According to UNESCO, Corsican (corsu in Corsican) is an endangered Italo-Romance language spoken in Corsica. So, where is Corsica located? Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean and it forms part of France.
The Corsican language derives from Tuscan, the same predecessor to modern Italian. Learning Corsican if you are already fluent in Italian or even if you only know some Italian will be easy. As both Corsican and Italian belong to the same language group you'll be able to recognise many words. Once you get used to the different patterns you will be able to turn a lot of your Italian knowledge into Corsican. Learn Corsican, you won’t regret it!
A sentence isn’t a sentence without a verb
Verbs in Corsican are very similar to verbs in Italian. Even so, you will notice that verbs in Italian almost always have an extra syllable at the end -re. Here’s a trick to transfer your knowledge of Italian to be able to access a whole range of verbs in Corsican. All you need to do is remove the final -re in Italian and you’ve got a verb in the infinitive in Corsican.
Remember that most verbs that end in -ire in Italian will become -e in Corsican. Sometimes -o- and -e- might become -u- and -i- when they appear before the final syllable. Additionally, be aware that for most verbs ending in an -a or -i you have to add an accent. This shows that the stress falls on the final syllable. If the verb ends in an -e you don't have to add an accent.
So let’s see how you turn a verb in Italian into Corsican:
Step 1 → Choose a verb in Italian cantare (to sing), sentire (to feel), provare (to try), rompere (to break), preferire (to prefer)
Step4 → Add accent to final -a and -i cantà (to sing), sente (to feel), pruvà (to try), rompe (to break), prifirì (to prefer)
And there you go; you’ve used your knowledge of Italian to get a verb in Corsican. Remember that this is only a general rule that works most of the time but not always. As with any language, there will always be exceptions! Step 3 is always tricky, you never know for sure when a vowel is going to change.
Final and unstressed O’s become U’s
Corsican uses the letter -u- much more than in Italian where -o- is more prominent. One of the distinctive features of Corsican at first glance is that many words end with a -u.
mano → manu (hand) anno → annu (year) posso → possu (I can)
With this in mind, unstressed o’s in Italian will generally also become u’s in Corsican:
Does E become I? Does I become E? Do they stay the same?
For someone who already knows Italian, e’s and i’s can be confusing in Corsican. You don’t know when an -e- remains an -e- or whether it changes to an -i- and vice versa. They might not even change at all!
Another simple and quick trick is checking for words in Italian with the diphthong -uo-. In Corsican -uo- will become a simple -o- if it’s not found at the end of the word.
Step 1 Identify words in Italian which contain -uo- (but not at the end of the word) → uovo (egg), scuola (school), cuore (heart), suora (nun)
Step 2 Change -uo- to -o- → ovu (egg), scola (school), core (heart), sora (nun) (check sections 2 and 3 to learn more about vowel changes)
Is it a yes or a no?
Yes and no. These two short and precise words can make or break a conversation. You need these two words to function. Whilst Italian uses, sì and no, Corsican has 2 words for each:
Sì becomes either iè or sì No becomes either nò or innò.
How do you make a sentence negative?
How do you make a sentence negative?
When you speak you won’t always be stating things you do, know or want. You’ll also want to say things you don’t do, don’t know or don’t want. Negating a sentence in Italian involves placing non in front of a verb. Whereas in Corsican you must surround the verb with ùn … micca:
Non parlo → ùn parlu micca Non canto → ùn cantu micca Non dico → ùn dicu micca
This might remind you of the French ne … pas and micca looks like mica in Italian. Despite deriving from the same Latin word, they have different meanings. In Corsican, it makes a sentence negative. But in Italian, mica forms part of the colloquial language and it has various meanings.
You’re going to find definite articles everywhere
As with most languages, the first words you’re going to stumble upon are definite articles (the in English). Italian and Corsican definite articles are very similar. But there are some minor differences that might cause confusion for Italian speakers.
Definite articles in Corsican are simpler:
il / lo become u la becomes a gli becomes l’ le becomes e i and l’ stay the same
Let’s see some examples:
il vento → u ventu (the wind) lo zucchero → u zuccheru (the sugar) la casa → a casa (the house) i venti → i venti (the winds) le case → le case (the houses) l’università → l’università (the university) gli amici → l’amici (the friends)
So, remember -e- in Corsican is not and, and is è. Plus, a is not at / to or in as in Italian, which is à in Corsican.
You, I and the rest
As with Italian, in Corsican, you don't have to use personal pronouns. The verb conjugation will always specify who is speaking. Still, they are an important part of the language. Even though they are not used in every sentence they are still part of the language.
You’ll use them if you want to emphasise a point!
Personal pronouns in Corsican are similar but not identical to modern Italian. Noi , voi and tù (except the accent) are the same in both languages, the rest are completely different:
io → eiu (I) tu → tù (you singular) lui → ellu (he) (cognate of ello, an archaic way of saying he in Italian) lei → ella (she) (cognate of ella, an archaic way of saying she in Italian) noi → noi (we) voi → voi (you plural) loro → elli / elle (they) (cognates of elli/elle, archaic ways of saying they in Italian)
Corsican has kept some personal pronoun forms that are no longer used in modern Italian.
io sono → eiu sò tu canti canzoni → tù canti canzoni lui / lei parla corso → ellu / ella parla corsu noi siamo contenti → noi simu cuntenti voi siete italiani → voi site taliani loro mangiano → elli / elli manghjanu
One, two, three ...
Numbers are everywhere and you use them every day. They are essential when you learn any language. Knowing Italian, you’ll be able to identify numbers in Corsican with 100% accuracy. Let’s see how similar numbers 1 to 20 are in both languages:
1 uno → unu 2 due → dui (masculine) + duie (feminine) 3 tre → trè 4 quattro → quattru 5 cinque → cinque 6 sei → sei 7 sette → sette 8 otto → ottu 9 nove → nove 10 dieci → dece 11 undici → ondeci 12 dodici → dodeci 13 tredici → tredeci 14 quattordici → quattordeci 15 quindici → quindeci 16 sedici → sedeci 17 diciassette → dicessette 18 diciotto → diciottu 19 diciannove → dicennove 20 venti → vinti
As you can see, numbers in both languages are very similar. Apart from some vowel changes as I’ve mentioned throughout the article.
Learning a language is a journey not a race
There you have a simple and short guide to get you started on your journey learning Corsican. Use the tips in this article to speed up your understanding of the Corsican language. You'll be able to boost your vocabulary and basic grammar skills in a short period of time.
Shortcuts exist when learning a language. But remember, they don’t give you all the answers and skills you need to master a language. Be consistent and build your confidence. Read, speak, write and listen and you’ll soon have another language you can speak on your list.
Never forget to enjoy the journey!
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