Coppersmiths And "Sa Romaniska" 0 Comments
Sardinia is one of the European regions with the highest density of spoken languages: five native idioms, with sub-variants, besides Italian: Sardinian or Sardinian limba, in its two versions Logudorese in the centre and Campidanese in the south, the Gallurese which is a Corsican language in the north, Catalan in Alghero and Ligurian in Carloforte and Calasetta. As we detailed in the article Sardinian Language And Music.
And then there is Isili, with its so peculiar language. It is a town in Sarcidano in the province of South Sardinia with almost 2600 inhabitants. A small town (3 hours by car and 235 km from Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel & Suites), with a very rich cultural heritage, famous for being the main centre of copper craftsmanship on the island. The interesting thing is that the copper culture, which is still present today, is linked to a particular language, which the coppersmiths have been passing on for centuries. This language, called Romaniska (or Pavela Romaniska or Arbareska) has uncertain origins and today, regrettably, is in danger of extinction.
Among all the hypotheses it seems likely that Romaniska originates from the Balkan area from where, in ancient times, came the enigmatic nomads to whom we owe the common linguistic base still traceable in distant and different places such as Sardinia, Friuli and Calabria. In these areas, probably the first expansion areas of these successive waves of nomads, skilled copper artisans would have formed.
Hence the important presence of terminologies of the gypsy spoken words of the Rom (Romanes), Albanian, Neo-Greek, similar to the Calabrian arbresh, Sicilian camminanti and calderai of Friuli dialects, and of course in the Romaniska.
The nomadic artisans who settled in Sardinia did so during the Spanish domination, perhaps in the fifteenth century. It is probably due to this dating that some theories would attribute the origin of the Romaniska to the Jewish populations deported to the island during the same period of Spanish domination.
This settlement, however, would be a relatively recent fact only minimally coinciding with a pre-existing craft activity, the very ancient copper craft in Sardinia, where the copper processing, in fact, dates back to the Nuragic period and continued flourishing both in the Punic-Carthaginian period and in the Roman one.
So, to fully understand the language of Isili's itinerant coppersmiths we should not remain in Sardinia, but we have to follow a powerful thread of cultural and linguistic references leading us to other geographical areas. The common fulcrum is a "mountain culture", which is found from west to east throughout the Alps and from north to south in the Apennines, leading to Calabria. In all these places, in fact it is, or has been, present the craftsmanship of copper processing, and the most typical terms (including those of possible Roman derivation) are often found also in Isili's Romaniska.
“Gold is for the mistress - silver for the maid" - Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade!” (Rudyard Kipling)
By Daniela Toti