and in the Emirate of Sicily (831–1072), where interlinguistic contact was daily and intense, but also in Provence and in the main ports of Continental Italy (Pisa, Genoa, Venice), thanks to their commercial relations with the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. In addition, a consistent amount of Arabic intellectual lexicon has entered the Romance languages through the translations of scientific treaties, generally through the mediation of Latin. Hebrew has also given a significant contribution, both via the translations of the Bible and, from the Late Middle Ages on, through the oral interaction of the local Jewish communities with non-Jews. In both cases contact has been indirect, since biblical loanwords have been mediated first by Greek and later by Latin, whereas the rest of the borrowings has been transmitted by the Judeo-Romance languages. The other Semitic languages have had no influence on Romance, except for a very limited number of Amharic loanwords to be found in Italian, as a consequence of Italian Colonialism in East Africa (1882–1936). Although Medieval Spanish and Sicilian display traces of Arabic interference at all levels, including phonology, morphology and syntax, in most Romance languages effects of contact with Semitic are limited to lexicon. These comprise both direct borrowings and structural calques, as far as Arabic and—to a lesser extent—Hebrew are concerned, and pertain to several semantic ambits, such as trade, anatomy, astronomy, and botany (Arabic); religious rituals and practices (Hebrew); and, more generally, daily life, especially in peculiar sociolects and slangs. A case apart is represented by Maltese, a Western Arabic dialect deeply influenced by Italo-Romance (notably Sicilian) from the Middle Ages until the first half of the 20th century, which is a unique example of Romance-Semitic mixing not only at a lexical, but also at a phonological and morphosyntactic level.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Romance Linguistics
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3719527
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