Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What is Italian?

The Italian language has a unique history. According to the linguistic community, Italian is the language in the Romance family that is closest to Latin together with Romanian and Sardinia. Its history, however, sets it apart from all others in that the scholars who established the current standard were erudite humanists who spoke Latin as their first language. When they studied how to turn vernacular Italian into a language with an established grammar, vocabulary, accent and pronunciation they turned to Latin as their primary tool to polish it in the Renaissance. The Dante is credited with making Italian out of 14th-century Florentine and used his Divine Comedy as a testing ground for the language. To be exact, Dante worked on a Sicilian literary standard developed by the Court of Frederick II (1233-1250) before the Sicilian Canzoniere was exported to Florence at Fall of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty, blending it into his native Tuscan and the Classical Latin he had studied in Florence.

Prolonged use of Latin, a slower unification process, the erudite and Tuscan influence account for the archaic traits of the language and its resistance to change as compared to other romance languages.

However, Italian enjoys a flexibility in word order unseen in most of its sister tongues, comparable only to a that of a flexive language. Not surprisingly, Italian grammarians strove to model Italian prose on Classical Latin. Looser word-order with frequent subject-verb inversions is even more noticeable in Southern Italian. A few examples of O-V-S order:

“Bella era quella cantante!” (lit. “beautiful was that singer!”) “Che, l’hai incontrata, tu?” (lit. “What, her meet did you?”) ”Sì, alla Scala di Milano cantava!” (lit. “Yes, at the Scala di Milano sang she”). Northern (non-standard) Italian has always S-V-O, perhaps because of its proximity to France. On the contrary, the Florentine dialect can rephrase sentences more loosely.

Italian is modeled on literary Florentine, whose poets had a long love-affair with Cicero (see right column: Trencento and Renaissance) : when we see this, flexibility in word-order will appear less capricious. Word order tend to be (O-) V-S in the south ( "questo ha fatto lui!"), where S-V-O is favored by northern speakers even in cases when emphasis requires O-V-S.

In questions as
"Va via subito Marco?" the accent is certainly on Marco, but not so in "Marco va via subito?". However, the growing importance of northern media today seems to be affecting such liberty in spoken usage.

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Bibliography (texts consulted for this research)


Migliorini, B. Storia della lingua italiana. Firenze, Sansoni, 1987.
Bruni, F. L'italiano. Elementi di storia della lingua e della cultura italiana: testi e documenti.Torino, UTET, 1984.
AA.VV. L'italiano nelle regioni, a cura di F. Bruni. Torino, UTET, 1997, vol.1


Manacorda, G. e Gangemi, G. Storia della letteratura italiana. Roma, Newton-Compton, 2004.
Giudice, A. e Bruni, G. Problemi e scrittori della letteratura italiana. Torino, Paravia, 1973, vol.1.
Salinari, C. e Ricci, C. Storia della letteratura italiana. Bari, Laterza, 1983, voll.1-2.
Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia. A cura di U. Bosco e G. Reggio. Firenze, Le Monnier, 1979.
Antologia della poesia italiana: Il Duecento. A cura di C.Segre e C.Ossola. Torino, Einaudi-Gallimard, 1997.
Antologia della poesia italiana: Il Trecento. A cura di C.Segre e C.Ossola. Torino, Einaudi-Gallimard, 1997.
Dante Alighieri, De vulgari eloquentia. Milano, Garzanti, 1991.
Francesco Petrarca, Canzoniere. Torino, Einaudi, 1964.
Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron. Milano, Mursia, 1966-1989.

The 21st Century

The 21st century


The turn of the 20th century sees the emergence of the internet. The Guternberg's press with movable types, which Aldus Manutius perfected but enabling the printing of pocket books made reading affordable. The introduction of desktop printers and internet has not just improved the dissemination of information, but the way books and papers are written and by whom. 

The layman has acquired a bigger influence on language: neologisms have increased at an exponential rate since the first online dictionaries appeared. Printed dictionaries cannot be updated as quickly as a web database, so even the large publishing houses have made online versions of their works. 

Open-source projects and blogs are among the latest innovations that have added interactivity. In the open-source wikis the distinction between reader, contributor, editor and publisher has further blurred creating horizontal structures that allow users to switch roles. Blogs, or (we)b logs are evolving into podcasts, where one can post voice and video comments and receive audiovisual messages from selected topics or people in his or fer inbox. 

The Internet: Political and cultural importance 

The importance of the net has grown so much that in 2004 the major political blogs (web logs) have been admitted for the first time to the Democratic and Republican parties of the United States, affecting the outcome of the 2004 presidential campaign. Thousands of internet cafés and literary blogs have become the venue for many young writers. Even the Accademia della Crusca have their own website and forum and are working on the English version of their site. 

Web-related calques 

Among the newest Italian neologisms are informatica, connessione remota, preferiti (favorites), indirizzo IP, cyberspazio, internauta, portale, motore di ricerca, firma digitale, compressione, scaricamento, scaricare, postare (to post in a forum), chattare (to chat on the internet), loggarsi (to log in), casella di posta elettronica, posta elettronica, indirizzo di posta elettronica, pirateria internet, pirateria informatica, 3d (thread, since italians tend to pronounce it 'tred', and tre is number 3). 

Web-related loans

Loans account for terms like desktop, SMS, card, plug-in, server, host, virus, antivirus, spyware, chat (n.), account, about us, policy, faq, login (n.), username, password, e-mail, download, cookie, domain, sito internet, programma, freeware, shareware, hardware, software, provider, hacker, GIF, FTP, newsgroup, mailing list, bookmark, attachment, spam, bulk, pop-up, dialer, banner, layout (also used as "template"). 

Webspeak: punctuation and syntax 

Surfers are familiar with the alterations in spelling and punctuations. While spelling does not seem to be affecting considerably the texts of Italian e-mails, the style in which they are written write has: paragraphs rarely exceed three-four lines, the use of parataxis or coordinations as in spoken Italian (sono andata al lavoro, ho fatto la spesa e sono tornata - "I went to work, did the shopping and came back), is more frequent and increasingly avoiding basic punctuation and capitalisation, while semicolons and question marks seem to have disappeared. Some Italian abbreviations are quite common, cmq for comunque (however, anyway), gg for giorni (days), etc.

The length of sentences is generally quite short, often avoiding verbs as in "Maggiori informazioni qui" (more info here). The fast-paced internet also seems to invite people to avoid "unnecessary" keystrokes, and often surfers avoid leaving a space after a punctuation mark. Grammar is simplified by avoiding subjunctives, while the use of the etymological simple past (andai, vedesti...) has been replaced by the simple past in avere /sono + past participle (sono andato, hai visto...). 

The increasing number of English loans 

The introduction of loans is facilitated by linguistic economy and sometimes the urge to save time: most ordinary English words are mono- or bi-syllables and can fit more easily into a homepage. That is why jobs sometimes replaces "offerte di lavoro", and FAQ (FAQs) is standard

Italian as in many other languages alongside "domande frequenti", whereas the French have assimilated FAQs as 'Foire Aux Questions (Fair of Questions)' which sounds much more familiar to a Francophone. 

Chi siamo still resists alongside "about us", but the English word testimonial, which has entered Italian usage as " a person that sponsors a brand or a public event (as a fundraising drive)" has been widely replaced by dicono di noi (What they say of us), while testimonial stands for a celebrity who poses for a brand or a product. 

A taboo of new words? 

In general, there is a reluctance to coin new words or use calques as happens in many other languages, and I think there are two main reasons for this: 1. a scarce knowledge of the English language even among professionals which makes it difficult for people to make a translation where there could be one 2. a sociological factor, since limiting the importation of foreign words, even where necessary, is generally associated with the purism and linguistic xenophobia of fascism. 

Mussolini's linguistic purge was done hapazardly, indiscriminately, often by people with little of no linguistics education, mainly motivated by political zeal and racism. As such, it left a scar it will take many years to heal even among linguistis. 

Nonetheless it is fair to point out that Migliorini et. al. proved that neologims made on good phonotactical and grammatic rules take nothing off the beauty of the Italian language, especially since there are still so many lexical resources in our dialects that lie virtually untapped. 

Contrary to popular opinion, learning English does not endanger the Italian language, but help us sense when a foreign word can be be useful and to respect its original meaning, i.e. to use it properly. 

The Italian Dialects 

"Only when a given tongue becomes a language, are the other varieties of a linguistic community lowered in rank to dialects", says Bruni, remarking that before that moment, that vernacular "cannot be called a dialect, if only because no language has prevailed upon the others". 

Although the word dialect is widely disputed, it often recurs throughout Italian history and I will use it here for practical reasons, since there are regional languages (as Albanian) that share little or nothing with Italian . A dialect usually refers to a local variety of the same language, in this case standard Italian: it shares many words with it, while many others are similar or do not even exist in Italian. 

The phonetics and grammar may be more or less different, but a good standard Italian speaker with no knowledge of a particular dialect is generally able to understand the gist. Another important feature is its being relatively limited in lexicon as compared to a national standard. 

Whereas in the case of Italian the vocabulary can stretch to a few hundred thousand, a dialect is usually confined to a few thousands. The former is preferred in a formal (school, work, government, media), the latter is restricted to an informal context (family and friends). 

A national standard is usually marked as H (for High variety), a dialect L (for Low) because they are associated to different socio-economic contexts (dialect is wrongly associated with the lower orders of society and lesser education). 

A L1-L2 relationship where two languages are spoken by one person but are not mutually exchangeable (the example of a person reading a newspaper in L1 (fomal, standard) and commenting it with friends in L2 (informal, nonstandard) can be defined a case of bilingual diglossia, while a child born out of an English mother and French father may speak both languages in the same social contexts whether in the household or at school (bilingualism without diglossia). 

The Italian dialects were considered languages until the Florentine became the official standard in the 1500s. A person's awareness of speaking a dialect arises only when he or she accepts or realises the existence of a koinè used over an area that extends well beyond his or her own alloglot region. 

The opposition to Italian, if we can call it so, has helped dialects to achieve their own identity: before that the distinction between Italian and dialect was blurred by the mingling of local languages when people from different places wrote to or met each other, and no one could agree who spoke better given the many similarities between romance languages.  

The separation between Italian and dialect condemned local languages to a bonsai state: they continued to be widely spoken without being able to develop: their vocabulary is limited to a few thousand words, compared to the hundreds of thousand of the national atandard. 

But they have continued to play a role in the shaping of Italian, though Italian has also affected them, being often spoken mixed with Italian words, but it must be noted that, as in many other nations, some Italian terms and phrases are only or prevalently used in one area rather than another and that some words take different accent from place to place.  

Actually, Italian alloglot areas are 9 (this classification appears on the geolinguistic Atlas of Italy published by CNR the Centro Studi per la Dialettologia Italiana directed by C. Cortellazzo, ed. G.B. Pellegrini) 

ITALIAN LANGUAGES / DIALECTS are the following: gallo-italico (most of Piedmont, Liguria, and Emilia-Romagna) veneto (Veneto and part of Trentino excluding South Tyrol), friulano (Friuli and part of Slovenia), toscano (Tuscany), mediano (Umbria, Latium, Marche and Abruzzi), meridionale intermedio (Campania, Nothern Calabria, Lucania and Basilicata) meridionale estremo (Southern Apulia, Southern Calabria and Sicily), linguodorese-campidanese (most of Sardinia: Nuoro Oristano and Cagliari) and sassarese-gallurese (upper coastal region of Sardinia, including the City of Sassari. 

The "Recession of Dialects" 

However, because of the prestige of the Italian standard, dialects are being forgotten and to date it is difficult to find a dialect that has not been widely influenced by Italian language. It was once believed in order for a dialect to exist, its community must have lived in isolation or have resisted social change in some way, and this was widely believed in the 1800s, when Ascoli and his students tried to restore dialects by looking for alloglot and isolated communities, taking down words and their pronunciation from the oldest members of a village.

But is old dialect the dialect? And should we speak of just one, or one family of dialects even as we move from one small town to another? Should this archaic language, maybe taken just from one village, be restored in the place of all dialects spoken in one state? And then, as a historical linguist, Ascoli must have been aware that all languages evolve.
Today's scholars have abandoned the romantic ideal of original, primitive languages and tend to be a little more critical: between archaic dialects and standard Italian there is a wider, grey area that includes most Italian speakers. 

Bruni et al. prefer to speak of local koinès, since modern urban environments usually produce a melting pot of dialects from neighboring towns and villages. Because Italian is the language you are supposed to use at work, usually a mediation occurs in between the two ends: the Koinè may well be a mix between the dialects spoken around one given city (suburbs and countryside) and standard Italian: sometimes it is the Italian word to be adapted to the phonological system of a dialect, especially when there is a vernacular term that resembles to the Italian one, but has a different meaning: a famous example is Sicilian or Calabrian pjattalokrafa < dattilografa ("typist"), a neologism coined on the existing pjattu (it.piatto, en. dish) or vanella < vanedda ("lane"), and many more -ll words, probably on analogy with scn./cal. bedda = it. bella. 

In the few places where dialect is spoken as a first language, it succeeds in coining new words or translating Italian ones into its own vocabulary. Dialects are sometimes considered inferior languages because of their small vocabulary and the lack of an established spelling, but if they were given the ability to grow and were taught at school, many unpleasant tags that have been attached to them would fall off. 

Other Italian Languages Italian languages, however, have been less influenced by the standard since they are morphologically and phonologically distant from the romance family of Italian dialects which contributed to the birth of Italian. For example, Südtyrolean, a Germanic language also spoken in Austria makes abundant use of Celtic and Germanic ü and the back R, and its lexicon and grammar are more related to High German. 

Among minority languages can also be listed Ladino (spoken in some parts around Belluno, in Südtyrol and Friuli), Old Albanian (spoken in the Piana degli Albanesi, near Palermo) and Old Greek, a result of the Byzantine presence is Southern Italy, and especially Apulia, Calabria and Sicily. Varieties of the Langue d'Oc are spoken in part of Piedmont and Val d'Aosta (French Provençal and Provençal). 

There are also many small communities around Verona (13), Vicenza (7), and Trento (1) where Cimbrian, an old variety of Southern Bavarian is spoken by a few thousand people. The present-day Cimbri, however, must not be confused with the ancient people defeated by Consul Caius Marius in 101 B.C. and who came from the Jutland Peninsula (Denmark). 

The modern 'Cimbri' are of German or Austrian origin and were erroneously given this name by Italian princes as they peacefully settled in some areas of Veneto (Altopiano di Asiago, near Vicenza) and Trentino about 1000 years ago. The areas in which Südtyrolean, Albanian, Greek the Langue d'Oc, Ladino and Cimbrian are used make up the main alloglot areas of Italy and as such may be considered states in their own right. 

Like the Italian dialects, such languages are unfortunately doomed to extinction unless more is done to preserve them, since they are less and less spoken by younger generations who, for different reasons (work, the media, traveling...) tend to be more exposed to Italian.

LIST OF MAIN NON-ITALIAN LANGUAGES Non Italian alloglot regions include 6 smaller areas: Provençal (Piedmont, west of Turin and Cuneo) Franco-Provençal (Val d'Aosta), Ladino (northern Veneto, part of Trentino and Friuli), Germanic (Sudtyrol, North of Bolzen), Greek (Southern tips of Calabria and Apulia), Albanian (Sicily, near Palermo) and Slovene (on the easter border of Friuli). 


Our historical survey has indeed touched on a large number of topics, ranging from Classical Latin and the development of vernaculars to the establishment of a national standard, and it is likely that I may have left behind much more. Tracing the evolution of a language in just a few pages has inevitably lead me to make choices, and be more discriminant in selecting my sources, to which, however, I have been faithful. Defining Italian had me draw a line, however approximate, between dialect and language, making distinctions that may appear less clear-cut in practice.

But the fact remain that they cannot be entirely erased. The fact that most poets were Florentine must not evidently lead us to the hasty conclusion that Florentine is Italian. Bembo's conscious choice to develop a national standard implied a careful selection of Tuscan terms and phrases to keep forever, while others were scrapped and confined to the dialect spoken in
Florence today. 

Because dialects are as rich a heritage as is the Italian language itself, another history could not exhaust all the questions that might be raised here. I only hope that I may at least have encouraged you to find out more about this incredibly diverse country and perhaps visit it. 


The 20th Century

The 20th century

There are two driving forces behind the development of Italian in the twentieth century, one is the invention of the modern media, the other is the introduction of mainly U.S.-imported technology and culture in the postwar years.
The wireless radio, the cinema, the telephone, television, and finally, the internet have revolutionised the way we live and think much faster than any invention prior to this century. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, Mao understood the potential of the radio and the cinema and learned to manipulate them to their advantage. 

They also helped them enforce new linguistic policies, as the spreading of Russian as the official language of the USSR and the second language of eastern Europe. Big Brother and the media "Attento, il nemico ti ascolta!" (Benito Mussolini: "Be careful, the enemy is listening!"), radios thundered repeatedly through Italian ears through thousands of radios and loudspeakers placed in every Italian square. 

Mussolini understood how vital information or a small secret could be in the age of radio broadcasts. His fears were prompted by the communiqués of Radio Londra (Radio London)'s. The 20th century is doubtless a paranoid world mostly fought by huge propaganda machines. It is an age that is grimly remindful of Orwell's prophetic 1984. 

A remote gives the viewer much less control than he or she thinks, and an excessive use of television creates addiction. A kid's mind can be easily brainwashed if he/she is not supervised by their parents. We have satellites above our heads that read our newspaper headlines, mega-computers attached to phone cables and even politicians must look under their own tables before they choose say anything sensitive. 

A person wearing a cellular phone can be tracked no matter where he/she is using GPS (Geopositioning system). We depend on the media to get the latest news and entertainment without being aware of the techniques used to manipulate information. 

The success of motion pictures and radio broadcasts was widely exploited for propaganda purposes from the beginning, and especially by totalitarian regimes. The techniques of montage and video editing were anticipated by the futuristis and are still the building blocks with which producers create fictional worlds. 

Before television, Italians were bombarded by fascist propaganda via radio, gramophone, and Cinegiornale Luce newsreels. Luce was a powerful motion picture company run by the state that successfully continued its production in the early post-war years. 

Many of these clips are of great historical interest. Unfortunately relatively few have been yet made available to the public due to the great expenses needed for restoring tapes often curtailed by censorship. As the mass-media entered the household, it changed the political and religious views of people and shook timeless beliefs that had long been taken for granted. 

When television became widespread it also improved the viewers' language and diction: it taught millions the national standard (RAI, the state television made great efforts in that sense especially in the 50s and 60s), especially in the 50s and 60s. 

Mussolini, conscious of the high levels of illiteracy did not want to fight openly the dissent by intellectual élites, of whom after all the average Italian could only read from special publications, especially anonymous, and in academic circles. 

Schoolchildren were taught to 'appreciate' fascist culture, Cultura fascista, which became one of the most important subjects in the scholastic curricula: among its dictats was the eradication of dialects and students surprised to speak them would be fined. 

Fascism's Empire of Words: The Silence of the Crusca 

"1923 marks the beginning of deep changes in the role and activities of the Crusca: in fact it was in that year that secretary of education Giovanni Gentile by a Royal Decree of 11 March 1922 provided for new regulations that interrupted the compilation and printing of the Dictionary, thus suppressing the association's regular lexicographcal work." (Crusca Online).

This dictionary had been waiting 60 years to see the light. It was a grave setback for the Italian language: not only had literary production almost ground to a halt, but the heart of language itself had fallen into the hands of party protegés most of whom were linguistically incompetent and only eager to please the Duce. 

The regime's renaming policy knew no limit, extending as it did to words that had been common currency for decades: 'volt', the measurement unit for the difference of potential was pedantically renamed volta though by then volt had become international. 

Even first and last names were 'naturalised', especially those ending by consonants as in Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino, Friuli, and Romagna. Venetian Facchin became Facchini, Zonin, Zonini (after WW2 many families would have to file long suits the state to have their names back). 

Because of its Celto-Germanic substratum, North Italian dialects became primary targets. Slavic and German names or those wrongly identified as such received an equally harsh treatment. That was coherent with the discriminatory policy against slavic and Dalmatian peoples who were branded as second-class citizens. 

Tolomei, operating under the Duce's auspices, wrote the guidelines that led him to reshape the maps and signals of Sudtyrol and Friuli (he was also an alpinist and it seems to have taken the matter to heart). His rules were the following: 1. Where a place had two or three names, the Italian or, if not available, its vernacular name would remain on condition it conformed to Italian phonotactics 2. If a place bore Ladin or a German name, a calque would be made from the Ladin source when this was available. 3. If only the German name was available, it should be translated literally (Mittewald / Mezzaselva), renamed after the ancient roman town if this had existed in that place (Sterzing / Vipiteno < Lat. Vipitenum), or invented from scratch if none of these options were available. (Tolomei called the Glockenkarpopf which after all had climbed himself Vetta d'Italia!). 

This man's massive work consisted in renaming more than 16,000 toponyms, recorded in his Prontuario (1940), The intent to eradicate regional identity extended to the deep south: few people now remember that the town of Ispica was once called Spaccaforno and that the old city of Terranova is now called Gela. 

The case of Enna is quite interesting: its was called Castrogiovanni until 1927 and its name comes from Old Arabic 'Casr Yani', but its facist name has stuck. Latina was renamed Littoria, a name mindful of ancient Roman glories, retrieving its real name after the was. 

Pontinia and Sabaudia, however, were founded ex novo by the Duce apparently as part of a plan to reclaim large swamps in Latium like other public projects aimed at creating badly-needed jobs in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe. 

But Mussolini's passion for neologisms could not touch Franco-provençal toponyms, as he couldn't pry into the very lands of the Crown of Savoy, quite jealous of its bilingual heritage. Though some hardline fascists had insisted by proposing names such as Cormaiore and San Vincenzo della Fonte for Courmayeur and Saint Vincent their attempts were foiled by the monarchy and the French press which defended their original names. 

Vittorio Emanuele III had, after all, made the Duce the head of state and was to be obeyed. Another event of linguistic imporance was Italy's ambitious colonization started with the occupation of Lybia under Giolitti's government in 1912, later boosted by the fascist regime with the annexation of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia in the 1930s. 

The Italian language spread in much of Northern Africa and is still spoken by many natives alongside their own language . Inevitably, the colonial experience introduced a large number of exotic words to Italy. But the regime was especially intolerant with words associated with 'enemy' cultures as those from Britain and the U.S. 

However, because Fascism looked back to the Roman Empire and the 'purity of Latin', the same prejudice applied to the German language. Italian nationalist movements had always associated the German language with the Austrians, who had also dominated Lombardy and Veneto in addition  to Sudtyrol. 

Mussolini had fought (albeit rather ingloriously) the Austrians in the Great War which which he had also supported with his pro-war propaganda that soon distanced him from the ranks of socialist party of which he was member. But the model language for intellectuals and diplomats was still French. 

Because of imperial ambtions, the Duce also renamed the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum, "our sea". Newborns could not be called Walter (a common name in Italy) or David, but Gualtiero and Davide. Parents were strongly encouraged to seek Latin or pagan names for their sons like Italo or Romano. 

Many named their sons after the Duce himself, Benito. Jewish names were definitely dangerous as they would make one a target of racial laws: Mussolini's census was actually meant to blacklist Jews for Italian concentration camps, though in the 40s he allowed many to be tranported to Germany. 

Fascist and anti-fascist policies Fresh linguistic input came from Croce, Italy's Education secretary before the fascist coup, and Gramsci. A communist intellectual and fierce opposer to the fascist regime, Gramsci was incarcerated in 1938. 

Following in Manzoni's footsteps, in his Quaderni dal carcere he outlined his idea for a more 'popular Italian' as could be understood without difficulty by the less educated, pointing out that the élite-like character of the standard Italian of the time prevented the lower classes from learning and thus actively participating in the political and economic life of the country. 

(One century before, Leopardi had complained about the unnatural divide between spoken and written language, especially when comparing Italian to most European languages.) 

Gramsci realised that the Italian people was in fact culturally and politically divided because of a language it did not yet understand. Since the Catholic Church insisted on keeping Latin for all religious ceremonies, the illitterate could hardly learn to speak Italian fluently and few students could make it beyond 3rd grade. 

Many tried to escape hardship by enrolling in the army. State schools and the radios were indeed the best place to learn for those who could attend them, but most children were spending their time in the fields or the factories with no time to spare as wages were kept low and trade unions replaced by one government-controlled federation of workers. 

The Fall of Mussolini 

Mussolini's renaming policy was partly responsible for starting the retaliation of communist slavs against Italians (Foibe). When the Repubblica di Salò fell under its own weight, and the Duce was executed by partisans as they entered Milan (1945), northern Italy became a sort of demilitarised zone, ready to change hands once again. 

The humiliations to which the Slavs had been subjected under Mussolini encouraged Tito's reprisals against Italians minorities when Istria and part of Friuli were annexed by his red army. As the Germans retreated beyond the Alps pressed by allied armies.

Tito's partisans crossed the eastern border from Yugoslavia, sometimes rallying support among Italian Slavs and communist partisans, though many of them would be executed for refusing to kill their own fellow-citizens for him. 

Tito's militia's rounded up thousands of Italian men, women and children in the areas between Trieste, Gorizia and murdered them in summary executions to eradicate the Italian presence from territories which they claimed for Yugoslavia. (The foibe is a Slav name for the deep carsic caves where the bodies where thrown). 

Such military reversal earned Slav toponyms and surnames their old names and and in some cases had many Italian surnames and places translated into Serbian. In 1945 WW2 ended and Jugoslavia signed the peace treaty which gave it the Istrian peninsula. However, in 1946 Tito unexpectedly moved his army towards the Italian border in an attempt to invade northern Italy. 

Italian troops were called to the front to prevent an invasion. While re-instating bilingual or trilingualism by adding the original toponyms to the maps, Italy's 1948 constitution did not erase many of the newer fascist coins either, and that is why disputes are far from being settled. 

The issue of properties which switched hands during that period is still as hot as the words by which they were re-named. 

Lei, tu or voi? 

Until Mussolini's linguistic reform, an Italian could use three ways to address a person: there was voi, roughly equivalent to you (2nd person singular and plural), both formal and informal; there was tu, a very informal 'you' (2nd person singular only), and then there was also Lei, an extremely polite 3rd person singular, equivalent to formal you (as when accompanied by 'sir' in English, akin to German "sie").

Lei dated back to the Renaissance, when it was first used by the courts chanceries. However, because it had been originally introduced by the Spaniards, it was branded un-Italian by the fascists and officially replaced with voi by a 1938 decree signed by Mussolini. 

But the new form could not take root in just four-five years: the fall of the fascist regime soon put an end to the experiment. The toll Mussolini forced on the Italian people by entering a war the Italians could not afford was unbearable and eventually backfired as most of the country lost confidence in him. 

With the Liberation of Italy by the Anglo-American Allies (1944-5) a new, democratic Italy (1946) opted for lei in formal, tu in less formal, contexts. Voi disappeared, to be confined to non-standard southern Italian and its dialects (especially used by the older generations). 

Today lei is tfor the people we are not familiar with, or who are much older than us. However, as in much of today's world, more and more people of all ages may be heard to exchange tu in colloquial speech, breaking the ice is much faster than it used to be. 

The crisis of the Italian dialects French influenced the standard Italian to a considerable extent, first in the 13th and then in the 18th centuries. The Savoy Dynasty that ruled the nation until 1948 (when Italy became a republic) were themselves predominantly French-speaking, as had been Cavour, the King's Prime Minister under whom Italy had won independence. 

The end of fascism and, later the wave of modern language studies of the sixties helped advance the cause of languistic minorities. Reversing the course given by Mussolini, Italy's new Constitution aimed at protecting Italy's dialects and devolving power to the single states. In the 1990s, the Lega Lombarda had proposed dialect should be taught in school alongside Italian, but this proposal remained on the drawing board and was soon forgotten. 

Today, the young generations have a very limited knowledge of their native dialects, which are often considered socially inferior to mainstream Italian, except for a few exceptions, such as in Veneto and Trentino-Sydtyrol where local languages are still spoken fluently. 

The counties of Trent, Bozen and Bressanone were given a relative autonomy and home-rule (De Gasperi-Gruber Treaty): the word Sudtyrol coexists with Altoadige to symbolise the state's bilingual status. In Sudtyrol, it is impossible to be a civil servant without a Certificate of German Proficiency (Southern Bavarian being only the local dialect) released by the state ('Patentino'). 

In spite of efforts to revaluate native languages, it looks like most vernaculars are dying out fast and that, as happened with the Anglo-Normans when their French was no longer a spoken language, a large number of vernacular terms and phrases are now flowing into Italian. 

Science and technology English, which had played till then a relatively minor role, became the first language of Europe. The role of radio was the first to have an impact on Italian society.

Cinema and television have followed. Most English terms come from science and technology from the U.S., as computer, backup, transistor, but most are internet-related and date to the turn of the century. 

Much older imports are radar, morse, flap, touch-and-go, gas, flyby, raid, mayday and more words used in aviation. Medicine and chemistry Medicine, chemistry and biology are particularly interesting in that English neologisms from those fields are created from Latin and Greek roots: this way calques are usually portmanteau words and therefore easier to make. Because Latin and Greek are still international languages here, it is virtually impossible to determine whether these terms have been coined in England, Germany, or Italy first. 

A few examples: testosteron (testosterone), gynaecologist (ginecologo), dermatitis (dermatite), immuno-reaction (reazione immunitaria), dopamine (dopanina), tomography (tomografia), diaphragm (diaframma), thermoregulation (termoregolazione), hemoglobin (emoglobina), bacterium (batterio), virus (virus), hepatitis (epatite), diabetes (diabete); potassium (potassio), helium (elio), calcium (calcio), phosphorus (fosforo), uranium (uranio); etc. 

General terms 

Common terms from the media are those imported from U.S. or English fads, music, cinema: baby and baby-sitter, beat generation or beatnik, bestseller, hit parade, bikini, black-out, blue jeans, bluff, box, bridge, business, businessman, check-up, chewing-gum, clown, club, cover-girl, pin-up, cow-boy, drink, escalation, flipper, full-time and part-time, gangster, happening, hostess, steward, humour, iceberg, jazz, jeep, spider (meaning a sportscar), killer, O.K. (orl korrect: malappropriation of all correct), knock-out, mass-media, meeting, match, night- compounds (as nigh-club), pop (music), pullman, pullover, puzzle, quiz, record, recordman, roast-beef, rugby, scotch, self-service, shampoo, shopping, showman, slogan, snack-bar, star, stop, stopper, stress, strip-tease, teenager, tram, trance, weekend, western, whisky are the most widely used. Onomatopoeias from Mickey Mouse comic strips are well-known, and are used in a jocular sense (always pronounced the Italian way): I am speaking of words like argh, sigh, sob, gulp, slam, snort, mumble, which one can still find in the SMSs and e-mails. 

All-Italian neologisms make up a consistent minority of the new terms, but they are often derogatory and mostly used in informal contexts (slang, see 21st century). The boom of pop music U.S. and English pop, rock and jazz have penetrated almost every layer of society. 

The 50s and 60s is the time of the juke box, rock-and-roll, swing, twist. Much like the America of that time, there seems to be much optimism and a touch of innocence in that world as can be heard, for instance, in the lyrics of Caterina Caselli, Gianni Morandi or Edoardo Vianello. 

Many pieces speak of the life of those times: the Italian families which go on vacation to Rimini and play twists or social games on the beach. TV was introduced in the fifties, but was still expensive even to owe one set, so people would gather in a bar to hear the news, watch quiz shows or football games, or Canzonissima and Festival di San Remo, two music competitions that launched the most famous Italian pop and rock singers. 

Only by the mid-sixties almost every household had their own TV set. By 1965-70 small portable record players were widely used by young people. Loan-words from the Italian television While a standard, neutral accent prevailed in the earlier postwar years, from the 1980s the new private channels of Mediaset, based in or around Milan seemed to have generated two separate standards, one in the North, other in the Center-South, the former modeled on Milan's accent, the Latter on Rome's. 

Television is also responsible for a second, later wave (1980s-1990s) of loan-words as disco-music, yuppie, rat-race, soap opera, reality show, band, bi-partisan, task force and peace-keeping being just a few. Given perhaps the great attention paid by Italian sports fans to soccer, Champions' Cup and Champions' League, with more soccer terms are used and pronounced quite correctly by all orders of society. 

Loans with new meanings Some loans from English must be especially noted in that they took up different meanings. In Italian, a bungalow is a big tent, and camping, which you can find painted on every billboard in major resorts is used for 'camp', as the inevitable good-appetite! written on the napkins of pizzerias. 

Beauty-case (en.vanity-case) is an all-Italian compound, as is restyling, both used by webmasters fashion-designers and real estate developers instead of facelift, which instead is rendered by lifiting . A flipper stands for a pinball machine and smoking is an elegant term for a smoking jacket or a tuxedo. 

Feeling acquired the new meaning of 'chemistry' (between a couple) because Mina, a renowned singer sang it in Questione di feeling. Footing is often used mistakenly for jogging, petting for necking, sexy-shop and sexy-chat for 'sex shop' or 'sex chat', mobbing for harassment, wonder bra for suspenders, testimonial for sponsor (a celebrity promoting a brand or a public event), backstage for backstage interview / scoop / photos, quiz for both quiz show and quiz, bi-partisan for fair or objective (this way, political action may be bi-partisan even when it is one-sided!), spot for commercial but not in any other sense, while self-service hardly applies to an Italian cafeteria, usually called 'tavola calda' or 'caffé'. 

Whereas the meaning of home-made neologisms is usually clear, the real danger lies in using a loanwords in a conversation with English speakers assuming that these words will have the same meaning in an English sentence! It is no surprise that impromptu translations have generated gross misunderstandings, even between politicians and senior diplomats. 

Non-native English speakers often criticise American presidents using the word compassion, (it.compassione, fr. compassion), thinking it really means it. 'compassione' or fr. 'compassion'. It sounds like pity, mercy in these languages, and some think it is patronising just because it sounds so in their own language. 

Virtually is always rendered with 'virtuale' (fictional) even in contexts where it signifies "practically". Synonymic calques Many English words are compounds, and one way to render them in the target language is to translate them piece-by-piece: sky/scaper (gratta/cielo), self-government (auto/governo), self-consciousness (auto/coscienza), out/law (fuori/legge), week/end (fine settimana), social climber (arrampicatore sociale), honey/moon (luna di miele), volley/ball (palla/canestro). 

The Cold War has given Italian some interesting synonymic calques that arrived in Italian homes through newspapers, radio and cinema, and then television: Guerra Fredda (Cold War, the English term, rendered word-by-word), the corsa agli armamenti (the arms race) and armi convenzionali (conventional weapons), Cortina di Ferro (Iron Curtain). 

English acronyms have passed unchanged from one language to another (NATO, CIA, FBI, DNA, AIDS), only their pronunciation differs. Semantic Calques Some calques are just semantic, being made on an existing word that changes in meaning, not form: it. intrigante, once "conniving" is now understood as en. 'intriguing' . it. efficiente, once "causing", has taken up the meaning of en. 'efficient' ("working well", "in perfect order"). 

Francesco Bruni reminds us that most equivocal loans come from texts (from which they are misread by non-natives). When a words is listened to first it is usually pronounced correctly. Hybrids Frankenwords, or words which are half-English, half foreign include videocamera (camcorder), CD (pronounced 'chey-dey)', chattare (to chat on the net), postare (to post a message in aforum). Fotoreporter is a frankenword for 'photographer'. 

Loans or calques? The newest words are usually loans: though calques were preferred until the 50s (see calcio for football, attaccante for forward, portiere for stopper), the preference for loans is evident as we speak: 1600 out of the 2000 words of English (80%). 

Only a few new words have been translated, as videoregistratore (en videorecorder), videocassetta, (audio)cassetta, telecomando (en. remote), while web-related terms haven't except for few cases. Sometimes the full sense of the original term may be missed especially when the source meaning does not match entirely the target meaning. 

A smart bomb was translated with bomba intelligente, but smart incorporates a number of meanings such as quick, agile, brilliant besides 'intelligent'. 

Phonologic interference 

The distance between the Italian and the English phonetic systems may cause problems with loan-words especially if these contain unknown sounds: thus the words jazz, pub, club, hobby, host(ess), surf, bomber have taken different pronunciations.

Words like cruise (missile) or spray are pronounced as if they were Italian:- and - Unabomber mistakenly applies to Italian criminals that place bombs in food cans rather than sending anonymous packages to their victims. The art of dubbing The result of applying dubbing techniques on U.S. and English movies has indeed generated a new kind of Italian. 

The mistranslations of some interpreters here has generated phrases that do not exist outside television and are not compatible with Italian usage but which nonetheless, they continue to be used on the screen. Apart from the excessively emphatic intonation sometimes applied to actors in U.S. movies, it is hard to understand how so many terms are rendered with Italian words that indeed do not occur in those contexts. 

A few examples in point may suffice: CASE 1 Mary: Hey, are you all right? / dub.: "Hey, stai bene? / standard it.: Ehi! ti sei fatto male? Jeff: Yeah, it's O.K, just a scratch / dub.: Già, tutto OK, solo un graffio! / standard it.: No, tutto bene, solo un graffio Hey! Does not exist in Italian, where the h is always silent as in French, even with "io ho" ("I have") Stai bene is a literal translation, a calque, because the Italians tend to use the more pessimistic phrase: "Are you hurt?" Già is scarcely used in this context, as it means "already", while the proper translation of yeah is sì, certo. 

Another remarkable phrase that stands out is thre translation for "great, cool" : CASE 2 Sam: Get ready, we have a party tonight! /dub. Mettiti pronto, abbiamo un party stasera! / (italian correct) Jim: A party? Man, that's great! /dub. Un party? Amico, è grandioso! / Un party? Che bello! Man! does not translate as 'friend' (amico) and great! is best rendered as bello, fantastico!

I have also found that many false friends, idioms or proverbs are widely unknown in these translations. Most proverbs and popular phrases are connected to English literature, historical events and famous quotes by characters who are unknown in Italy, so why not having that dictionary of Italian phrases handy just in case? Were English speech really translated, I think that some U.S. movies would be more fun to see, but good interpreters, in Italy as abroad are never easy to find. 

Changes in grammar and usage 

The most notable change in the latter half of the century is the dropping of the Italian simple past in conversation in favor of the present perfect. You no longer say andai a Roma ieri, "I went to Rome yesterday", but sono andato a Roma ieri, though you can use andai a Roma nel 1970, since this happened long ago. If you mean to speak informally you may not want to use the simple past in any case at all.
In a written document, though, the difference remains. Especially young people use the simple past only in a jocular way, for example to mock the more serious diction of their grandfather or their Southern counterparts, considered old-fashioned in manners. 

The TV often does without the present and imperfect subjunctive where this tense is needed to signify a hypothetical, not real, situation. Credo che vada a scuola, "I believe he goes to school" is the correct usage, but 'credo che va a scuola' is now heard with more and more frequency. 

The same applies to the imperfect subjunctive as in credevo che tu andassi a scuola (I believed you went to school), often replaced by credevo che tu andavi a scuola. The same applies to if clauses, something familiar to English speakers: If i was vs. if i were (it se io ero vs. se io fossi).

The media, except for the printed page, dictates linguistic choice and it is to the internet, cellular phones and interactive technology that we must look when searching for answers in the twenty-first century.

The 19th Century

The 19th century

After the universalism of the French Revolution and the foiled ambitions of Napoleon, new ideals made way into European and Italian society, among them a passion for the popular heritage of the country, whether in language, music or poetry, most of all because it belonged to all classes of society.
The idea of a genuine language made from below appealed to the Romantics because it emancipated itself from the past, when history had been made on the drawing board by few enlightened intellectuals who had left the people out. 

The idea that value lies in innovation and originality is also romantic, and that was one more reason, in the intentions of many, to erase much of the linguistic imports from France. Mixed attitude toward the French heritage Many French words are erased but a few important ones (as those introduced by Naponeon's modern bureaucracy) would become part of the nation's legacy. 

The Italian flag, modeled on the French would remain as the word tricolore. When the French army arrived in Italy, the Italians welcomed it. Only when they realised that liberators were conquerors, did they realise that foreign power could hardly be trusted with such matters. 

However, for all his imperialist ambitions, Napoleon brought to Italy many of the principles that had inspired the French Revolution. All citizens, French and Italian were equal under French law and his modern bureaucracy and civil code drawn on Roman Law removed the feudal relics that had slowed down Italian economy for centuries.

A new national sentiment The need for national identity built by the people, for the people called for political independence: it had inmdeed prompted the reaction to French plans, aimed, on the contrary, at building a pan-European country in which all cultures would assimilate to the French. 

Some recent historians have argued that the principle of self-determination that the King of Sardinia claimed to uphold was only another name for his territorial ambitions. Such new historians have claimed that the Italians did not want or need national unification based on the proof that the most referendums held to annex the new territories were tampered with. 

But, even conceding that, most Italians could hardly read and write and lived under extreme poverty while those who were literate were subject to a widespread anti-unification propaganda in their home states, ruled by foreign powers, the only exception being the Vatican (which then occupied Latium and Marche, a good portion of central Italy and would not accept being incorporated into a new national entity). 

There was no such thing as free press in those states and dissenters had to be anonymous. No one could expose himself unless he wanted to be imprisoned or executed on charges of high treason (as happened with the revolutionary movements of Carboneria of 1820-1 and 1830-1). 

An interesting book, now widely ignored in schools, is Silvio Pellico's Le mie prigioni, written in the high-security Spielberg prison in Austria. Pellico was sentenced to life inprisonment, then commuted to 10 years, for siding with the carbonari independentist movement. 

He was apparentluy involved in a plot against the Austrian government (which then ruled Northern Italy from Lombardy to Friuli). However, when Verdi's Nabucco was first performed in Milan (then under Austrian rule), a loud applause interrupted the performance of "Va' Pensiero", the famous air where the Jewish captives lament their slavery under Nabuchedanezar's. 

That sent an unmistakeable signal to all Italians. Rediscovering Popular and Regional Tradition Romantic writers like Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) were generally open to popular and vernacular influence, as they rediscovered the importance played by local tradition and folklore. 

This attitude was reflected in the Romantics use of language: many vernacular words and expressions not included in volgare illustre were added at this time. In the latter half of the century, when political unification was achieved, (though positivism was openly anti-romantic) such interest produced great novels and theatre from the poorest and most ingnored regions of Italy. 

To reconstruct those environments in fiction writers like Verga ransacked the Italian dialects and to create a fresher prose. Naturalistic (Verismo is the name of the Italian movement, while French authors have Naturalisme) novelists such as Giovanni Verga (1840-1922) and Luigi Capuana (1839-1915), two outstanding Sicilians of post-unification Italy, wrote in a style that closely mimics the local dialect. 

They intended to give readers close, vivid snapshots of the lower classes and highlight some of the pressing social problems often unknown in Northern Italy and Piedmont, then the seat of the ruling Savoy dinastry . As a result, much more vernacular terms and phrases made their way into the Italian language. 

A Renewed Interest in History The 1800s are also the century when history is studied passionately, including the history of language(s). The terms linguistica and glottologia, "linguistics" and "historical linguistics" date to this time, as Grimm and Verner's laws. 

It is the time when a new awareness of national identity leads many scholars to rediscover history and revaluate the role played in it by ordinary people: 

La recherche de l'unité dans l'espace inspire les œvres è charactère social; [l'histoire] peut-être est-ce la même
recherche, mais dans le temps, qui dicte à tout un siècle sa passion pour l'Histoire... Au XIXe siècle le roman, le théâtre, la poésie trouvent dans l'Histoire non plus seulement des événements, ou même un décor : ils laprennent pour sujet... l'histoire devient alors un mythe, qui propose une interpretation pour aujourd'hui - ou pour demain." transl. "The search after spacial unity inspires works of social interest; [history] is perhaps the same search, but in time, which dictates its passion for History to an entire century...In the 19th century the novel, theatre, poetry do not just find facts and dates, or a background: they take it for a subject...then history becomes a myth, offering its onw interpretation of current or future events."] (J.Y. Tadié, Introduction à la vie littéraire du XIXe siècle.) 

Francesco de Sanctis: the History of Italian Literature 

It is to a later romantic, Francesco de Sanctis (1817-1883) that we owe the History of the Italian Literature (Storia della letteratura italiana, 1871), a monumental work which, remarkablly, he finished as the first Italian troops annexed Rome.

His Storia, initially conceived as an anthology of Italian authors for high school students, eventually grew in length and complexity, becoming a compelling work that was destined to change forever the landscape of literary criticism, influencing scholars as Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) and Gramsci (1891-1937), and being widely read by our contemporaries. 

This renewed interest in history also encouraged a series of studies on almost every discipline, and lead to the discovery of an ancestral, prehistoric language from which descended the largest historical language groups: the Proto-Greek, German, Celtic, the Italic dialects and the History of the Italian language itself. 

Proto-Indoeuropean and historical linguistics Proto-Indoeuropean, Latin's parent language, was recontructed using comparative analysis, text-dating techniques, and metaphonetics. Ancient (Aramaic, Iranian, Assyrian) and modern languages (mostly European), were scrutinised and cross-referenced, and the results pointed the origins of European languages to an area comprised between Iran and India. 

It was also proved the relationship between present intonation in many modern languages and Proto-Indoeuropean vowel pitch which had phonemic value as in Mandarin and many more Asian languages . The scholars debate about the italian standard Manzoni's I promessi sposi, (The Betrothed) is the first historical novel of Italy, and its drafting is also the work of a long research on 17th-century Lombardy. 

The developement of 19th and 20th century Italian was widely influenced by his novel (I Promessi Sposi), built using a refined version of the Florentine spoken in the first half of the century . Its great success generated numerous translations (it is known in English as The Betrothed) and given its patriotic message, inspired more Italians to fight for independence. 

Its language (though much less in its second edition of 1840) also reflects the Romantics' liberal approach. They declared their intention to part with academic tradition so that the Crusca accused them of polluting Bembo's bella lingua: the dispute was, however, much more articulated than might appear, and we need to look at at the wider spectrum between the extremes, represented by classicism and romanticism. 

Between the purists (Cesari and Puoti) and the romantics (Berchet et al.) stood classicists as Giordani, Leopardi, Monti, while Manzoni, himself a romantic, was a more moderate within his movement, as he tried to reconcile the opposite factions. 

The purists and the Crusca The purists' position was as simple as it was uncompromising: the only Italian that should be accepted was that of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Everything before and after the 1300s must be erased. For the purists this was the best course to take since these were the guidelines given by Cardinal Bembo in the Renaissance (see above). 

Such was the stand of Antonio Cesari (Verona 1760-1828), "who considered a rollback to 14th-century Italian as the solution to the language issue and the remedy to the wave of gallicisms that had entered the Italian language in the 18th century, eventually corrupting it, he thought." (Bruni) 

The classicists and Leopardi More nuanced was the position of the classicists, whose examples for a model Italian spanned from the 1300s to the Renaissance and were moderately interested in including loans from other Italian dialects. 

Vincenzo Monti had published his Proposta di alcune correzioni ed aggiunte al Vocabolario della Crusca (1817-26) in which he distanced himself from purism, stating that not only Renaissance Italian was by no means inferior to that of Dante, but that in order for the Italian language to acquire more flexibility and richness it should not be based on literary models alone. 

To survive, the Italian language should get fresh blood from all orders of society, as doctors, lawyers, artisans, workers. Giacomo Leopardi is, however, more eclectic: while rejecting gallicisms or French loans he believed that the words common to most European languages (think of international terms of no distinct nationality as revolutionary-révolutionnaire-rivoluzionario or en.fr. document it.sp. documento etc.) must be included in the Italian language. 

His open-mindedness is also shown in his ramarkable interest in neologisms, many of which are still with us today. He strongly believed in europeismo (his coinage) and introduced such words as dispotismo, genio, sentimentale, analisi, demagogo, originalità and many others. 

A romantic view of language: Manzoni 

Manzoni believed that a national language must primarily serve practical purposes, and that priority must be given to the spoken word, the perfect model being present-day Florentine as spoken by ordinary people. If the right word can't be found in the classics, then there is no reason why it cannot be retrieved from the contemporary Florentine and if necessary from other Italian dialects.

In that respect he was in line with Machiavelli, who had enjoyed the freshness of the Florentine dialect without refusing the beauties of Dante's language. Though widely respected by academics, the purists had lost touch with the general public, a gap Manzoni tried to bridge by introducing contemporary Florentine expressions and regional colloquialisms from Lombardy, especially since many of Florentine words had almost equal synonyms in other Italian dialects and could be considered common to Italian culture. 

Including regional terms into standard Italian might encourage non-Florentine speakers learn the language and help them understand each other. (Non-Florentine words were copious in his first edition of 1822, Fermo e Lucia, and there were still many in his 1840 edition even after his massive editings). 

Manzoni complained, like the classicists that the Italian vocabulary was too small compared to other European languages, and that (and Leopardi agreed on this) the distance between written and spoken Italian was wide, especially if compared to other European languages. 

The mention of French seems a case in point, especially when it is said that the average Frenchman was able to understand Molière but that the average Italian could not make sense of Parini. When Manzoni's novel hit the bookshops it suddenly became a best seller, and this was proof enough that his Italian had finally reached across a much wider range of readers than ever before. 

Manzoni: the historical novel Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) had been educated to the enlightened principles of the French philosophes of the Enlightenment by the scholars he had met in his native city, Milan. Inspired by the new democratic principles, he decided to write a book that supported the cause of a united Italy. 

To do so, he had to establish a standard Italian suitable for a wider Italian audience. That alone was a big political statement in a territory subject to the Austrians. His linguistic research brought him to Florence again, where, he said, he 'washed' his first draft of his novel in the waters of Arno, as he would later say. 

Although Renzo and Lucia are from Como (Lombardy), they overall sound as if they are contemporary Florentines. Against the wishes of the purists, their expression retains much of the spoken language that Italian authors prudently avoided.

"The Betrothed"

The Betrothed (I promessi Sposi) takes place in a little town near Lake Como, in the North of Italy. It is 1628, and most of the peninsula is occupied by the Spaniards, a hint to the Austrian dynasty which controlled most of the country at the time of Manzoni's writing. 

Two young, poor people who live near lake Como, Renzo Tramaglino and Lucia Mondella fall in love and decide to get married, but every time they ask Don Abbondio, their parson, this evades their requests. He won't do it because the local Spanish squire, Don Rodrigo, is after Lucia. He wants her no matter what and will do everything to wrench her from Renzo. 

He even has her abducted, and her boyfriend goes through incredible ordeals to have her back. Renzo and Lucia's story is set against the backdrop of 17th century Italy, which Manzoni reconstructs with increbible historical accuracy, using real documents and bringing to life historical figures like Cardinal Borromeo and the famous Nun of Monza, who interact with fictional ones in the story. 

Eventually Renzo and Lucia are reunited by the hand of Providence, get married while Don Rodrigo and his band are killed by Black Death. 19th-century neologisms The 19th century is also the age of Industrial Revolution (the first Italian railways were built in 1839, when the first steamboats start streaming down Italian rivers), modern medicine and biology. 

Many words are coined to name new inventions and discoveries: ferrovia [railway], locomotiva [locomotive], vaporiera [idem], vagone [wagon, railway car], tunnel, viadotto [railway bridge]; boro [boron], cloro [chlorine], alluminio [alluminum], calcio [calcium], iodio [iodine]; batteri [bacteria], omeopatia [homeopathy], paleontologia [paleontology], litografia [lithography], fotografia [photography], dattilografo [typist]. 

Politics Even political strife enriched the Italian lexicon: words like sinistra [left] and destra [right], rosso [red] and nero [black] became charged with political meaning, while rosa [pink], was associated by romantics with more peaceful endeavors. 

Even today, romances are called "romanzi rosa" and are part of 'letteratura rosa'. Magenta and Solferino, two battles that decided the fate of Italy were later associated with colors: the yellow cartridge of my printer reads 'magenta'. 

Solferino is a kind of reddish color though it is less known on the net. Everyday life (.....) Italy's Unification and After Italy was basically unified in three steps: 1. The First War of Independence (1848-9) 2. The Second (1859-1861) and 3. the Third (1862-1866), during which Florence became the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy (1865-71) and hosted Italy's first parliament until Rome was liberated by Italian troops in 1870. 

When the first Italian soldiers entered Rome through the Breach of Porta Pia, the Pope retreated to a nerby hilltop (Castel Gandolfo), from where he cursed the Savoy Dinasty and threatened to excommunicate Catholic members the parliament unless they boycotted the assembly. 

End of the litigation: the Concordato This litigation that divided moderate and right-wing Catholics would only be settled in 1929 when Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini and the Pope signed the Concordato, whereby the Holy Father recognised the temporal power of the Italian state, (keeping only a small piece of land for San Peter's and a small area around it). 

In exchange, Mussolini introduced the compulsory teaching of Catholicism in all Italian schools, which he imposed on religious minorities that so far were recognised by the Italian state. The Second Vatican Council Latin, however, not Italian, was still the language of religious ceremonies. 

Thanks to Pope John XXIII Latin and the Second Vatican Council, the official language of the Vatican ceased to be used at mass, helping more people learn standard Italian by listening to sermons. The Catholic Bible (the CEI version is to date the official version of the Catholic Bible) could finally be translated and printed in Italian. 

Bettino Craxi and the Second Concordato Even though in postwar Italy minority students were exempted from divinity classes, the exclusive teaching of Catholicism was justly seen unfair to non-believers, such as Jews, or Protestants. 

The new Pacts signed by prime minister Bettino Craxi and John Paul II finally replaced the teaching of catholicism with the History of Religions. Bureacratese enters Italian life Political unification saw the creation of a vast burocracy, police and army whose members often moved from and to Italian states as far apart as Sicily and Piedmont. 

As a consequence, written Italian was greatly influenced by this army of clerks and soldiers that generally did not belong to the linguistic élites: many original Tuscan words were changed, new one were added under the influence of the dialects they brought to the young Italian nation. 

Many more bureaucratic terms introduced in laws and decrees made their way into the spoken language from all parts of the country and have affected the way the Italians speak especially in formal contexts, where they are actually abused and have become clichés, especially among the less educated. 

A titolo di .... in qualità di...(as), godere del diritto di... (have a right to) ove è ubicato...(where he lives...) adibito a.... (for)avere facoltà di....(to can) a prescindere da...(except for) nell'ambito di....(within) ad uso di....(as) a norma di....conformemente a... in conformità a...(under) in via eccezionale .... (exceptionally), a titolo esplicativo ... (for example) in, a seconda di....(depending on) per quanto attiene... (as for) in ottemperanza a...., in osservanza....(under...) secondo quanto stabilito (according to) are stock phrases widely used on TV. 

Ascoli vs. Manzoni 

But the problem of Italian as a two-lane language remained: the people on one side, the intellectuals on the other (whose discussions were far from over). In 1867, 6 years from Italy's Unification Emilio Broglio, the minister of education (the first ever appointed), charged Manzoni to write Dell'Unità della lingua e dei mezzi per diffonderla (On the usefulness of our language and the means to spread it), a report on the state of the language with suggestions on ways to spread it and teach it. 

It was a painful research in which the writer had to co-ordinate the work of a team of scholars, with the help of his precious notes he had used in writing I Promessi Sposi. Manzoni's conclusions were not much different to what he had been saying in the first half of the century: it was necessary to update the language using present-day popular Florentine and compile a grammar inspired to French ones. 

Manzoni's studies encouraged Broglio to ask him to oversee the edition of the Novo vocabolario della lingua italiana secondo l'uso di Firenze (1868), which was widely bought and used by schools all over the country. But no sooner was Manzoni's report out than an eminent scholar, although in part recognising linguistic merits of I Promessi Sposi, insisted that it was wrong to rely on spoken Florentine as this was not the language used by educated people: he rejected the romantic view that popular culture must be better because it is spontaneous, made by the many, and not corrupted by academia. 

As an historical linguist, closer to the German tradition rather than the French, he pointed out that Manzoni did only see things in a present perspective. For example, he wanted to replace UO in open syllables with open O just because the current Florentine had bono (it. buono). But why having this change, Ascoli said, when UO is in fact an old Florentine heritage? Furthermore, Ascoli was convinced that Italy's situation was similar to Germany's in many respects: in both countries the national language was the sum of a mediation from all its regions, rather than the 'dictatorship' of one dialect (as that of Paris) on the others. 

Being educated in the 1850s, and not during the Romantic Age, Ascoli was inclined to believe in a sort of linguistic Darwinism: Italian would be the survival of the fittest, in which many dialects would compete to influence the Italian vocabulary and grammar. With their authority, Italian scholars might affect, but not deviate altogether the course of the river. 

The question of double spellings Due to different pronunciation and a lack of consensus about spelling, one word might often be written in two, sometimes even three different ways: obedire or obbedire [obey], republicano or repubblicano [republican], decembre or dicembre [December], conspirazione or cospirazione [conspiracy], ozione or opzione [option], decentramento, dicentramento, or dicentramento [decentralising]. 

Italians could not yet make their mind about what plurals to have for words in -cia and -gia, as in roccia [rock] and ciliegia [cherry]: -ce or -cie, -ge or -gie? Rocce or roccie, ciliege or ciliegie ? North and South at odds over doubles Twin consonants were and are one of the biggest problems even for native speakers. 

Though a definitive spelling has been established as we write, consonants are often misspelled especially in the North and the South, being spoken and written with either one consonanttoo few (vantagio instead of vantaggio in the North) or too many (aggio instead of agio). 

This problem has worsened in recent times, when less attention is given to spelling and diction and little grammar is taught at school. The turn of the century: the final spelling of articles However, the grammatical use and spelling of articles became uniform at the turn of the nineteenth century: il, lo, la [the], un, uno, una [a, an]. 

Then it was agreed once and for all to use masc. il + noun beginning with a consonant (for eg. il muro, the wall) except for the group S+ consonant (as ST) and Z, for which masc. lo would apply [lo stemma, "the coat of arms", lo zerbino, "the mat"]. Whenever accompanied by articles, prepositions could form new ones with them: di + lo ("of + the", m., see fr. du) = dello; di + la ("of + the" f.) = della; di + gli ("of + the", m.pl.) = degli; di + le ("of + the" f.pl.) = delle. 

A similar rule is applied to it. a (en. "to, at") + determinative : al, allo, agli, alle (see fr. au, pl. aux). New colloqualisms produced by Unification Some of the coinages from regional literature have survived into modern Italian and are used in everyday conversation. 

Their origins are tied to the way of life of 19th century Italy: if you were drafted in Sicily and sent to a military compound in Piedmont, and did not know your way round you had to arrangiarsi. On a cold winter day your friend from Turin could offer you a cicchetto, but when the colonel refused to send you home on leave for Christmas, you had better not piantare una grana with him, and follow the orders. 

If you refused, the least he might want to do is send you to a guardina (prison cells for soldiers). Happily, your girlfriend from Venice would call and say ciao (a word from Venice, coming from Lat. sclavus, 'slave', akin to "I am your servant" in old-fashioned english) to you and give you a panettone she had bought in Milan. 

When you were sent to Rome your new fellow servicemen could make fun of you, the new uncivilised burino coming from the North, but as you got off your new friends might take you to some diner to enjoy a spaghettata. You might love that cute brunette serving at your table, a ciociara from Frosinone. 

You would not mind if your jealous company could call you a mafioso for getting back to Sicily with the prettiest girl in Rome, the important was that your Italian, if not your pockets, had been enriched by your trip and that there would be many picciotti from your hometown coming to your wedding. 

Italy's second language Despite the relative impopularity of France among Romantics in the Romantic Age, the foreign language Italians mostly drew on was French. Only recently has been reversed (1990s) in favor of the English language. 

But in the 19th-century French was still the language of the courts, of bon ton and avant-garde culture and no educated person or anyone pretending to be so could do without it. The snobs who used it with affectation or excessively, however, were mocked by satirists in the most unforgiving way. 

On the other hand French, not English, was taught in schools. French was the fashionable language of the high classes and sports, not to mention diplomacy, while English was still considered the low-collar language of artisans, engineers or seamen. 

When the late 19th century rich left their villas at night, they were ready to join their ladies who had dressed up for the evening all décolletées, exibiting their beautiful necklaces for the soirée. They would join their friends for a caffé concerto, where a chanteuse would cheer them up and the soubrettes would dance a can-can on the stage. 

Maybe the ladies would finish their menu with marron glacé and chat with their friends on a couch, while the men retreated to a fumoir to smoke their cigars, play poker, and maybe ask the chanteuse in her garçonnière to join them. 

Gabriele D'Annunzio's decadentist novels are set up in the high society of turn-of-the-century Rome and Il piacere (Pleasure), portrays the brilliant society of turn-of-the-century Rome. The cliché of French as the chic language, the 'sibling language' of Italian, therefore generally considered easier to learn, has probably damaged the progress of ESL and German in Italy. 

Some parents think that learning more languages (especially at an early age) can generate confusion in pupils, as if one head could only contain one language: that many languages can be learned simultaneously without interference is a fact proven by science.