Monday, April 17, 2017

language of Italy

в честь нашего итальянского тренера запись из кворы:

Was Italian widely spoken throughout Italy when Italy became a united country?


Francesco Antonio Caria, Sardinian
Written Sat

Not at all. Back to 1861, the only people who were able to actually speak Italian were only the populations from Tuscany and central Italy from whose languages Italian comes from, due to it being virtually a dialect of Tuscan with some other, albeit limited, regional (notably Sicilian, Lombard and Venetian) inputs.

As much as the common narrative insists on the concept of Italian being already a “popular” language on the Italian peninsula because of its prestige associated with the literary works of the so-called Three Crowns (Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio), the percentage of the people with an active knowledge of the language was as little as 2.5% when said peninsula was unified under the Savoyards’ banner, according to the studies of the dearly departed linguist Tullio De Mauro*. Imposing Italian over the (mostly illiterate) population was a political tool to establish some lines of communication from one tip of the peninsula to the other, and create some basic sense of belonging to the newly founded state in the process (the Italian unification was in fact a move being conceived and carried out by a very tiny elite that didn’t exactly coincide with the interests of the already small and fragmented portion of the bourgeois class). Heck, even the Savoyards themselves that became kings of Italy didn’t have any proficiency of Italian, with their habitual languages being Piedmontese and especially French. Nearly a century later in 1951, in spite of the fascists’ chauvinistic effort in creating a monolingual country, such percentage increased by just a little (18% of the population), which is still not enough to say that it was widely spoken. The increasing usage of Italian over the course of time is actually due to the same reasons that led to the hegemony of a single language in most European countries: a central public administration requiring the use of the officially proclaimed state language (the Italian ruling class eventually set out to create a very rigid unitary polity along the lines of France, with no room being left for any regional autonomy) while “discouraging” in a number of ways the use of other competing languages, the mandatory military service, the industrialization with the accumulation of capital in a single geographic spot and the resulting human mobility, and on a more private level this, just this:
Yes, forget Dante, it can be argued that it was actually the TV and the public broadcasting company RAI the most powerful tool that made the people get in contact with Italian and made them learn such a language.

*Storia linguistica dell'Italia repubblicana: dal 1946 ai nostri giorni, 2014, Laterza, Tullio de Mauro.

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