The Sicilian Gambit

La lingua nostra.

Another tale of linguistic hijinks, this time from Sicilian. This site has a course in Sicilian which starts with the following

a is pronounced as in the word palm parma
e is pronounced as in the word echo leccu
i is pronounced as in the word ring aneddu
o is pronounced as in the word lost persu
u is pronounced as in the word foot pedi

Now normally, I’d expect the example to be in Sicilian and the gloss to be in English; but here the example is in English and the gloss is in Sicilian.

Further on we have

Some words in Sicilian change meaning by the addition of a consonant that they have in common, that is with a certain consonant they have one meaning and by doubling that same consonant the word has a different meaning:

The author is really talking about minimal pairs which illustrate that geminates are phonemic, but the description makes it seem that this might be a process of derivation so that scanàri “to knead” actually becomes scannàri “to slaughter” by doubling the [n]. It doesn’t.

Once we get away from the phonology of the language, the rest seems safe enough. Well, almost.

The Romans did not know the cardinal numbers and they used the ordinal numbers for every need. for this reason they used to write even the dates with ordinal numbers. here are some examples of how the years are written with ordinal numbers:

The author doesn’t appear to be confusing cardinal and ordinal numbers (which is a pair of labels I constantly mix up), but the problem appears to stem from the use of Roman numerals. It starts with

If the ordinal number refers to title, it follows the name:
Fidiricu II Frederick the II
Erricu VI Henry the VI
Luigi IX Louis the IX,

but in truth, this is mere convention. We’re then told

The ordinal numbers are written with special capital letters:

which is followed by a list of Roman numerals. Although we’re given the Sicilian ordinals (the actual word), it appears that the Roman numerals are some sort of Sicilian peculiarity which need explaining. It means that I once owned a Sicilian watch. No wonder I could never work out what the time was.

But things do get a little worse.

The Romans did not know the cardinal numbers and they used the ordinal numbers for every need. for this reason they used to write even the dates with ordinal numbers. here are some examples of how the years are written with ordinal numbers:

I would assume that Roman numerals were originally conceived of as cardinals (I homo; II homines etc.), but the Romans may not have had some sort of written marker for ordinals (e.g. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc.). However, I can assure worried readers that the Romans did know cardinal numbers.

If you remove these unfortunate statements, the rest of the course seems to be a decent, basic description of Sicilian, but don’t look too closely.

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