The Tabarkan language

Ancient, peculiar, impossible to hear far from here, Tabarchino can be assimilated to the language used by the people of Pegli (close to Genova) in the 16th century, direct ancestors of the Carlofortini. Over the course of history, borrowings from Arabic, Sicilian, French and Sardinian have been added to the original tongue.

Interwoven with it’s past events, the language is spoken fluently not only among citizens but also within the local institutions. At civil marriages, the bride and groom often use it to say their vows. To this day, children still learn the Tabarkan nursery rhymes, and from their earliest learning years they can find a handbook in the language, made for them by the local school. The Festival della Canzone Tabarchina (of Tabarkan Songs) is followed more so than similar national events, and is widely broadcast on local radio and television. The island’s scholars, animated by great passion, have perfected an accurate grammar and a constantly updated Tabarkan vocabulary: in its pages, the very identity of the people of Carloforte can be said to be expressed in syllables.

Mother tongue

The linguistic peculiarity of Tabarchino, although recognised by Sardinian law on the valorisation of the regional linguistic and ethnographic heritage (regional law n. 26 of 15 October 1997), is not however protected by the more recent national law on historical linguistic minorities (law n. 482 of 15 December 1999). On the other hand, it is clear that the lack of state recognition does not prevent Tabarchino from being felt by the inhabitants of Carloforte to be a fundamental expression of their own community and identity, and considered by most as their mother tongue and shared by all without distinction of age or social class. Recent data collected by the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, confirm that around 85% of the islanders speak Tabarchino.

A living language

Over the course of time increased schooling, very close links with environments outside the island, greater ease of travel and the spread of new means of communication have significantly affected the integrity of this language which, until a few decades ago, could be said to have remained faithful to itself in a truly unique way. On the other hand, the very ability to reinvent itself by adapting to completely new circumstances and worlds is the clearest sign of it’s vitality. A vitality reconfirmed by the establishment of the Polo Linguistico Tabarchino (Tabarkan Language Centre) whose commitment to the preservation and dissemination of Tabarchino has led to important achievements in recent years and has emerged as the main reference for learning and translation of this local language.


> Visit the Tabarchino Language Centre