Algherese dialect

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Algherese (Standard Catalan: Alguerès, pronounced [əlɣəˈɾɛs]; Algherese: Alguerés [alɣaˈɾes]) is the variant of the Catalan language spoken in the city of Alghero (L'Alguer in Catalan), in the northwest of Sardinia, Italy. Catalan-speaking colonists repopulated the town and expelled the native population in 1372, after several revolts.[1]

Catalan was replaced as the official language by Spanish, then by Italian in the mid 18th century, but its use remained widespread until at least the 1970s.[2] Today it has semi-official status alongside Italian.[3]

According to recent linguistic research, 22.4% of the population in Alghero speak Algherese natively and above 90% have some knowledge of this Catalan dialect. Majority of the native speakers are the elderly.[4]

Based on additional linguistic studies, there are approximately 20,000 to 30,000 native speakers of language worldwide. In communities where Algherese is spoken, Italian and Logudorese Sardinian are often used as well.[5]


Algherese is a regional dialect spoken by anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 individuals, most of which reside in the town of Alghero, located in the northwest of Sardinia.[6] The language, though secular, is initially derived from, and thus considered a variant of, the Catalan language.[6] The origins of the language can be traced back to 1372, when Catalan invaders repopulated the city of Alghero after exiling the indigenous populations in Sardinia.[6] The language has roots in several Romance languages, including Eastern Romance, Italo-Western Romance, and Italo Western.[7]

Geographic distribution[edit]

In the northwest region of Sardinia, it is estimated that Italian is the first language of close to 60% of individuals, Algherese approximately 22%.[8] The use of the dialect in schools and media, to name a few, is sparse. Prior to 1997, teaching of the dialect in school was rare, as it was often seen as secondary to Catalan. However, in an attempt to reverse the trend, the Regional Council of Sardinia has officially recognized "Algherese Catalan" as a separate language in order to promote its use and circulation.[8] As of a 2008 study, Algherese is used by approximately 14% of the population for daily interactions.[8] The dialect is mostly a local language, often used to supplement Catalan or Sardinian in small circles.[9]

Official status[edit]

In the northwest region of Sardinia, where this language is spoken, Catalan is the primary language. Algherese acts as a secondary language or dialect in the region.


Algherese can be derived from a set of varying, though similar regional dialects. Initially, the Occitano-Romance dialect is divided into three languages; they are Catalan, Gascon, and Occitan. The first two, Catalan and Gascon, represent single spoken languages. In regards to the aforementioned, Algherese Catalan is an outlying dialect because it is in an isolated group. In a sense, Algherese is a sub-division of its own within the previous sub-division.

There are currently no known dialects or varieties of this language.


The following table represents a study conducted in the town of Alghero that showed the general use of Algherese in several media.[10]

Figures were gathered from the EULA in 2004:

Oral Comprehension 90.1% (Sardinian oral comprehension: 69.7%)
Oral Expression 61.3% (Sardinian oral expression: 33.9%)
Written Comprehension 46.6% (Sardinian written comprehension: 35.4%)
Written Expression 13.6% (Sardinian written expression: 15.4%)
First Language 22.4% (59.2% Italian)
Habitual Language 13.9%


  • Like in other languages of Sardinia /ɛ/ and /e/ as well as /ɔ/ and /o/ may merge into mid vowels [] and [], respectively.
  • Coalescing of unstressed vowels /a/, /ɛ/ and /e/ to [a] (unlike the rest of Eastern Catalan, which uses [ə]).
  • Algherese preserves /v/ as a distinct phoneme from /b/, like Balearic and most of Valencian.
  • Mutation of intervocalic /d/ or /l/ to [r]: 'Barceloneta' (little Barcelona): Eastern Standard [bərsəɫuˈnɛtə], Algherese [balsaruˈne̞ta]; and vila ('town') and vida ('life') are homophones in Algherese [ˈvira].
  • Mutation of syllable final /r/ to lateral [l], and the possible resulting group /r/ + consonant is further simplified to [l]: forn ('furnace, oven'): Standard [ˈfo̞rn], Algherese [ˈfo̞l].
  • Depalatalization of syllable final sonorants: lateral /ʎ/ to [l], nasal /ɲ/ to [n]; e.g. any ('year'): Standard [ˈaɲ], Algherese [ˈan].
  • Unlike most Catalan dialects, /l/ is never velarized in Algherese: sol ('sun'): Standard [ˈsɔɫ], Algherese [ˈso̞l].


  • The simple past is replaced by the present perfect (present of haver "to have" + past participle), possibly by Italian influence.
  • The imperfect past preserves etymological -v- in all conjugations: 1st -ava, 2nd -iva, 3rd -iva (unlike modern Eastern and Western Standard Catalan, which use 1st -ava, 2nd -ia, 3rd -ia, afeature shared with Ribagorçan.
  • Large-scale lexical borrowing and calques from Sardinian, Spanish and Italian: nearly half of the vocabulary is not from Catalan.[11]

Differences from Standard Catalan[edit]

A satellite photo of Sardinia with the location of the Algherese-speaking area in yellow

The Algherese variant is Eastern Catalan, but it has many differences from Central Catalan, with some of the most obvious ones as follows:


The following abbreviations are used: m (masculine), f (feminine), pl (plural), fpl (feminine plural), inf (informal), f (formal).

The following phrases were gathered from a Catalan translation set, but the common phrases in Algherese are similar:[12]

English Catalan Algherese
Welcome Benvingut (m)

Benvinguda (f)

Benvinguts (pl) Benvingudes (fpl)

Benvingut (m)

Benvinguda (f)

Benvinguts (pl) Benvingudes (fpl)

Hello Hola

Bon dia


Bon dia

My name is... Em dic... Me aquirr...

Me dic...

Where are you from? D'on ets? (inf)

D'on és vostè? (f)

De ont ses? (inf)

De ont és vostè? (f)

Good morning Bon dia Bon dia


Poster for the Premi Rafael Sari 2008
Monument to the unitat de la llengua in Alghero

The Premi Rafael Sari, organised by the Obra Cultural de l'Alguer,[13] is a series of prizes awarded in September each year to the best literary works of poetry and prose written in Alguerese Catalan. Notable poets include Rafael Sari, Pasquale Scanu and Maria Chessa Lai. There is also a long tradition of writing and performing songs in Alguerese Catalan and the Premio Pino Piras[14] is awarded for new songs written in the language. Notable singer-songwriters include Pino Piras and Franca Masu.

In 2015 Carla Valentino published an Algherese translation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince.[15]


  1. ^ L'Alguer and Alguerese Catalan - Oral Corpus of Alguerese
  2. ^ Italy’s Last Bastion of Catalan Language Struggles to Keep It Alive, The New York Times, Raphael Minder
  3. ^ Alghero official website
  4. ^ Linguistic data from Generalitat de Catalunya Archived 2006-09-12 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Did you know Algherese Catalan is vulnerable?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-02-10. 
  6. ^ a b c "Did you know Algherese Catalan is vulnerable?". Endangered Languages. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  7. ^ "Glottolog 2.7 - Algherese". Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  8. ^ a b c "Corpus Oral de l'Alguerès". Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  9. ^ A., Argenter, Joan. "L'Alguer (Alghero), a Catalan linguistic enclave in Sardinia". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2008. ISSN 0165-2516. 
  10. ^ "The University of Aberdeen". Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  11. ^ Jaume Corbera Pou, Caracterització del lèxic alguerès, Universitat de les Illes Balears, 2000
  12. ^ "Useful Catalan phrases". Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  13. ^ l'Obra Cultural de l'Alguer
  14. ^ il Premio Pino Piras
  15. ^ Petit Prince Collection (

External links[edit]