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Salentino is a dialect of the Sicilian language. It is thus closer to the Calabrian dialect than to the geographically less distant dialects of central and northern Apulia and Basilicata, which are varieties of Neapolitan, sometimes called "Inner Southern Italian".
The Salentino dialect is a product of the different foreign powers and populations that have washed over the peninsula over the centuries; Byzantine, Lombard, French, and Spanish influences are all, to differing levels, present in the modern dialect.
During the Middle Ages, the area was home to both Romance-based dialects - the precursors to the modern Salentino. Salentino vocabulary is a strong derivative of traditional Latin, with some reported French or Spanish influences.
The term "Salentino" should be considered a general word to describe the various Romance vernaculars of the Salento peninsula, rather than one to describe a unified standard language spoken throughout the area. Indeed, in common with most other Italian languages, there are no agreed standards for spelling, grammar or pronunciation, with each locality and even generation having its own peculiarities. What unites the various local dialects of the Salento is their shared differences from the dialects further north in Apulia, such as the Barese dialect, and their similarities with other varieties of Sicilian, particularly those found in Calabria.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Salentinu". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.