The 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.  I speak  from experience, many 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), and in the region of Istria, along  the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.  The Italian language evolved in a similar fashion as Italy itself.  The various city states developed regional dialects that are still alive to date.  In the north/northwest Lombardo, Piemontese, Ligure and Emiliano are also characterized as "Gallo-Italian".  These Gallo-Italian dialects also got influenced from the French language.  My dad, a native of Milan like me, 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 northwest region surrounding Venice, the distinct dialect Veneziano, reaches up to southern Tirol  in the north and Istria to the northeast.  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".  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, Decameron by Bocaccio and Canzionere by Petrarca.  Today, Toscano is still considered the "cleanest" of all Italian dialects as it is the most similar to the original or classical  Latin.

Modern Italian Dialects
Map of Italy's Ancient Languages

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