LINGUIST List 28.2763

Tue Jun 20 2017

Review: Italian; General Ling; Historical Ling; Language Acquisition; Pragmatics; Text/Corpus Ling: Lubello (2016)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 25-Jan-2017
From: Emilia Aigotti Garcia <>
Subject: Manuale di linguistica italiana
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Sergio Lubello
TITLE: Manuale di linguistica italiana
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2016

REVIEWER: Emilia Aigotti Garcia, Universidad de Guadalajara

Reviews Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

This book is Volume 13 of Manuals of Romance Languages by de Gruyter (Edited by Günter Holtus and Fernando Sánchez Miret) which has been designed to offer a complete and wide ranging historical and contemporary picture of the romance languages themselves and linguistic studies concerning these languages. It is expected to consist of 60 volumes with 15-30 contributors each and an average of 600 pages each. The volumes are written in a single language ranging from French, Italian, Spanish, English and Portuguese.

Sergio Lubello starts the introduction to this volume by mentioning similar foundational work on the Italian languages. Including: Volume 4 of Manuals of Romance Languages, Lexikon der Romantistischen Linguistik (1988) along with three other works of this same time period on Italian grammar- Serianni 1988, Renzi, Salvi, and Cardinaletti 1988-1995, and Schwarz 1988. He also makes note of more recent work such as the Enciclopedia dell’italiano (Simone 2010-2011), Storia della lingua italiana (Serianni, Trifone 1993-1994) and Storia dell’italiano scritto (Antonelli, Motolese, Tomasin 2014) among others, all of which have contributed a voluminous amount to the linguistic body of research on the Italian language. However, Lubello stresses the contemporary nature of this volume in comparison to previous research. In particular Volume 13 focuses on the changes in the Italian language in the last quarter of a century.

The editor’s note frequently emphasizes the diversity, wide scope, and diachronic nature and intent of the Manuals of Romance Languages and this volume has achieved just that. The articles (mostly of Parts 2 and 3) support its contemporary basis while offering synopses of older foundational research where relevant. Particular attention is paid to the morphing social, cultural and linguistic landscape in Italy as it has been affected by technology, immigration and demographic changes, as well as a large population with “functional illiteracy”. It includes an introduction and three sections of 30 academic articles by 30 different authors from a diverse scope of subjects including: philology, dialectology, morphophonology, syntax, morphology, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, lexicography, grammaticography, geolinguistics, psycho- and neurolinguistics, sign language, and applied linguistics.

A little bit of knowledge about Italian history is crucial as several articles make diachronic comparisons between contemporary phenomena and those that occurred pre-unification or in the Middle Ages. Unification is used in many articles as a defining moment not just in history but in the linguistic development of Italy. It is therefore important to briefly explain the main details of this historical event. Unification, also called Risorgimento “resurgence”, occurred in the 19th century and its end result was the creation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. It was a political and social movement toward nationhood. After the fall of the Roman Empire (around 476 CE) the country was fractured into city states and territorial states and at times ruled by many different groups including Spain, France and the Hapsburgs. Some say the fall of the Roman Empire marked a beginning to the Middle Ages. It was important that Risorgimento also inspired Italian nationalism among the people.

The volume is broken into three sections: (1) Italian in history – containing 6 articles, (2) Contemporary Italian: structure and variety- containing 15 articles, and (3) Places of codification, questions, and recent developments in research- containing 9 articles. Part One lays a historical foundation of the Italian language and seems to focus on how it changed in relation to important political and historical occurrences, while Part Two (the meat of the book) focuses on more contemporary issues particularly in the sociolinguistic realm. Part Three is a blend of many other mostly contemporary topics and research related to the Italian language, seemingly without any particular focus.

Topics covered in Part One include:

- The Italoromanza dialect and written testimonials, with specific attention paid to the relationship between Latin and the vernacular in medieval times.

- The morphophonology of the Italoromanzi vernacular in medieval times, a description of traits related to modern dialects, the difference between past and present dialect groupings, in particular the Tuscan vernacular related to the formation of a common language, geographic justifications for Italoromania before the existence of a standard Italian, geographic distinctions between northern, southern, high-southern, and extreme southern dialects.

- The syntax of antiquated Italian vernacular based on Florentine data from the 13th and early 14th centuries and how it differs from modern dialects.

- A diachronic examination of the cultural and institutional factors that laid the foundation for a Tuscan based Italian pre- and post- unification including: music and art, printing and publishing, church, school, politics and bureaucracy, theater, cinema and mass media, socio-ethnic and socio-economic dynamics.

- Italian outside Italy from the Middle Ages to Unification – “language without empire”. Specifically the prestige of Italian art and music in Europe and England from the Renaissance to the First Modern Age, in the Mediterranean the circulation of Italoromanze through commercial carriers, and in the Ottoman Empire supranational communication and diplomacy.

- The idea of a common language, a non-literary language, popular language, and regional languages in light of multidialectalism, a characteristic of the 16th to 20th centuries (given written examples from the semi-educated class).

Part 2 includes:

- Current language trends as a result of immigration, the web and the expansion of English, key trends in phonetics/phonology, spelling and punctuation, morphosyntaxis, and lexicon to indicate possible changes in the linguistic structure.

- Morphology of contemporary Italian including the discussion of gender and flexible gender of nouns and adjectives, and organization of the verbal paradigm, as well as diverse processes of formation, the groupings of semantic categories, and the principal innovations in the formation of contemporary Italian words.

- A review of the discipline of textual study and the main fields of analysis in the last twenty years, interesting studies relating to the interpretation of text and the relationship between text, context and implied meanings, as well as a look at anaphoric cohesion, voice, enunciation, dialogue and monologue using key texts of foreign learners.

- An overview of pragmatics research while looking at different publications including those related to context, text and deixis, speech acts, verbal interaction, the relationship between linguistic structure, use and meaning, and cross-cultural aspects.

- A sociolinguistic profile in regard to immigration, the death of dialects and the new social acceptance and value given to dialects, particularly distinguishing the sociolinguistics of variation and social markedness as well as the sociolinguistics of minority languages and dialects and its interplay with social status.

- Geographic distribution and characteristics of the dialects of Italoromanzi (the rise of the Romance variety and the beginning of the standard Italian).

- Italian by region, looking at the dialects that occurred in the century and a half after unification. A new wave of dialectalization that led to the learning of Tuscan-based Italian, as well as diatopic facets of the new Italian described by phonological, morphosyntactic, and lexical characteristics.

- A definition, explanation and discussion of research of the semi-educated class from the last twenty years concentrating in diaphasic and diastratic criteria, as well as trends in relation to the presence of substandard Italian.

- Types of jargon and the formation of slang words, as well as juvenile language and the interface of language, gender and sexism with particular attention paid to recent research.

- Italian research on specialized languages from 1988-2015, the study of diamesic variation, didactics of the university, recent research in terminology, neology and lexicographical production, and specialized vocabulary at various levels.
- Recent trends of Italian in the mass media with a focus on cross media and user interaction in social networks considering newspapers, radio and TV with specific attention to text, syntax and lexicon, as well as a description of language of the web, printed and online newspapers, radio and TV with recent studies on the variation of diamesia and diaphasia.

- The traditional areas of public and institutional Italian: the bureaucratic-administrative language, political communication, the legislative-administrative language in the European Union, called euroletto (eurocratese), with reference to the Swiss Confederation, as well as the diffusion of English in public and institutional communication in Italian.

- A diachronic and synchronic study of Italian considering computer-mediated communication with a look at diamesia as an autonomous dimension of variation.

- A reconstruction of the conditions that made Italian a language for foreigners post-unification, language policy choices post-unification, and how (since the 1980s) the state has focused on the role of Italian in the world and its competition with other languages.

- Italian legislation regarding minorities within the European framework, the alloglot community in Italy, a historical context as well as the vitality of the language and on the manner of its use, and Italian legislation in the area of minorities.

And Part 3 includes:

- Lexicography and Italian meta-lexicography: Particularly antique bilingual glossaries, the first monolingual dictionaries, the Accademia della Crusca, the developments of historical lexicography and etymology, dictionaries of individual eras and individual authors, dictionaries of common use and dialectal lexicography as well as specialized dictionaries.

- Grammaticography: “the crisis of grammar in an idealistic age”, a view of Italian grammaticography from the late twentieth century to today, an outline of the theoretical foundation, from generative linguistics to valenziale grammar with specific attention given to two works of early Italian syntax edited by G. Salvi and M. Dardano.

- Geolinguistics: Consisting of two parts (1) a brief description of its origins within romance philology as well as the empirical basis for the linguistic domains of Romania, and (2) the dialectometry of Salzburg with particular focus on geo-variational data in linguistic atlases in the last 100 years and the geolinguistics interpretation of dialectometry.

- Corpus linguistics: Outlines the characteristics that define the Italian corpora, reviews the corpora already fulfilled, and identifies the domains within linguistics that have used Italian corpora (lexical, vocabulary, research of phonetics and intonation, morpho-syntaxis and structure of information, semantics, the instruction of Italian L2) with some important contributions in the last 15 years.

- Philology: focuses attention on the relationship between philology and linguistics, grammatical history and lexicography, the problem of the publication of ancient texts, possible contributions to publishing, and points on the cooperation between philology and language historians.

- Language policies and the use of English in university instruction: anguage policy in general in Italy and as it relates to pre- and post-unification and current debates on the diverse topics within this field some of which include: the geographic or cultural seat of the superior language, the emulation and competition between Italian and other European languages, the purity of the language, and attempts at handwriting reform.

- Psycho and Neurolinguistics: applied linguistics and cognitive linguistics together with psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics anchored by interdisciplinary collaboration, while tracing a brief history and methods, and major themes in three chapters (1) applied linguistics in the strict sense, (2) psycholinguistics, and (3) neurolinguistics.

- Didactics and instruction of Italian and its phonology: makes mention of the debate on the direction taken in Italian teaching, and the interaction between the didactics of Italian to foreigners and to Italian speakers.

- Italian Sign Language: Retracing 30 years of study and answering: What are the first evidences of communication of the deaf in Italy? Who uses this language? Can LIS be considered a natural language? Is it possible to study it in relation to human language universals?


The scope and wide variety of themes addressed is impressive and at 737 pages I would expect such. The entire manual with all its volumes is an impressive endeavor. This, as Volume 13, accurately targets contemporary sociolinguistic issues as the largest chunk of the book while still offering some discussion of the history of the language for readers who did not study previous volumes. The third section lacks a clear theme but its topics are poignant and interesting and cover the wide breadth that the editor promises. This is a reference book so it is best used as a sort of Italian linguistic encyclopedia chock full of information that will surely pique the interest of any linguist, researcher, or student interested in the Italian language.


Emilia Aigotti García is a linguistic researcher from Chicago. She received her master's in linguistics from Northeastern Illinois University where she focused on first language acquisition, indigenous languages, and phonology. She hopes to attend one of the doctorate programs in Canada this fall to study phonetics/phonology, semantics, and indigenous languages (her true passion). She currently lives in Jalisco, Mexico (with her husband and son) and is a teacher of English for Special Purposes: Anthropology/Anthropological Linguistics. She is a lifelong student of Spanish and Italian.

Page Updated: 20-Jun-2017