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History of the Italian Language

As is the case for many languages, the root of the Italian Language dates back to the Romans who imposed their native tongue Latin, or as the Italians call it “Latino”, on all people under their dominion. It is one of the Romance languages grouped under the Indo-European family of languages. Italian, considered the closest living language to Latin, is spoken in many dialects, all of which are bastardized spin-offs from Latin colloquialism.

ISpeak from experience, many Italian dialects sound like completely different languages. Italian is the native language throughout the Italian peninsula, Sicily, northern Sardinia and Corsica in the south and to the north throughout southern Switzerland (in the region called Ticino in Italian and Tessin in German), in the region between Austria and Italy, know as “Suedtirol”or South Tyrol, and in the region of Istria, along the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.

Ancient Italian Languages

Italy's Ancient Languages

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The Italian language evolved in a similar fashion as Italy itself. The various city states developed regional dialects most of which are still alive today. The dialects throughout the north/northwestern Lombardian, Piemontese, Ligurian and Emilian regions are also characterized as “Gallo-Italian”.

These Gallo-Italian dialects got influenced from the French language. My dad, a native of Milan, hardly spoke foreign languages. You can imagine his astonishment when he traveled to Paris and spoke his Milanese dialect (Lombardo) and people actually understood him.

In the northeastern region surrounding Venice, the distinct dialect Veneziano, reaches up to southern Tyrol in the north and Istria to the east. The center of Italy is dominated by the dialects Toscano, Marchegiano, Umbro, Abruzzese, Laziale, Molisano and Campano.

The very distinct southern dialects, such as Pugliese, Lucano, Maruggese, Salentino and Calabrese are as difficult to understand to the northern Italians as the dialects spoken on the islands of Sicily, Siciliano, and the islands of Sardinia, Sardo and Corsica, Corso.

The most notable writings by the great Italian writers dating back to the 10th century were written in dialects. Only much later, around the 15th century, when Florence began to emerge as the center of culture and commerce, the Italian language started to “unify” around the “Toscano” (Tuscan).

Vocabolary - Academia Crusca


Accademia della  Crusca

The first edition of an official Italian vocabulary, published in 1612 by the Accademia della Crusca, was built on Florentine works such as the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri, Decameron by Boccaccio and Canzoniere di Petrarca. Today, Toscano, with its capital of Florence, is still considered the “cleanest” of all Italian dialects as it is the most similar to the original or classical Latin.

By enlarge, modern Italy's Dialects are based on the ancient traditions and have remained characteristically quite distinct between the various regions. 

To this day, rural Italy is still a "man's world" and it is part of the charm to see groups of old men gathering at the local piazzas, having their aperitive or espresso, playing the traditional boccia game, and conversing in their native dialect.

Modern Italy's Dialects by Region

Modern Italy's Dialects

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