Despite living in New York City for more than five decades, my ninety-three-year-old grandfather still doesn’t speak English. No, that’s not quite right. During my childhood, his language did have some English in it. He used a relatively common, if idiosyncratic, commixture of words from his native and adopted tongues. Linguists have studied this pidgin: the way it grafts Italian endings onto English building blocks, the inflection and pronunciation that come from the speaker’s more intimate regional dialect. For him it was Roccolano, the near-extinct language from his small town in Italy’s Molise region.
Column by WWU's Stefania Heim