What do you know about the history of the Italian language and dialects?

The history of the Italian language and dialects is quite a long one. The modern Italian language and current dialects went through a number of changes and evolved over the time due to many factors.

As you might know, the Italian language stems from Latin and started developing in the 5th century. After the fall of the Roman Empire: for many centuries Latin was the main language. Latin was used in official documents and communication. However vernacular forms of the language started spreading among the population.

The first documents written in Italian (the vernacular language spoken by common people) date back to the 10th century. Since there, authors started writing in Italian. At that time was a sort of regional language influenced by local features, which made the language different from area to area.

On the 13th century, Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio, the three poets from Tuscany who used the Tuscan language to write their popular works. In this way thay laid the foundations for the modern Italian language.

In 1861, when Italy was unified, the Tuscan language became the official one.

learn more about the history of the Italian language and dialects

What was the role of dialects then?

Even though Italy had an official, national language, at that time common people mostly were illiterate, especially in rural areas of the country and the situation didn’t change until 1950s. People used to speak the dialects instead of the standard, official Italian. Dialects with huge differences from region to region in terms of phonetics, grammar and vocabulary.

The right of basic education in 1948 and the spread of TV were two crucial factors towards the linguistic unification.  Also helped fighting the state of illiteracy of most people. However, dialects survived, continued to be spoken throughout Italy and are still widely used. Not only among elderly people but also young generations, as an element of strong cultural and linguistic identity.

If you are into this topic you can read an interesting article about the Italianization process in our blog as well!

And don’t forget to go through our fantastic Italian online resources to improve your language skills!