Italian Language: History And Interesting Facts You Must Know
The Italian language is part of the Indo-European language family. Like another language of romance, Italian also developed from vulgar Latin. That’s the colloquial variant of Latin spoken by Romans. Romans also imposed their speaking style on other people during their rule.
The Italian language shares striking similarities with other romance languages like Spanish, French, Catalan, Portuguese, and Romanian. It also includes different minority languages such as Provençal, Galician, Occitan, Ladin, and Friulan.
Italian is the world’s most musical language, also known as the lingua franca of music. Around 58 million people speak the language in Italy. Besides that, 840,000 in Switzerland, 24,000 in San Marino, and approximately 5 million in North and South America speak Italian.
Most significant cultural works in the western canon were produced in the Italian language over the centuries. The language has great historical importance. During the middle ages, cities like Florence and Venice were among the wealthiest and most powerful in Europe.
It was Italy that initiated Renaissance. The culture and values provided the foundations of western life in the last five centuries. At present, Italy is one of the leading industrial democracies. Moreover, Italian language services are globally recognized. Also, Brazil Language is recognized worldwide as people of different regions speak different languages.
The Italian language stands as the seventh largest global market for British exports. Similarly, the UK is the third-largest supplier to Italy after Germany and France.
This write-up will go through the history and interesting facts about the Italian language you must know. Before that, let’s learn about the Italian language origin. So here we go.
How Did the Italian Language Evolve?
During the period of the old Italian language evolution, many dialects sprang up. The diversity of these dialects started their claims on the native speakers as pure Italian language. That presented a peculiar difficulty for the Italian language evolution. People want a language that would demonstrate the cultural unity of the entire peninsula.
That is understandable the earliest popular Italian documents produced during the 10th century were dialectal in language. Every famous Italian writer produced work in their native dialects for the next three centuries. Most of the written work includes a large number of competing for regional schools of literature.
During the 14th century, the Tuscan dialect started gaining popularity. As Tuscany was centrally positioned in Italy. The aggressive commerce important city Florence in Tuscany was another reason.
Besides that, comparing other Italian dialects, Tuscan departs least in morphology and phonology from classical Latin. That helped it to harmonize best with the Italian traditions of Latin culture.
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History of Italian Language: Unification
There are three significant aspects of Italian language history. These are – Origin, Unification and Present Dialects. We have just seen how the Italian language evolved. And we know the Tuscan dialect began to stand out from others during the 14th century.
The writers like Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio contributed significantly to the growth of the Tuscan dialect. However, it is also known as the Florentine dialect because of Florence’s significant Italian city. Later it becomes the basis of the modern Italian language.
Tuscan dialect becomes the national language overnight. It remains the exclusive conduit for literary expression for various coming centuries. However, regional and local dialects continued to be spoken in the peninsula.
But they remained fragmented in various city-states until 1861. 1861 is a significant year for Italian language history. The year marked the unification of Italy or l’Unità d’Italia.
Unified Italy made Tuscan the official language of the country in 1861. However, the choices were made after a few centuries of disputes. Linguistics considered various factors during this time. But, Florence’s cultural and economic prestige played a significant role.
However, the majority of the population was illiterate during that time. The majority of people could not speak Italian fluently and were using the local dialects. The problem persisted till 1950, but the radio, television, and newspaper inventions popularized the Italian language.
Besides, the growing education opportunities brought Italian to new heights. Within a few decades, the Italian language became the boot-shaped peninsula’s prime spoken language.
History of Italian Language: The Present Dialect
We have just seen dialects used as a day to day language for centuries. However, the Italian language we know today was not initially used by the majority of the population. However, in the latter half of the century, things started changing drastically.
Comparing other European countries, Italy demonstrates the unique situation of widespread use of dialects. People are still using native dialects in some regions. They are spoken at home and in informal social situations in many areas.
However, younger generations can use the standard Italian language. At the same time, they can express themselves in dialects they understand correctly.
Also, note that there can be many variations of the dialect. Even within the same region! That represents the richness of the culture. In the old days, people thought that standard Italian was the language used by the bourgeoisie.
They also had a prejudice against the dialects. It was considered the lower form of expression used by farmers and the working class.
However, this prejudice is dying out presently. Recent statistics demonstrate that around half of the population speaks in dialect in Veneto. Both with their families and with friends. Which was one of the most economically developed regions.
Many regions are trying to revive their local dialects. Neapolitan or Napoletano is the most widely spoken dialect. It has around five million speakers.
Presently, about 60 million people in Italy speak the Italian language. Worldwide Italian speakers are about 67 million in over 30 countries across the globe. Italy’s official languages are Italian, including Switzerland, Vatican City, San Marino, and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
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How is Italian Written: The Italian Alphabet and Pronunciation
English speakers will be glad to know that Italy uses the same alphabet as English. However, it’s a little shorter than 26 letters.
The Italian language alphabet has 21 letters. Because the letters J, K, W, X and Y don’t appear in any Italian language words. But you can view them in loanwords and English names.
The Italian language has five vowels. Which are “a, e, i, o, and u.” Of these, e and o have two different ways of pronouncing them. We generally refer to them as open and closed sounds. They also vary according to dialects.
The pronunciation of Italian letters is slightly different comparing the English alphabet. Below are the most crucial differences in how Italians pronounce certain letters.
- c: ch (like in chat) before i and e, k (like in cat) everywhere else
- g: soft g (like in magic) before i and e, hard g (like in-ground) everywhere else
- z: ts sound (like in tsunami)
- r: rolled r (also known as a Trilla)
- s: pronounced as z
- h: usually silent
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Interesting Facts About the Italian Language
When it comes to the number of Italian language speakers, it can’t compare with English or Chinese. However, it’s still one of the most popular and influential languages globally.
There is always a chance you have spoken a few Italian words. At least when we say pizza, bank, or cappuccino. All are famous Italian words.
But beyond famous Italian foods and artists, we will see the interesting Italian language facts you must know. So here we go:
1. Italian is Not the Official Language of Only Italy
Italian is not only the official language of Italy. The Italian language is also the official language of the countries like San Marino, Vatican City, Switzerland, Istria County in Croatia and Slovene Istria in Slovenia.
The European Union uses Italian as one of its 24 working and official language. Italian was recognised as a minority language in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, and Romania.
Moreover, Italian is the second most common language in Argentina. In some parts of Brazil, Italian is the regional language. The schools have to teach Italian in these parts.
2. Italian is the “Language of Love.”
Italian and French are constantly winning this title over the years. However, a CNN poll suggests that native English speakers rated Italian as the “sexiest accent.” There must be something about those Italian language vowels.
3. Italian is also the “Language of Music.”
Do you play a musical instrument, or not really not matter? You must have heard Italian words during your music class in elementary school. The words like – tempo, crescendo and soprano come from the Italian language.
What was the reason behind this? One is the inventor of modern musical notation, Guido d’Arezzo, who was Italian. Another reason is all three musical words were developed during RenaissanceRenaissance. The period when Italian composers dominated European music.
4. Italian Was Originally The Literally Language
After the fall of the Roman empire. The regional languages evolved throughout Italy. They were separated from Latin over time. But, during the height of the Renaissance in the 14th century, elite Italian started adopting the Tuscan version.
It was spoken around Florence and made famous by writers like Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. That became the main source for the standardised Italian language being used today.
5. Italian Didn’t Become the Official Language of Italy Until 2007
Don’t get surprised reading this interesting fact! The standard Italian language is a recent invention. Before unification, many dialects were popular in different regions. Italy became one independent country in 1861. During that period, less than 10% of Italians spoke standardised Italian.
After unification, children began to learn the standardised Italian language in schools. That means several Italian speakers grew rapidly. However, even today, fifty per cent of Italians speak a regional language in addition to Italian.
6. Italian Has Both Regional Languages and Regional Dialects
Don’t get confused here. Some linguists classify the languages before unification. That includes Venetian and Neapolitan, as languages in their own right. Both evolved separately from Latin but differed significantly from each other.
At the same time, Italian also has “dialects” in the more traditional sense. Moreover, the regional variations in the way standard Italian are spoken. Usually, these dialects are influenced by the underlying regional language.
7. The Word America Come From the Italian Language
That’s right! “America” is named after Amerigo Vespucci. He was a 15th-century Italian explorer. Moreover, he was the first European to recognise that North and South America were separate continents and not a part of Asia.
8. Over 1 Million Americans Speak Italian at Home
Italian speakers in the US have declined in recent years. But, you can find some neighbourhoods where Italian is common, especially in the parts of the Northeast.
You will be surprised to know it’s the 6th most common non-English language in New York and the 7th in New Jersey. It has been made mandatory for healthcare providers, insurance companies, educators and other service providers.
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We hope you have enjoyed the Italian language history and the interesting facts presented here. Italy is the most influential global language. People across the globe love to learn the Italian language. The language of romance is gaining popularity with every passing day. Connect with us for more interesting facts about global languages.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is interesting about the Italian language?
The language is derived from the Latin alphabet. Italian is regarded as the closest match to this “dead” language of any dialect today. But Italian letters employ an accent system, and pronunciation is slightly different.
2. What is the best thing about the Italian language?
Italian is a beautiful and intricate language. Studies demonstrate that learning a new language enhances your analytical and thinking skills. People around the globe show great interest in learning Italian. Besides that, it is one of the most romantic languages!
3. How old is the Italian language?
The language that evolved to be thought of as Italian developed in central Tuscany. Italian was first formalised in the early 14th century through the works of Tuscan writer Dante Alighieri, written in his native Florentine.
4. Is Italian a romance language?
The Romance languages have a related group derived from Vulgar Latin within historical times. The major languages of the family include Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, and Romanian.
5. Is Italian an easy language?
Italian uses 21 English alphabets. Besides that, the pronunciation is slightly different from English. That’s why Italian is often considered one of the easiest languages to learn.
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