Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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.

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