History of the Italian Language

Local Dialects and Translation Issues

Italian is considered one of the Romance languages because it is originally derived from Latin. Its development was sporadic due to the individuality of the Italian states throughout their long history. Each region created its own dialect, some of which did not bear much resemblance to the standard Italian language. In modern times, the dialects are still spoken, but the overall written Italian language has been standardized. Many Italian residents are bilingual, speaking an alternative language along with several dialects of their own language.

The local dialects

There are several different dialects of the Italian language, each influenced by the local region where it developed. Italian originally derived from Latin spoken by the Romans. The most common Italian dialect is the Tuscan version that developed in Florence. The central location of Florence has helped this dialect remain the closest to the standard written Italian language. Other dialects are have far greater differences than standard Italian. The differences between each dialect of the Italian language can be quite significant as well.

Attempts to standardize

At different times throughout history, there have been proposals of a standardized Italian language, but none of them have ever come to fruition. The first proposal was suggested back in 1525, but by 1861 the discussion had faded. At that time, it was determined that only a few percent of Italians were still speaking their native language, with most speaking the local dialect or another language altogether.

Problems with translation

This multitude of dialects has caused problems in the translation of ancient documents. The earliest Italian writings go back to the 10th century, when the dialects were only spoken in their local region. Some historical Italian artists played a large part in translating and standardizing the language through their art. Petrarca Francesco, one of the early Italian translators and a well-known humanist and poet, worked with Boccacio to write some of the first standardized Italian works. Another important writer in the development of the Italian language was Dante Alighieri. His crowning achievement, “Divine Comedy” is considered a classic of Italian literature and was later studied in depth by Boccacio.

Modern-day Italy

The advent of television and public education served to standardize the language where formal proposals had failed. Today, most of the Italian population speaks the standard language, with the dialects being used more in certain local areas. Over half of the country is bilingual, speaking another language such as French, English, or German in addition to their native Italian.