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Languages of Italy

There are approximately thirty-four native living spoken languages and related dialects in Italy,[6] most of which are indigenous evolutions of Vulgar Latin, and are therefore classified as Romance languages. Although they are sometimes referred to as regional languages, there is no uniformity within any Italian region, and speakers from one locale within a region are typically aware of the features distinguishing their local tongue from the one of other places nearby. The official and most widely spoken language across the country is Standard Italian, a direct descendant of Tuscan.

Languages of Italy
Linguistic map of Italy - Legend.svg
Regional and minority languages of Italy [1][2][3][4][not in citation given]
Official languagesItalian
Regional languagessee "classification"
Minority languagessee "historical language minorities"
Main immigrant languagesSpanish, Albanian, Arabic, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Ukranian, Russian, Bulgarian, and Romani[5]
Main foreign languages
Sign languagesItalian Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Italian QWERTY
Italian Keyboard layout.svg
SourceSpecial Eurobarometer, Europeans and their Languages, 2006

Almost all the Romance languages native to Italy, with the notable exception of Italian, are often colloquially referred to as "dialects", although for some of them the term may coexist with other labels like "minority languages" or "vernaculars".[7] However, the use of the term "dialect" to refer to the languages of Italy may erroneously imply that the languages spoken in Italy are actual "dialects" of Standard Italian in the prevailing linguistic sense of "varieties or variations of a language".[8] This is not the case regarding the longstanding languages of Italy, as they are not varieties of Italian. Most of the local Romance languages of Italy predate Italian and evolved locally from Vulgar Latin, independently of what would become the national language, long before the fairly recent spread of Italian throughout Italy.[9] In fact, Standard Italian itself can be thought of as either a continuation of, or a dialect heavily based on, Florentine Tuscan. The indigenous local Romance tongues of Italy are therefore classified as separate languages that evolved independently from Latin, rather than "dialects" or variations of the Italian language.[10][11][12] Conversely, with the spread of Standard Italian throughout Italy in the 20th century, local varieties of Italian have also developed throughout the peninsula, influenced to varying extents by the underlying local languages, most noticeably at the phonological level; though regional boundaries seldom correspond to isoglosses distinguishing these varieties, these variations on Italians are commonly referred to as Regional Italian (italiano regionale).

There are several minority languages that belong to other Indo-European branches, such as Cimbrian (Germanic), Arbëresh (Albanian), the Slavomolisano dialect of Serbo-Croatian (Slavic), and Griko (Hellenic). Other non-indigenous languages are spoken by a substantial percentage of the population due to immigration.[13][not in citation given]

Contents

Legal status of ItalianEdit

The original Italian Constitution does not explicitly express that Italian is the official national language. Since the constitution was penned, there have been some laws and articles written on the procedures of criminal cases passed that explicitly state that Italian should be used:

  • Statute of the Trentino-South Tyrol, (constitutional law of the northern region of Italy around Trento) – "[...] [la lingua] italiana [...] è la lingua ufficiale dello Stato." (Statuto Speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Art. 99, "[...] [the language] Italian [...] is the official language of the State.")
  • Code for civil procedure – "In tutto il processo è prescritto l'uso della lingua italiana. (Codice di procedura civile, Art. 122, "In all procedures, it is required that the Italian language is used.")
  • Code for criminal procedure – "Gli atti del procedimento penale sono compiuti in lingua italiana." (Codice di procedura penale, Art. 109 [169-3; 63, 201 att.], "The acts of the criminal proceedings are carried out in the Italian language.")
  • Article 1 of law 482/1999 – "La lingua ufficiale della Repubblica è l'italiano." (Legge 482/1999, Art. 1 Comma 1, "The official language of the Republic is Italian.")[14]

Historical language minoritiesEdit

Recognition by the Italian stateEdit

 
Communities recognized by Italy as historical language minorities.[15]

The Republic safeguards linguistic minorities by means of appropriate measures.

— Italian Constitution, Art. 6

The Art. 6 of the Italian Constitution was drafted by the Founding Fathers to show sympathy for the country's historical linguistic minorities, in a way for the newly-founded Republic to let them become part of the national fabric and distance itself from the Italianization policies promoted earlier because of nationalism, especially during Fascism.[16][17]

However, more than a half century passed before the Art. 6 was followed by any of the above-mentioned "appropriate measures".[18] Italy applied in fact the Article for the first time in 1999, by means of the national law N.482/99.[19]

Before said legal framework entered into force, only four linguistic minorities (the French-speaking community in the Aosta Valley; the German-speaking community and, to a limited extent, the Ladin one in the Province of Bolzano; the Slovene-speaking community in the Province of Trieste and, with less rights, the Province of Gorizia) enjoyed some kind of acknowledgment and protection, stemming from specific clauses within international treaties.[16] The other eight linguistic minorities were to be recognized only in 1999, including the Slovene-speaking minority in the Province of Udine and the Germanic populations (Walser, Mocheni and Cimbri) residing in provinces different from Bolzano. Some now-recognized minority groups, namely in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Sardinia, already provided themselves with regional laws of their own. It has been estimated that less than 400.000 people, out of the two million people belonging to the twelve historical minorities (with Sardinian being the numerically biggest one[20][21][22]), enjoyed state-wide protection.[23]

Around the 1960s, the Italian Parliament eventually resolved to apply the previously neglected article of the country's fundamental Charter. The Parliament thus appointed a "Committee of three Sages" to single out the groups that were to be recognized as linguistic minorities, and further elaborate the reason for their inclusion. The nominated people were Tullio de Mauro, Giovan Battista Pellegrini and Alessandro Pizzorusso, three notable figures who distinguished themselves with their life-long activity of research in the field of both linguistics and legal theory. Based on linguistic, historical as well as anthropological considerations, the experts eventually selected thirteen groups, corresponding to the currently recognized twelve with the further addition of the Sinti and Romani-speaking populations.[24] The original list was approved, with the only exception of the nomadic peoples, who lacked the territoriality requisite and therefore needed a separate law. However, the draft was presented to the law-making bodies when the legislature was about to run its course, and had to be passed another time. The bill was met with resistance by all the subsequent legislatures, being reluctant to challenge the widely-held myth of "Italian linguistic homogeneity",[18] and only in 1999 did it eventually pass, becoming a law.

In the end, the historical language minorities were thus recognized by the Law no. 482/1999: Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovene, Croatian, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan and Sardinian (Legge 15 Dicembre 1999, n. 482, Art. 2, comma 1).[19][25]

Some interpretations of said law seem to divide the twelve languages into two groups, with the first including the non-Latin speaking populations (with the exception of the Catalan-speaking one) and the second including only the Romance-speaking populations. Some other interpretations state that a further distinction is implied, considering only some groups to be national minorities.[18][26] Regardless of the ambiguous phrasing, all the twelve groups are technically supposed to be allowed the same measures of protection;[27] furthermore, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, signed and ratified by Italy in 1997, applies to all the twelve groups mentioned by the 1999 national law, therefore including the Friulians, the Sardinians,[28][29][30] the Occitans, the Ladins etc., with the addition of the Romani.

In actual practice, not each of the twelve historical language minorities is given the same consideration.[18] In fact, the discrimination lies in the urgent need to award the highest degree of protection only to the French-speaking minority in the Aosta Valley and the German one in South Tyrol, owing to international treaties.[31] For example, the institutional websites are only in Italian with a few exceptions, like a French version of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.[32] A bill proposed by former prime minister Mario Monti's cabinet formally introduced a differential treatment between the twelve historical language minorities, distinguishing between those with a "foreign mother tongue" (the groups protected by agreements with Austria, France and Slovenia) and those with a "peculiar dialect" (all the others). The bill was later implemented, but deemed unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.[33][34]

The selection of the twelve recognized languages to the exclusion of others is a matter of some controversy.[8] Daniele Bonamore argues that many regional languages were not given recognition in light of their historical participation in the making of the Italian language: languages like Sicilian, Umbrian, Neapolitan, Venetian and Tuscan are considered historical founders of the Italian linguistic majority; outside of such epicenter are, on the other hand, Friulian, Ladin, Sardinian, Franco-Provençal and Occitan, which are recognized as distinct languages.[35]

Recognition at the European levelEdit

Italy is a signatory of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, but has not ratified the treaty, and therefore its provisions protecting regional languages do not apply in the country.[36]

The Charter does not, however, establish at what point differences in expression result in a separate language, deeming it an "often controversial issue", and citing the necessity to take into account, other than purely linguistic criteria, also "psychological, sociological and political considerations".[37]

Regional recognition of the local languagesEdit

Conservation statusEdit

 
Frequency of use of regional languages in Italy, based on ISTAT data from 2015.

According to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, there are 31 endangered languages in Italy.[51] The degree of endangerment is classified in different categories ranging from 'safe' (safe languages are not included in the atlas) to 'extinct' (when there are no speakers left).[52]

The source for the languages' distribution is the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger[51] unless otherwise stated, and refers to Italy exclusively.

VulnerableEdit

Definitely endangeredEdit

Severely endangeredEdit

ClassificationEdit

All living languages indigenous to Italy are part of the Indo-European language family. The source is the SIL's Ethnologue unless otherwise stated.[54] Language classification can be a controversial issue, when a classification is contested by academic sources, this is reported in the 'notes' column.

They can be divided into Romance languages and non-Romance languages.

Romance languagesEdit

Gallo-Rhaetian and Ibero-RomanceEdit

Language Family ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
French Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Oïl French fra 100,000
Arpitan Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Oïl Southeastern frp 70,000
Friulian Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Rhaetian fur 600,000[55]
Ladin Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Rhaetian lld 31,000
Catalan Ibero-Romance East Iberian cat Algherese 20,000
Occitan Ibero-Romance Oc oci Provençal; Gardiol 100,000

Gallo-Italic languagesEdit

Language ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Emiliano-Romagnolo eml Emilian; Romagnol (Forlivese); Emilian and Romagnol have been assigned two different ISO 639-3 codes (egl and rgn, respectively). 1,000,000
Ligurian lij Tabarchino; Mentonasc; Intemelio; Brigasc 500,000
Lombard lmo Western Lombard (see Western dialects of Lombard language); Eastern Lombard; Gallo-Italic of Sicily 3,600,000
Piedmontese pms 1,600,000
Venetian vec Triestine; Fiuman; Chipilo Venetian; Talian; veneziano Lagunar Grouped with either Gallo-Italic or Italo-Dalmatian 3,800,000

Italo-Dalmatian languagesEdit

Not included is Corsican, which is mainly spoken on the French island of Corsica. Istriot is only spoken in Croatia. Judeo-Italian is moribund.

Language ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Italian ita Tuscan; National language 60,000,000
Central Italian nap Romanesco; Sabino; Marchigiano 5,700,000
Neapolitan ita Abruzzese; Cosentino; Bari dialect 3,000,000
Sicilian scn Salentino; Southern Calabrian 4,700,000

Sardinian languageEdit

Sardinian is a distinct language with significant phonological differences among its own varieties. Ethnologue, not without controversy, even goes as far as considering Sardinian to be a macrolanguage with four separate languages of its own, all being included along with the Corsican varieties in a specific subgroup of the Romance languages, named Southern Romance:[56] this hypotesis has gained little support from linguists. UNESCO, while seeming to share the same opinion of Ethnologue by calling Gallurese and Sassarese "Sardinian",[51] considers them to be originally dialects of Corsican rather than Sardinian on the other hand.[51] As is not infrequently the case in such controversies, the linguistic landscape of Sardinia is in principle most accurately described as being, for the most part, a dialect continuum.

Language ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Campidanese Sardinian sro Ortographic model of the southern Sardinian dialects 500,000
Logudorese Sardinian src Ortographic model of the central Sardinian dialects 500,000
Gallurese Sardinian sdn Outlying dialect of Corsican, sometimes considered part of Sardinian 100,000
Sassarese Sardinian sdc Outlying dialect of Corsican, sometimes considered part of Sardinian 100,000

Non-Romance languagesEdit

Albanian, Slavic, Greek and Romani languagesEdit

Language Family ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Arbëresh Albanian Tosk aae considered an outlying dialect of Albanian by the UNESCO[51] 100,000
Serbo-Croatian Slavic South Western hbs Molise Croatian 1,000
Slovene Slavic South Western slv Gai Valley dialect; Resian; Torre Valley dialect; Natisone Valley dialect; Brda dialect; Karst dialect; Inner Carniolan dialect; Istrian dialect 100,000
Italiot Greek Hellenic (Greek) Attic ell Griko (Salento); Calabrian Greek 20,000
Romani Indo-Iranian Indo-Aryan Central Zone Romani rom

High German languagesEdit

Language Family ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
German Middle German East Middle German deu Tyrolean dialects Austrian German is the usual standard variety 315,000
Cimbrian Upper German Bavarian-Austrian cim sometimes considered a dialect of Bavarian, also considered an outlying dialect of Bavarian by the UNESCO[51] 2,200
Mocheno Upper German Bavarian-Austrian mhn considered an outlying dialect of Bavarian by the UNESCO[51] 1,000
Walser Upper German Alemannic wae 3,400

Geographic distributionEdit

Northern ItalyEdit

The Northern Italian languages are conventionally defined as those Romance languages spoken north of the La Spezia–Rimini Line, which runs through the northern Apennine Mountains just to the north of Tuscany; however, the dialects of Occitan and Franco-Provençal spoken in the extreme northwest of Italy (e.g. the Valdôtain in the Aosta Valley) are generally excluded. The classification of these languages is difficult and not agreed-upon, due both to the variations among the languages and to the fact that they share isoglosses of various sorts with both the Italo-Romance languages to the south and the Gallo-Romance languages to the northwest.


One common classification divides these languages into four groups:

Any such classification runs into the basic problem that there is a dialect continuum throughout northern Italy, with a continuous transition of spoken dialects between e.g. Venetian and Ladin, or Venetian and Emilio-Romagnolo (usually considered Gallo-Italian).

All of these languages are considered innovative relative to the Romance languages as a whole, with some of the Gallo-Italian languages having phonological changes nearly as extreme as standard French (usually considered the most phonologically innovative of the Romance languages). This distinguishes them significantly from standard Italian, which is extremely conservative in its phonology (and notably conservative in its morphology).[57]

Southern Italy and islandsEdit

Approximate distribution of the regional languages of Sardinia and Southern Italy according to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger:

One common classification divides these languages into two groups:

All of these languages are considered conservative relative to the Romance languages as a whole, with Sardinian being the most conservative of them all.

Mother tongues of foreignersEdit

Language (2012)[58][59] Population
Romanian 798,364
Arabic 476,721
Albanian 380,361
Spanish 255,459
Italian 162,148
Chinese 159,597
Russian 126,849
Ukrainian 119,883
French 116,287
Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian 93,289
Polish 87,283
Others 862,986

Standardised written formsEdit

Although "[al]most all Italian dialects were being written in the Middle Ages, for administrative, religious, and often artistic purposes,"[60] use of local language gave way to stylized Tuscan, eventually labeled Italian. Local languages are still occasionally written, but only the following regional languages of Italy have a standardised written form. This may be widely accepted or used alongside more traditional written forms:

GalleryEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Tagliavini, Carlo (1962). Le origini delle lingue neolatine: introduzione alla filologia romanza. R. Patròn.
  2. ^ "La variazione diatopica". Archived from the original on February 2012.
  3. ^ [1] Archived 7 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ AIS, Sprach-und Sachatlas Italiens und der Südschweiz, Zofingen 1928-1940
  5. ^ https://www.tuttitalia.it/statistiche/cittadini-stranieri-2018/
  6. ^ "Italy". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-07-22.
  7. ^ Loporcaro 2009; Marcato 2007; Posner 1996; Repetti 2000:1–2; Cravens 2014.
  8. ^ a b Cravens 2014
  9. ^ Tullio, de Mauro (2014). Storia linguistica dell'Italia repubblicana: dal 1946 ai nostri giorni. Editori Laterza, EAN: 9788858113622
  10. ^ Maiden, Martin; Parry, Mair (March 7, 2006). The Dialects of Italy. Routledge. p. 2.
  11. ^ Repetti, Lori (2000). Phonological Theory and the Dialects of Italy. John Benjamins Publishing. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  12. ^ Andreose, Alvise; Renzi, Lorenzo (2013), "Geography and distribution of the Romance Languages in Europe", in Maiden, Martin; Smith, John Charles; Ledgeway, Adam, The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages, Vol. 2, Contexts, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 302–308
  13. ^ "Legge 482". Camera.it. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
  14. ^ "Legge 482". Webcitation.org. Archived from the original on 9 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
  15. ^ "Lingue di Minoranza e Scuola: Carta Generale". Minoranze-linguistiche-scuola.it. Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Tutela delle minoranze linguistiche e articolo 6 Costituzione".
  17. ^ "Articolo 6 Costituzione, Dispositivo e Spiegazione".
  18. ^ a b c d "Schiavi Fachin, Silvana. Articolo 6, Lingue da tutelare".
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  22. ^ "What Languages are Spoken in Italy?".
  23. ^ Salvi, Sergio (1975). Le lingue tagliate. Storia della minoranze linguistiche in Italia, Rizzoli Editore, p. 12-14
  24. ^ Camera dei deputati, Servizio Studi, Documentazione per le Commissioni Parlamentari, Proposte di legge della VII Legislatura e dibattito dottrinario,123/II, marzo 1982
  25. ^ "Italy's general legislation, Language Laws".
  26. ^ [2] Archived 16 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ Bonamore, Daniele (2008). Lingue minoritarie lingue nazionali lingue ufficiali nella legge 482/1999, FrancoAngeli Editore, Milano, p. 29
  28. ^ "Lingua Sarda, Legislazione Internazionale, Sardegna Cultura".
  29. ^ "Coordinamentu sardu ufitziale, lettera a Consiglio d'Europa: "Rispettare impegni"".
  30. ^ "Il Consiglio d'Europa: «Lingua sarda discriminata, norme non rispettate»".
  31. ^ See the appeal of the attorney Felice Besostri against the Italian electoral law of 2015.
  32. ^ "Chambre des députés".
  33. ^ "Sentenza Corte costituzionale nr. 215 del 3 luglio 2013, depositata il 18 luglio 2013 su ricorso della regione Friuli-VG".
  34. ^ "Anche per la Consulta i friulani non sono una minoranza di serie B" (PDF).
  35. ^ Bonamore, Daniele (2006). Lingue minoritarie Lingue nazionali Lingue ufficiali nella legge 482/1999, Editore Franco Angeli, p.16
  36. ^ "Chart of signatures and ratifications of Treaty 148". Council of Europe. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  37. ^ What is a regional or minority language?, Council of Europe, retrieved 2015-10-17
  38. ^ a b Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste, Title VIe, Region Vallée d'Aoste, retrieved 2015-10-17
  39. ^ Puglia, QUIregione - Il Sito web Istituzionale della Regione. "QUIregione - Il Sito web Istituzionale della Regione Puglia". QUIregione - Il Sito web Istituzionale della Regione Puglia. Retrieved 2018-06-10.
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  42. ^ «L.R. 25/2016 - 1. Ai fini della presente legge, la Regione promuove la rivitalizzazione, la valorizzazione e la diffusione di tutte le varietà locali della lingua lombarda, in quanto significative espressioni del patrimonio culturale immateriale, attraverso: a) lo svolgimento di attività e incontri finalizzati a diffonderne la conoscenza e l'uso; b) la creazione artistica; c) la diffusione di libri e pubblicazioni, l'organizzazione di specifiche sezioni nelle biblioteche pubbliche di enti locali o di interesse locale; d) programmi editoriali e radiotelevisivi; e) indagini e ricerche sui toponimi. 2. La Regione valorizza e promuove tutte le forme di espressione artistica del patrimonio storico linguistico quali il teatro tradizionale e moderno in lingua lombarda, la musica popolare lombarda, il teatro di marionette e burattini, la poesia, la prosa letteraria e il cinema. 3. La Regione promuove, anche in collaborazione con le università della Lombardia, gli istituti di ricerca, gli enti del sistema regionale e altri qualificati soggetti culturali pubblici e privati, la ricerca scientifica sul patrimonio linguistico storico della Lombardia, incentivando in particolare: a) tutte le attività necessarie a favorire la diffusione della lingua lombarda nella comunicazione contemporanea, anche attraverso l'inserimento di neologismi lessicali, l'armonizzazione e la codifica di un sistema di trascrizione; b) l'attività di archiviazione e digitalizzazione; c) la realizzazione, anche mediante concorsi e borse di studio, di opere e testi letterari, tecnici e scientifici, nonché la traduzione di testi in lingua lombarda e la loro diffusione in formato digitale.»
  43. ^ Ordine del Giorno n. 1118, Presentato il 30/11/1999, Consiglio Regionale del Piemonte, retrieved 2015-10-17
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  47. ^ "Legge Regionale 3 Luglio 2018, n. 22". Regione autonoma della Sardegna – Regione Autònoma de Sardigna.
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  57. ^ Hull, Geoffrey, PhD thesis 1982 (University of Sydney), published as The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia: Historical Grammar of the Padanian Language. 2 vols. Sydney: Beta Crucis, 2017.
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ReferencesEdit

  • Loporcaro, Michele (2009). Profilo linguistico dei dialetti italiani (in Italian). Bari: Laterza.
  • Cravens, Thomas D. (2014). "Italia Linguistica and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages". Forum Italicum. 48. pp. 202–218.
  • Marcato, Carla (2007). Dialetto, dialetti e italiano (in Italian). Bologna: Il Mulino.
  • Posner, Rebecca (1996). The Romance languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rapetti, Lori, ed. (2000). Phonological theory and the dialects of Italy. Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science, Series IV Current Issues in Linguistic Theory. 212. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.

External linksEdit