On the Influence of Italian on the Grammar of Molise Slavic and Italo-Albanian  (excerpts)


Walter Breu


(In: Balkan and South Slavic Enclaves in Italy: Languages, Dialects and Identities,

Thede Kahl, Iliana Krapova, Giuseppina Turano (eds.), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018, p. 215-236)


Contents  (from www.cambridgescholars.com)


(.pdf file of pages 217, 219-221, 223-225, 228, 231-232, 234-236 of this paper from Google preview)


. . .

        1.3. The current and the historical situation of Italo-Albanian


2. Contact-induced developments in the future tense

        2.1. The development of a double future in Molise Slavic

        2.2. The de-obligative future in Italo-Albanian



        3.2. Aspectual periphrases


4. Contact-induced developments in the field of irreality

        4.1. The counterfactual function of the imperfect


5. Language contact in other fields of grammar

        5.1. Case and Definiteness


        5.3. Complementisers and relativisers






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of their two or more languages but rather combine them in the most economical way possible. One could argue that the grammars of the individual languages in contact are synchronically derived from such a diagrammar, in terms of a common deep structure, by means of language-specific rules. The fewer the rules, the more economical the management of the languages is. Therefore, the reduction of the rules by means of a more and more comprehensive diagrammar is the overall object of language change in total contact situations.


The two main procedures leading to such a favorable diagrammar are the “adaptation of the semantic structure” of the replica language to that of the dominant model (semantic calquing) and the “loan translation” (formal calquing) of periphrastic elements from the dominant language system. Both types of contact influence may be addressed as “pattern-borrowing”, as opposed to “matter-borrowing” (borrowing of forms), which in a grammatical respect is far less important; see Madras & Sakel (2007).


In Molise Slavic, we find contact-induced changes in the oppositions and functions of the grammemes of almost all grammatical categories of the verb and the noun, making this micro-language, in many respects, distance itself from what could be called the common Slavic basis and bringing it closer to typically Romance structures. As for the developments themselves, even some Slavic “diachronic constants” of language change have been cancelled out by Romance diachronic constants. By “diachronic constants” we mean evolutionary tendencies in a language family that ideally are observed by all its members with respect to a certain linguistic phenomenon.


In Italo-Albanian, contact-induced changes are less evident, due to the fact that the Albanian language family as a whole is, in many respects, closer to the Romance structure than the Slavic phylum is. Typical differences such as the absence of an infinitive are not directly accessible to contact influences and only lead to rather implicit adaptations. [4] Nevertheless, Italo-Albanian differs from the Albanian varieties in mainland Albania and in other countries of the diaspora in several features, doubtlessly harking back to the role Italian and its dialects played in its development.



4. For possibly contact-based innovations or at least expansions in this field, see the particle constructions in Breu (1994b), especially the causative construction, allowing for a parallelism in the contact situation by shifting the inflection from the auxiliary to the main verb, with the particle remaining just as uninflected as the infinitive in the model language, e.g. in Frascineto u bën e partirti mëma <=> Ital. io feci partire la mamma 'I made mother leave', literally “I CAUSE and mother left" (1994b: 381). For a typology of Italo-Albanian causatives sec Savoia (2008).





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back to the first centuries after the Slavic settlement in Molise as they can best be explained from dialectal models.


Italian (together with its southern varieties) has always been the only umbrella language for Molise Slavic, while Slavic standard varieties, for example standard Croatian, have never played any substantial role in everyday life in the Molise Slavic villages.



1.3. The current and the historical situation of Italo-Albanian


Italo-Albanian, or Arbrisht, [9] shares similar contact conditions with Molise Slavic, also spoken by minorities in southern Italian enclaves. Furthermore, the language of the original homelands had no substantial influence on the development of this micro-language, either. Nevertheless, there are considerable differences between the numbers of speakers and the territories inhabited. While Molise Slavs live in a small compact area, there are almost fifty Italo-Albanian villages, spread across several regions from Molise via Campania, Basilicata, Apulia, and Calabria down to Sicily, with a concentration, however, in the northern Calabrian province of Cosenza.


Moreover, the Italo-Albanian immigration was a process consisting of several waves from the 15th to the 18th century, including also additional migration inside Italy. Linguistic evidence like the shift of the intervocalic n to r (the Tosk rhotacism) and the lack of an infinitive points to Southern Albania and Greece, with their Tosk dialect, as being the original homelands of the Italo-Albanians. Contrary to Molise Slavic, Italo-Albanian shows some Greek influence that continued even after the emigration period due to Greek being the liturgical language for a considerable number of the Italo-Albanian parishes and - to a certain extent - the language of higher education in the institutions dominated by the clergy.


The total Italo-Albanian population can only be estimated, with numbers running from some tens of thousands up to one hundred thousand. Due to the extension of the Italo-Albanian territories, many southern Italian dialects have played a role in the contact-induced development of the Italo-Albanian dialects; but just as in the case of



9. “Arb(ë)risht” is the term used for the denomination of the language in most varieties, while “Arb(ë)rcsh(ë) is the ethnonym referring to the people. This means that in Italy the original naming for the Albanians was preserved, while it was lost in mainland Albanian where Shqip refers to the language and Shqiptar to the people. For an overview of the historical situation of the Italo-Albanians and their language around a century ago, sec c.g. Lambertz (1914).





Molise Slavic, standard Italian is nowadays the main source of foreign influence.



2. Contact-induced developments in the future tense


2.1. The development of a double future in Molise Slavic


The Molise Slavic verb jimat has extended its original Slavic meaning ‘to have' to include the modal meaning ‘must', replacing in this respect other candidates like the corresponding forms morati, treba in Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. The model for this change is the polysemy of avé in Southern Italian dialects, meaning both ‘have’ and ‘must' (Giammarco 1968: 282). In the given contact situation this model was copied by the Slavic replica language. This “adaptation of the semantic structure" may be symbolised by the two-stage scheme in Figure 2. The historically initial stage IS before the change shows the asymmetry between the polysemy in the dominant language L2 and different expressions for the two concepts (meanings) in the minority language L1’. RS symbolizes the resulting situation after the polisemisation in the minority language, having been changed this way to an L1’. The Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian form treba ‘must’ is inserted here as a “dummy", since we have no information as to the exact form used in earlier Molise Slavic.


Figure 2: Polisemisation of Molise Slavic jimat 'have'


The polysemy of avé in Italian dialects was the reason for changes in the grammar of Molise Slavic, too, namely in the future tense. Actually, avé does not only mean ‘must’, but also functions as an auxiliary in the de-obligative future tense based on this meaning. Molise Slavic copied this additional polysemy, too, with the effect of jimat expressing a parallel future of “necessity and obligation” in the micro-language.


Traditionally, Molise Slavic had a volitive future of the type ču dokj ‘I will come' formed by means of the clitic present of tit ‘to want, will’. However, contrary to the volitive future in the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian standards languages, the tit-future is restricted to situations marked for





“possibility or probability” as in example (1) with ča 3SG.PRS. For all other cases, its opposite, the de-obligative jimat-future, is used, c.g. in (2) with mam 1SG.PRS.


(1) Drugu votu ča hi čini veča bolje!

‘Next time, she will (probably) make them better.'


(2) Mam po nama-gor, zgora onga brda.

‘I will (necessarily, as planned) go up there, on the hill over there.'


The development of the given modal opposition of “probability” vs. “necessity” in the future is, of course, a direct result of the contact-induced emergence of the necessitative jimat-future, reducing the former comprehensive tit-future to a modally restricted one for those functions not covered by the new contact-induced grammeme. The adaptation of the semantic structure behind this development is symbolised in figure 3:


Figure 3: Development of the modal opposition in the future



2.2. The de-obligative future in Italo-Albanian


In Italo-Albanian dialects we find a similar situation to that of Molise Slavic, here with respect to kam 'to have'. By a semantic calque parallel to the Molise Slavic, as illustrated in figure 2 above, kam adapted its meaning to the polysemy of Southern Italian avé. [10] Thus, it has also come to mean ‘must’ and has become the auxiliary for a necessitative future of the type kam + subjunctive [11] as well. See example (3) from a Molise Albanian text with the particle kat, derived from ka 3SG.PRS + subjunctive particle t :



10. For an alternative explanation of the kam-future in Italo-Albanian as an ancient balkanism, see Altimari (2011).


11. Like standard Albanian, Italo-Albanian replaces the missing infinitive in verbal complexes by the subjunctive.





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of the inflectional aspect category was lost, it was always the aorist. Thus, we could call this type of reduction a “Romance diachronic constant". The neighboring Italian dialects of Molise Slavic had this type of reduction and influenced the Slavic minority language in such a way that instead of following the Slavic diachronic constant of losing the aorist first it copied the Romance reduction type.


On the other hand, the derivational aspect category, expressed by pairs of perfective (pf.) and imperfective (ipf.) verbs, has been preserved. All the morphological methods needed to form aspectual pairs continue to exist. We find, for example, prefixation in brat / nabrat (ipf./pf.) 'to harvest’, suffixation in ubit / ubivat (pf./ipf.) 'to kill’, and suppletion in reč / govorat (pf./ipf.) ‘to say’. Even in loan verbs, the derivational aspect is fully productive. All telic verbs are integrated as perfectives, forming an imperfective partner with the help of the suffix -iva-, e.g. Ital. decidere 'to decide' dečidit (pf.) => dečidivat (ipf.). The reason for the stability of the opposition of perfectivity may be found in the very absence of such a category in the dominant varieties, thus being responsible for the lack of a model for calques. [13]


Italo-Albanian, just like Albanian as a whole, does not have a derivational verbal aspect. However, in most Italo-Albanian dialects there is an inflectional opposition of the imperfect with the aorist, functionally corresponding to the opposition of the imperfect vs. the analytical perfect in Molise Slavic and going back to the same threefold opposition of imperfect : aorist : perfect.


The opposite development with respect to the once threefold opposition in the two minority languages harks back to Italian dialectal differences with a clear dominance of the aorist in the southern dialects influencing Italo-Albanian, contrary to its above-mentioned loss in the northern and eastern dialects. Interestingly enough, Molise Albanian has the same predominance of the aorist that we find in Calabria, despite being located in the same area of Lower Molise as Molise Slavic with no aorist in the surrounding Italian dialects. The reason for this situation may be found in an internal migration of the Molise Albanians from their first places of settlement (Breu 2011: 177-180).



13. See Breu, Berghaus & Scholze (2016: 88-113) for more details about the Molise Slavic aspect system and for a comparison with those of two other Slavic micro-languages iti situations of total language contact, namely Burgenland Croatian and Upper Sorbian. For the different role of prefixation in the aspectual systems of Molise Slavic, Upper Sorbian and Resian, probably going back to language contact, see Brku, Pila & Scholze (in press).





3.2. Aspectual periphrases


In Italian, there is a periphrastic progressive formed by the auxiliary stare ‘to be, to stay’ and the gerund, of the type sta arrivando ‘s/he is arriving’, while Southern Italian dialects prefer other constructions, the most widespread being the combination of the grammaticalised particle mo ‘now’ in combination with the present. Molise Slavic has copied this model through syntactic calquing (word-by-word loan translation), by rendering mo with its own corresponding particle sa ‘now', cf. sa gre ‘s/he is coming’.


A periphrastic model was also copied in the case of the “imminentive”, expressing actions at the point of being realised or in their very initial phase, formed in Italian by the present or the imperfect of the auxiliary stare + per ‘for' + infinitive. It was copied word for word in Molise Slavic, for example in (4). where stojaša za si ga pokj corresponds exactly to the Italian periphrasis stava per andarsene ‘s/he was about to leave':


(4) Stojaša za si ga pokj, kada je čula jena bahat.

‘She was about to leave when she heard a crackling sound.'


As for Albanian, it features aspectual periphrases in its Balkan varieties as well, see for example the Standard Albanian progressive, formed with the particle po + indicative as in po vij ’I am coming (right now)’, and a synonymous construction jam duke ardhur, formed with the auxiliary jam ‘to be' + gerund. However, Italo-Albanian progressives are formed differently. In Portocannone and Frascineto we find constructions of the type jam e vinj ‘I am coming’, literally “I am and I come" and isha e thoja ‘I was saying’, literally “I was and I said”. In other areas, different constructions are used, for example jam ç vinj, literally "I am that I come”, with the relativiser ç instead of the copula. As both constructions are different from those we find in mainland Albania, they have probably been induced by language contact. Just as in Molise Slavic, the Italian gerund construction cannot be the model for these periphrases. Actually, they can best be explained by Southern Italian models such as stare a + infinitive (Rohlfs 1969: 133).


There is also an imminentive of the type jam po t vinj in Arbrisht, at least in Frascineto, corresponding to the Italian sto per venire ‘I am coming’, with the particle po rendering per and the subjunctive t vinj replacing the missing infinitive in Albanian.





4. Contact-induced developments in the field of irreality


4.1. The counterfactual function of the imperfect


Within the category of mood, the most important changes have taken place in the field of irrealis. Like other Slavic languages, Molise Slavic has an analytic conditional, formed with the auxiliary bi and expressing, among other things, both potential and counterfactual situations. In addition, it has copied an Italian model by adapting the semantic structure. I am referring to the imperfect, which in colloquial Italian, besides its aspectual-temporal indicative function, expresses counterfactual situations. This polysemy of the model language is regularly conferred to the Molise Slavic replica, by expanding the functions of the imperfect from the indicative into the field of irrealis.


It is worth noting that this new means of expressing irrealis has become just as polysemic as the traditional bi-conditional in expressing both counterfactual and potential states of affairs (Breu 2011: 172-175). For example, a perfective imperfect like dojahma [14], meaning in its indicative reading ‘we used to come’, is synonymous with the conditional bima dol in both the potential reading ‘we would come’ and the counterfactual one ‘we would have come’.


Just like Molise Slavic, Italo-Albanian copies the Romance model of the imperfect expressing counterfactuality in addition to its aspectual-temporal functions in the indicative: [15]


(5) Ndë viji, vejëm te çinami. (Portocannone)

‘If she had come, we would have gone to the cinema.’


(6) Ndë vije dje, kajem bashk. Pse s'erdhe? (Frascineto)

‘If you had come yesterday, we would have dined together. Why didn’t you come?



14. In Molise Slavic, the imperfect and the perfect appear in both a perfective and imperfective form. While the imperfective imperfect in its indicative reading expresses, among other things, on-going actions and durative states, the perfective imperfect is utilised in iterative contexts. However, both of them appear in potential and counterfactual predicates. For more details see Breu (2015).


15. These counterfactual sentences correspond to colloquial Italian with the indicative imperfect in both the protasis and the apodosis: (5) Se veniva, andavamo al cinema (literally "If she came, we went to the cinema”), (6) Se venivi ieri, mangiavamo insieme (literally "If you came yesterday, we dined together”.





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example, ‘it has probably rained', ‘it must have rained’, upon noticing that the street is wet. [21]


Contrary to the Bulgarian and Turkish evidential, likewise historically based on a perfect, the Arbrisht presumptive perfect never adopts a quotative function, nor does it have the function of an Albanian admirative. Considering the way the future is constructed in Arbrisht, we could claim that the presumptive perfect is derived from an epistemic future perfect of the type ‘will have rained' or rather ‘must have rained’, with the omission of the perfect auxiliary in the subjunctive: ka (t ket) rat ‘must (have) fallen'.


Beginning with the presumptive perfect, a whole paradigm of presumptive forms has since developed, including a presumptive present, future and conditional. Besides kam, the auxiliary do (‘will, want’), having lost its function in forming the future, has also been integrated into this paradigm. [22]



5. Language contact in other fields of grammar


5.1. Case and Definiteness


As far as nouns are concerned, the most salient development is the ??contact-induced merger of the case forms indicating “place" and “motion towards a place" in Molise Slavic, which, among other things, has led to the loss of its former locative. This merger is based on the corresponding Italian polysemic model with, for example, in Italia meaning both ‘in Italy' and ‘to Italy'. In Arbrisht there was no place for a similar development, as it probably showed the same merger from the very beginning, as do mainland Albanian and most other Balkan languages.


But in general, the case systems of both micro-languages suffered no substantial influence with respect to case oppositions. Only in Molise Slavic is there a certain tendency towards a more analytical means of expression, especially in the genitive with its optional preposition do ‘of. from' and in the instrumental, which can no longer express the verbal agent without the preposition s ‘with’. In Arbrisht, at least in Calabria,



Albanian could be interesting, especially with regard to the role of language contact in both cases.


21. For more examples, including presumptive functions outside the kam-perfect, see Breu (2015: 216-221).


22. This is true, at least, for Frascineto, while for the other dialects detailed research still needs to be done. See the above discussion about the Arbrisht future and Breu (2015: 222) for a table with the paradigm of the Frascineto variety.





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Italo-Albanian, like mainland Albanian, traditionally shares the general postposition of attributes with Italian. This is why language contact could not lead to dramatic changes in this field. On the other hand, the formal difference between pure adjectives like i mirë ‘good’, indicating a prefixed adjective marker, and denominal adjectives like arbëresh has been retained, despite the lack of such an opposition in Italian. We could claim that the adjectival marker is considered an integral part of the adjectives themselves, as a type of inflection, untouched by language contact.


Even in the realm of clitic pronouns, Albanian as a whole has much in common with Southern Italian dialects whose rules for clitic doubling far exceed those valid for Standard Italian. But, although there are many exceptions to obligatory clitic doubling in all varieties of Italian, Italo- Albanian doubling rules are very strict. For example, the dative of nouns and accented pronouns is always doubled by clitics, even in the ordinary subject-verb-object order. It seems that a decline in these rules has not yet happened, as in the case of the attribute being used much more frequently in postposition than in Italian, even with “descriptive” adjectives like i mirë ‘good’ and i bukur ‘beautiful’.


Things are different in Molise Slavic. On the one hand, it also shows a predominance of postponed attributes in proportion to Italian, excluding, for example, an opposition of pre- and postposition in the case of the adjective novi ‘new’, unlike the Italian nuovo. This preference can be interpreted here as an over-generalisation of this contact-induced feature. On the other hand, Molise Slavic clitics have, to a great extent, become aligned with Italian rules. The most important point in this instance is the complete loss of Wackernagel's law of “second position”, in contrast to Standard Croatian where clitics are slotted in immediately after the first fully accented word of a sentence. In Molise Slavic, this traditional phonologically motivated position of the clitics has been replaced by a verb-adjacent one. Thus, as in Italian, the normal position of Molise Slavic clitics is before the verb, while in the imperative they are postponed. There is not even a restriction on placing clitics at the very beginning of a sentence.


Yet there is, indeed, one difference with respect to the position of clitics between Standard Italian and Molise Slavic, namely when they are attached to the infinitive. In that case, Italian prefers postposition, which is excluded in Molise Slavic, for example, andar=se=ne vs. si ga pokj ’go away, leave’, with the dative of the reflexive pronoun (se//si) and the partitive pronoun (ne//ga) located predominantly after the infinitive in Standard Italian, but always before it in Molise Slavic. This is, however, a property Molise Slavic shares with local Italian dialects (as its model), at





least in modal infinitive constructions where clitics are attached to the modal auxiliaries preceding the infinitive (Rohlfs 1968: 173-174).


??Clitic doubling of fully stressed pronouns and nouns, again in contrast to Croatian, is very frequent in Molise Slavic and follows the rules of Southern Italian varieties, too. This means that it is by no means restricted to the non-canonical word order object-verb as it is in standard Italian. [25]



5.3. Complementisers and relativisers


The last case of contact-induced change we shall briefly be dealing with in this chapter is the behavior of semi-grammatical units introducing complement and relative clauses. In this field of complementisers and relativisers, we find both matter-borrowing and pattern-borrowing. We shall confine ourselves in the following section to the Italian che (dialectal chə) as a source of contact-induced changes in both Molise Slavic and Italo- Albanian.


In Molise Slavic, the loanword ke serves as a complementiser, with its phonetic variant ka. Although the traditional Slavic complementisers continue to exist as word forms, they have lost their complementizing function and are restricted to other functions: da has specialised as an optative particle for wishes and curses, and što is restricted to its function as an interrogative pronoun. [26] With respect to Italo-Albanian, the situation is more complicated. While the Molise Albanian dialects agree with Molise Slavic in having borrowed the complementiser ke, it is absent in Calabria. Here, the inherited particle se has been preserved. This difference seems purely accidental, with no motivation based on the internal structure of these dialects or on differences in the dominant contact varieties in question.


On the other hand, ke is in both groups of Italo-Albanian, albeit excluded as a relativiser. Here, only ç is possible, different from the Standard Albanian relativiser and formally identical with ç ‘what’. For this situation, Italian could be the model, since the Italian che (as well as the dialectal chə) is also an interrogative pronoun. We could therefore argue that this polysemy of che has been copied by adapting the semantic



25. For a more detailed description of the contact-induced changes in Molise Slavic syntax dealt with in this paragraph, see Breu (forthcoming). Another syntactical phenomenon dealt with in this paper, is the (optional) adaptation of the Slavic double negative to Italian rules in Molise.


26. To be more precise, we have to differentiate between attributive and free relative clauses. The loanword ke is restricted to the first case, while in free relative clauses the interrogative pronoun (što) is also used as a relativiser.





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elements (syntactical calque). While the former has caused, for example, the development of a de-obligative future and a counterfactual imperfect in both micro-languages, the latter is responsible for the development of aspectual periphrases and changes in the syntax of clitics and adjectives. A necessary condition for semantic caiques in the replica languages is the existence of a corresponding grammatical category in the model languages. This is the reason why the derivative category of verbal aspect of Molise Slavic and the case systems of both micro-languages have remained basically unchanged. On the other hand, new oppositions in the micro-language could develop only as a secondary effect of other semantic calques. Therefore, Molise Slavic could not copy, for example, the formal contrast between potential and counterfactual irrealis.


The structural differences between the two recipient languages were the main reason for their different behavior with respect to individual changes, for example, the greater similarity of the pre-existing Albanian structure to that of Italian on a syntactical level or regarding the category of definiteness. The emergence of the Italo-Albanian presumptive could also be mentioned here, since the existence of a habeo-perfect, missing in Slavic, was a necessary condition for it. But the different behavior of Italo-Albanian dialects in this field shows that differences in the Romance model languages (dialects) are responsible for divergent changes, too.


Finally, the case of the Italian complementiser, relativiser and interrogative pronoun che demonstrates that matter- and pattern-borrowings interact in giving different results both in the two microlanguages and also within the individual Italo-Albanian varieties.





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