Angus Trumble has a nice post at Paris Review Daily about the ombrellai (umbrella makers) of Piedmont, who spoke a jargon called Tarùsc:
According to local folklore, il Tarùsc was a very shy, small bad-tempered gnome who lived on the slopes of Mottarone and Motta Rossa. He was surly, difficult, and misanthropic. Nevertheless from him the ombrellai learned the art of making the shapeliest, lightest, most lissome and elegant umbrellas in all the world. And in the process Tarùsc taught the ombrellai how to speak his own strange tongue. […]
That was of course the unofficial story. In fact, the language called Tarùsc was documented in the seventies by the ethnographer P. E. Manni da Massino, just in the nick of time, before the last old men who still spoke it died out. His view was that Tarùsc drew upon five distinct sources: (1) Italian, that is to say the reasonably stable dialects of Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, and the southern cantons of Switzerland, and was therefore built, in turn, upon the ancient bedrock of (2) Latin; (3) German, that form of it that seeped across the Dolomites from southern Austria, and across the Swiss Alps from Bavaria; (4) French, thanks to the traditional alliances that regularly formed and re-formed in the same period between France and Savoy, and (5) Spanish, because of Philip II’s sixteenth-century annexation of the Duchy of Milan. […]
Manni never got as far as plotting any plausible grammar of Tarùsc. He made some progress with his old men, but they were inclined to be grumpy, suspicious, and maddeningly reluctant to share any expressions that related directly to the craft of umbrella-making, because obviously their commitment to trade secrecy outweighed any desire to preserve the language they must have known was on the verge of extinction.
All we have is a few stray words, a list of numbers, some cooking terminology, and names for a handful of farm animals and plants.
The post concludes with a list of such words, and G.L. at Johnson (whence I got the story) ends his own post with:
But as someone who has learned all the supposed source languages of Tarùsc except Italian, there are many words that seem to me to come from something else altogether. A doctor is sbrugnabäcâgn. Shoes are sciärbëtul. A priest is t’zurla. Wander over, read the article, and take a look at the list. Does anyone recognise where these are from? Does Tarùsc look similar to the other dialects of the region?
Good questions, and I too would welcome answers and suggestions.