There are approximately thirty-four living spoken languages and related dialects in Italy; most of which are indigenous evolutions of Vulgar Latin, and are therefore classified as Romance languages. Although they are sometimes referred to as regional languages, there is no uniformity within any Italian region, and speakers from one locale within a region are typically aware of the features distinguishing their local tongue from the one of other places nearby. The official and most widely spoken language across the country is Italian, a direct descendant of Tuscan.
Almost all the Romance languages native to Italy, with the notable exception of Italian, are often colloquially referred to as "dialects", although for some of them the term may coexist with other labels like "minority languages" or "vernaculars". However, the use of the term "dialect" to refer to the languages of Italy erroneously implies that the languages spoken in Italy are actual "dialects" of Standard Italian in the prevailing linguistic sense of "varieties or variations of a language." This is generally not the case in regards to the languages of Italy, as they are, for the most part, not varieties of Standard Italian. Most of the regional languages of Italy predate Standard Italian and evolved locally from Vulgar Latin and independently of what would become Standard Italian, long before the fairly recent spread of Standard Italian throughout Italy. In fact, Standard Italian is itself either a continuation of, or a dialect heavily based on, Florentine Tuscan. The indigenous local Romance tongues of Italy are therefore better classified as separate languages that evolved independently from Latin, rather than "dialects" or variations of the Standard Italian language. Conversely, with the spread of Standard Italian throughout Italy in the 20th century, local varieties of Standard Italian influenced to varying extents by the underlying local languages, most noticeably at the phonological level, have also developed throughout the peninsula; though regional boundaries seldom correspond to isoglosses distinguishing these varieties, they are commonly referred to as Regional Italian (italiano regionale).
There are several minority languages that belong to other Indo-European branches, such as Cimbrian (Germanic), Arbëresh (Albanian), the Slavomolisano dialect of Serbo-Croatian (Slavic), and Griko (Hellenic). Other non-indigenous languages are spoken by a substantial percentage of the population due to immigration.
Recognition at the European level
Italy is a signatory of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, but is yet to ratify the treaty, and therefore its provisions protecting regional languages do not apply in the country.
The Charter does not, however, establish at what point differences in expression result in a separate language, deeming it an "often controversial issue", and citing the necessity to take into account, other than purely linguistic criteria, also "psychological, sociological and political considerations".
Recognition by the Italian state
The following minority languages are officially recognized as "historical language minorities" by the Law no. 482/1999: Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovene, Croatian, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian (Legge 15 Dicembre 1999, n. 482, Art. 2, comma 1). The selection of those varieties to the exclusion of numerous others is a matter of some controversy. The law also makes a distinction between those who are considered minority groups (Albanians, Catalans, Germanic peoples indigenous to Italy, Greeks, Slovenes and Croats) and those who are not (all the others).
The original Italian Constitution does not explicitly express that Italian is the official national language. Since the constitution was penned there have been some laws and articles written on the procedures of criminal cases passed that explicitly state that Italian should be used:
- Statute of the Trentino-South Tyrol, (constitutional law of the northern region of Italy around Trento) – "[...] [la lingua] italiana [...] è la lingua ufficiale dello Stato." (Statuto Speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Art. 99, "[...] [the language] Italian [...] is the official language of the State.")
- Code for civil procedure – "In tutto il processo è prescritto l'uso della lingua italiana. (Codice di procedura civile, Art. 122, "In all procedures, it is required that the Italian language is used.")
- Code for criminal procedure – "Gli atti del procedimento penale sono compiuti in lingua italiana." (Codice di procedura penale, Art. 109 [169-3; 63, 201 att.], "The acts of the criminal proceedings are carried out in the Italian language.")
- Article 1 of law 482/1999 – "La lingua ufficiale della Repubblica è l'italiano." (Legge 482/1999, Art. 1 Comma 1, "The official language of the Republic is Italian.")
Recognition by the regions
- Aosta Valley: French is co-official (enjoying the same dignity and standing of Italian) in the whole region (Le Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste, Title VIe, Article 38); German is unofficial but recognised in the Lys Valley (Lystal) (Le Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste, Title VIe, Art. 40 - bis).
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Friulian and Slovene are "promoted", but not recognised, by the region (Legge regionale 18 dicembre 2007, n. 29, Art. 1, comma 1); (Legge regionale 16 novembre 2007, n. 26, Art. 16).
- Piedmont: Piedmontese is unofficial but recognised as the regional language (Consiglio Regionale del Piemonte, Ordine del Giorno n. 1118, Presentato il 30/11/1999); the region "promotes", without recognising, the Occitan, Franco-Provençal, French and Walser languages (Legge regionale 7 aprile 2009, n. 11, Art. 1).
- Sardinia: Sardinian, Sassarese and Gallurese are unofficial but recognised and promoted "enjoying the same dignity and standing of Italian" (Legge regionale 15 ottobre 1997, n. 26)  in their respective territories, as well as Catalan in the city of Alghero and Tabarchino in the islands of Sulcis.
- Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol: German is co-official (enjoying the same dignity and standing of Italian) in the province of South Tyrol (Statuto speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige, Titolo XI, Articolo 99); Ladin, Cimbrian and Mòcheno are unofficial but recognised in their respective territories (Statuto speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige, Titolo XI, Articolo 102).
- Veneto: Venetian is unofficial but recognised (Legge regionale 13 aprile 2007, n. 8, Art. 2, comma 2).
- Sicily: Sicilian is unofficial but recognised as the regional language (Legge regionale 9/2011).
- Apulia: Griko, Arbëresh and Franco-Provençal minority languages are safeguarded (Legge regionale 5/2012).
- Lombardy: Lombard is unofficial but recognised as the regional language (Legge regionale 25/2016).
Frequency of use of regional languages in Italy, based on ISTAT data from 2015.
According to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, there are 31 endangered languages in Italy. The degree of endangerment is classified in different categories ranging from 'safe' (safe languages are not included in the atlas) to 'extinct' (when there are no speakers left).
The source for the languages' distribution is the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger unless otherwise stated, and refers to Italy exclusively.
- Alemannic: spoken in the Lys Valley of the Aosta Valley and in Northern Piedmont
- Bavarian: South Tyrol
- Ladin: several valleys, comunes and villages in the Dolomites, including the Val Badia and the Gardena Valley in South Tyrol, the Fascia Valley in Trentino, and Livinallongo in the Province of Belluno
- Sicilian: Sicily, southern and central Calabria and southern Apulia
- Neapolitan: Campania, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise, northern Calabria, northern and central Apulia, southern Lazio and Marche as well as eastern fringes of Umbria
- Romanesco: Metropolitan City of Rome in Lazio and in some comunes of southern Tuscany
- Venetian: Veneto, parts of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- Algherese Catalan: the town of Alghero in northwestern Sardinia; an outlying dialect of Catalan language not listed separately by the SIL
- Alpine Provençal: the upper valleys of Piedmont (Val Mairo, Val Varacho, Val d’Esturo, Entraigas, Limoun, Vinai, Pinerolo, Sestrieres); the original joint ISO code [prv] for Alpine Provençal and Provençal has been retired on false grounds.
- Arbëresh: (i) Adriatic zone: Montecilfone, Campomarino, Portocannone and Ururi in Molise as well as Chieuti and Casalvecchio di Puglia in Apulia; (ii) San Marzano in Apulia; (iii) Greci in Campania; (iv) northern Basilicata: Barile, Ginestra and Maschito; (v) North Calabrian zone: ca. 30 settlements in northern Calabria (Plataci, Civita, Frascineto, San Demetrio Corone, Lungro, Acquaformosa etc.) as well as San Costantino Albanese and San Paolo Lucano in southern Basilicata; (vi) settlements in southern Calabria, e.g. San Nicola dell'Alto and Vena di Maida; (vii) Sicilian zone: Piana degli Albanesi and two nearby villages near Palermo; (viii) formerly also Villabadessa in Abruzzi; an outlying dialect of Albanian
- Cimbrian: vigorously spoken in Luserna in Trentino; disappearing in Giazza (part of the commune Selva di Progno) in the Province of Verona and in Roana in the Province of Vicenza; recently extinct in several other locations in the region; an outlying dialect of Bavarian
- Corsican: spoken on Maddalena Island off the northeast coast of Sardinia
- Emilian-Romagnol: Emilia-Romagna, parts of the provinces of Pavia, Voghera, and Mantua in southern Lombardy, the Lunigiana district in northwestern Tuscany, the Alta Valle del Tevere district in northern part of the Province of Perugia and eastern part of the Province of Arezzo, the Province of Pesaro-Urbino in the Marche, and in a zone called Traspadana Ferrarese in the Province of Rovigo in Veneto
- Faetar: Faeto and Celle San Vito in the Province of Foggia in Apulia; an outlying dialect of Francoprovençal not listed separately by the SIL
- Francoprovençal: the Alpine valleys to the north and east of the Susa Valley in Piedmont; disappeared in France and Switzerland
- Friulian: Friuli-Venezia Giulia except the Province of Trieste and western and eastern border regions, and Portogruaro area in the Province of Venice in Veneto
- Gallo-Italic of Sicily: Nicosia, Sperlinga, Piazza Armerina, Valguarnera Caropepe and Aidone in the province of Enna, and San Fratello, Acquedolci, San Piero Patti, Montalbano Elicona, Novara di Sicilia and Fondachelli-Fantina in the province of Messina; an outlying dialect of Lombard not listed separately by the SIL; other dialects were formerly also spoken in southern Italy outside Sicily, especially in Basilicata
- Gallurese: northeastern Sardinia; an outlying dialect of Corsican
- Ligurian: Liguria and adjacent areas of Piedmont, Emilia and Tuscany; settlements in the towns of Carloforte on the San Pietro Island and Calasetta on the Sant’Antioco Island off the southwest coast of Sardinia
- Lombard: Lombardy (except the southernmost border areas) and the Province of Novara in Piedmont
- Mòcheno: Palù, Fierozzo and Frassilongo in the Fersina Valley in Trentino; an outlying dialect of Bavarian
- Piedmontese: Piedmont except the Province of Novara, the western Alpine valleys and southern border areas, as well as minor adjacent areas
- Resian: Resia in the northeastern part of the Province of Udine; an outlying dialect of Slovene not listed separately by the SIL
- Romani: spoken by the Roma community in Italy
- Sardinian, including both Campidanese (southern Sardinia) and Logudorese (central Sardinia)
- Sassarese: northwestern Sardinia; a transitional language between Corsican and Sardinian
- Yiddish: spoken by parts of the Jewish community in Italy
All living languages indigenous to Italy are part of the Indo-European language family. The source is the SIL's Ethnologue unless otherwise stated. Language classification can be a controversial issue, when a classification is contested by academic sources, this is reported in the 'notes' column.
They can be divided into Romance languages and non-Romance languages.
Gallo-Rhaetian and Ibero-Romance
||Dialects spoken in Italy
||Emilian; Romagnol (Forlivese);
||Emilian and Romagnol have been assigned two different ISO 639-3 codes (egl and rgn, respectively).
||Tabarchino; Mentonasc; Intemelio; Brigasc
||Western Lombard (see Western dialects of Lombard language); Eastern Lombard; Gallo-Italic of Sicily
||Triestine; Fiuman; Chipilo Venetian; Talian; veneziano Lagunar
||Usually not considered as being Gallo-Italic
Not included is Corsican, which is mainly spoken on the French island of Corsica. Istriot is only spoken in Croatia. Judeo-Italian is moribund.
Sardinian is a distinct language group with significant phonological and lexical differences among its varieties. Ethnologue, not without controversy, even goes as far as considering Sardinian to be four separate languages, all being included along with Corsican and the Corso-Sardinian varieties in a hypothetical subgroup (Southern Romance) which has gained little support from linguists. UNESCO, while seeming to share the same opinion of Ethnologue by calling Gallurese and Sassarese alternately "Sardinian", considers them to be dialects of Corsican rather than Sardinian on the other hand. As is not infrequently the case in such controversies, the linguistic landscape of Sardinia is in principle most accurately described as being, for the most part, a dialect continuum.
Albanian, Slavic, Greek and Romani languages
High German languages
||Dialects spoken in Italy
||East Middle German
||Austrian German is the usual standard variety
||sometimes considered a dialect of Bavarian, also considered an outlying dialect of Bavarian by the UNESCO
||considered an outlying dialect of Bavarian by the UNESCO
The Northern Italian languages are conventionally defined as those Romance languages spoken north of the La Spezia–Rimini Line, which runs through the northern Apennine Mountains just to the north of Tuscany; however, the dialects of Occitan and Franco-Provençal spoken in the extreme northwest of Italy (e.g. the Valdôtain in the Aosta Valley) are generally excluded. The classification of these languages is difficult and not agreed-upon, due both to the variations among the languages and to the fact that they share isoglosses of various sorts with both the Italo-Romance languages to the south and the Gallo-Romance languages to the northwest.
One common classification divides these languages into four groups:
Any such classification runs into the basic problem that there is a dialect continuum throughout northern Italy, with a continuous transition of spoken dialects between e.g. Venetian and Ladin, or Venetian and Emilio-Romagnolo (usually considered Gallo-Italian).
All of these languages are considered innovative relative to the Romance languages as a whole, with some of the Gallo-Italian languages having phonological changes nearly as extreme as standard French (usually considered the most phonologically innovative of the Romance languages). This distinguishes them significantly from standard Italian, which is extremely conservative in its phonology (and notably conservative in its morphology). 
Southern Italy and islands
Approximate distribution of the regional languages of Sardinia and Southern Italy according to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger:
Native languages of foreigners
Standardised written forms
The following regional languages of Italy have a standardised written form. This may be widely accepted or used alongside more traditional written forms:
Detailed map of the languages and language islands of Italy
Regional languages of Italy according to Clemente Merlo and Carlo Tagliavini in 1939
Main dialectal groups of Italy
Main linguistic groups of Italy
Officially recognised ethno-linguistic minorities of Italy
Percentage of people in Italy having a command of a regional language (Doxa, 1982; Coveri's data, 1984)
Percentage of regional bilingualism in Italy (ISTAT, 2015).
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