The Stigma Of Speaking A Dialect: The Case Of Sicilian

Jan 22, 2021 197


In the performance of my academic duties, I was often called to advise students who wanted to study Italian. When I inquired whether they had some knowledge of Italian, some of them admitted somewhat sheepishly that they knew what they characterized as ‘bad Italian’. Knowing that Sicilian immigrants represent 40/50% of the Italian American population in the U.S., that ‘bad Italian’ often turned out to be Sicilian.

But Sicilian is not the only ‘dialect’ that was classified by my students as being ‘bad Italian’. Neapolitan, Barese, Calabrian, Molisan, to name a few southern Italian ‘dialects’, are characterized as corruptions of Italian, inferior linguistic expressions without beauty or grace, so much so that they can only exist in the confines of one’s home, away from the ears of outsiders who might form a negative impression on the dialectal speaker’s worth.

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