There is a special microphone, capable of capturing inflections and accents in detail, and two cameras converted into video cameras, in the improvised sets in the living rooms of the Sardinian families of the Biella area. Before the virtual eyes of the equipment, but above all the attentive and excited ones of a Biella scholar and the president of the Su Nuraghe club, the emigrants spoke about their language and the habits and traditions that they brought to Piedmont from their homeland.
The project, which also includes an international conference scheduled for tomorrow at the Bugella hotel, is based on a study led by the University of Milan. It is here that Chiara Meluzzi, researcher of the department of literary, philological and linguistic studies, carries out her work. «The aim – he explains – is to understand how the Sardinian language and culture have survived in those who have moved for many years. We are looking for the traces of ancient prayers, idioms, recipes. In summary, we want to analyze to what extent contacts with traditions have been maintained ».
For the Sardinian families protagonists of the interviews it was often a long bath in the memories. To guide the research, the guidance of Battista Saiu, president of the historic club that has been a point of reference for islanders in the province since the 1970s, was indispensable.
It was he who provided contacts and addresses. And it was he who accompanied the visits to the houses transformed into interview rooms. Or, better still, in a sort of rooms for the flow of emotions: in conversations with families, some of which have been away from their homeland for half a century or even more, time has passed not only by gathering useful information for research which inevitably overlapped and intertwined with memory and nostalgia. And when we talked about recipes, for example, it happened not only to hear names, ingredients and preparation methods, but also to taste the finished product. Some of the interviewees even ventured a theory: “We are more Sardinians than those who stayed at home”, underlining the close bond that still keeps emigrants attached to traditions.
For Chiara Meluzzi, Cossatese with a long curriculum in the field of linguistics, the extra difficulty was listening to the question and answer between Saiu and the families, conducted rigorously in Sardinian, with all the differences in inflection, terms, ways of say that they vary, even more than from area to area, from village to village. The researcher smiles: “It will also be hard work for my undergraduates who will have to rework this material with me.”
The study also received a contribution from the Foundation of Sardinia, a body sponsored by the Region for the development and dissemination of the island culture. «It is very rare – underlines Chiara Meluzzi – that this reality finances initiatives that take place outside the Sardinian territory. This too is a reason for pride ». It will be discussed at tomorrow’s conference which will bring together linguists from six countries and numerous universities for the whole day, from Lithuanian Vilnius to English Newcastle, from German Kiel to very Italian Urbino, Pavia, Cagliari and, of course, Milan.