Widely considered as one of the most beautiful spoken languages in the world, Italian is thought of as the language of opera, art, gastronomy and, of course, romance. Indeed, for those not native to Italy, the Italian language is often learned for these reasons and not from any real necessity.
The Italian language is spoken in Italy by 59 million people. Other countries where Italian is spoken include Vatican City, Croatia, Malta, San Marino, Corsica, Slovenia, Sicily, Sardinia (mainly Northern), Monaco, Albania and parts of Switzerland (mainly Southern).
The story of the Italian language originates from ancient Rome. Italian is originally derived and descended from the Latin Language, which was spoken by the Romans. As such, Italian is known and referred to as one of the ‘Romance’ Languages and remains the closest language to Latin. Italian also has a strong resemblance to the languages of France, Spain, Portugal and the Catalan. This is because Italian is from the same linguistic root and family as these languages. Once the Roman Empire had diminished, the country began to grow again and prosper around its developing and emerging cities. As they grew and matured, these cities became increasingly independent from each other and this included the languages spoken there.
Thus, the Italian language that we know evolved from different dialects over a long period of time. The fact that there were so many dialects within the country presented a situation where an official united Italian language needed to be acknowledged, for practical reasons. For example many Italian writers were writing in their own local dialects, such as Giovanni Boccaccio (1313 -1375) who wrote ‘Decameron’ and works of poetry in his local dialect. These dialects would of course only be understood completely by those who were familiar with them and so these works would not be widely appreciated. Eventually in a revolutionary move, Dante published ‘The Divine Comedy’ in the 14th Century in a variety of different Italian dialects, including his own Tuscan dialect. Obviously trying to centrally run a country under these constraints would be a logistical nightmare. As time progressed and the 14th century began, the main dialect that began to dominate Italy was Tuscan. The region of Tuscany was centrally located in Italy and its capital city of Florence was extremely significant financially due to the volume and diversity of its trade. And ultimately, the unified standard official Italian language was borne mainly from the dialect of Tuscany.
Even today, there are still many variations of different dialects within the Italian language. Within the same region there are often different dialects. This is the case in Venice, Naples and Friuli, Sardinia and Sicily. The local dialects within regions are usually spoken by the elderly population, whilst the younger population tend to speak the official Italian Language.
The Italian language lives up to the fascinating history of Italy. Its multifaceted evolution borne of proud individuality is represented and celebrated and has given the Italian language its unique passion.
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