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History of Italian
Italian Dialects
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Italy became divided into many independent kingdoms, each proud of its own local dialect. The dialects varied tremendously often to the point where communication became a problem. At the beginning of the 14th Century when Dante wrote his Divina Commedia in the Florentine dialect, his language was immediately recognised and adopted by the Italian cultural elite and became known as the literary standard.

However, for the vast majority of Italians who lived outside the Florentine region in the small kingdoms into which the peninsula was divided, it was normal to use the many other regional dialects. Literary (Florentine) Italian failed to achieve the status of national language but remained the lingua franca of the elite for over three centuries. This situation remained the same until Italian unification in 1861 provided the political support necessary for the spread of Italian as the common language.

It is incredible to note however that in 1861, Italian was still foreign to 97.5 per cent of the population of Italy, most of whom spoke exclusively in their local dialects. More recently, the influence of the press, radio and television has increased the ease of communication by broadcasting the Italian standard.

For the younger generation, the dialect problem is in any case less prominent since they are on the whole better educated and tend to be more mobile within Italy than their elders.

And Finally...
Between 1861 and 1950 there was a mass of emigration of 21 million people who settled in the United States, Australia and Europe. Most took their dialects with them and 'Italianised English' was born! It was quite common therefore to hear an Italian family living in London talking of 'incontasse' (income tax) 'plaitaim' (playtime) and 'sculdinna' (school dinner) !

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Did you know?
There are no "primitive" languages. All languages have a system of sounds, words and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture.
Italian History
Italian Speaking
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