Please Note: This is a new edition of a previously announced text.
The immense linguistic wealth of Italy, reflecting her varied and multicentered
history, is represented not only by its literary language -- the medium forged
by Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio, and adopted by countless other great
writers -- but also by its many regional and local dialects, often so different
from common Italian as to constitute in practice separate languages.
The object of this book is to describe and, in as much as possible, account
for the linguistic fragmentation of modern Italy, keeping in mind both diatopic
and diastratic variation, along with diachrony and synchrony. Numerous maps
serve as concrete illustration.
Some of the Italian dialects form the speech of a single village or small town,
others are in use in metropolis such as Milan and Naples, and a very few
others still have achieved the status of a regional language, as is the case of
Piedmontese. All of them, however, are well worthy of scientific study, from
both a diachronic and synchronic standpoint, for each one is a modern and
original form of Latin, as it evolved locally, partly under the influence of
various external factors, such as substratum and superstratum languages,
and complex socio-historical factors. In the North of the Country, there
stands out a compact and generally mutually intelligible vast group of
dialects, collectively labelled Gallo-Italic, which in many ways are more akin
to Gallo-Romance than to Tuscan Italian. The authors demonstrate that
Gallo-Italic should be classified separately from Italo-Romance, which begins
south of the famous La Spezia-Rimini line, and be granted the status of a
separate Romance language, at least in the sense that Franco-Provençal and
Rhaeto-Romansch generally are, not to mention the equally highly fragmented
The Tuscan dialects, the basis of the literary language, are conspicuous
more by the absence of certain features, e.g. metaphony, than by the
presence of any of their own: only their conservative character vis-à-vis Latin
makes them strikingly unique. Together with Tuscan go the Corsican dialects
and the modern vernacular of the city of Rome (which, in its older phase, was
instead akin to the Neapolitan type). South of the Ancona-Rome line,
Neapolitan is the best known dialect, the vehicle of an important literature and
of immensely popular songs, though it never developed into the regional
koine it might have become in the days of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Calabria and Sicily remain linguistically fragmented, though mutual
intelligibility among different varieties does not by and large constitute a
problem. A technologically trail blazing linguistic atlas of Sicily is now
underway, as is a new atlas of Italy as a whole. Other important tools for the
study of the Italian dialects are underway.