Linguistic Atlas of Pangea



Una mappa delle parole intraducibili da tutto il mondo

There is a list of ‘untranslatable words’ from around the world – complex notions hidden inside unique terms that are specific to one language system. In the Inuktitut language, the word iktsuarpok indicates “the feeling of anticipation while waiting for someone to arrive, leading to intermittently going outside to check for them”. In Japanese, tsundoku means “letting books pile up, ready for reading sooner or later.” In Bantu, the term ubuntu means “I can only exist through and together with others”.

Sotterraneo selected dozens of these (universal as well as culture-specific) words, and had online conversations with as many native speakers about the meaning and use of these words in their native cultures. These brief “lessons of untranslatability” morphed into the outline for a performance, aimed to put the words on stage and transform a short dictionary into an atypical dramaturgy.

This linguistic Pangaea was conceived in the middle of the pandemic, and still today the performers on stage adopt some of the Covid restrictions, to preserve a trace of the historical moment in which we developed this reflection on human relations and incommunicability, that hard and dizzying moment in which our species was confronted with a problem that was shared by every latitude.


concept and direction Sotterraneo
on stage Sara Bonaventura, Claudio Cirri, Lorenza Guerrini, Daniele Pennati, Giulio Santolini
dramaturgy  Daniele Villa

light design Marco Santambrogio
costumes Eleonora Terzi, Laura Dondoli
sound design Mattia Tuliozi
scenic elements by Laboratorio di Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione
stagehand and prop maker Sergio Puzzo
graphic design Lorenzo Guagni, Jacopo Jenna
producer Eleonora Cavallo

production Sotterraneo
with the contribution of ERT – Emilia Romagna Teatro Fondazione, Fondazione CR Firenze
supported by Regione Toscana, Mibac 

artistic residencies Centrale Fies_art work space, La Corte Ospitale, Elsinor/Teatro Cantiere Florida, Laboratorio Nove, Associazione Teatrale Pistoiese

Sotterraneo is part of the Fies Factory, associate artist at Piccolo Teatro Milano and is resident at ATP Teatri di Pistoia


“This interpreted, incorporated, materialised and therefore logically unmasked signification represents one of Sotterraneo’s key stylistic features, around which top-quality performances are created. The detachment from western languages and ironic exploration of signs and reality are brought about by the journey of these five performers, who show up dressed as campers. In a plethora of ironic games, pop references, playbacks, songs and Disney-style choreographies, Sotterraneo keep the audience glued to the scene, displaying an unparalleled sense of rhythm and timing.”

Riccardo Corcione, Stratagemmi

“Ironic and self-mocking, acidly pop, grotesque and unsettling. […] Sotterraneo have struck again with their show ‘Atlante linguistico della Pangea’ (Linguistic Atlas of Pangaea), an illustrated living dictionary of untranslatable words from all over the world – from German to Mexican, from Swedish to Inuit. An articulated bedlam of sketches, featuring associations of ideas,
timed assonances and surreal discrepancies between words and action – starting from culture-bound terms that refer back to universal emotions, but can only be translated through the use of long-winded paraphrases.”

Pietro Corvi, Libertà

“It is a sort of surrender to the explosive meaning of a word when it is precise, sharpened. A mishmash of things – the physical caption effect, the delay, the anticipation of the stage action in connection with the projected word (the meaning of which is
being rendered on stage) – lead to a general effect of pointed and awkward irony. In turn, this leads to the ultimate intellectual reflection on how much is lost when dialects, languages, specific expressions die out, when the region-specific babel of words and riches will give way to global English as a lingua franca. A daring, age-old construction of verbs, nouns, adjectives will collapse under the weight of a lexical trivialization, of a desperate loss of priceless value. It is like witnessing the final days of the last elderly custodian of a language that will die with them, and who feels utter loneliness for not being able to speak with anyone in their native language. Darkness.”

Renzo Francabandera, PAC Paneacquaculture

Their whole work is geared toward staging untranslatable words. Sotterraneo adopts their own, engaging stylistic code –many sketches characterized by dry-wit and deep humour – to create representations that revolve around the linguistic notions, projected onto the background screen. They also connect concepts from various languages to each other in order to open up further and witty reflections. In doing so, they manage to touch upon complex and topical issues, such as the role of art, the workings of language and the mind and above all the importance of preserving biodiversity. In the finale it is stated that “a language dies, a vision of the world dies out with it”; Thus, Sotterraneo’s show ‘ Linguistic Atlas of Pangea is an act of environmental activism in that it reminds us of the urgency of avoiding the extinction of languages (and, in turn, of our own species), of freeing ourselves from our innate egocentrism as a necessary approach to build a more complex, multifaceted and therefore environmentally friendly ‘after world’.

Alex Giuzio, Altre Velocità

“This is a biting, comic, ironic play. It cheers people up and makes them feel blue; it has a lighthearted tone, and simultaneously makes you think deeply. ‘Atlante linguistico della Pangea’ is a drill in brainpower, as well as an appeal to complexity, the protection of diversity, and the preservation of language and words with all their peculiarities. It astounds you – just like a true desire to know and the vertigo of questioning will do.”

Nicola Arrigoni, Sipario


Atlante Linguistico della Pangea Trailer


ph. © Roberta Segata e Alessandro Sala courtesy Centrale Fies, Giulia Di Vitantonio courtesy di Marche Teatro



Teatro Comunale – Ragazzola


Teatro Donizetti – Bergamo
Teatro Magda Oliviero – Saluzzo
Teatro dell’Argine – San Lazzaro di Savena
Teatro Balbo – Canelli
Teatro Piccolo Orologio – Reggio Emilia
Teatro Comunale – Pergine
Sala del Suffragio – Medicina
Insolito Festival – Parma


Teatro del Parco – Mestre
Teatro Mascagni – Chiusi
Teatro Nardini – Rosignano Marittimo
Spazio Kor – Festival Asti Teatro


Festival InTeatro – Ancona
Teatro Excelsior – Reggello
Da vicino nessuno è normale – Milano
Kilowatt festival – Sansepolcro
apap_Feminist Futures Festival – Centrale Fies (TN)
Opera Estate Festival Veneto – Bassano del Grappa
Teatro Storchi – Modena
L’Altra Scena – Piacenza
Teatro Cantiere Florida – Firenze
Teatro Astra – Vicenza
Festival Wonderland – Brescia
Teatro Bolognini – Pistoia

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