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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Peripheral (Dis)Unity: The Italian Influences on Corsican Linguistic and Cultural Developments

  • Author(s): Oliva, Cedric J.
  • et al.

The island of Corsica was officially considered to be affiliated to the pre-unified Italian world on multiple levels (linguistic, geographical, ethnical, historical, etc.) until when it was ceded to France by the Genoese Republic in 1768, about a century before the formal Italian unification. The island would continue to evolve with and within the Italian world until the language transition from Italian to French was fully complete which would not happen until the early 20th century.

On the one hand, the islanders oscillate between the original contiguity of their cultures and a remaining natural ability to intercommunicate; on the other hand, over the years of separation their evolution took different paths, which resulted in the rupture of the linguistic and cultural continuum. Even though many antagonisms developed after a century of majorly Gallicized linguistic and cultural influence which resulted in the developement of Corsicaness and was fullfilled by the acceptance of Corsican as a language, Corsica retains undeniably visible links and similarities with Italy.

In this article, I will discuss the effects of a (dis)unity that reaches outside of the Italian borders. The historical evolution and disruption of the linguistic continuum on Corsica, sets a frame of reference for the conceptualization of the links that currently unite Corsican and Italy. This leads to highlighting aspects of the contemporary social, cultural and linguistic relationships, or lack of relationships, between the island and the peninsula.

I propose to look at the Italian influences on Corsica to define the level of “italianess” of the islanders in a sociolinguistic and socio-cultural approach to near languages and near cultures, in order to define Corsica’s ‘Disunity’ from and ‘Unity’ with Italy.

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