Languages of Sardinia – A Brief Introduction

The island of Sardinia boasts several distinct languages with diverse heritages. While Italian is now taught in schools across Sardinia and understood by those of baby-boomer age and younger, many older Sardinians, especially in towns away from the coast, may only know one of the languages historically spoken on the island. 

Sarde, the primary language of Sardinia, has two or three primary dialects. Campidanese is spoken across the central-southern and southern areas, while Logudorese and its variation Nuorese are spoken in the central-north area. A Romance language descended from Latin, Sarde is considered the modern language most similar to its renowned ancestor.

The very northern part of Sardinia boasts other languages: Gallurese in the Northeast, Sassarese in the Northwest, and Catalano in the area around Alghero. Gallurese and Sassarese stem from a historic connection the northern area had with Corsica and Tuscany, and sound very different from Sarde. Catalano remains from the Spanish influence on the island. 

While Latin, Corsican, and Spanish roots in the various Sardinian languages are visible, there are also diverse connections with languages and cultures across Europe, Northern Africa, and beyond.  And, as with any language and dialect, each sub-region and even town often has its own noticeable change in pronunciation or vocabulary of the local language.

To ease confusion in governmental documents, road signs, and other official uses, an experimental standardized written form of Sarde, Limba Sarda Comuna (LSC) was instituted in 2006. This is a loose standard, allowing local standards for spelling and ongoing adjustment, and also paves the way to preserve the language.

Sarde is generally no longer taught in schools, yet there are initiatives to bring the the language back into the curriculum with the LSC as the basis. The movement to teach and preserve Sarde is supported by authors, publishing houses, and much of the population, including a growing number of the younger generation. In addition, language scholars from outside Sardinia recognize the significance of Sarde and, to a lesser degree, the island’s other languages.

While many Sardinian youngsters learn Sarde at home, easily switching between Italian and their local language in everyday conversation, the Sardinian languages are not esteemed on continental Italy. Most Italians, especially those from Milano and the north, look down upon the Sardinian languages and even the accent Sardinians tend to have when speaking Italian. On mainland Italy, Sardinians often encounter a prejudice similar to one Southerners face when talking with New Yorkers in the United States.

As a language geek who loves Latin (although I have forgotten nearly all I learned in high school), I personally love the sound of Sarde, and understand bits of it it. Gallurese is completely different, and I can’t follow anything!

See the examples below for a comparison of the Logudorese and Campidanese dialects of Sarde, Latin, Italian, and English.

For more general information on Sardinian Languages, see this article on Wikipedia.

Comparing Languages — Examples

Sarde (Lugudorese)

Babbu nostru chi ses in chelu
siat santificadu su nomene tou
benzat su renu tou
sia fata sa voluntade tua 
comente in chelu gai in terra. 
Su pane nostru de dogna die donanos
e perdonoa sos peccados nostros
comente nosateros perdonamos a sos depidores nostros
e nos non eses ruere in sa tentazione
ma libera nos dae male. 

Sarde (Campidanese)

Babbu nostu chi ses in celu,
Santificau siat su nomini tuu.
Bengiat a nosus su regnu tuu,
Siat fatta sa boluntadi tua,
comenti in celu aici in terra.
Donasi oi su pani nostu de dogna dii,
Et perdonasi is peccaus nostus,
Comenti nosus perdonaus a is depidoris nostus.
Et no si lessis arrui in tentatzioni,
Et liberasi de mali.

Latin

Pater noster, qui es in cælis:
sanctificétur Nomen Tuum:
advéniat Regnum Tuum:
fiat volúntas Tua,
sicut in cælo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum cotidiánum da nobis hódie,
et dimítte nobis débita nostra,
sicut et nos dimíttimus debitóribus nostris.
et ne nos indúcas in tentatiónem;
sed líbera nos a Malo.

Italiano

Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli,
sia santificato il tuo nome,
venga il tuo regno,
sia fatta la tua volontà,
come in cielo così in terra.
Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano,
e rimetti a noi i nostri debiti
come anche noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori,
e non abbandonarci alla tentazione,
ma liberaci dal male.

English

Our Father which art in heaven, 
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, 
Thy will be done in earth, 
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, 
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. 

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What We’re Missing

The qualities handweavers put into their work are reflected by and emanate from the textiles they make. These qualities are what our modern world lacks, and what we yearn for, even if unknowingly: Attention to detail. Minding the small things. Care. Love. 

These qualities remind us that seemingly insignificant individuals and seemingly little things do matter. 

Each person, every thing, has a place in the world, and no one and no thing is to be overlooked or discarded. 

Each individual person holds a unique spirit intrinsic to their being; this spirit is a necessary component of the greater whole. 

Likewise, each single thing has a distinct essence innate to its being; this essence is an indispensable component of the greater whole.

In the grand scale of things, these unique spirits and distinct essences are threads brought together with care, love, and attention to detail, weaving the tapestry of our world so that not one thread is overlooked or discarded. 

We hold this all in our hands when we touch a handwoven textile. 

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© 2021 Kelly Manjula Koza | Textile, Isa Frongia

This is cross-posted on Tramite.org.

Interconnection

The various traditions and styles of handweaving found across the island of Sardinia have important lessons to teach us, lessons that reach beyond the art and craft of handweaving and into the modern world.

On this Mediterranean island roughly the size of Vermont, the tradition of handweaving is legendary. The weavings of Samugheo are arguably the most distinctive: Pibiones, or small bumps of thread creating a raised design on a textile’s surface, are traditional. The weavings of Nule and Aggius, both towns with strong textile traditions, differ in their design and somewhat in their creation. Each of these towns is respected within Sardinia for its unique style of weaving, yet the motifs and techniques characteristic of each town are echoed in the textiles of distant cultures and countries.

When I present Sardinian textiles outside the island, weavers and collectors sometimes see hints of these similarities. The pibiones of Samugheo somewhat resemble boules created by Acadian weavers. The weavings of Nule often incorporate designs similar to textiles made by Native Americans from the Southwest United States and Mexico. The designs of Aggius resemble motifs found in weavings of Poland and Lithuania. The list continues, as the similarities between textiles of different lands are sometimes more apparent than the similarities of textiles from within different areas of Sardinia.

While it’s interesting to ponder the threads of influence strung between geographic regions and traditional cultures across the globe, what I find more striking is something simple yet too often discounted: Whether we talk of languages, architecture, the arts in general, handweaving specifically, or any aspect of this tapestry we call humanity, the origins, influences, techniques, and motifs are interwoven and interdependent.

And in any textile, not one single thread can be tensed, damaged, or removed without changing the integrity of the textile as a whole.

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© 2021 KM Koza | The photo is a portion of a rug by and © Isa Frongia

Spring 2021 Presentation Series: Sardinian Arts Online

Join me live online for an intimate series of presentations about Sardinian handwoven textiles, the women who maintain nearly-lost weaving traditions, and more!

In this free series, I’ll be sharing my stories, videos, and photos of the women weavers and their distinctive textiles; showing weavings from my own collection; discussing the history and revival of Sardinian handweaving; providing a historical and cultural overview of Sardinia; giving you a photographic tour of the island; answering your questions; and more!

This series starts Saturday January 23, 2021. See the full schedule below.

If you have missed earlier sessions, you can still come to later sessions!

Please register to attend the free sessions.

I look forward to seeing you online!

~ Kelly Manjula Koza, Sardinian Arts’ Founder

PS — Before the events, I very much suggest that you watch I Want to Weave the Weft of Time, my free 30 minute documentary on handweaving in Sardina. You can also find the video directly by going to WeaveWeftofTime.com.

Schedule

Saturdays at 11am Pacific / Noon Mountain / 1pm Central / 2pm Eastern. Each session will last 60-90 minutes.

  • January 23 — Introduction, Background, and Film Highlights with Commentary
  • January 30 — Weaving in Samugheo
  • February 6 — Weaving in Nule
  • February 13 — Weaving in Aggius
  • February 20 — Converging Threads: The Importance of the Handmade, How Weaving Came to Sardinia, the Resurrection, and More
    Please note the dates below have been corrected!
  • February 27 — Sardinian History, Culture, and Arts Beyond Weaving
  • March 6 — Sardinian Tour: Photos and Stories Around the Island
  • March 13 — Questions, Answers, Open House

Certainly Not Small

Small things make a big difference. 

My favorite way to illustrate this stems from design school. Back in a time when we drew straight lines by hand using T-squares, triangles, and Rapidograph pens, we used a simple exercise to demonstrate that absolute care, attention, and precision was necessary in creating the very first to the very last element of a project. 

Think of drawing horizontal lines on a piece of paper to emulate a 8.5″ x 10″ sheet of notebook paper, which generally has about 32 lines. If you were to draw the lines by hand, you would start from the bottom of the page, draw a base line, use that line to align and draw the line above it, and then use the newly-drawn line to align and draw the line above it, continuing this process until all lines on the page are complete. 

If the very first line you drew was off level by 1/32 of an inch — the width of a fine pen nib — your design would be ruined: by the top of the page, after repeating the 1/32 inch error 32 times, your top line would be tilted one inch.

Now think of an architect guiding the construction of a skyscraper a hundred stories high, and the precision with which the foundation must be laid. Consider a handweaver making a bedspread that requires weaving thousands of crosswise weft-fibers, and the careful alignment necessary for the first row, and every row, of fibers. Think of the navigators, mathematicians, and engineers calculating courses for ships traveling oceans, skies, universes, and how the initial degree, minute, and second of direction must be absolutely precise, and then checked and corrected constantly to ensure the ship reaches the intended destination. The tiniest bit of imprecision — or an unseen factor affecting calculations or the project — would drastically change the outcome.*

Simply put, the tiniest detail affects the outcome in ways we can’t imagine. 

This is true within and beyond architecture, construction, navigation, sciences, arts, and crafts. This is true in everything — and for everyone. This is true for presidents, prime ministers, actors, sports figures, scientists, saints, mystics, people of fame — and each and every one of us.

Each one of us affects the whole. And each of our actions affects the whole.

This can be staggering to consider — yet this realization is also a gift, a blessing. 

If each of us, each of our actions, each of our interactions, each of our words affect the whole, affects our world, how do we watch, use, care for our actions, our words, and that which we contribute to our world?

Do we, in our personal spheres and work, act with disregard, condescension, hatred, and anger, spewing toxic dark clouds of negativity that increase with time and distance to create chaos, war, and destruction on a global scale? 

Or do we bring awareness, compassion, love, and care for small things into the tiny moments of our daily lives, filling what we touch with light, harmony, and joy — all of which increase with time and distance to create a world more beautiful, inclusive, harmonious, and supportive that we can perhaps imagine?

When we realize that we’re all connected and that each one of us contributes to the creation of the world we share, I believe we have the responsibility to act upon that realization: to live with love, act with compassion, care for small things, and give attention to the tiny moments of life. 

If the tiny things are cared for, if small acts are done with love and kindness, if we bring joy to our work, if we treat people, animals, plants, nature with compassion — imagine how the results would — will — magnify. 

Can we each play our part, no matter how small it seems, to help the world change for good, beyond what we can imagine?


I think of those so often invisible in our modern world, and what they bring to us. Living and working with care, compassion, love, and awareness are mystics, mothers, artists, and others, including handweavers. 

Women weaving in the hills of Sardinia; rebozo weavers and lace-makers in Oaxaca and Teotihuacan; Native Americans weaving in the Southwestern U.S.A; rug-makers weaving in the Middle East; sari-weavers in India; and others comprising the dwindling numbers of handweavers: All are working with care, focus, and attention, placing and aligning each fiber of every textile they weave. 

Beautiful textiles are the visible, tangible result of the precision and care handweavers bring to their work. 

But what are the invisible, intangible results? 

Perhaps the fragile balance of our world is subtly maintained by the magnified effect of the order, precision, care, and love the handweavers bring to their work. 

Who’s to say otherwise?

*Professor Edward Lorenz famously discussed how small acts — the change of a single variable in a set of conditions — would be magnified over time and distance and thus change outcomes. This has become known as the “butterfly effect”, simply stated as a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could cause a typhoon on the other side of the world. 

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© 2020 KM Koza

This piece is also posted on Tramite.org.

Welcoming a Peaceful New Day

For some of us, watching the sunrise is a favorite way to usher in the new day. 

If you lack a good view of the morning sun, don’t rise early enough, or merely want a beautiful sunrise to watch as you start your day, here’s a real-time video of a peaceful sunrise in Gallura, Sardinia.

Enjoy watching the sky lighten in the pre-dawn minutes before the sun rises over the distant water and hills. The fields and sounds of the agriturismo are the foreground. This is definitely a slow video — 34 minutes long, with the camera immobile throughout.

Filmed from the porch of my room at Agriturismo Nuraghe Tuttusoni, Portobello, Sardegna in September 2019. 

The Gift of the Handmade

I think often of handmade gifts and items that are constructed by hand.

In an era replete with an overabundance of machine-made, ready-to-go, disposable stuff, many people don’t think about handmade items or their value, which is a value that extends beyond a dollar amount or shelf-life longevity. The unquantifiable value factor is human: The value is in and of the makers as well as the receivers of the handmade. 

Creating handmade items requires a great deal of time and much consideration. Many handmade gifts, of clothing especially, are created for a specific person. Such handmade items are highly prized not only because they are made and stitched “to measure” — a time-consuming and skillful process — but because, when you understand the process of making a handmade item, say a shirt, you realize the time and the consideration required to make the item. Making a shirt demands good project planning skills to manage the many steps: the purchasing or making of component pieces (the fabric, thread, buttons, interfacing, and related); the acquisition and maintenance of the necessary tools (sewing machine, needles, scissors, table, and so forth); the taking of the recipient’s measurements, and more. Of course, making a shirt also necessitates the craft or artistic skills and engineering ability necessary to make the item, plus time: setting aside the hours necessary to complete all the steps of cutting, matching, sewing, and applying details to finish a shirt. 

Yes, handmade items are an expression of the maker’s mastery of their particular craft, and handmade gifts are a demonstration of the maker’s love and consideration of the person to whom the gift is given. The gift given is not just the item: the gift is the time, thoughts, and love of the maker. 

This consideration and love, as well as the attitude of the maker are present in every fiber and every stitch of the item. Especially while making a gift — during the hours, days, and perhaps weeks and months required to create an item — the maker would have thought often of the recipient, imagining how the recipient would use and appreciate the item. The concept that the thoughts of a maker imparted corresponding qualities into an object was commonly understood in many traditional cultures; hence the stories of women weaving, spinning, or stitching thoughts of joy, contentment, and abundance into a textile. 

The type of handmade item does not matter: whether a shirt, rug, ceramic mug, carved wooden toy, poem, painting, a plate of cookies, or a home-cooked meal, the thoughts, attitudes, and qualities of the maker pass into the very substance of that which they create. 

Realizing this, we begin to understand what we as individuals and as a society lack when we no longer have handmade items as a component of what we touch, feel, wear, and eat in our everyday lives. 

May we all consciously put love, care, and attention into all we create, so that our creations carry these as offerings to the world. 

Even if we are not creating a tangible object to gift to another, the gift itself may be as simple as a word, a glance, or a hug that transmits our love and caring.

The photo is of Susanna Frongia warping a traditional handloom. This article is also posted on Tramite.org

Being thankful for textiles: A piece from USA Today

Here’s a good piece from USA Today about the importance of textiles and how their relatively recent commoditization has made us forget how difficult, complex, and time-consuming handweaving and hand-spinning are. The column also touches upon the value of fibers and woven items, not only in themselves, but as components of products and machines that have driven advances in areas from commerce to medicine.

Read the piece: The thread of history: Be thankful that textiles have changed the fabric of living, by Virginia Postrel in USA Today, November 26, 2020.

It is only in the past century, and especially in the past generation, that most Americans could forget where cloth comes from. Once so valuable they were stolen from clothes lines and passed down in wills, textile products now occupy only a tiny fraction of household budgets. ~ Virginia Postrel

Understanding and Protecting Italian Food and Culinary Heritage: What DOP and Other Designations Mean

Italian Food Classifications and Labels

The Heritage

When I talk with people about Sardinian handwoven textiles and the importance of valuing and protecting the weavers and their art — key elements of Sardinia’s cultural heritage — and the textile classification system designed to protect Sardinian textiles, the weavers, and the island’s economy, I often discuss the labeling standards and classifications that the European Union (EU) uses to protect the fine foods and wines respected as key elements of Italy’s cultural heritage.

Italy’s art, architecture, design, natural beauty, and food are considered part of the country’s heritage and recognized as treasures that must be protected. When you think of certain Italian foods — perhaps a favorite cheese, meat, wine, liquor, or traditional speciality dish — you most likely think of a certain inimitable flavor, smell, and texture, all arising — and inseparable— from the area in which the ingredients were grown and how the food was prepared. Food and wine recipes are passed down from generation to generation within a region and often within a family, and it’s understood that the taste and quality of the food changes if the food is prepared using different ingredients (even those grown in different regions) or the preparation method altered in any way.

The food classifications recognize and protect the names, recipes, quality, and area of origin of traditional Italian foods, and guarantee the item bearing the label meets certain criteria of how and where the food was grown or produced. This system ensures that the food or wine you purchase is genuine — the item comes from a specific area, is produced according to traditional methods and standards, and thus tastes, looks, smells, and feels as the food or wine traditionally tastes. This system — recognized by World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries as well as the EU — also discourages food piracy and helps protect the economy and people of the region where the food is traditionally grown and prepared. (Food piracy refers to the unethical practice of using the name of a protected food to sell a food product made outside the traditional area, using non-traditional methods and/or foods grown outside the traditional area.)

The different food classification levels are outlined below. The explanations will help you understand the difference between the criteria of different labels and why you’ll find a price difference between DOP, IGP, and STG foods and between IGT, DOC, and DOCG wines.

Food Classes Explained 

The primary food classifications are DOP, IGP, and STG. 

DOP — Denominazione di origine protetta (Protected Designation of Origin)

The DOP designation denotes the tightest restrictions regarding where and how a food product is grown and produced. The DOP label recognizes that the qualities and characteristics of the food product are essentially or exclusively due to the natural and human factors found within a specific geographical environment of a designated country and region. The geographical environment — including the climate, production techniques passed down through generations, craftsmanship, and more — make the product inimitable outside the designated production area. All production, transformation and processing of a DOP product must take place within the delimited area. 

All DOP products bear the official DOP stamp in red and yellow, with the words “Denominazione d’Origine Protetta”. 

More than 165 Italian foods bear the DOP designation, including Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. Since 2010, wines considered DOC and DOCG (see below) have been considered DOP products. 

IGP — Identificazione geografica protetta (Protected Geographical Indication)

The IGP designation recognizes that the characteristics of a food product depend upon the geographical area in which the food product is prepared, yet the IGP designation requires that only one of the phases of production, transformation, and/or processing occur within a designated geographical area. For instance, an IGP product may be prepared within the designated geographical area using ingredients sourced from outside the designated area. 

There are currently about 130 Italian products bearing the IGP designation, including l’Aceto Balsamico di Modena, la Mortadella Bologna, and la Bresaola della Valtellina.

All IGP products bear the official IGB stamp in blue and yellow, with the words “Indicazione Geografica Protetta”

STG — Specialità tradizionale garantite (Guaranteed Traditional Speciality)

The STG designation denotes a traditional food prepared using a traditional recipe or method of production (one existing for more than 30 years). The food must be prepared within the European Union, but no specific country or region is designated for either the sourcing of ingredients or the production of the food. If a food is prepared using recipes or production methods outside of those designated for the STG designation, the food can still bear the name of the traditional food, but not the official STG label. 

All STG products bear the official STG stamp in yellow with a solid blue center and the words “Specialità Tradizionale Garantite”

Wine Classifications Explained

A different system is used for wine. These classifications were rolled into the DOC classification in 2010. 

IGT — Indicazione geografica tipico (Typical Geographical Indication)

The IGT designation denotes wines produced in a comparatively large geographical area — a region or territory recognized for producing grapes of a uniform quality that impart specific qualities to wine — where at least 85% of the grapes were grown within that area and the wine was produced according to specific requirements. IGT is the least restrictive of the wine designations, and wines bearing the IGT designation cannot use the name of a geographical area or region protected by DOC or DOCG designation. IGT wines do not have to declare the wine vintage or color.

DOC — Denominazione di origine controllata (Designation of Origin Controlled)

The DOC designation is given to wines whose unique qualities are recognized as being dependent upon the particular natural environment and human factors (such as production techniques and craftsmanship) linked to a particular geographic area. In addition, DOC wines undergo a sensory and chemical-physical analysis before receiving the DOC designation. Most DOC wines are maintain the IGT designation for at least five years before being eligible for consideration as a DOC wine.

DOCG — Denominazione origine controllata garantita (Designation of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed)

The DOCG designation is the highest designation for a wine. After a wine has maintained DOC designation for ten years, the wine may be submitted for DOCG consideration. A special commission performs a sensory analysis of the wine before granting the first DOCG designation, and each batch of wine must be tested and successfully pass the analysis prior to being granted DOCG status. 

Classifying Textiles

Similarly, to protect the fine heritage, traditions, and designs of Sardinian textiles, and the weavers and economy of Sardinia, I compiled a three-tier classification system that delineates standards for handwoven textiles, hand-decorated textiles, mill-made textiles in Sardinia. The three classifications recognize the different production method, market, and price range for Sardinian textiles. See this page for details about the classifications. 

While this system is not yet official, I hope someday to see these standards for Sardinia textiles used across the island, the EU, and the world!

Food Classification Sources

AltroConsumo

Wikipedia’s article on DOP, IGP, STG and IG Italian Products