ITALIAN LANGUAGE: WHERE IS SPOKEN
According to the up to date statistics of the EU , Italian is spoken as a native language by 59 million people in the EU (13% of the EU population), mainly in Italy, and as a second language by 14 million (3%). Including the Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is around 85 million.
In Switzerland Italian Language is one of 4 official languages; it is studied and learned in all the confederation schools and spoken, as a native language, in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Graubuenden and by the Italian immigrants that are present in large numbers. It is also the official language of San Marino as well as the primary language of the Vaticano City. It is co-official in Istria (Slovenia) and in Croatia. The Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy is based on Tuscan. Its development was also influenced by other Italian languages and by theGermanic languages of the post-Roman invaders.
Italian is descended from Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. As in most Romans languages , stress is distinctive. Among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary.
WHAT IS ITALIAN LANGUAGE - LEARN ITALIAN IN ITALY
The standard Italian language has a poetic and literary origin in the twelfth century, and the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. Italian as a language has a longer history. In fact the earliest surviving texts that can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as distinct from its predecessor Vulgar Latin ) are legal texts known as the “Placiti Cassinesi” that date from 960–963,
What would come to be thought of as Italian Language was first formalized in the early fourteenth century through the works of Tuscan writer Dante Alighieri (and we have seminare about his masterpiece!) written in his native Florentine. Dante's epic poems, known collectively as the “Commedia” to which another Tuscan poet Boccaccio later affixed the title Divina, were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the "canonical standard" that all educated Italians could understand. Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language, and thus the dialect of Florence became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy. This is why we recommend to learn Italian language and culture in Florence, where the Italian was born!
Italian often was an official language of the various Italian states predating unification, slowly usurping Latin, even when ruled by foreign powers (such as the Spanish in the “Regno di Napoli” or the Austrians in the “Regno Lombardo Veneto” ), even though the masses spoke primarily vernacular languages and dialects. Italian was also one of the many recognised languages in the ”Impero Austro-Ungarico”
Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city, because the cities, until recently, were thought of city-states “città stato”. As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout Italy, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of Regional Italian. The most characteristic differences, for instance, between Roman Italian and Milanese Italian are the germination of initial consonants and the pronunciation of stressed "e", and of "s" in some cases: e.g. va bene "all right": is pronounced [va ?b??ne] by a Roman (and by any standard-speaker), [va ?bene] by a Milanese (and by any speaker whose native dialect lies to the north of; a casa "at home" is [a ?k?asa] for Roman and standard, [a ?kaza] for Milanese and generally northern.
Scuola Toscana offers also courses in diction and pronunciation of the modern Italian language.
In contrast to the Northern Italian language , southern Italian dialects and languages were largely untouched by the Franco—Occitan influences introduced to Italy, mainly by bards from France, during the ”Medio evo” but, after theNorman conquest of the south, Sicily became the first Italian land to adopt Occitan lyric moods (and words) in poetry. Even in the case of Northern Italian language, however, scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages.
The economic might and relatively advanced development of Tuscany at the time - late Middle ages - gave its dialect weight, though the Venetian language remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life, and Ligurian remained in use in maritime trade alongside the Mediterranean. The increasing political and cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of the rise of the ”Banco Medici” , “Umanesimo” and the ”Rinascimento” made its dialect, or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts. If you are interested in deepening this aspects you can give a look to our “art history” course or private lessons.
RENAISSANCE - ITALIAN LANGUAGE CULTURE AT ITS BEST
Starting with the Renaissance, Italian became the language used in the courts of every state in the Peninsula. The rediscovery of Dante’s ”De vulgari eloquentia” and a renewed interest in linguistics in the sixteenth century, sparked a debate that raged throughout Italy concerning the criteria that should govern the establishment of a modern Italian literary and spoken language. Scholars divided into three factions:
The Purists headed by Venetian Pietro Bembo (who claimed the language might be based only on the great literary classics, such as Petrarca and some part of Boccaccio). The purists thought the Divine Comedy not dignified enough, because it used elements from non-lyric registers of the language.
Niccolò Macchiavelli and other Florentines preferred the version spoken by ordinary people in their own times.
The courtiers like Baldassarre Castiglione , insisted that each local vernacular contribute to the new standard.
A fourth faction claimed the best Italian was the one that the papal court adopted, which was a mix of Florentine and the dialect of Rome. Eventually, Bembo's ideas prevailed, and the foundation of the”Accdemia della Crusca” in Florence (1582–1583), the official legislative body of the Italian language led to publication of Monosini ’s Latin tome “Floris italicae linguae libri novem” of 1604 followed by the first Italian dictionary in 1612.
The Scuola Toscana course of Italian literature starts from these points to develop towards the modern era.
An important event that helped the diffusion of Italian was the conquest and occupation of Italy by Napoleon in the early nineteenth century (who was himself of Italian-Corsican descent). This conquest propelled the unification of Italy some decades after, and pushed the Italian language into a “lingua franca” used not only among clerks, nobility and functionaries in the Italian courts but also in the bourgeoise.
TODAY - WHY ITALIAN LANGUAGE IS STILL IMPORTANT IN CULTURE
Italian literature's first modern novel, “I Promessi Sposi” (by Alessandro Manzoni further defined the standard by "rinsing" his Milanese "in the waters of the Arno, Florence’s river), as he states in the Preface to his 1840 edition.
After unification a huge number of civil servants and soldiers recruited from all over the country introduced many more words and idioms from their home languages ( “ciao” is derived from Venetian word "s-cia[v]o" (slave), “panettone” comes from Lombard word "panetton" etc.). Only 2.5% of Italy's population could speak the Italian standardized language properly when the nation unified in 1861, centered mainly in northwestern Italy. The most important authors in Italian language are Italo Calvino, Mario Luzi, Umberto Eco, Dino Buzzati, Alberto Savinio, Andrea Camilleri.