Setting a new standard: a sociolinguistic analysis of the regional Italian of Sicily in Andrea Camilleri’s Commissario Montalbano mystery series
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The purpose of this study was to conduct a sociolinguistic analysis of the regional Italian of Sicily in Andrea Camilleri’s Un mese con Montalbano (A Month with Montalbano). The lexical portion of a model developed by Sgroi (1990) to examine the use of regional Italian in literature was applied to the thirty short stories in Camilleri’s text to isolate the components of this variety. The study also attempted to identify the socio-economic features of the characters who speak regional Italian, the contexts of use of this variety and what the regionalisms in the stories indicate about Italy and the speech of Italians. The model revealed that Camilleri utilizes three main types of language to regionalize his prose: Sicilian Italian regionalisms; phonological adaptations of Sicilian dialect terms; and, hyperfrequent Italian words. The regional terms comprise only 24.4% of the lexemes identified by the model, while 40.4% represent Italianizations of Sicilian dialect that may be artistic adaptations of the author. A surprising 33.4% of the terms are standard Italian words that appear to have been chosen by Camilleri due to their similarity to equivalent Sicilian dialect terms. With respect to the sociolinguistic aspects of the study, the findings were somewhat problematic owing to the nature of the mystery genre. Specifically, middle-aged policemen and police-related contexts of use are disproportionately represented in the stories. Nevertheless, it was determined that regional Italian is spoken by male and female characters who represent a wide range of ages and occupations. Furthermore, results illustrated that regionalisms are uttered most frequently in professional, public and formal contexts. The requisites of the mystery genre also affected the findings in regard to Camilleri’s portrayal of Italy and Italian speech. Much of the regional language used in the text exaggerates the criminal aspects of Italian society and the expressive quality of this variety. In a more realistic vein, however, many regionalisms emphasize the multi-cultural makeup of the country and the intangible facet of Italianness. In general, the textual analysis indicates that regional Italian is a complex variety which may enjoy a broader usage in contemporary Italy than the traditional dialects.