Example Of Research Paper On History Of The Italian Language
Italian is a Romance language spoken in Italy and also in several mainly European countries by the minorities (Switzerland, San Marino, Malta, Monaco). It is descended from Vulgar Latin so the similarity in terms of structure and lexicon between Italian and Latin is rather high. Today, standard Italian is considered to be an Italo-Dalmatian language because it is based on Tuscan. The total number of the Italian speakers is about 85 million people throughout the world. The history of the language is one of the most ancient in Europe – Italian evolved over time to today’s standard language.
The history of the Italian language starts with the so-called “Veronise Riddle”, the first document written in the early Italian dialect. Discovered in 1924, the text was written somewhere between the 8th and 9th century. Another example of the written text of this era is “Placiti Cassinesi”, the juridical documents dating from 960 – 963 and found in southern Italy. Later, in the 14th century, the Italian language would form in the poems by Dante Alighieri (particularly, “The Divine Comedy”) though they represent mostly the Florentine (or Tuscan) dialect. This dialect is considered to be the basis of the contemporary Italian. “Dante's much-loved works were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the canonical standard that others could all understand” (“History of the Italian Language”, 1).
Every city in Italy used to have its own distinctive dialect because of different influences from everywhere. But “when the languages or dialects of medieval Italy are compared according to the metric of syntax, what is striking is the degree of similarity they display rather than the diversity” (Lepschy, & Tosi, 16). During the Middle Ages, the Northern Italian language is largely touched by the Franco-Occitan influences, namely the French bards. Soon, the Southern Italian language would absorb the Occitan words in the poetry. In late medieval times, Italian replaces Latin and becomes the primary commercial language in Europe. It is the Florentine dialect that prevails in the formation of Italian for the reason of “the flowering Florentine culture, and particularly the literary prestige () of writers such as Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, who wrote in Florentine” (Maiden, 7). In this period, the language is influenced a lot by the Sicilian poetic school of Jacopo da Lentini – it becomes richer and more elegant.
During the Renaissance, the arts and education develop very fast in Italy thus making the language very popular in Europe – the Europeans start learning Italian. The Renaissance is marked in the Italian history with a particular interest in linguistics causing debates around the standard modern language. The so-called “question of the language” was an attempt to establish definite linguistic norms. There were four groups insisting on their versions of the appropriate Italian literary and spoken language. The first group consisted of the purists – these were headed by Venetian Pietro Bembo and their main idea was that Italian must follow the language of the literary classics including Petrarch and Boccaccio. The second group was represented by the Florentines together with Niccolò Machiavelli. They found the ideal language was the one spoken by simple people. The courtiers, the third group, supported all of the existing dialects finding each of them important in the process of creating the standard language. The fourth group insisted on Italian approved by the papal court – this language contained Florentine and the dialect of Rome.
Finally, the purists’ ideas took the highest position, and in 1604, the first Latin tome “Floris italicae linguae libri novem” (“The Flower of Italian Language in nine books”) by Agnolo Monosini was published. It was soon accompanied by the appearance of the first dictionary in 1612 – the dictionary was edited by the Accademia Della Crusca in Florence, the most important research institution on Italian language.
In the 19th century during Napoleon’s occupation, Italian develops and spreads very fast. The Italian lands would soon be united and Italian’s expansion would cause even more social classes to speak the same “bridge” language, the so-called “lingua franca”. After the final unification of the Italian nation in 1861, the standardized language was firstly used (though only 2% of Italians spoke it). In 1868, the standard Italian language was officially imposed by the government thus demoting the other languages in Italy to the status of dialects. The consequence of this political act was unexpected – people mixed the standard language with their regional dialects which led to appearing of twenty varieties of Standard Italian.
Today, different parts of the country speak different Italian dialects which remain the variation of Standard Italian. The dialects differ mostly in pronunciation – the openness of vowels and the length of consonants. The Italian dialects should not be confused with the Italo-Dalmatian languages such as Corsican, Venetian, and Sicilian.
The contemporary Standard Italian has a high contrast between short and long consonants and a distinctive stress. As for the grammar, the language has cases for pronouns, masculine and feminine genders, and three regular sets of verbal conjugations; the alphabet has 21 letters. Italian continues to borrow from other languages – the perfect example is the presence of words (taxi, jeans) with the letters which are absent in the alphabet, namely j, k, w, x, y.
The modern Italian language is spoken by all the country and no one in particular because the mix of Standard Italian, regional Italian and local dialects make the speech of every inhabitant of the country unique. The speech mostly has variations in vocabulary, intonations, and accents. This peculiar feature of Italy makes the country very special and dynamic but also confuses the students learning the Italian language.
Maiden, Martin. “A Linguistic History of Italian”. , London: Longman (1995). Print.
Maiden, Martin & Parry, Mair. “The Dialects of Italy”. London: Routledge (1997).
Lepschy, Anna Laura, & Tosi, Arturo. “Rethinking Languages in Contact. The Case of Italian”. Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Publishing (2006).
“History of the Italian Language”. Italian Language. n.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2015. <http://www.italian-language.biz/italian/history.asp>.