Sardinian is conventionally divided, mainly on phonological criteria, into three main varieties: Campidanese, Logudorese, and Nuorese.[a] The last of these has a notably conservative phonology, compared not only to the other two varieties, but also to other Romance languages as well.[1]

Map showing the approximate boundaries of the main dialects.
Vowel changes from Latin to early Sardinian.


All Sardinian varieties shared an original vowel system characterized by the merger of each of Latin's short vowels with its long counterpart (/i/ merged with /iː/, /u/ merged with /uː/, and so on) resulting in an inventory of five vowels: /i ɛ a ɔ u/.[b]

Sardinian vowels are lengthened under primary stress, especially in open syllables. Compare /ˈmanku/ [ˈmaˑŋˑku] and /ˈmanu/ [ˈmaːnu].[2]

Sardinian vowels have long been subject to a process of metaphony whereby ɔ] are raised to [e o] if the following syllable contains a high vowel (either /i/ or /u/). If the syllable that precedes the resulting [e] or [o] itself contains another [ɛ] or [ɔ], that vowel is also raised, a process which may repeat across multiple syllables. /fɛˈnɔmɛnu/, for instance, is realized as [feˈnoːmenu], with metaphony spreading to all three syllables preceding the final /u/.[3]

In the Campidanese varieties spoken in the south of the island, ɔ/ underwent a general raising to /i u/ in final syllables.[c] The new /i u/ produced by this change failed, however, to trigger metaphony in preceding syllables, as original /i u/ had. Since this obscured the conditions for metaphony, [e o] could now contrast with ɔ]. For instance, the older [ˈbɛːnɛ] 'well' and [ˈbeːni] 'come' became [ˈbɛːni] and [ˈbeːni] respectively, a minimal pair distinguished only by their stressed vowels. This meant that the difference between ɔ] and [e o] had achieved phonemic status, giving Campidanese a total of seven distinct vowels, as opposed to the older five-vowel system retained by other Sardinian dialects.[4]

Vowel phonemes in Sardinian
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

† Only in Campidanese.


Sardinian possesses the following consonant phonemes:[5]

Labial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Post-alv./
voiceless p t t͡s t͡ʃ k
voiced b d d͡z ɖ d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ
voiced v ʒ
Nasal m n ɲ
Vibrant r
Approximant w l j

† Variable presence, depending on dialect.

‡ Mainly in Nuorese.


The Sardinian system of plosives cannot be exhaustively characterized by either qualitative (voicing) or quantitative (duration) contrasts, but both contrasts must be specified independently on some level of grammar. All plosives participate in a system-wide and complex process of lenition that characterizes all varieties of Sardinian and operates across word boundaries.[6]

There are three series of plosives or corresponding approximants:




Liquids and rhotics




Most varieties are characterised by the historic neutralization of Latin /l/ and /r/ into the archiphoneme /R/ within the morpheme: marralzu~marrarzu 'rock'. The Campidanese dialect does not generally allow this /R/ to end syllables except if followed by another /R/; as a result, underlying /R.C/ sequences are synchronically and systematically repaired, either through assimilation or metathesis:[19][22]


Only /s/, /n/, /r/, /t/ are permitted word-finally. The first three of these alternate in notable external sandhi processes. For Nuorese, /s/ and /r/ neutralise (merge) when in sandhi in the following way:[16][22]

The word-final /t/ is assimilated to the following consonant within a phrase, or can be said to disappear, inducing strengthening: Log. cheret bennere [ˈkɛrɛ bˈbɛnnɛrɛ] '(s)he wants to come'.

Morphosyntactic gemination

Unlike Tuscan Italian, Neapolitan and Sicilian, Sardinian doesn't have a productive process of syntactic gemination since most Latin final consonants have been maintained. Nevertheless, there are a few lexical items that formerly ended in consonants, and thus prevented initial-consonant weakening (lenition); as a result, consonants occurring after these words undergo strengthening, typically by gemination. These include the conjunction e 'and' < La. et, the preposition a 'to, at' < La. ad as well as the interrogative particle a < La. aut, at or an.[15]

Comparison with other languages

Several features distinguish Sardinian, although not necessarily all its dialects, from other Romance varieties.

Sardinian contains the following phonetic innovations:


  1. ^ Nuorese, however, is often regarded as a subdivision of Logudorese.
  2. ^ This development is rare among the Romance languages; nearly everywhere else Latin /i/ instead merged with /eː/, and in most areas /u/ merged with /oː/. Nevertheless, a system similar to that of Sardinian did develop in part of southern Italy, in southern Corsica, and probably also in the romanized part of North Africa. An asymmetric system—whereby /i/ merges with /eː/ on the one hand, but /u/ merges with /uː/ on the other—characterizes Eastern Romance as well as another part of southern Italy (Loporcaro 2015: 54–57).
  3. ^ Blasco Ferrer suggests that this occurred around the sixth century C.E., possibly under Byzantine influence.
  4. ^ Per Contini (1987: map 37), consistent assimilation is observed in the towns of Orune, Bitti, Santu Lussurgiu, Desulo, Tonara, Belvì, and Aritzo; while variable assimilation is observed in Onanì, Lula, Lodè, Loculi, Galtellì, Burgos, Esporlatu, Bonorva, Bonannaro, Borutta, and Monti.
  5. ^ Based on similar changes in Spanish and Gascon, Blasco Ferrer (2017: 80) posits influence from a Basque-like substrate.


  1. ^ Mensching & Remberger 2016: 270.
  2. ^ Mura & Virdis 2015: 79. Examples from pages 106–107.
  3. ^ Mura & Virdis 2015: 27–28
  4. ^ Blasco Ferrer 2017: 92. This citation covers the entire preceding paragraph.
  5. ^ Jones 1988: 319; Mura & Virdis 2015: 62; Mensching & Remberger 2016: 275
  6. ^ Katz, Jonah; Pitzanti, Gianmarco (2019-09-26). "The phonetics and phonology of lenition: A Campidanese Sardinian case study". Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology. 10 (1): 16. doi:10.5334/labphon.184. ISSN 1868-6354. S2CID 204474761.
  7. ^ Contini 1987: map 50.
  8. ^ Mura & Virdis 2015: 99
  9. ^ Blasco Ferrer 2017: 95. The towns where /s/ remains unvoiced are Dorgali, Orune, Fonni, Ovodda, and (variably) Urzulei, per Contini 1987: map 51.
  10. ^ Pittau 1972: §26; Contini 1987: maps 16–17
  11. ^ As shown on Contini's aforementioned maps and the one provided by Mensching & Remberger (2016: 273).
  12. ^ Contini 1978: maps 44–49.
  13. ^ Jones 1988: 327–328; Mensching & Remberger 2016: 274
  14. ^ Barbato, Marcello (2017-07-10). "2.6 Superstrato catalano". Manuale di linguistica sarda (in Italian). De Gruyter. p. 161. doi:10.1515/9783110274615-010. ISBN 978-3-11-027461-5.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Mensching, Guido; Remberger, Eva-Maria (2016). "Sardinian". The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 270–291. ISBN 978-0-19-180882-1.
  16. ^ a b Sampson, Rodney (2016-09-05). "Sandhi phenomena". In Ledgeway, Adam; Maiden, Martin (eds.). The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 736–748. ISBN 978-0-19-106325-1.
  17. ^ Limba Sarda Comuna (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-10-27, retrieved 2021-09-19
  18. ^ Arrègulas po ortografia, fonètica, morfologia e fueddàriu de sa norma campidanesa de sa lìngua sarda (PDF) (1st ed.). Alfa. 2009. ISBN 9788885995475.
  19. ^ a b Frigeni, Chiara (2005-01-01). "The development of liquids from Latin to Campidanian Sardinian: The role of contrast and structural similarity". Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics. 24. ISSN 1718-3510.
  20. ^ Jones 1997: 377
  21. ^ Mensching & Remberger 2016: 275
  22. ^ a b c d Frigeni, Chiara (2009). "Sonorant relationships in two varieties of Sardinian" (PDF). TSpace Repository. Retrieved 2021-03-07.
  23. ^ Lorenzetti, Luca; Schirru, Giancarlo (2013-03-22). Sulla conservazione di /k/ nel latino d'Africa (in Italian). De Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110299953.585. ISBN 978-3-11-029995-3.
  24. ^ Müller, D. (2011). "Developments of the lateral in occitan dialects and their romance and cross-linguistic context". doi:10.11588/HEIDOK.00013013. S2CID 189314173. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)