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Italian (''italiano'' or ) is a
Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin (, or , ) ...

Romance language
of the
Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
that evolved from the
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. Italian is the most direct descendant of
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
, arguably sharing this status with
SardinianSardinian refers to anything related to the Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean island of Sardinia. More specifically it can refer to: *Sardinian people *History of Sardinia *Sardinian language *Sardinian literature *Music of Sardinia *Cuisine of Sardin ...
. Italian is an official language in
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Alps and List of islands of Italy, several islands surrounding it, whose ...

Italy
,
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = under an , leader_title1 = , leader_name1 = , leader_title2 = , leader_name2 = , legislatur ...

Switzerland
(
Ticino Ticino (), sometimes Tessin (), officially the Republic and Canton of Ticino or less formally the Canton of Ticino,, informally ''Canton Ticino'' ; lmo, Canton Tesin ; german: Kanton Tessin ; french: canton du Tessin ; rm, chantun dal Tessin . ...
and the
Grisons The Grisons or Graubünden, *german: (Kanton) Graubünden, Swiss Standard German Swiss Standard German (german: Schweizer Standarddeutsch), or Swiss High German (german: Schweizer Hochdeutsch or ''Schweizerhochdeutsch''), referred to by the S ...
),
San Marino San Marino (, ), officially the Republic of San Marino ( it, Repubblica di San Marino; ), also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino ( it, Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, links=no), is a small country (and a European microstate) ...

San Marino
, and
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City
. It has an official minority status in western
Istria Istria ( ; Croatian Croatian may refer to: *Croatia *Croatian cuisine *Croatian language *Croatian name *Croats, people from Croatia, or of Croatian descent *Citizens of Croatia, see demographics of Croatia See also * Croatia (disambiguation) ...

Istria
(
Croatia , image_flag = Flag of Croatia.svg , image_coat = Coat of arms of Croatia.svg , anthem = "Lijepa naša domovino ''Lijepa naša domovino'' (; ) is the national anthem A national anthem is a song that ...

Croatia
and
Slovenia Slovenia ( ; sl, Slovenija ), officially the Republic of Slovenia (Slovene: , abbr.: ''RS''), is a country in Central Europe. It is bordered by Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, lin ...

Slovenia
). It formerly had official status in
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Medite ...

Albania
,
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern Europe Southern Europe is the southern subregion of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of ...

Malta
,
Monaco Monaco (; ), officially the Principality of Monaco (french: Principauté de Monaco; Monégasque Ligurian: ''Prinçipatu de Mu̍negu''), is a sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The ...

Monaco
, Montenegro (
Kotor Kotor (Montenegrin language, Montenegrin Cyrillic: Котор, ; it, Cattaro) is a coastal town in Montenegro. It is located in a secluded part of the Bay of Kotor. The city has a population of 13,510 and is the administrative center of Kotor ...

Kotor
), Greece (because of the
Venetian rule in the Ionian Islands The Ionian Islands were an overseas possession of the Republic of Venice from the mid-14th century until the late 18th century. The conquest of the islands took place gradually. The first to be acquired was Kythira, Cythera and the neighboring i ...
and by the Kingdom of Italy in the Dodecanese), and is generally understood in
Corsica Corsica (, Upper , Southern , ; french: link=no, Corse ; lij, link=no, Còrsega) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a connected to the , surrounded by the and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north ...

Corsica
by the population resident therein who speak
CorsicanCorsican may refer to: *Someone or something from Corsica *Corsicans, inhabitants of Corsica *Corsican language, a Romance language spoken on Corsica and northern Sardinia *Corsican Republic, a former country in Europe *"The Corsicans", the original ...
, which is classified as an Italo-Romance idiom. It used to be an official language in the former colonial areas of
Italian East Africa Italian East Africa ( it, Africa Orientale Italiana, AOI) was an Italian colony in the Horn of Africa The Horn of Africa (HoA) om, Gaafa Afrikaa, am, የአፍሪካ ቀንድ, yäafrika qänd, so, Geeska Afrika 𐒌𐒜𐒈𐒏𐒖 𐒖𐒍 ...

Italian East Africa
and
Italian North Africa Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the people of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimite ...
, where it still has a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large immigrant and expatriate communities in the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' ...

Americas
and
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
.Ethnologue report for language code:ita (Italy)
– Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version
Italian is included under the languages covered by the
European Charter for Regional or Minority languages The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and internationa ...
in
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina,, abbreviated BiH or B&H, sometimes called Bosnia–Herzegovina and often known informally as Bosnia, is a country in South South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north a ...

Bosnia and Herzegovina
and in
Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Central is an adjective usually referring to being in the center (disambiguation), center of some place or (mathematical) object. Central may also refer to: Directions ...

Romania
, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian (either in its standard form or regional varieties) and another regional language of Italy. Italian is a major European language, being one of the official languages of the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest security-oriented . Its mandate includes issues such as , promotion of , , and fair elections. It employs around 3,460 people, mostly in its field operations ...
and one of the working languages of the
Council of Europe The Council of Europe (CoE; french: Conseil de l'Europe, ) is an international organization, international organisation founded in the wake of World War II to uphold European Convention on Human Rights, human rights, democracy and the Law in Eu ...

Council of Europe
. It is the second most widely spoken native language in the European Union with 67 million speakers (15% of the EU population) and it is spoken as a second language by 13.4 million EU citizens (3%).Europeans and their Languages

Data for EU27
published in 2012.
Including Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland, Albania and the United Kingdom) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is approximately 85 million. Italian is the main working language of the
Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian ...
, serving as the
lingua franca A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a ...
(common language) in the Roman Catholic hierarchy as well as the official language of the
Sovereign Military Order of Malta The Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta ( it, Sovrano Militare Ordine Ospedaliero di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi e di Malta; ...
. Italian is known as the ''language of music'' because of its use in
musical terminology This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian (see also Italian musical terms used in English Many musical terms are in Italian, because th ...
and
opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a s ...

opera
; numerous Italian words referring to music have become international terms taken into various languages worldwide. Its influence is also widespread in the
arts The arts refers to the theory, human application and physical expression of creativity Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something somehow new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scienti ...

arts
and in the
food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, protein (nutrient), proteins, vi ...

food
and
luxury goods In economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the branch A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biology or phytology, is the science of plant ...
markets. Italian was adopted by the state after the
Unification of Italy The unification of Italy ( it, Unità d'Italia ), also known as the ''Risorgimento'' (, ; meaning "Resurgence"), was the 19th-century political and social movement that resulted in the consolidation of different states of the Italian Penins ...

Unification of Italy
, having previously been a literary language based on
Tuscan Tuscan may refer to: Places * A person from, or something of, from, or related to Tuscany, a region of Italy * Tuscan Archipelago Currency * Tuscan pound * Tuscan florin Linguistics * Etruscan language, an extinct language which gives its name t ...
as spoken mostly by the
upper class Upper class in modern societies is the social class A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory Political philosophy is the philosophical study of government A government is the system or g ...
of Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other and, to some minor extent, by the
Germanic languages The Germanic languages are a branch of the Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to western and southern Eurasia. It comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian sub ...

Germanic languages
of the post-Roman invaders. The incorporation into Italian of learned words from its own ancestor language,
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...
, is another form of lexical borrowing through the influence of written language, scientific terminology and the liturgical language of the Church. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, most literate Italians were also literate in Latin and thus they easily adopted Latin words into their writing—and eventually speech—in Italian. Almost all native Italian words end with vowels, a factor that makes Italian words extremely easy to use in
rhyming A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds (usually, exactly the same sound) in the final stressed syllables and any following syllables of two or more words. Most often, this kind of perfect rhyming is consciously used for artistic effect in the fi ...
. Italian has a 7 vowel sound system ('e' and 'o' have mid-low and mid-high sounds); Classical Latin had 10, 5 with short and 5 with long sounds. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants.


History


Origins

During the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, the established written language in Europe was Latin, though the great majority of people were illiterate, and only a handful were well versed in the language. In the
Italian peninsula The Italian Peninsula (Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Reg ...
, as in most of Europe, most would instead speak a local vernacular. These dialects, as they are commonly referred to, evolved from
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
over the course of centuries, unaffected by formal standards and teachings. They are not in any sense "dialects" of standard Italian, which itself started off as one of these local tongues, but
sister language In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication ...
s of Italian. Mutual intelligibility with Italian varies widely, as it does with Romance languages in general. The Romance languages of Italy can differ greatly from Italian at all levels (
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...

phonology
,
morphology Morphology, from the Greek and meaning "study of shape", may refer to: Disciplines * Morphology (archaeology), study of the shapes or forms of artifacts * Morphology (astronomy), study of the shape of astronomical objects such as nebulae, galaxies ...
,
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
,
lexicon A lexicon is the of a or branch of (such as or ). In , a lexicon is a language's inventory of s. The word ''lexicon'' derives from word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or for words'. Linguistic theories generally regard human languages as c ...

lexicon
,
pragmatics In linguistics and related fields, pragmatics is the study of how context (language use), context contributes to meaning. The field of study evaluates how human language is utilized in social interactions, as well as the relationship between the ...
) and are classified typologically as distinct languages. The standard Italian language has a poetic and literary origin in the writings of
Tuscan Tuscan may refer to: Places * A person from, or something of, from, or related to Tuscany, a region of Italy * Tuscan Archipelago Currency * Tuscan pound * Tuscan florin Linguistics * Etruscan language, an extinct language which gives its name t ...
and writers of the 12th century, and, even though the grammar and core lexicon are basically unchanged from those used in Florence in the 13th century, the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. However, Romance vernacular as language spoken in the Apennine peninsula has a longer history. In fact, the earliest surviving texts that can definitely be called vernacular (as distinct from its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae known as the
Placiti Cassinesi The Placiti Cassinesi are four official juridical documents written between 960 and 963 in southern Italy, regarding a dispute on several lands among three Benedictine monasteries and a local landowner. They are considered the List of languages by ...
from the
Province of Benevento The Province of Benevento ( it, Provincia di Benevento) is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial an ...
that date from 960 to 963, although the
Veronese Riddle The Veronese Riddle ( it, Indovinello veronese) is a riddle A riddle is a statement, question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: ''enigmas'', which are problems generally ...
, probably from the 8th or early 9th century, contains a late form of Vulgar Latin that can be seen as a very early sample of a vernacular dialect of Italy. The Commodilla catacomb inscription is also a similar case. The Italian language has progressed through a long and slow process, which started after the Western Roman Empire's fall in the 5th century. The language that came to be thought of as Italian developed in central Tuscany and was first formalized in the early 14th century through the works of Tuscan writer
Dante Alighieri Dante Alighieri (), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to simply as Dante (, also ; – 1321), was an Italian poet, writer and philosopher. His '' Divine Comedy'', originally called (modern Italian: ''C ...

Dante Alighieri
, written in his native
Florentine Florentine most commonly refers to: * a person or thing from Florence, a city in Italy * the Florentine dialect Florentine may also refer to: Places * Florentin, Tel Aviv, a neighborhood in the southern part of Tel Aviv, Israel * Leone, Floren ...
. Dante's epic poems, known collectively as the '','' to which another Tuscan poet
Giovanni Boccaccio Giovanni Boccaccio (, , ; 16 June 1313 – 21 December 1375) was an Italian writer, poet, correspondent of Petrarch Francesco Petrarca (; 20 July 1304 – 18/19 July 1374), commonly anglicized Linguistic anglicisation (or angliciza ...

Giovanni Boccaccio
later affixed the title ''Divina'', were read throughout the peninsula and his written dialect became the "canonical standard" that all educated
Italians Italians ( it, italiani ) are a Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attr ...
could understand. Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language. In addition to the widespread exposure gained through literature, the Florentine dialect also gained prestige due to the political and cultural significance of Florence at the time and the fact that it was linguistically an intermediate between the northern and the southern Italian dialects. Thus the dialect of
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Al ...

Florence
became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy. Italian was progressively made an official language of most of the Italian states predating unification, slowly replacing Latin, even when ruled by foreign powers (like Spain in the
Kingdom of Naples The Kingdom of Naples ( la, Regnum Neapolitanum; it, Regno di Napoli; nap, Regno 'e Napule), also known as the Kingdom of Sicily, was a state that ruled the part of the south of the between 1282 and 1816. It was established by the (1282–13 ...

Kingdom of Naples
, or Austria in the
Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia Kingdom may refer to: Monarchy * A type of monarchy * A realm ruled by: **A king, during the reign of a male monarch **A queen regnant, during the reign of a female monarch Taxonomy * Kingdom (biology), a category in biological taxonomy Arts an ...
), even though the masses kept speaking primarily their local vernaculars. Italian was also one of the many recognised languages in the
Austro-Hungarian Empire Austria-Hungary, often referred to as the Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy, was a constitutional monarchy A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exer ...
. Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city because the cities, until recently, were thought of as
city-state A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance la ...
s. Those dialects now have considerable
variety Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety, the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations * Variety (universal algebra), classes of algebraic structures defined by equations in universal algebra Hort ...
. As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout Italy, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of
Regional Italian Regional Italian ( it, italiano regionale) is any regional"Regional" in the broad sense of the word; not to be confused with the Italian endonym , for Regions of Italy, Italy's administrative units. variety (linguistics), variety of the Italian l ...
. The most characteristic differences, for instance, between
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in the New Testament of the Christian Bible Roman ...

Roman
Italian and
Milan Milan (, , Milanese: ; it, Milano ) is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the List of cities in Italy, second-most populous city proper in Italy after Rome. The city proper has a population of about 1.4 million, while its ...

Milan
ese Italian are
syntactic gemination Syntactic gemination, or syntactic doubling, is an external sandhi Sandhi ( sa, सन्धि ' , "joining") is a cover term for a wide variety of sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ ...
of initial consonants in some contexts and the pronunciation of stressed "e", and of "s" between vowels in many words: e.g. ''va bene'' "all right" is pronounced by a Roman (and by any standard Italian speaker), by a Milanese (and by any speaker whose native dialect lies to the north of the
La Spezia–Rimini Line es that distinguished Northern Italian speech from that of Tuscany it, Toscano (man) it, Toscana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Citizenship , demogr ...
); ''a casa'' "at home" is for Roman, or for standard, for Milanese and generally northern. In contrast to the of
northern Italy Northern Italy ( it, Italia settentrionale, it, Nord Italia, label=none, it, Alta Italia, label=none or just it, Nord, label=none) is a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical cha ...
, the
Italo-Dalmatian The Italo-Dalmatian languages, or Central Romance languages, are a group of Romance languages The Romance languages (less commonly Latin languages, or Neo-Latin languages) are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Lati ...
, and its related dialects were largely unaffected by the Franco-
Occitan Occitan (; oc, occitan, link=no ,), also known as ''lenga d'òc'' (; french: langue d'oc) by its native speakers, is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evol ...
influences introduced to Italy mainly by
bard In Celtic cultures, a bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker, music composer, oral historian Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using a ...

bard
s from France during the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
, but after the
Norman conquest of southern Italy The Norman conquest of southern Italy lasted from 999 to 1139, involving many battles and independent conquerors. In 1130, the territories in southern Italy Southern Italy ( it, Sud Italia; nap, 'o Sudde; scn, Italia dû Sud), also known ...
, Sicily became the first Italian land to adopt Occitan lyric moods (and words) in poetry. Even in the case of Northern Italian languages, 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 The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical comp ...
) gave its language weight, though Venetian remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life, and Ligurian (or Genoese) remained in use in maritime trade alongside the Mediterranean. The increasing political and cultural relevance of
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Al ...

Florence
during the periods of the rise of the '' Banco Medici'',
Humanism Humanism is a philosophical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively. The meaning of the term ''humanism'' has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have ident ...

Humanism
, and the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
made its dialect, or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts.


Renaissance

The
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
era, known as ''("the Rebirth")'' in Italian, was seen as a time of "rebirth", which is the literal meaning of both (from French) and (Italian). During this time, long-existing beliefs stemming from the teachings of the
Roman Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Roman Catholic Church
began to be understood from new perspectives as
humanists Humanism is a philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or some ...
—individuals who placed emphasis on the human body and its full potential—began to shift focus from the church to human beings themselves. The continual advancements in technology plays a crucial role in the diffusion of languages. After the invention of the
printing press A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an ink Ink is a gel, sol, or solution Image:SaltInWaterSolutionLiquid.jpg, Making a saline water solution by dissolving Salt, table salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) in water ...
in the fifteenth century, the number of printing presses in Italy grew rapidly and by the year 1500 reached a total of 56, the biggest number of printing presses in all of Europe. This enabled the production of more pieces of literature at a lower cost and as the dominant language, Italian spread. Italian became the language used in the courts of every state in the
Italian peninsula The Italian Peninsula (Italian Italian may refer to: * Anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Italy ** Italians, an ethnic group or simply a citizen of the Italian Republic ** Italian language, a Romance language *** Reg ...
, as well as the
prestige variety In sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology), norms, expectations, and context (language use), context, on the way language is used, and societ ...
used in the island of
Corsica Corsica (, Upper , Southern , ; french: link=no, Corse ; lij, link=no, Còrsega) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a connected to the , surrounded by the and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north ...

Corsica
(but not in the neighboring
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna ; sc, Sardigna or ) is the Mediterranean islands#By area, second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, and one of the Regions of Italy, 20 regions of Italy. It is located west of the Italian Penin ...

Sardinia
, which on the contrary underwent
Italianization Italianization ( it, Italianizzazione; hr, talijanizacija; french: italianisation; sl, poitaljančevanje; german: Italianisierung; el, Ιταλοποίηση) is the spread of Italian culture Italy is considered one of the birthplaces of w ...
well into the late 18th century, under Savoyard sway: the island's linguistic composition, roofed by the prestige of
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
among the
Sardinians The Sardinians, or Sards ( sc, Sardos or Sardus; Italian and Sassarese: ''Sardi''; Gallurese: ''Saldi''), are a Romance language-speaking ethnic group native to Sardinia, from which the western Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean island and Regio ...
, would therein make for a rather slow process of assimilation to the Italian cultural sphere). The rediscovery of Dante's , as well as a renewed interest in linguistics in the 16th century, sparked a debate that raged throughout Italy concerning the criteria that should govern the establishment of a modern Italian literary and spoken language. This discussion, known as (i. e., the ''problem of the language''), ran through the Italian culture until the end of the 19th century, often linked to the political debate on achieving a united Italian state. Renaissance scholars divided into three main factions: * The purists, headed by Venetian Pietro Bembo (who, in his ''Gli Asolani'', claimed the language might be based only on the great literary classics, such as Petrarch and some part of Boccaccio). The purists thought the Divine Comedy was not dignified enough because it used elements from non-lyric registers of the language. * Niccolò Machiavelli and other Florence, Florentines preferred the version spoken by ordinary people in their own times. * The courtiers, like Baldassare Castiglione and Gian Giorgio Trissino, insisted that each local vernacular contribute to the new standard. A fourth faction claimed that the best Italian was the one that the papal court adopted, which was a mixture of the
Tuscan Tuscan may refer to: Places * A person from, or something of, from, or related to Tuscany, a region of Italy * Tuscan Archipelago Currency * Tuscan pound * Tuscan florin Linguistics * Etruscan language, an extinct language which gives its name t ...
and Roman dialect, Roman dialects. Eventually, Bembo's ideas prevailed, and the foundation of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence (1582–1583), the official legislative body of the Italian language, led to publication of Agnolo Monosini's Latin tome in 1604 followed by the first Italian dictionary in 1612.


Modern era

An important event that helped the diffusion of Italian was the conquest and occupation of Italy by Napoleon in the early 19th 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 A lingua franca (; ; for plurals see ), also known as a bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language, is a language or dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a ...
used not only among clerks, nobility, and functionaries in the Italian courts but also by the bourgeoisie.


Contemporary times

Italian literature's first modern novel, (''The Betrothed (Manzoni novel), The Betrothed'') by Alessandro Manzoni, further defined the standard by "rinsing" his Milanese "in the waters of the Arno River, Arno" (
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Al ...

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— is derived from the Venetian word ("slave"), comes from the Lombard language, Lombard word , etc. Only 2.5% of Italy's population could speak the Italian standardized language properly when the nation was unified in 1861.


Classification

Italian is a Romance language, a descendant of
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
(colloquial spoken Latin). Standard Italian is based on Tuscan language, Tuscan, especially its Florentine dialect, and is therefore an Italo-Dalmatian languages, Italo-Dalmatian language, a classification that includes most other central and southern Italian languages and the extinct Dalmatian language, Dalmatian. According to many sources, Italian is the closest language to
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
in terms of vocabulary. According to the Ethnologue, Lexical similarity is 89% with French language, French, 87% with Catalan language, Catalan, 85% with
SardinianSardinian refers to anything related to the Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean island of Sardinia. More specifically it can refer to: *Sardinian people *History of Sardinia *Sardinian language *Sardinian literature *Music of Sardinia *Cuisine of Sardin ...
, 82% with
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, 80% with Portuguese language, Portuguese, 78% with Ladin language, Ladin, 77% with Romanian language, Romanian. Estimates may differ according to sources. One study (analyzing the degree of differentiation of Romance languages in comparison to Latin (comparing
phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of lan ...

phonology
, inflection, discourse,
syntax In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the ...

syntax
, vocabulary, and intonation (linguistics), intonation) estimated that distance between Italian and Latin is higher than that between Sardinian and Latin. In particular, its vowels are the second-closest to Latin after
SardinianSardinian refers to anything related to the Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean island of Sardinia. More specifically it can refer to: *Sardinian people *History of Sardinia *Sardinian language *Sardinian literature *Music of Sardinia *Cuisine of Sardin ...
. As in most Romance languages, stress (linguistics), stress is distinctive.


Geographic distribution

Italian is an official language of
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Alps and List of islands of Italy, several islands surrounding it, whose ...

Italy
and
San Marino San Marino (, ), officially the Republic of San Marino ( it, Repubblica di San Marino; ), also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino ( it, Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino, links=no), is a small country (and a European microstate) ...

San Marino
and is spoken fluently by the majority of the countries' populations. Italian is the third most spoken language in
Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = under an , leader_title1 = , leader_name1 = , leader_title2 = , leader_name2 = , legislatur ...

Switzerland
(after German and French), though its use there has moderately declined since the 1970s. It is official both on the national level and on regional level in two canton of Switzerland, cantons:
Ticino Ticino (), sometimes Tessin (), officially the Republic and Canton of Ticino or less formally the Canton of Ticino,, informally ''Canton Ticino'' ; lmo, Canton Tesin ; german: Kanton Tessin ; french: canton du Tessin ; rm, chantun dal Tessin . ...
and the
Grisons The Grisons or Graubünden, *german: (Kanton) Graubünden, Swiss Standard German Swiss Standard German (german: Schweizer Standarddeutsch), or Swiss High German (german: Schweizer Hochdeutsch or ''Schweizerhochdeutsch''), referred to by the S ...
. In the latter canton, however, it is only spoken by a small minority, in the Italian Grisons.Italian is the main language of the valleys of Val Calanca, Calanca, Mesolcina, Valle Bregaglia, Bregaglia and val Poschiavo. In the village of , it is spoken by about half the population. It is also spoken by a minority in the village of Bivio. Ticino, which includes Lugano, the largest Italian-speaking city outside Italy, is the only canton where Italian is predominant. Italian is also used in administration and official documents in
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City
. Due to heavy Italian influence during the Italian Empire, Italian colonial period, Italian is still understood by some in former colonies. Although it was the primary language in Libya since Italian Libya, colonial rule, Italian greatly declined under the History of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who expelled the Italian settlers in Libya, Italian Libyan population and made Modern Standard Arabic, Arabic the sole official language of the country. A few hundred Italian settlers returned to Libya in the 2000s. Italian was the official language of Eritrea during Italian Eritrea, Italian colonisation. Italian is today used in commerce and it is still spoken especially among elders; besides that, Italian words are incorporated as loan words in the main language spoken in the country (Tigrinya). The capital city of Eritrea, Asmara, still has several Italian schools, established during the colonial period. In the early 19th century, Eritrea was the country with the highest number of Italians abroad, and the Italian Eritreans grew from 4,000 during World War I to nearly 100,000 at the beginning of World War II. In Asmara there are two Italian schools: * Italian School of Asmara – Italian primary school with a Montessori education, Montessori department * Liceo Sperimentale "G. Marconi" – Italian international senior high school Italian was also introduced to Somalia through colonialism and was the sole official language of administration and education during the Italian Somaliland, colonial period but fell out of use after government, educational and economic infrastructure were destroyed in the Somali Civil War.
Albania Albania ( ; sq, Shqipëri or Shqipëria), officially the Republic of Albania ( sq, Republika e Shqipërisë), is a country in Southeast Europe, Southeastern Europe. It is located on the Adriatic Sea, Adriatic and Ionian Sea within the Medite ...

Albania
and
Malta Malta ( , , ), officially known as the Republic of Malta ( mt, Repubblika ta' Malta ) and formerly Melita, is a Southern Europe Southern Europe is the southern subregion of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is one of ...

Malta
have large populations of non-native speakers, with over half of the population having some knowledge of the Italian language. Although over 17 million Italian American, Americans are of Italian descent, only a little over one million people in the United States speak Italian at home. Nevertheless, an Italian language media market does exist in the country. Italian immigrants to South America have also brought a presence of the language to that continent. According to some sources, Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina after the official language of Spanish, although its number of speakers, mainly of the older generation, is decreasing.


Education

Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first foreign language. In the 21st century, technology also allows for the continual spread of the Italian language, as people have new ways to learn how to speak, read, and write languages at their own pace and at any given time. For example, the free website and application Duolingo has 4.94 million English speakers learning the Italian language. According to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every year there are more than 200,000 foreign students who study the Italian language; they are distributed among the 90 Italian Cultural Institute, Institutes of Italian Culture that are located around the world, in the 179 Italian schools located abroad, or in the 111 Italian lecturer sections belonging to foreign schools where Italian is taught as a language of culture.


Influence and derived languages

From the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, thousands of Italians settled in Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Brazil and Venezuela, as well as in Canada and the United States, where they formed a physical and cultural presence. In some cases, colonies were established where variants of regional languages of Italy were used, and some continue to use this regional language. Examples are Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where Talian dialect, Talian is used, and the town of Chipilo near Puebla, Mexico; each continues to use a derived form of Venetian dating back to the nineteenth century. Another example is Cocoliche, an Italian–Spanish pidgin once spoken in Argentina and especially in Buenos Aires, and Lunfardo.


Lingua franca

Starting in late medieval times in much of Europe and the Mediterranean, Latin was replaced as the primary commercial language by Italian language variants (especially Tuscan and Venetian). These variants were consolidated during the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
with the strength of Italy and the rise of Renaissance humanism, humanism and the arts. During that period, Italy held artistic sway over the rest of Europe. It was the norm for all educated gentlemen to make the Grand Tour, visiting Italy to see its great historical monuments and works of art. It thus became expected to learn at least some Italian. In England, while the classical languages
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an appa ...

Latin
and Greek language, Greek were the first to be learned, Italian became the second most common modern language after French, a position it held until the late eighteenth century when it tended to be replaced by German. John Milton, for instance, wrote some of his early poetry in Italian. Within the Catholic Church, Italian is known by a large part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and is used in substitution for Latin in some official documents. Italian loanwords continue to be used in most languages in matters of art and music (especially classical music including
opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a s ...

opera
), in the design and fashion industries, in some sports like football (association), football and especially in culinary terms.


Languages and dialects

In Italy, almost all the Languages of Italy, other languages spoken as the vernacular—other than standard Italian and some languages spoken among immigrant communities—are often called "Languages of Italy, Italian dialects", a label that can be very misleading if it is understood to mean "dialects ''of'' Italian". The Romance dialects of Italy are local evolutions of spoken Latin that pre-date the establishment of Italian, and as such are
sister language In historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change Language change is variation over time in a language A language is a structured system of communication ...
s to the Tuscan that was the historical source of Italian. They can be quite different from Italian and from each other, with some belonging to different linguistic branches of Romance. The only exceptions to this are twelve groups considered "Languages of Italy#Recognition by the Italian state, historical language minorities", which are officially recognized as distinct minority languages by the law. On the other hand,
CorsicanCorsican may refer to: *Someone or something from Corsica *Corsicans, inhabitants of Corsica *Corsican language, a Romance language spoken on Corsica and northern Sardinia *Corsican Republic, a former country in Europe *"The Corsicans", the original ...
(a language spoken on the France, French island of
Corsica Corsica (, Upper , Southern , ; french: link=no, Corse ; lij, link=no, Còrsega) is an island in the Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a connected to the , surrounded by the and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north ...

Corsica
) is closely related to medieval
Tuscan Tuscan may refer to: Places * A person from, or something of, from, or related to Tuscany, a region of Italy * Tuscan Archipelago Currency * Tuscan pound * Tuscan florin Linguistics * Etruscan language, an extinct language which gives its name t ...
, from which Standard Italian derives and evolved. The differences in the evolution of Latin in the different regions of Italy can be attributed to the natural Language change#Causes, changes that all languages in regular use are subject to, and to some extent to the presence of three other types of languages: Stratum (linguistics), substrata, superstrata, and adstrata. The most prevalent were substrata (the language of the original inhabitants), as the Italian dialects were most likely simply Latin as spoken by native cultural groups. Superstrata and adstrata were both less important. Foreign conquerors of Italy that dominated different regions at different times left behind little to no influence on the dialects. Foreign cultures with which Italy engaged in peaceful relations with, such as trade, had no significant influence either. Throughout Italy, regional variations of Standard Italian, called
Regional Italian Regional Italian ( it, italiano regionale) is any regional"Regional" in the broad sense of the word; not to be confused with the Italian endonym , for Regions of Italy, Italy's administrative units. variety (linguistics), variety of the Italian l ...
, are spoken. Regional differences can be recognized by various factors: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and influence of the local language (for example, in informal situations ', ' and ' replace the standard Italian ' in the area of Tuscany, Rome and Venice respectively for the infinitive "to go"). There is no definitive date when the various Italian variants of Latin—including varieties that contributed to modern Standard Italian—began to be distinct enough from Latin to be considered separate languages. One criterion for determining that two language variants are to be considered separate languages rather than variants of a single language is that they have evolved so that they are no longer mutually intelligible; this diagnostic is effective if mutual intelligibility is minimal or absent (e.g. in Romance, Romanian and Portuguese), but it fails in cases such as Spanish-Portuguese or Spanish-Italian, as native speakers of either pairing can understand each other well if they choose to do so. Nevertheless, on the basis of accumulated differences in morphology, syntax, phonology, and to some extent lexicon, it is not difficult to identify that for the Romance varieties of Italy, the first extant written evidence of languages that can no longer be considered Latin comes from the ninth and tenth centuries C.E. These written sources demonstrate certain vernacular characteristics and sometimes explicitly mention the use of the vernacular in Italy. Full literary manifestations of the vernacular began to surface around the 13th century in the form of various religious texts and poetry.Although these are the first written records of Italian varieties separate from Latin, the spoken language had likely diverged long before the first written records appear, since those who were literate generally wrote in Latin even if they spoke other Romance varieties in person. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the use of Standard Italian became increasingly widespread and was mirrored by a decline in the use of the dialects. An increase in literacy was one of the main driving factors (one can assume that only literates were capable of learning Standard Italian, whereas those who were illiterate had access only to their native dialect). The percentage of literates rose from 25% in 1861 to 60% in 1911, and then on to 78.1% in 1951. Tullio De Mauro, an Italian linguist, has asserted that in 1861 only 2.5% of the population of Italy could speak Standard Italian. He reports that in 1951 that percentage had risen to 87%. The ability to speak Italian did not necessarily mean it was in everyday use, and most people (63.5%) still usually spoke their native dialects. In addition, other factors such as mass emigration, industrialization, and urbanization, and internal migrations after World War II, contributed to the proliferation of Standard Italian. The Italians who emigrated during the Italian diaspora beginning in 1861 were often of the uneducated lower class, and thus the emigration had the effect of increasing the percentage of literates, who often knew and understood the importance of Standard Italian, back home in Italy. A large percentage of those who had emigrated also eventually returned to Italy, often more educated than when they had left. The Italian dialects have declined in the modern era, as Italy unified under Standard Italian and continues to do so aided by mass media, from newspapers to radio to television.


Phonology

Italian has a seven-vowel system, consisting of , as well as 23 consonants. Compared with most other Romance languages, Italian phonology is conservative, preserving many words nearly unchanged from
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, ...
. Some examples: * Italian ' "fourteen" < Latin (cf. Spanish ', French ' , Catalan language, Catalan and Portuguese language, Portuguese ) * Italian ''settimana'' "week" < Latin (cf. Romanian ''săptămână'', Spanish and Portuguese ''semana'', French ''semaine'' , Catalan language, Catalan ''setmana'') * Italian ''medesimo'' "same" < Vulgar Latin * (cf. Spanish ''mismo'', Portuguese language, Portuguese ''mesmo'', French ''même'' , Catalan language, Catalan ''mateix''; note that Italian usually prefers the shorter ''stesso'') * Italian ''guadagnare'' "to win, earn, gain" < Vulgar Latin * < Germanic languages, Germanic (cf. Spanish ''ganar'', Portuguese ''ganhar'', French ''gagner'' , Catalan language, Catalan ''guanyar'') The conservative nature of Italian phonology is partly explained by its origin. Italian stems from a literary language that is derived from the 13th-century speech of the city of
Florence Florence ( ; it, Firenze ) is a city in Central-Northern Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Italian Peninsula, a peninsula delimited by the Al ...

Florence
in the region of Tuscany, and has changed little in the last 700 years or so. Furthermore, the Tuscan dialect is the most conservative of all Regional Italian, Italian dialects, radically different from the Gallo-Italian languages less than to the north (across the
La Spezia–Rimini Line es that distinguished Northern Italian speech from that of Tuscany it, Toscano (man) it, Toscana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Citizenship , demogr ...
). The following are some of the conservative phonological features of Italian, as compared with the common Western Romance languages (French, Spanish, Portuguese language, Portuguese, Galician language, Galician, Catalan language, Catalan). Some of these features are also present in Romanian language, Romanian. * Little or no Phoneme, phonemic lenition of consonants between vowels, e.g. > ''vita'' "life" (cf. Romanian ''viață'', Spanish ''vida'' , French ''vie''), > ''piede'' "foot" (cf. Spanish ''pie'', French ''pied'' ). * Preservation of geminate consonants, e.g. > "year" (cf. Spanish , French , Romanian , Portuguese ). * Preservation of all Proto-Romance final vowels, e.g. > "peace" (cf. Romanian , Spanish , French ), > "eight" (cf. Romanian , Spanish , French ), > "I did" (cf. Romanian dialectal , Spanish , French ). * Preservation of most intertonic vowels (those between the stressed syllable and either the beginning or ending syllable). This accounts for some of the most noticeable differences, as in the forms ''quattordici'' and ''settimana'' given above. * Slower consonant development, e.g. > Italo-Western > ''foglia'' "leaf" (cf. Romanian ''foaie'' , Spanish ''hoja'' , French ''feuille'' ; but note Portuguese ''folha'' ). Compared with most other Romance languages, Italian has many inconsistent outcomes, where the same underlying sound produces different results in different words, e.g. > ''lasciare'' and ''lassare'', > ''cacciare'' and ''cazzare'', > ''sdrucciolare'', ''druzzolare'' and ''ruzzolare'', > ''regina'' and ''reina''. Although in all these examples the second form has fallen out of usage, the dimorphism is thought to reflect the several-hundred-year period during which Italian developed as a literary language divorced from any native-speaking population, with an origin in 12th/13th-century Tuscan but with many words borrowed from Languages of Italy, languages farther to the north, with different sound outcomes. (The
La Spezia–Rimini Line es that distinguished Northern Italian speech from that of Tuscany it, Toscano (man) it, Toscana (woman) , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = Citizenship , demogr ...
, the most important isogloss in the entire Romance-language area, passes only about north of Florence.) Dual outcomes of Latin /p t k/ between vowels, such as > ''luogo'' but > ''fuoco'', was once thought to be due to borrowing of northern voiced forms, but is now generally viewed as the result of early phonetic variation within Tuscany. Some other features that distinguish Italian from the Western Romance languages: * Latin becomes rather than . * Latin becomes rather than or : > ''otto'' "eight" (cf. Spanish ''ocho'', French ''huit,'' Portuguese ''oito''). * Vulgar Latin becomes ''cchi'' rather than : > ''occhio'' "eye" (cf. Portuguese ''olho'' , French ''œil'' < ); but Romanian ''ochi'' . * Final is not preserved, and vowel changes rather than are used to mark the plural: ''amico'', ''amici'' "male friend(s)", ''amica'', ''amiche'' "female friend(s)" (cf. Romanian ''amic'', ''amici'' and ''amică'', ''amice''; Spanish ''amigo(s)'' "male friend(s)", ''amiga(s)'' "female friend(s)"); → ''tre, sei'' "three, six" (cf. Romanian ''trei'', ''șase''; Spanish ''tres'', ''seis''). Standard Italian also differs in some respects from most nearby Italian languages: * Perhaps most noticeable is the total lack of metaphony (Romance languages), metaphony, though metaphony is a feature characterizing nearly every other Languages of Italy, Italian language. * No simplification of original , (which often became elsewhere).


Assimilation

Italian phonotactics do not usually permit verbs and polysyllabic nouns to end with consonants, except in poetry and song, so foreign words may receive Epenthetic vowel#Anaptyxis, extra terminal vowel sounds.


Writing system

Italian has a Phonemic orthography, shallow orthography, meaning very regular spelling with an almost one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds. In linguistic terms, the writing system is close to being a phonemic orthography. The most important of the few exceptions are the following (see below for more details): * The letter c represents the sound at the end of words and before the letters a, o, and u but represents the sound (as the first sound in the English word ''chair'') before the letters e and i. * The letter g represents the sound at the end of words and before the letters a, o, and u but represents the sound (as the first sound in the English word ''gem'') before the letters e and i. * The letter n usually represents the sound , but it represents the sound (as in the English word ''sink'') before the letter c and before the letter g when this is pronounced , and it represents the sound when the letter g is pronounced . So the combination of two letters ''ng'' represents either or (but never on its own, as in the English word ''singer''). * The letter ''h'' is always silent: ''hotel'' /oˈtɛl/; ''hanno'' 'they have' and ''anno'' 'year' both represent /ˈanno/. It is used to form a Digraph (orthography), digraph with ''c'' or ''g'' to represent /k/ or /g/ before ''i'' or ''e'': ''chi'' /ki/ 'who', ''che'' /ke/ 'what'; ''aghi'' /ˈagi/ 'needles', ''ghetto'' /ˈgetto/. * The spellings ''ci'' and ''gi'' represent only /tʃ/ (as in English ''church'') or /dʒ/ (as in English ''judge'') with no /i/ sound before another vowel (''ciuccio'' /ˈtʃuttʃo/ 'pacifier', ''Giorgio'' /ˈdʒɔrdʒo/) unless ''c'' or ''g'' precede stressed /i/ (''farmacia'' /farmaˈtʃia/ 'pharmacy', ''biologia'' /bioloˈdʒia/ 'biology'). Elsewhere ''ci'' and ''gi'' represent /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ followed by /i/: ''cibo'' /ˈtʃibo/ 'food', ''baci'' /ˈbatʃi/ 'kisses'; ''gita'' /ˈdʒita/ 'trip', ''Tamigi'' /taˈmidʒi/ 'Thames'.* The Italian alphabet is typically considered to consist of 21 letters. The letters j, k, w, x, y are traditionally excluded, though they appear in loanwords such as ''jeans'', ''whisky'', ''taxi'', ''xenofobo'', ''xilofono''. The letter has become common in standard Italian with the prefix ''extra-'', although ''(e)stra-'' is traditionally used; it is also common to use the Latin particle ''ex(-)'' to mean "former(ly)" as in: ''la mia ex'' ("my ex-girlfriend"), "Ex-Jugoslavia" ("Former Yugoslavia"). The letter appears in the first name ''Jacopo'' and in some Italian place-names, such as Bajardo, Bojano, Joppolo, Jerzu, Jesolo, Jesi, Ajaccio, among others, and in ''Mar Jonio'', an alternative spelling of ''Mar Ionio'' (the Ionian Sea). The letter may appear in dialectal words, but its use is discouraged in contemporary standard Italian. Letters used in foreign words can be replaced with phonetics, phonetically equivalent native Italian letters and digraph (orthography), digraphs: , , or for ; or for (including in the standard prefix ''kilo-''); , or for ; , , , or for ; and or for . * The acute accent is used over word-final to indicate a stressed Close-mid front unrounded vowel, front close-mid vowel, as in ''perché'' "why, because". In dictionaries, it is also used over to indicate a stressed Close-mid back rounded vowel, back close-mid vowel (''azióne''). The grave accent is used over word-final and to indicate a Open-mid front unrounded vowel, front open-mid vowel and a Open-mid back rounded vowel, back open-mid vowel respectively, as in ''tè'' "tea" and ''può'' "(he) can". The grave accent is used over any vowel to indicate word-final stress, as in ''gioventù'' "youth". Unlike , which is a ''close''-mid vowel, a stressed final is almost always a Open-mid back rounded vowel, back open-mid vowel (''andrò''), with a few exceptions, like ''metró'', with a stressed final close-mid back rounded vowel, back close-mid vowel, making for the most part unnecessary outside of dictionaries. Most of the time, the penultimate syllable is stressed. But if the stressed vowel is the final letter of the word, the accent is mandatory, otherwise it is virtually always omitted. Exceptions are typically either in dictionaries, where all or most stressed vowels are commonly marked. Accents can optionally be used to disambiguate words that differ only by stress, as for ''prìncipi'' "princes" and ''princìpi'' "principles", or ''àncora'' "anchor" and ''ancóra'' "still''/''yet". For monosyllabic words, the rule is different: when two orthographically identical monosyllabic words with different meanings exist, one is accented and the other is not (example: ''è'' "is", ''e'' "and"). * The letter distinguishes ''ho'', ''hai'', ''ha'', ''hanno'' (present indicative of ''avere'' "to have") from ''o'' ("or"), ''ai'' ("to the"), ''a'' ("to"), ''anno'' ("year"). In the spoken language, the letter is always silent. The in ''ho'' additionally marks the contrasting open pronunciation of the . The letter is also used in combinations with other letters. No phoneme exists in Italian. In nativized foreign words, the is silent. For example, ''hotel'' and ''hovercraft'' are pronounced and respectively. (Where existed in Latin, it either disappeared or, in a few cases before a back vowel, changed to : ''traggo'' "I pull" ← Lat. .) * The letters and can symbolize voice (phonetics), voiced or voicelessness, voiceless consonants. symbolizes or depending on context, with few minimal pairs. For example: ''zanzara'' "mosquito" and ''nazione'' "nation". symbolizes word-initially before a vowel, when clustered with a voiceless consonant (), and when doubled; it symbolizes when between vowels and when clustered with voiced consonants. Intervocalic varies regionally between and , with being more dominant in northern Italy and in the south. * The letters and vary in pronunciation between plosives and affricates depending on following vowels. The letter symbolizes when word-final and before the back vowels . It symbolizes as in ''chair'' before the front vowels . The letter symbolizes when word-final and before the back vowels . It symbolizes as in ''gem'' before the front vowels . Other Romance languages and, to an extent, English have similar variations for . Compare hard and soft C, hard and soft G. (See also Palatalization (sound change), palatalization.) * The digraph (orthography), digraphs and indicate ( and ) before . The digraphs and indicate "softness" ( and , the affricate consonants of English ''church'' and ''judge'') before . For example: : :Note: is silent letter, silent in the digraphs ''ch (digraph), '', ''gh (digraph), ''; and is silent in the digraphs and before unless the is stressed. For example, it is silent in ''ciao'' and cielo , but it is pronounced in ''farmacia'' and ''farmacie'' . Italian has geminate, or double, consonants, which are distinguished by Consonant length, length and intensity. Length is distinctive for all consonants except for , , , , , which are always geminate when between vowels, and , which is always single. Geminate plosives and affricates are realized as lengthened closures. Geminate fricatives, nasals, and are realized as lengthened continuants. There is only one vibrant phoneme but the actual pronunciation depends on context and regional accent. Generally one can find a flap consonant in unstressed position whereas is more common in stressed syllables, but there may be exceptions. Especially people from the Northern part of Italy (Parma, Aosta Valley, South Tyrol) may pronounce as , , or . Of special interest to the linguistic study of
Regional Italian Regional Italian ( it, italiano regionale) is any regional"Regional" in the broad sense of the word; not to be confused with the Italian endonym , for Regions of Italy, Italy's administrative units. variety (linguistics), variety of the Italian l ...
is the ''Tuscan gorgia, gorgia toscana'', or "Tuscan Throat", the weakening or lenition of :wiktionary:intervocalic, intervocalic , , and in the Tuscan language. The voiced postalveolar fricative is present as a phoneme only in loanwords: for example, ''garage'' . Phonetic is common in Central and Southern Italy as an intervocalic allophone of : ''gente'' 'people' but ''la gente'' 'the people', ''ragione'' 'reason'.


Grammar

Italian grammar is typical of the grammar of Romance languages in general. Grammatical case, Cases exist for personal pronouns (Nominative case, nominative, Oblique case, oblique, Accusative case, accusative, Dative case, dative), but not for nouns. There are two basic classes of nouns in Italian, referred to as Grammatical gender, genders, masculine and feminine. Gender may be natural gender, natural (''ragazzo'' 'boy', ''ragazza'' 'girl') or simply grammatical with no possible reference to biological gender (masculine ''costo'' 'cost', feminine ''costa'' 'coast'). Masculine nouns typically end in ''-o'' (''ragazzo'' 'boy'), with plural marked by ''-i'' (''ragazzi'' 'boys'), and feminine nouns typically end in ''-a'', with plural marked by ''-e'' (''ragazza'' 'girl', ''ragazze'' 'girls'). For a group composed of boys and girls, ''ragazzi'' is the plural, suggesting that ''-i'' is a general neutral plural. A third category of nouns is Marker (linguistics), unmarked for gender, ending in ''-e'' in the singular and ''-i'' in the plural: ''legge'' 'law, f. sg.', ''leggi'' 'laws, f. pl.'; ''fiume'' 'river, m. sg.', ''fiumi'' 'rivers, m. pl.', thus assignment of gender is arbitrary in terms of form, enough so that terms may be identical but of distinct genders: ''fine'' meaning 'aim', 'purpose' is masculine, while ''fine'' meaning 'end, ending' (e.g. of a movie) is feminine, and both are ''fini'' in the plural, a clear instance of ''-i'' as a non-gendered default plural marker. These nouns often, but not always, denote Animacy, inanimates. There are a number of nouns that have a masculine singular and a feminine plural, most commonly of the pattern m. sg. ''-o'', f. pl. ''-a'' (''miglio'' 'mile, m. sg.', ''miglia'' 'miles, f. pl.'; ''paio'' 'pair, m. sg., ''paia'' 'pairs, f. pl.'), and thus are sometimes considered neuter (these are usually derived from Grammatical gender, neuter Latin nouns). An instance of neuter gender also exists in pronouns of the third person singular. Examples: Nouns, adjectives, and articles Inflection, inflect for gender and number (singular and plural). Like in English, common nouns are capitalized when occurring at the beginning of a sentence. Unlike English, nouns referring to languages (e.g. Italian), speakers of languages, or inhabitants of an area (e.g. Italians) are not capitalized. There are three types of adjectives: descriptive, invariable and form-changing. Descriptive adjectives are the most common, and their endings change to match the number and gender of the noun they modify. Invariable adjectives are adjectives whose endings do not change. The form changing adjectives "buono (good), bello (beautiful), grande (big), and santo (saint)" change in form when placed before different types of nouns. Italian has three degrees for comparison of adjectives: positive, comparative, and superlative. The order of words in the phrase is relatively free compared to most European languages. The position of the verb in the phrase is highly mobile. Word order often has a lesser grammatical function in Italian than in English language, English. Adjectives are sometimes placed before their noun and sometimes after. Subject nouns generally come before the verb. Italian is a null-subject language, so that nominative pronouns are usually absent, with subject indicated by verbal inflections (e.g. ''amo'' 'I love', ''ama'' '(s)he loves', ''amano'' 'they love'). Noun objects normally come after the verb, as do pronoun objects after imperative verbs, infinitives and gerunds, but otherwise pronoun objects come before the verb. There are both indefinite and definite Article (grammar), articles in Italian. There are four indefinite articles, selected by the gender of the noun they modify and by the phonological structure of the word that immediately follows the article. ''Uno'' is masculine singular, used before ''z'' ( or ), ''s+consonant'', ''gn'' (), or ''ps'', while masculine singular ''un'' is used before a word beginning with any other sound. The noun ''zio'' 'uncle' selects masculine singular, thus ''uno zio'' 'an uncle' or ''uno zio anziano'' 'an old uncle,' but ''un mio zio'' 'an uncle of mine'. The feminine singular indefinite articles are ''una'', used before any consonant sound, and its abbreviated form, written ''un','' used before vowels: ''una camicia'' 'a shirt', ''una camicia bianca'' 'a white shirt', ''un'altra camicia'' 'a different shirt'. There are seven forms for definite articles, both singular and plural. In the singular: ''lo'', which corresponds to the uses of ''uno''; ''il'', which corresponds to the uses with consonant of ''un''; ''la,'' which corresponds to the uses of ''una''; ''l','' used for both masculine and feminine singular before vowels. In the plural: ''gli'' is the masculine plural of ''lo and l'''; ''i'' is the plural of ''il''; and ''le'' is the plural of feminine ''la'' and ''l'''. There are numerous Contraction (grammar), contractions of prepositions with subsequent Article (grammar), articles. There are numerous productive suffixes for Italian diminutive, diminutive, Augmentative#Italian, augmentative, pejorative, attenuating, etc., which are also used to create neologisms. There are 27 pronouns, grouped in clitic and tonic pronouns. Personal pronouns are separated into three groups: subject, object (which take the place of both direct and indirect objects), and reflexive. Second person subject pronouns have both a polite and a familiar form. These two different types of address are very important in Italian social distinctions. All object pronouns have two forms: stressed and unstressed (clitics). Unstressed object pronouns are much more frequently used, and come before the verb (''Lo vedo''. 'I see him.'). Stressed object pronouns come after the verb, and are used when emphasis is required, for contrast, or to avoid ambiguity (''Vedo lui, ma non lei''. 'I see him, but not her'). Aside from personal pronouns, Italian also has demonstrative, interrogative, possessive, and relative pronouns. There are two types of demonstrative pronouns: relatively near (this) and relatively far (that). Demonstratives in Italian are repeated before each noun, unlike in English. There are three regular sets of verbal Grammatical conjugation, conjugations, and various verbs are irregularly conjugated. Within each of these sets of conjugations, there are four simple (one-word) verbal conjugations by person/number in the indicative mood (present tense; past tense with imperfective aspect, past tense with perfective aspect, and future tense), two simple conjugations in the subjunctive mood (present tense and past tense), one simple conjugation in the conditional mood, and one simple conjugation in the imperative mood. Corresponding to each of the simple conjugations, there is a compound conjugation involving a simple conjugation of "to be" or "to have" followed by a past participle. "To have" is used to form compound conjugation when the verb is transitive ("Ha detto", "ha fatto": he/she has said, he/she has made/done), while "to be" is used in the case of verbs of motion and some other intransitive verbs ("È andato", "è stato": he has gone, he has been). "To be" may be used with transitive verbs, but in such a case it makes the verb passive ("È detto", "è fatto": it is said, it is made/done). This rule is not absolute, and some exceptions do exist.


Words


Conversation

Note: the plural form of verbs could also be used as an extremely formal (for example to Nobility, noble people in Monarchy, monarchies) singular form (see royal we).


Question words


Time


Numbers


Days of the week


Months of the year


See also

* Languages of Italy (includes "Italian dialects", ) * Accademia della Crusca * CELI * CILS (Qualification) * ''Enciclopedia Italiana'' * Italian alphabet *
Regional Italian Regional Italian ( it, italiano regionale) is any regional"Regional" in the broad sense of the word; not to be confused with the Italian endonym , for Regions of Italy, Italy's administrative units. variety (linguistics), variety of the Italian l ...
* Italian exonyms * Italian grammar * Italian honorifics * List of territorial entities where Italian is an official language * The Italian Language Foundation (in the United States) * Italian language in Croatia * Italian language in Slovenia * Italian language in the United States * Italian language in Venezuela * Italian literature * Italian music terminology, Italian musical terms * Italian phonology * Italian profanity * Italian Sign Language * Italian Studies * Italian Wikipedia * Italian-language international radio stations * Lessico etimologico italiano * Sicilian School *
Veronese Riddle The Veronese Riddle ( it, Indovinello veronese) is a riddle A riddle is a statement, question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: ''enigmas'', which are problems generally ...
* Languages of the Vatican City * Talian dialect, Talian * List of English words of Italian origin * List of Italian musical terms used in English


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * M. Vitale, ''Studi di Storia della Lingua Italiana'', LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 1992, * S. Morgana, ''Capitoli di Storia Linguistica Italiana'', LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2003, * J. Kinder, ''CLIC: Cultura e Lingua d'Italia in CD-ROM / Culture and Language of Italy on CD-ROM'', Interlinea, Novara, 2008, * (with a similar list of other Italian-modern languages dictionaries)


External links


Il Nuovo De Mauro
* * :wikt:Appendix:Italian Swadesh list, Swadesh list in English and Italian * :wikiquote:Italian proverbs, Italian proverbs *
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" ''BBC'' {{DEFAULTSORT:Italian Language Italian language, Fusional languages Languages attested from the 10th century Languages of Italy Languages of Monaco Languages of San Marino Languages of Sicily Languages of Switzerland Languages of Vatican City Languages of Slovenia Languages of Croatia Subject–verb–object languages