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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, but the Greek-Messapic substratum shaped definitely the phonology and the lexicon of this language. 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 a strong Greek-Messapic substratum.
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 Tarantino and Barese dialect, and their similarities with other varieties of Sicilian, particularly those found in Calabria. In Sicily efforts have been made by the non-profit Cadèmia Siciliana to standardise the orthography for written insular Sicilian. They have also adopted a 'polycentric' approach which suggests that Salentino should have its own orthography within a family of Sicilian orthographies.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Salentinu". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- "Resolution regarding Sicilian language range, and relationship to other languages of Sicily". Cadèmia Siciliana. Retrieved 2017-12-28.