November 24, 2010
Sicily, languages and multiculturalism.
In Belgium, Canada, Spain and other places, sparks fly over language politics.Here in Sicily, if I got the history figured out right, there were, in pre-historice times, some early settlers who spoke Indo-European and maybe other languages. Then a large number of Greek colonialists arrived and set up competing and flourishing colonies, and pretty soon the whole island was speaking Greek, with pockets of Phoenican.The Carthaginians attacked from time to time, and so did the Romans, who eventually made Sicily a colony, and then, especially with the spread of Christianity, and the Roman church, most Sicilians spoke Latin until the Roman Empire collapsed, and the Byzantine Greeks took over the place, and their Eastern variety of Christianity took over and the locals spoke mostly Greek again.Then the Arabs invaded, and immigrated in large numbers, and the island became Arab speaking. Finally the Normans showed up, took power from the Arabs, brought in Italian and French people to run the place, and within a hundred years or so everyone spoke Italian.There was also immigration from Greece and Albania after that. On top of that, the Spanish ruled for 500 years until the unity of Italy in the 19th century, with minor interludes of Austrians, Piemontese and Napolitan rule, but this but had no impact on the language.At the book store where I bought this book on the history of Sicily “Breve storia della Sicilia”, the kindly store owner spent a good deal of time talking to me about Sicily. “If we had all insisted on our identities here, it would have been worse than Yugoslavia”.Sicily has its problems, but all the people I met here are happy, and extremely proud to be Sicilian. I think this is a fine example of why the modern fad of multiculturalism is very bad policy from the point of view of the long term development of countries that receive immigrants.
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