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Sunday, November 17, 2019
 
 
In the 1996 census it is reported:

Italian is Windsor’s third language… Italian is spoken at home by 6,075 people, which makes it the second most common language. Nearly half of the 12,640 Windsor-area people who say Italian is their mother tongue speak it at home. Most Italians speak regional dialects, and most often the language of communication among Italians of different regions and with their Canadian born children is English rather than standard Italian. (Walter Temelini, The Italian cultural presence in Windsor, 1920-1990.)

The Italian speaking community has been a linguistics case study of the adaptation of the community to the new environment. It shows how a language is able to change according to the outside factors of the environment.

Italians have used their mother tongue in their ethnic community and especially in their families. The Canadian version of Italian is referred to in studies as an “ethnolect”. When the ethnolect and the primary, dominant language are in contact , the first one borrows words. The process is known by the term loanwords. This process had happened to the first generation of immigrants. As they adapted to a new life, the social-cultural factors of the new environment resulted in a new way of speaking the language.

The vocabulary used by the family refers to everyday life. As this vocabulary is used throughout the community, adjustments are made to the pronunciation and the grammar. This process is called nativization.

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The following chart illustrates some common English words that have been nativized into the most general Italo-Canadian form:
 
Loan Words
Nativized Word
Italian Equivalent
store
storo
negozio
sink
sinco
lavandino/acquaio
cake
checcha
torta
mortgage
morgheggio
ipoteca/mutuo
fence
fenza
recinto
ticket
ticchetta
biglietto
to push
pusciare
spingere
to paint
pintare
verniciare
to freeze
frisare
congelare
smart
smarto
intelligente
cheap
cippe
economico
 
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It is also interesting to see how some loanwords coincide homophonically with native lexical items with which they have no semantic connection:
 
Loan Words
Nativized Word
Standard Italian Homophone
factory
fattoria
fattoria 'farm'
brick
bricco
bricco 'pot'
steam
stima
stima 'esteem'
shovel
sciabola
sciabola 'dagger'
 
The ethnolect spoken in Canada elicits different reactions from the members of the Italian community. The loanwords are found mostly in the first generation of Italian immigrants. The following generations recognize what distinguishes the Italian-Canadian language from the Italian spoken in the peninsula. This is an interesting example of how the language and the environment interact.

(Source: Marcel Danesi. Canadian Italian: a Case in Point of How Language Adapts to Environment. Polyphony, Vol.7, Nr.2)

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The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.

 

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