The history of my particular thesis at Catania University in 1996


Incipit necessario: qualche anno fa mi contattò un giornalista siciliano che voleva fondare una radio dedicata soprattutto alle persone siciliane ( ma non solo) all’estero e nella quale si parlasse solo in inglese; mi chiese se fossi interessata e di che cosa avrei voluto eventualmente parlare.

Risposi subito: la mia tesi di laurea con la mia analisi linguistica.  Fu d’accordo e mi chiese di preparare la scaletta delle varie puntate in cui l’avrei voluta suddividere; fu un lavoro incredibile, pensate, tradurre dal siciliano all’inglese…ma ce l’ho fatta, quattro puntate…mai andate in onda perché, nel frattempo, quel giornalista si è dissolto non so dove…

Allora stamattina ho deciso che il mio lavoro meritava un minimo di risonanza, non di stare nel cassetto, e quindi ho pensato di pubblicare la scaletta di qullo che avrei detto nella prima puntata…se per caso qualcuno/a di voi fosse interessato/a al seguito me lo farà sapere e pubblicherò le altre…


Try to imagine a young woman, grown up in Florence, the capital of Tuscany, in central Italy, her father from Viareggio, in Versilia, on the Tirrenian sea and her mother from Augusta, on the east coast of Sicily, that one day, by chance, meets a young Sicilian man, falls in love with him and decides to leave everything (her family, her town, her friends) at once to move to Augusta, in the province of Siracusa, to marry him and start a new Sicilian life there in 1981.

That young woman is me.

From that day, in the meanwhile, I have had three children who now live in three different parts of Italy, the elder in Messina with his wife, the second one in Genoa (who has made me become grandmother of two twins) with her husband and the younger in Bari (who has made me become grandmother of a boy) with his wife.

And in 1985, after the birth of my second child, I started studying again to complete my course of studies (which I had begun when I was still living in Florence) in Foreign languages (English and Russian) at the University of Catania.

Day by day, one drop after the other, I passed all the exams and when the time of writing the final thesis to get my degree arrived, in 1995, I could choose among many different subjects.

Instead of going to the department of Russian language and literature or to the English one I decided to ask a theme for my final thesis to the teacher of the department of Dialectology, prof. Tropea, and his assistant, prof. Trovato, because the exam I had previously passed with them had been my favorite one, my most amusing and interesting one.

They accepted my request even if they were a bit amazed:

“Madame, it’s so strange and unusual that a non-Sicilian person knows so well and loves so much our language to wish to write the final thesis on it”.

They decided to give me “L’arti maggica” by Antonietta Maugeri Tuttobene, a woman teacher from Catania who had the passion of writing comedies in Sicilian language. It is a brilliant comedy in strict Sicilian language, particularly in the dialect of Catania (because the woman author was from there) mixed with a bit of Messina one.

Prof. Tropea told me:

“Madame, you will have first to translate the comedy from Sicilian to Italian, then do a detailed linguistic analysis of the particularities, and also of the mistakes, which are to be found in the Sicilian language”

Of course I accepted the challenge and I wrote my final thesis in only three months during that Summer.

In accepting that request I wanted to give my modest contribution to the study of the Sicilian language (it’s not a dialect but a true language like Sardinian, for example) which is still part of the daily experience of many persons, a reality still so alive and interesting.

And the comedy L’ARTI MAGGICA proved to be both pleasurable to read and, at the same time, rich with words and expressions endowed with particular and effective meaningfulness.

My job was made even more interesting by the opportunity, presented to me, to translate the text without the help of previous translations and this has sometimes resulted very arduous.

My thesis is thus divided into two parts: the first one is composed of the translation in Italian of the comedy and the second one of my linguistic analysis which goes from the graphic one to the morphology and to the syntax laying emphasis also on the manners of greeting, on the allocutive pronouns, on the inverted allocutives and on the exclamations.

Now few words about the plot:

The action takes place in our times in a small town at the foot of the volcano Etna and, more exactly, in the ambulatory of the protagonist, don Fulippu, a pseudo magician, a healer through magic arts, from whose job derives the title of the comedy.

Don Filuppu convinces people that he has got a miraculous water, coming from the mountains, capable of eliminating every kind of problems.

He has a nurse, donna Nniriana, who would like to marry him but has no courage to declare her love to him and will become his wife in the end; there is also donna Nniriana’s daughter, Lucietta, and her boyfriend, Turuzzu Passuluni.

Around them there are a series of characters whose personalities and manias are vividly outlined by the author, thanks also to the intense emotional charge given to the comedy by the use of a lively and spontaneous dialect: from donna Assunta who asks don Fuluppu to help her in making her mother-in-law (who has arteriosclerosis) die to donna Mica who turns to don Filuppu to have a child; from don Giacomo, a policeman, who has something wrong in his head to baronessa Palamitona who wants to wipe out the shame from his son’s honor and to padre Parroco, the priest, who tries to help donna Nniriana and her daughter Lucietta.