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Linguistic Society of America

Designations of the Cheek in the Italian Dialects

Author(s): Henry R. Kahane
Source: Language, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1941), pp. 212-222
Published by: Linguistic Society of America
Stable URL:
Accessed: 02-04-2017 04:41 UTC

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[The article describes the distribution of the terms shown on Map 113 of the AIS,
and attempts to explain this distribution on the basis of linguistic geography and
semantic development. It closes with a brief comparison of the names for the
cheek in the AIS and the ALF.]

1. Map 113 of the Linguistic and Ethnographic Atlas of Italy and Southern
Switzerland (AIS), edited by Karl Jaberg and Jakob Jud, presents the dialectal
equivalents of standard Italian guancia 'cheek'.' There are 447 recorded forms,
representing 20 different types. Compare the accompanying sketch map.
Maxilla, which appears at 112 points, prevails in the north in a great unified
area which includes Piedmont, Liguria, western Emilia and adjacent northern
Tuscany, western and northern Lombardy, and the part of southern Switzerland
contiguous to Lombardy; in a large area in central and southern Venetia which
is separated from the main territory; in a small territory in the south approxi-
mately where Latium, Campania, and the Abruzzi meet; and finally, in Sicily
and Sardinia. Facies, which appears at 71 points, has two main territories:
one in the south, in the Abruzzi, in Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria,
and Sicily; the other in the north, especially in Lombardy, apparently with
offshoots in Emilia and the Marches as well as in Liguria; sporadically it appears
in Venetia and Umbria, at the Umbrian borders of the Abruzzi, and in Sardinia*
Wangja appears at 68 points in two main territories: primarily in central Italy,
Umbria, and the Marches, and in those parts of Tuscany, Latium, and the
Abruzzi which are contiguous to Umbria, with distinct offshoots towards the
south as far as the Apulian territory, Campania, and Basilicata; then in the
north, at the Venetian-Lombardian borders and at the Lombardian borders of
Emilia, with three forms isolated in the northernmost part of Piedmont and
two others in Venetia. Another form of the word, the type ganga, appears four
times in south Calabria. Gnathus, recorded at 57 points, occupies an elongated
area from Venetia across Emilia, the Marches, Umbria as far as the Abruzzi
and towards Latium, with a small territory in northern Lombardy and south
Switzerland; it appears sporadically in Liguria and Tuscany. *Gauta is recorded
at 44 points in a homogeneous area in Tuscany, with offshoots in Emilia and
southern Lombardy; it is to be found sporadically and peripherically in northern
Venetia and southern Switzerland, at the French linguistic border, and finally
in Sicily. These are the main types.

1 In addition to the linguistic atlases, the following are the works chiefly consulted:
Zauner, Die romanischen Namen der K6rperteile, Romanische Forschungen 14.339 ff.
(1902); Meyer-Libke, Neubenennungen von K6rperteilen im Romanischen, W6rter und
Sachen 12 (1929); M. L. Wagner, Studien fiber den Sardischen Wortschatz, Biblioteca del-
l'Archivum Romanicum 2.16 (Genbve, 1930); H. Kahane, Die Bezeichnungen der Kinnbacke
im Galloromanischen, Berliner Beitriige zur Romanischen Philologie 2.2 (Jena and Leipzig,

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There are seven smaller zones. *

Apulia and at the Apulian border o
Sicily. Templum appears at 14 point
and 2 in Venetia. Vista appears in t
at 3 points of the Venetian-Lomb
times in a homogeneous area of nor
bardy. Mustacia appears 6 times in
Emilia, and once in Venetia; masca,
and the contiguous part of Piedmon
Venetia. Three types are found o
4 times; canth rius, 3 times.
Finally, there are these single typ
cera (point 146), in Piedmont adjacen
and ghigna (point 444), both in Em
182), in Piedmont, at the periphery
(point 682), in Latium.
The fact that the four main types m
are also the four literary Italian term
corded and that they go back with
or 'jaw', points to a main problem of
significance and of word-formation
large territory.

2. The etyma of the words shown

according to their language of origi
Latin: maxilla,2 facies, grunium,3 c
be added Gallo-Romanic masus, VL
Roman gramula.7
Greek: gnathusA.
Langobardic: wangja.
Provengal: *gauta.9, 10 The word g

Maxilla is the basis of the Italian mascella. The Sicilian and Sardinian forms show the
old suffix, which has been replaced by -ella almost everywhere in the Romania.
3 Italian grugno, REW 3894.
4This is the basis of the Sardinian (Logudoro) kantkrdzu, (Campidano) kantre'u, (Gal-
luro) kante##a, and the Corsican cantheghja.
5 The South-Italian forms of the type gargia on the map GUANCIA derive from this term.
According to Merlo, Note di fonetica italiana meridionale, Atti della Reale Accademia
delle Scienze di Torino 49.892 (1913-4), the word is a derivative of the echoic stem garg-
(REW 3685); it is to be found with the meanings 'gill' (with which it appears also in literary
Italian), 'jaw', 'cheek', 'face', and 'larynx'.
6 The current term in the Grisons, Zauner 404.
7 For the etymology of the types trempa, templa and kavanu, see below.
8 For the etymology, cf. Meyer-Liibke, ZRPh 11.225 (1887); REW 3812; Rohlfs, Etymo-
logisches Wdrterbuch der unteritalienischen Grazitat, No. 447 (Halle, 1930).
9 It forms the basis of French joue. As to the etymology, Meyer-Ltibke in the already
mentioned essay in Worter und Sachen says: '*gauta pertains to France, has driven mazilla
to the northern periphery and has radiated in its day beyond France to the Grisons, Italy,
and the Pyrenean peninsula.... What this *gauta is, we do not know. The possibility of

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the south of France over *gauta, is also to be f

GUANCIA, point 182; map MASCELLA, point 181
galized parts of the Italian linguistic territory
Linguistique Romane 6.102 note 1 [1930]).11 T
literary Italian means 'snout; ugly, distorted, gri
(according to REW 9548) to Provengal guinhar.12
French: cera, which in literary Italian means 'f
Catalan: Sardinian barra (Wagner, Studien),
'crossbar', but which as designation of the jaw or
whence the word has penetrated into Sardinian,
and Modern French.14, 15
The types of words which serve on Italian territory for the designation of the
cheek show, then, an exceedingly high proportion of foreign elements; this may
be explained by the fact that the cheek is not a subject for the linguistic imagina-
tion. New word-creations did not occur; where old words, already in use for
the designation of some other part of the human body, were adopted for the
new meaning, unclearness or confusion arose. The tendency toward unequivo-
calness, therefore, to which many other new creations owe their existence
(e.g. mdchoire in France), has in this case facilitated the penetration of foreign
elements, and the large number of loan words shows how strong was the need
for unequivocalness.

a Gallic origin is strong, and connection with several other words pertaining to the stem
gab- ... is possible. But for the present, we are limited to rather vague conjectures.'
10 The earliest proof which I can produce (Ernesto Monaci, Crestomazia italiana dei
primi secoli 396 [CittA di Castello, 1912]) is the use of golta by Bonvesin da Riva, a Milanese
of the 13th century. And in the vicinity of Milan, *gauta still shows this form (au here >
ol). Gota, which belongs also to the literary language, is especially common in Tuscany and
in various zones of Piedmont (that is, at the French frontier), Lombardy, Venetia, and the
Grisons; therefore we may conclude that the stratum was once larger. It does not appear
south of Tuscany; for the four Sicilian proofs do not belong to the language of the south: at
points 817, 818 in San Fratello and Novara di Sicilia, where we meet the type gawta, the
language of North-Italian colonies tenaciously survives. The form of these types is the
same as in Piedmont. On the other hand, the form at the more southern points 836 and 865
gota and wota corresponds to the literary Italian gota; northern word-material is often to
be found in Sicily; Karl Jaberg, Sprachtradition und Sprachwandel 11 (Bern, 1932), says in
relation to testa: 'Sicily diverges from south Italy, while adhering to the central and north-
ern Italian dialects ... and in this phenomenon is expressed the linguistic modernization
which this island underwent after the expulsion of the Arabs.'
11 The Provengal gaunha is derived, as Dauzat, Romania 45.253 f. has proved, from
gavonia, which probably belongs, as does also *gauta, to the type *gaba.
12 The substantive ghigna is probably a post-verbal formation.
Is Cf. Bezzola, Abbozzo di una storia dei gallicismi italiani nei primi secoli 228 f. (Heidel-
berg, 1925).
14 I have assembled the material in my study 63 ff. (see fn. 1).
16 Finally, two types are, to me, of unknown origin. Ligurian masca, according to Zauner
406, 'possibly is related to French masque, Italian maschera ... , and therefore seems to be
a transfer of [the name of] an article of dress, first to the face, and then to be limited to the
cheek. It would be strange, indeed, that the designation of an article of dress, which is
used only exceptionally, has gone through such a development of meaning; besides, the
similarity with mascella has possibly contributed.' Cf. also REW 5398.-The form kokka
(point 682) I cannot explain; perhaps it belongs to REW 2009 coccum.

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3. The type faciis, which was record

four main types; the numerical distri
two ways.
(1) The type facies is weaker than it appears. The two dispersed zones do
not belong together. In the south there is a region in which the transition of
meaning from 'face' to 'cheek' has definitely taken place; in the larger zone
in the north the cheek is designated simply as 'face'. In the first instance, the
form of the word suggests the separation of the two zones: the northern types
correspond etymologically to the Italian faccia; this, like many other Romanic
parallels of the type, is based on facia, variant of facies; the latter existed in Old
Provengal fatz, and persists to this day in Catalan fas, Spanish haz, Portuguese
face 'cheek', in the Sardinian vernacular of Logudoro fakke, and in South-
Italian facce. The Italian linguistic atlas indicates a real change of meaning
in the south, and an apparent change in the north: the material presented on
Map 113 was secured sometimes by asking, Perche hai la guancia gonfia?
and sometimes by presenting the concept alone; in the north, the faccia-forms
of the map, when asked for independently, are often replaced by other standard
designations of the cheek, whereas in the south the other expressions on the
map, when asked for independently, are replaced by faccia-forms.1Y Thus, the
geographical result is confirmed by the etymological and semasiological facts.
(2) The type faciis is stronger than it appears. The position of some second-
ary forms in or bordering on the northern faciis-zone, strengthens our hypoth-
esis that in the north there is no question of a real change of meaning; linguistic
geography, on the other hand, proves that the northern facies-territory has a
greater expansion than the numerical statement has shown: it embraces the six
secondary types which, like faciis, represent designations of the face. These
are vista, muso, mostaccio, cera, grugno, and ghigna. The very number of these
types indicates that the meaning 'face' must still be living, and as these types are
to be found on our map only in spatial connection with the northern faccia-
territory, it is possible that the shift of 'face' to 'cheek' has been caused by the
quantitatively stronger faccia-zone;17 but as the same change of meaning with
so many semantically identical types is very unlikely, there remains only the
hypothesis that faccia still meant 'face'. The synonymy of these types with
faccia shows, with their geographical connection, that we really have to do with
an enlarged faccia-zone: the same phenomenon presents itself in other word-
While the geographical problem of the facies-zones could be solved chiefly
in relation to semasiological phenomena, historical questions are prominent with
the likewise dispersed wangja-type. The three zones of the word-the Lom-
bardian, the central Italian, and the Calabrian-presuppose for phonetic reasons
three different fundamental types: the Lombardian wangja, the central Italian

16 Wagner (Studien 82) suggests that faccia 'cheek', at the Sardinian point 943, represents
only the response of a person at a loss for an answer, and that it properly means 'face'.
The Sardinian faccia 'face' is a loan-word from Italian, in favor of which the old Sardinian
fakke has lost ground considerably.
17 Vista, which appears in the Grisons, is, according to Prof. Karl Jaberg (information
by letter), modeled on the German Gesicht, and not on the Italian faccia.

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wankja, and the Calabrian wanga (cf. Gamillsch

Of these forms (for the explanation of which
difficulties), wanga apparently presents the La
two others are derivatives. The Tuscan literary
derive from a Romanized form *guankia, whic
zone. Now if Meyer-Lfibke (8 f.), to obviate th
the central and northern Italian types (of whic
cause of the stem termination in k instead of g
development than the Lombardian) from the s
linguistic-geographical considerations oppose themselves: it seems hardly
possible to explain the great extension of a Langobardic word, in a region where
we might expect it, from a region where it was less vital, as the much more
limited relics show. In addition, the three zones of the word coincide with the
three centers of the Langobardic domination in Italy: Lombardy, the duchy of
Spoleto, and the duchy of Benevento. In other words, it seems that in the
three zones of wangja three borrowings of the Langobardic word have been
preserved until today, without any relation to each other.

4. The recorded terms are divided into three groups of meanings:18

(1) 'cheek': wangja, *gauta;
(2) 'jaw': maxilla, gnathus, gramula, canipa, barra, canthirius, templum;
(3) 'face': faciis, cera, vista, mustacia, mfsus, grunium, ghigna.
We observe that among the designations of the cheek, the original names,
the semasiologically primary types, are foreign words which occupy not even
one-fourth of the map. Inversely, the indigenous words, the etymologically
primary types, have undergone a change of meaning.
This concerns, first of all, the designations of the jaw. Among these, those
types are naturally to be included which have acquired the meaning 'jaw' by
a secondary development and have only in this way come to mean 'cheek'.
In this category belongs gramola 'hemp-brake'."9 The semantic development
from 'hemp-brake' to 'jaw' results from the common action of grinding and
bruising. Thus derivatives of brekan are often to be found as designations of
the jaw, and maket appears in north France. The map MASCELLA shows nine
cases of gramola in Venetia; the gramola-types of the map GUANCIA lie in part
within, in part adjacent to, this gramola-territory of the map MASCELLA.
The situation in Sardinia is similar, except that here it is the visual affinity
instead of the affinity of function that has caused the transition of meaning in the
types canipa, canthirius, and templum. Of canipa, which appears in the form
kavanu, Wagner (Studien 81) says: 'kavanu signifies ... according to Spano
"ganascia, guancia"; our mapping shows it in both meanings ... No doubt
... in this case the primary meaning is "jaw", and the words are visually used
expressions which are connected with kavanu, kavuna "sickle", a word current
18 I omit the semantically obscure *gargea and the semantically and etymologically
obscure masca and kokka.
19 I have assembled the material in my study 28 ff. See also Walter Gerig, Die Term
logie der Hanf- und Flachskultur in den frankoprovenzalischen Mundarten, W6rter
Sachen, Beiheft 1.

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in the whole isle; therefore the sam

"jaw", Albanian felkine, from falx, b
as Puqcariu (Etymologisches W6rter
already has observed. Phonetically t
Concerning canthirius, reference
Catalan loan-word barra, which, wh
has become identified with this wor

it 'occurs
word in twice
appears both meanings ("che
... in the meani
primary meaning, because the wor
(References ibid.)
For the type trempa Wagner sets u
from tempus 'temple' has no founda
Sardinia, and because a development
for this reason Wagner proposes to
templum 'purlin' (which survives in
letto'), and to accept a change of
the development of meaning of kanter
The indications of the AIS decide in W
map MASCELLA at one point indicates
type on Map 100 LE TEMPIE; and at
GUANCIA shows templa-forms, the
does show other phonetic formation
On the other hand, I am inclined t
secondary jaw-designations: one of s
of meaning; the spontaneous transm
Sardinia. In regard to templum and
an immediate cause for the transm
that they lie in regions of transiti
therius, and again templum), barra, w
in Sardinia, may have been the poin
may be explained the change of me
from partial synonymy with barra t
For the third semantic group, the
same as for the designations of the
have already observed in the treatm
the cheek only through the intermedi
Now it is strange that of the six expr

20 REW 1591.
21 To this may be added the following French cheek-designations: Zauner 404: St. Jean
de Maurienne tabla, Les Fourgs templots; ALF Map 724 JOUE: points 964, 965 trgmpla, points
41, 31 temple, point 176 temp.
22 From this further development may be explained the difficult problem why templum
appears on the map CHEEK but not on the map JAW, where it is to be expected.

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become designations of the cheek, four are pejor

as possible) with the definitions of Tommaseo in
muso: proprio di certi animali; d'uomo, ha
l'ignobile almeno.
grugno: propriamente de' porci.-grugno, ciob
aversi anche naturalmente.
mostaccio: disprezzativo del volto umano soltanto.
ghigna: 'snout', 'ugly, distorted, grinning face', 'grimace'.
The semasiologically secondary types of the two groups of meaning 'jaw'
and 'face' have, with a few exceptions, this in common, that they lay stress
upon the sentiment: the secondary jaw-designations stress the imagination;
the secondary face-designations stress the emotion; whereas, in the adoption
of the vocabulary which was directly accepted for the cheek, that is, the foreign
words and the designations of the jaw or the face, we observe a remarkable lac
of linguistic imagination. The reason for this phenomenon thus seems to lie
in the subject itself.
Tappolet, Germ. Rom. Monatsschrift 14.301 (1926): 'Let us devote our at
tention to ... a source of multiplicity of words which is of purely psychologica
nature: the indefinite extent of certain parts of the human body. Wherever
a thing, a process, a concept without distinct borders passes over to other things,
processes, or concepts, the human mind becomes puzzled: the person who
speaks is misunderstood by the person who listens. Language cannot full
accomplish its task. The existing expression varies in its use. This is shown
very clearly in the denominations of flat parts of the body, as forehead, temple,
cheek, breast. What we usually call the cheek is anatomically speaking a
regio, a surface, which for the common observer does not stand out sharply
either from the jaw or from the temple, and besides comprises the greater par
of the face. All this is reflected in the language.'
Meyer-Ltibke, W*rter und Sachen 12.7: 'gena "cheek" nowhere survives in
this meaning, bucca "chubby cheek" survives only in Roumanian, while i
elsewhere means "mouth". It appears that here it is really the unclear de-
marcation between the cheeks and the jaws which has led to a simplification o
the linguistic expression and therefore to the disappearance of the shorter

word. .... Today Raetia,

Italy, Sardinia, the situation is such that maxilla for and
to the Galician-Spanish-Gascon "cheek" belongs
to the to
Under such conditions ... one can say without hesitation that the disappearance
of gena had already taken place in the Latin era, perhaps in favor of the coarse
bucca; and that then, with the shifting of bucca towards os, maxilla enlarged
the extent of its meaning.'
Therefore, we can admit two stages for the development of maxilla:
(1) A broadening stage, in which maxilla 'jaw' assumed also the meaning of
'cheek'. This development must be fixed rather early, as is shown by the Ro-
manic proofs on the one side, and on the other by the transition of bucca 'cheek'
to 'mouth' which begins from the last pre-Christian centuries.
(2) A narrowing stage, wherein maxilla, which designated the cheek as well

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as the jaw, for this very reason was pus

word-formations (e.g. Fr. mdchoire),
In the end, the original vital power o
These two stages in the relation of
subject 'cheek', one tending towards
also in another connection: while man
for the jaw have come to mean 'cheek',2
While the map CHEEK shows 201 jaw-
cheek-forms: six times wangja and o
territory presents an analogous pictu
has occurred between the conception
but that the designations for the jaw
meaning. The geographical relation, h
cheek as at first were designations of
it shows the tendency to linguistic di
Gnathus occurs 157 times on the map
20 points show gnathus on both map
JAW, 112 times on the map CHEEK; o
But even at these common points th
the tendency to keep the two concep
maxilla on both maps we must subtr
mascella, points 664, 236, and 45 use
mascella; point 124 uses the types mas
the suffixal derivative mascellone. T
224) paraphrase the type ganascia of
Sardinia presents a similar picture.
The situation is less uniform in the cas
is clearly a substitute type (compare t
LA FACCIA). Of the 71 facies types o
appear on the map FACE; and strang
to be found especially at points (615,
the map CHEEK Occur in complete is
types, the muso forms agree complet
in half the occurrences, and the vista
types, a coincidence can be noted in
ghigna. In all of these manifestation
ment may prevail to such a degree t
lished. So far as I can see, a linguis
nowhere be posited; the two groups o
designation of the cheek really present
of the cheek itself.

5. The Latin gena weakens, as we have seen; and this weakening is the point
of departure for the further development. Bucca, which is substituted for it,
I3 have assembled them in my study 34, note 8.

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undergoes a change of meaning, and this in tu

designation of the cheek. Since the cheek prese
imagination, the designation of the jaw suffe
maxilla becomes for the Romania the name fo
aspect of the map results from the conflict bet
as a stimulus to the linguistic imagination and
tinguish between cheek and jaw. The striving
vitality of the ambiguous type: maxilla retrea
material furthers the importation of foreign
advance. The situation in Tuscany shows a clea
encies: maxilla is replaced by foreign words in both senses; the cheek is
designated by *gauta, the jaw by gnathus.
In spite of all its weaknesses, maxilla still has remained the most common
type on the map CHEEK. In the last analysis, this map presents the struggle
of the weak maxilla with various rivals. The weakness of the principal type
explains not only the spread of various other types, but the occurrence of these
other types in various regions: facies has penetrated twice, wangja perhaps even
three times. While on the map JAW two strata stand out clearly from each
other, the map CHEEK is split into single zones in which the same tendency
is expressed by changing word-material.
The many zones, however, which the map CHEEK presents, are of different
kinds. There are zones with real centers, as wangja in Lombardy, wankja in
the duchy of Spoleto, faciis in the south. There are zones with spurious centers,
as facies in the north and *gauta in Tuscany, which has assumed a real vital
power only here at the periphery of its migration, while on the way, in Pied-
mont, Lombardy, south Switzerland, Venetia, and Emilia, it had to give up the
territory once won. And finally there is one zone without a center, that of
gnathus, which penetrates at many points without proceeding from a central
The minor types, having penetrated independently or in connection with
the major ones, complete this picture of complex rivalry and fluctuation. The
great variety of terms on the map CHEEK, which reflects the attempt to create
an equivalent for maxilla, results ultimately from the weakness of 'cheek'
as a stimulus to the linguistic imagination.

6. Finally, a comparison of the map CHEEK in the AIS with the corresponding
map in the Atlas Linguistique de la France (ALF) reveals the following points
of agreement.
(1) The once powerful type maxilla, as the designation of two different con-
cepts, has weakened and lost ground.
(2) Non-Latin words, such as *gauta and q kivel, have come to play a role in
the dialects.
(3) Secondary designations of the cheek appear, which could have acquired
the meaning 'cheek' only through the intermediate stage 'jaw'; e.g. capseum,
maket, probably also templum.

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(4) Synonyms for 'face' appear in

e.g. face, figure, visage.24
(5) In the Gallo-Romanic territory,
ency to a distinction between the m
with the exception of the southwes
and mdchoire phonetically coincide,
at the same point designate both par
Between the Italian and the French
difference which is evident if we de
to the whole. This is stated best i
Sprachwandel 11: 'From a similarl
typical differences between Fran
individual life of the Italian minor s
provincial linguistic territories. W
traditions, while in France the poli
shown in the ever progressing demo
the old provinces. Here also, Italy
2 For other proofs see Map 1880 POMME
Zauner 403 f.
25 But cf. Rohlfs, Archiv fiir das Studium der neueren Sprachen 162.316 (1933).

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