Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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.

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