When I was in graduate school in the mid-1990s, I spent several years visiting the town of Borgomanero (in the Piedmont region of Italy) to do fieldwork, under the direction of Paola Benincà at the University of Padua, supported by NSF grant #BCS-9630139. My interest in Borgomanerese was sparked in 1994 by a questionnaire (from the ASIt project) which Paola shared with me, filled out by Giuseppe Bacchetta. Giuseppe became a great collaborator, and he and his wife Mila, his daughter Paola, and his son Alessandro always took care of me during my visits. Giuseppe was an incredibly generous man, and always created a rich working environment for me, where my work with him and other great writers of Borgomanero, such as Piero Velati, eventually led to my book.
When A comparative grammar of Borgomanerese was published in December 2014, I was invited to Borgomanero to participate in an event recognizing the book at the Fondazione Marazza, thanks to the tremendous organizational efforts of Johnny Bertolio. Paola Benincà also spoke at the event, on the importance of linguistic diversity and Italian dialects. Afterwards we were all treated to a lovely meal at the Trattoria del Ciclista, where we enjoyed the local dish, Tapulôn. I was very moved by the town’s gift of a certificate of recognition for the book.
Giuseppe’s passing on June 9, 2015, one month before my visit, was a terrible loss. He was celebrated at the event, and he continues to be missed. Giuseppe can be seen narrating at the beginning of this amazing video of the play Burbané ca ‘l visiga, which is also one of the texts I refer to in my book (as Colombo & Velati 1998).
My visits to Borgomanero gave rise to a series of articles in local papers. I’ve included these articles here mainly to illustrate the importance that the people of Borgomanero place on their own language:
Local articles on 1990s fieldwork:
- Da New York è giunta in città una ricercatrice americana per una tesi sul ‘nostu’ (July 9, 1994)
- Dagli USA per studiare il ‘burbanellu’ (January 4, 1995)
- È tornata Christina Tortora, studiosa del ‘nostu pacalij’ (April 8, 1995)
- È tornata in città Christina Tortora, studiosa del nostro dialetto (July 20, 1996)
- Dagli USA è tornata Christina Tortora, ricercatrice dialettale (July 19, 1997)
- L Burbanellu ha toccato la vetta delle venti edizioni consecutive (December 13, 1997)
Local articles on 2014 publication of book and 2015 visit:
- poster / invitation to book event
- Borgomanerese, dopo New York ora lo studiano anche in Germania (July 15, 2015)
- Negli Usa con il mio libro si studia il dialetto di Borgomanero (La Stampa, July 14, 2015)
- Online il fondo dialettale borgomanerese, E sabato la presentazione della ricerca americana sul burbanellu (July 5, 2015)
- Il borgomanerese materia “da Oxford” (March 13, 2015)
- Un libro sul dialetto di Burbané opera di Christina Tortora di New York (L’Informatore, Borgomanero, February 20, 2015)