Research: Mapping Language: The Case of Cerasuolo

This is one of a selection of resources (films, texts, artworks, etc) which provides useful information and aids the contextualisation of the situations in which Cultural Documents works. This group of resources is provided to the contributors undertaking new projects as part of the research phase of each project.

This series of interviews was conducted as part of Cultural Documents’ work to create an archive of historical accounts of migration, translation and transformative experiences.

The interviews recount experiences of women migrating between rural Italy and urban Scotland in the years between 1945 and 2000. The interviewees talk about their observations and experiences as retold through episodes of labour and travel as they migrated between the communities they inhabited.

Cultural Documents invited Rosanna Rossi, English language lecturer at the Università degli Studi di Roma, La Sapienza, and Angela Pitassi, English language lecturer at the Università degli Studi di Napoli, Federico II, to collaborate in identifying interviewees, setting questions and recording the interviews.

Participants were asked questions in standard Italian and English in order to perceive the employment of linguistic codes in relation to the topic discussed. On initial analysis of the scripts, it emerged that there is a prevalent employment of interlanguage and code-switching in an environment where diglossia[1] is customary. Interviewees made spontaneous choices in an attempt to ‘accommodate’ the expectations that others have of them when they speak.

Scots-English was predominately employed in the work/labour situation, and the Italian ‘Molisano’ dialect in the domestic/home situation.

It thus emerges that the participants’ language use and identity are highly complex and at times fraught, requiring split-second decisions for appropriate employment of code and lexis within the correct context, resulting in a hodgepodge of inter- or intra-sentence code-switching influenced by their childhood in rural Molise and migration as adults to urban inner-city Glasgow.

The interview excerpts on have been edited by Deirdre MacKenna.

Edited interviews – Maria Tedeschi

The complete interviews are available to listen to on request to

[1] Diglossia: the widespread existence within a society of sharply divergent formal and informal varieties of language, each used in different social contexts or for performing different functions.

Connected Images

Cersauolo, 86074, Italy © Google maps

Cersauolo, 86074, Italy © Google maps