Dialects and Language
One language one nation?
Some audio examples
'Travellers, without exception, are wont to confine their descriptions of Italy to the realm of the inanimate; their portraits concern only the monuments, the sites, the sublime manifestations of nature in that happy land ...' (Stendhal, 1824)
In Roman times Roman Emperor Augustus divided Italy into the following regions: PRIMA REGIO, present Lazio and Campania; SECUNDA REGIO, including Puglia and the Salento area (part of modern Calabria); TERTIA REGIO, including Lucania and Bruzzio (present Basilicata and Calabria); QUARTA REGIO, or Samnium, including Abruzzo and Molise; QUINTA REGIO or Picenum, present-day Marche; SEXTA REGIO, Umbria; SEPTIMA REGIO, or Etruria, today's Tuscany; OCTAVA REGIO, the Gallia Cispadana (Emilia); NONA REGIO, or Liguria; DECIMA REGIO, or Venecia and Istria; UNDECIMA REGIO or Gallia Transpadana, including present-day Lombardia, Val d'Aosta and Piemonte.
|313-337 The Emperor Constantine makes Christianity the official religion of the Empire. The western part of the empire is in economic decline and Constantine builds a new capital, Constantinople, in the East.
381 The bishop of Rome claims pre-eminence over other Christian bishops and assumes the title "Papa" -father.
395 The Empire is split in two. Constantinople remains the capital of the Eastern Empire; Ravenna becomes the capital of the Western Empire.
395-476 Waves of invaders from northern and central Europe weaken the Western Empire. In 476 the barbarian chief Odoacer deposes the Western Roman Emperor and rules Italy in his stead.
529 c. Saint Benedict, a native of Umbria, formulates the rules which will govern monastic life in Western Europe.
535-555 Justinian, Emperor of the East, invades Italy and topples the barbarians from power. Italy becomes an outlying province of the Eastern Empire.
568 The Lombards, a Germanic people, enter Italy. In the next few years they conquer much of it. The Eastern Empire retains Sicily, the far south of the peninsula, and a band across Italy from Ravenna to Rome.
732-756 The Lombards encroach on Ravenna and Rome. Pope Stephen II invites Pepin, the King of France, to attack the Lombards. Pepin forces the Lombards out of their newly conquered territories: instead of returning these lands to the Eastern Empire, he gives them to the Pope. This marks the beginning of the Papal States.
774 Pepin's son Charlemagne defeats the Lombards and rules over their lands in Italy. He confirms the Pope's right to govern the band of territory between Ravenna and Rome.
800 Charlemagne, now ruler of much of Western Europe, is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III.
827-878 Arabs conquer Sicily and the southern mainland. Under their rule, the area prospers and intellectual life flourishes.
1030-1137 Normans conquer Sicily and southern Italy, and establish an efficient rule.
1100-1200 Scores of northern cities, theoretically under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor or the Eastern Emperor, become virtually self-governing.
1204-1472 Venice acquires a great overseas empire, which includes Crete, Cyprus and the Dalmatian coast.
1209 Saint Francis of Assisi founds an order of mendicant friars.
1220-1250 Inheriting the Holy Roman Empire from his father, and Sicily with southern Italy from his Norman mother, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen reigns gloriously in the south but fails to impose his authority on the northern communes.
1266 A French prince, Charles of Anjou, takes over southern Italy and Sicily at the invitation of the Pope.
1271 Marco Polo embarks from Venice on a 24-year long journey through the Far East.
1282 In an uprising known as the "Sicilian Vespers", the Sicilians revolt against the French and bestow the crown of Sicily on the Spaniard Peter of Aragon.
1305 A French Pope, Clement V, transfers the seat of the Papacy to Avignon, where it will remain for 72 years.
1348 The bubonic plague kills one third of the population of Italy.
1350-1454 During a century of warfare, the communes of Florence, Venice and Milan swallow up other city-states. By 1454, when the Peace of Lodi is agreed, Italy consists of five major states and a few minor ones.
1315-60 The Tuscan-born writers Dante Boccaccio and Petrarca publish their works. These prefigure the Renaissance, and their writings will have a strong influence on European poetry for centuries.
1434 Cosimo de' Medici gains power in Florence. He and his successors patronize the artists and philosophers of the Renaissance.
1442 The French line rule in southern Italy dies out, and the Spanish king of Sicily wins control of the southern mainland.
1494 Charles VIII of France pretender to the crown of southern Italy, invades the peninsula. Piero de' Medici, ruler of Florence, co-operates with the enemy and is driven out of the city. The friar Savonarola sets up a short-lived republic in Florence. The French take southern Italy but by 1496 the Spaniards have driven them out.
1503 Julius II becomes Pope and makes Rome the centre of High Renaissance art and learning.
1525-1559 Spain gains control of most of northern Italy.
1545-1563 The Council of Trent, the key event in the Counter-Reformation, clarifies Catholic doctrine and decrees reforms in the clergy.
1713 Spain is weakened by war. and most of her Italian possessions -notably Milan and the south- are acquired by Austria. Sicily is handed the Duke of Savoy, ruler of French Savoy and Italian Piedmont.
1720 The Duke of Savoy exchanges Sicily for the Kingdom of Sardinia.
1734 Spain re-takes southern Italy and Sicily.
1796-1799 The French Revolutionary army, led by Napoleon, conquers Italy and sets up a number of republics modelled on the French one. An Austrian offensive and Nationalist risings force the French to withdraw from Italy by 1799.
1800-1814 Napoleon reconquers Italy. In 1805, he bestows on himself the crown of Italy; by 1809 the whole peninsula is ruled directly or indirectly from France. The French introduce a modern legal system and improve the administration.
1815 At the Congress of Vienna, held after Napoleon's downfall, Italy is repartitioned among its former rulers. A branch of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty is reinstated in the south, the Pope retains the centre, Austria most of the north, and the King of Sardinia Piedmont.
1832 The exiled revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini founds Young Italy, a movement for national unity.
1848 A popular uprising in Palermo spreads to other areas; in response, liberal constitutions are granted in several states, including Piedmont. While Austria has internal rebellions, Venice and Milan free themselves.
1849 Following unrest in Rome and the flight of the Pope, a republic is founded. The republican army, led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, is defeated by French forces, and the Pope returns. Rebellions in other states are crushed by Austria, and the new constitutions repealed everywhere except in Piedmont.
1859 Camillo Cavour, Prime Minister of Piedmont, makes a treaty with France to rid Italy of the Austrians.
1859 France defeats the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino. Austria loses Lombardy to the French, who cede it to Piedmont. The rulers of Parma, Modena and Tuscany -all Austrian satellite princes- flee Italy.
1860 In plebiscites held in Parma, Modena and Tuscany, the populations vote for unity with Piedmont. Revolutionaries in Sicily request Garibaldi's help. He embarks from Genoa with 1,100 volunteers. Garibaldi quickly takes Sicily in the name of Victor Emmanuel, the King of Sardinia and ruler of Piedmont, then crosses to the mainland. As he approaches, Naples, the capital of the southern realm, its ruler flees. Meanwhile the regular Piedmontese army annexes the Papal States. Italy is now almost united but the Pope, supported by the French, retains Rome and its environs, and Austria keeps the north-east.
1861 Victor Emmanuel becomes king of Italy. The constitution of Piedmont is used for the new nation, and Turin becomes the capital.
1866 After a war with Austria, Italy acquires the state of Venice.
1870 France, occupied with the Franco-Prussian War, withdraws troops from Rome. The Italian army marches on Rome and the Pope surrenders. He is granted sovereignty over the Vatican City but refuses to recognize the new order. Rome becomes the seat of national government.
1870-1914 More than 10 million Italians emigrate -mainly to other European countries, Brazil, Argentina and the United States.
1887-1896 Italy attempts to conquer Ethiopia, but is driven out.
1896-1900 Socialist agitators promote disorder among Italians because of harvest failures and unemployment. Military rule is imposed in some areas.
1899 Giovanni Agnelli founds the car manufacturing company Fiat.
1909 Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless, receives a Nobel prize.
1912 Italy takes Libya from Turkey.
1914-1918 World War I breaks out. After Britain and France agree to back Italy's claim to the Trentino, the Alto Adige, Trieste and northen Dalmatia, Italy declares war on Austria in 1915 and on Germany in 1916. Italy suffers several defeats but in the final months of war makes a notable contribution to the Allied victory.
1919-1921 The peace treaty of World War I grants Italy the Trentino, the Alto Adige and Trieste. However, Dalmatia becomes part of Yugoslavia and Fiume, an Italian-speaking city on the Croatian coast, becomes a Free Port. The poet Gabriele d'Annunzio at the head of a band of fanatics seizes control of Fiume and rules the city for more than a year.
1919-1921 Amid social and economic turbulence and discontent over the outcome of the war, Benito Mussolini forms bands of thugs known as fasci di combattenti. A weak coalition government stands back while the Fascists destroy headquarters of the Socialist and Communist parties and break strikes.
1921 Mussolini and 34 other Fascists are elected to Parliament.
1922 After breaking a general strike, the Fascists seize key communication points, threatening to isolate Rome from the rest of the country. Victor Emmanuel III invites Mussolini to form a government.
1923 Mussolini devises a new electoral system which will ensure a huge Fascist majority, and parliament accepts it.
1925-1926 Mussolini begins to rule openly as dictator.
1929 Mussolini concludes the Lateran Treaty with the Papacy. The Pope at last recognizes the Kingdom of Italy; Catholicism is confirmed as the state religion.
1935 Italy attacks Ethiopia and in 1936 proclaims it an Italian empire.
1936-1939 Ital and Germany support General Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
1939 Mussolini and Hitler sign a military treaty, the Pact of Steel. World War II breaks out.
1940 Italy declares war on France and Britain.
1943 British and American armies land in Sicily. The Fascist regime collapses and Mussolini is arrested. In the south, where the Allies quickly gain control, a new Italian government declares war on Germany. Mussolini, freed by German commandos, establishes a rival government in the north.
1945 Mussolini is captured and shot by partisans. World War II ends.
1946 A popular referendum abolishes the monarchy.
1945-1953 Alcide de Gasperi, the leader of the Christian Democrat Party, heads seven successive administrations.
1947 A new republican constitution is approved.
1950-1970 Italy industrializes rapidly, to become one of the seven largest economies in the world.
An idea of Italy
"Sir, a man who has not been in Italy is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see. The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean." (Dr Samuel Johnson 1709-1784)
" People only talk or write about Italy because they are obsessed by the age, the beauty and the hedonism of the country, by the Roman ruins, the Renaissance art, by a favourite duomo or palazzo. Visitors flock towards cathedrals and canals. They are overawed by the great, historical cities, Venice or Florence, and by the stunning countryside of Tuscany and Umbria. (T. Jones, The Dark heart of Italy , 2003)
Amond the trend setters and the fashion followers: Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), Boswell, Horace Walpole, Smollett, William Hazlitt 1778–1830, Lord Macaulay 1800–1859, Lord Byron 1788–1824, Gibbon, Dickens, Shelly 1792–1822, Robert Adams, D. H. Laurence, Elliot, Mark Twain , Montaigne, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Comte de Caylus, De Brosses, Goethe, and thousands of others who left us wittingly or unwittingly, books, memoires, diaries, letters, sketches and many other testimonials to their vicissitudes. What is the picture of Italy we glean? Reading these accounts one is reminded of the adventures one is likely to meet when travelling on the Pan-American Highway from Mexico to Guatemala.
The Gran Tour: duty, passion and fashion.
'So I bought an old Brunswicke thrummed hat, ' he recorded,' and made mee a poore Dutch suite, rubbing it in the dust to make it seeme old, so as my Taylor said, he took more paines to spoyle it, than to make it. I bought me linnen stockings, and discoloured my face and hands, and so without cloake, or sword, with my hands in my hose, tooke my place in a poore waggon. I practised as much as I could, Pythagoricall silence; but if any asked me who I was, I told him that I was a poore Bohemian, and had long served a Merchant at Leipzig, who left mee to dispatch some businesse at Stoke, and then commanded me to follow him to Emden. If you had scene my servile countenance, mine eyes cast on the ground, my hands in my hose, and my modest silence, you would have taken me for a harmelesse yong man.'
(Morryson Fynes, An Itinerary Containing His Ten Yeeres Travell, etc. 1617)
' a Village all ruined by Turkish pirates [who] had spoiled the same and burnt it and had pulled downe the Churches and Altars, and, among other Prisoners, had taken away a most faire Virgine from her bridegroomes side, who had married her the day before.' (Morryson Fynes, An Itinerary Containing His Ten Yeeres Travell, etc. 1617)
'For our supper they brought us up a patriarchal cock, with stiff black legs, which seemed to have died of the gout a month before, and Macarno in a bowl writhing into a hundred serpents. The door was then locked and we were to await our doom till morning. You may imagine the kind of night we spent.' (Catharine Wilmott)
Between Terni and Rome, according to Smollett, the inns were `abominally nasty', generally destitute of provisions; and when provisions were found the guests were 'almost poisoned by the cookery'. Sharp confirmed this verdict:
'Give what scope you please to your fancy, you will never imagine half the disagreeableness that Italian beds, Italian cooks, Italian post-houses, Italian postilions, and Italian nastiness offer to an Englishman in an Italian journey; much more to an English woman. At Turin, Milan, Venice, Rome, and, perhaps, two or three other towns, you meet with good accommodation; but no words can express the wretchedness of the other inns. No other bed but one of straw, and next to that a dirty sheet, sprinkled with water, and, consequently, damp; for a covering you have another sheet, as coarse as the first, and as coarse as one of your kitchen jack-towels, with a dirty coverlet. The bedsted consists of four wooden forms, or benches; and English Peer and Peeress must lye in this manner, unless they carry an upholsterer's shop with them, which is very troublesome. There are, by the bye, no such things as curtains, and hardly, from Venice to Rome, that cleanly and most useful invention, a privy; so that what should be collected and buried in oblivion, is forever under your nose and eyes.' (Sharp)
'They frequently eat kites, hawks, magpies, jackdaws, and other lesser birds, not used with us; and drink their wine in winter as well as summer out of snow. Between Rome and Naples travellers are sometimes regaled with buffaloes and crows; the buffalo's flesh is black, stinking, and hard.'
And `what do you think?' Shelley exclaimed in horror. `Young women of rank actually eat – you will never guess what – garlick!'
"People only talk or write about Italy because they are obsessed by the age, the beauty and the hedonism of the country, by the Roman ruins, the Renaissance art, by a favourite duomo or palazzo. Visitors flock towards cathedrals and canals. They are overawed by the great, historical cities, Venice or Florence, and by the stunning countryside of Tuscany and Umbria. (T. Jones, The Dark heart of Italy , 2003)
if a young man is wild, and must run after women and bad company it is better he should do so abroad' (From C. Hibbert, The Gran Tour, 1969)
"It is not the contrast of pigstyes and palaces that I complain of, the distinction between the old and new; what I object to is the want of any such striking contrast, but an almost uninterrupted succession of narrow, vulgar-looking streets, where the smell of garlick prevails over the odour of antiquity, with the dingy, melancholy flat fronts of modern-built houses, that seem in search of an owner. A dunghill, an outhouse, the weeds growing under an imperial arch offended me not; but what has a greengrocer's stall, a stupid English china warehouse, a putrid trattoria, a barber's sign, and old clothes or old picture shops or a Gothic palace, with two or three lacqueys in modern liveries lounging at the gate, to do with ancient Rome?" (William Hazlitt)
"After a sleepless night, I trod, with a lofty step, the ruins of the Forum; each memorable spot where Romulus stood, or Tully spoke, or Caesar fell, was at once present to my eye; and several days of intoxication were lost or enjoyed before I could descend to a cool and minute investigation [...] It was on the fifteenth of October in the gloom of the evening, as I sat musing on the Capitol, while the barefoot fryars were chanting their litanies in the temple of Jupiter, that I conceived the first thought of my history. My original plan was confined to the decay of the City; my reading and reflection pointed to that aim;" (Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).
Just a geographical expression?
“[…] if a young man is wild, and must run after women and bad company it is better he should do so abroad” (quoted in Hibbert, The Gran Tour , 1969)
- God keep you from misfortune, my host!
-You are welcome, Gentlemen!
-Shall we be well lodged with you for this night?
-Yes, very well, Sir.
- Have you good stable, good hay, good oats, good litter, good wine ? The best ...
[The Tourist alights with his companions and enters the inn where he drinks too heavily with his meal.]
-By your leaves, Gentlemen, I find myself somewhat indispos'd.
-Sir, if you are not well, go take your rest, your chamber is ready. Joan, make a good fire in his chamber, and let him want for nothing.
-Sweetheart, is my bed made? Is it good, clean, warm?' Yes, Sir, it is a good featherbed. The sheets are very clean.
-Pull off my stockings, and warm my bed, for I am much out of order. I shake like a leaf in a tree. Warm a Napkin for my head and bind it well. Gently, you bind it too hard. Bring my pillow, and cover me well; draw the curtains, and pin them together. Where is the chamber-pot? Where is the privy?
-Follow me and I will show you the way. Go strait up and you will find it on your right hand; if you see it not you will soon smell it. Sir, do you want anything else ?
-Yes, my dear, put out the candle and come nearer to me.
-I will put it out when I am out of the room; what is your will? Are you not well enough yet?
-My head lies too low, raise up the bolster a little. I cannot lie so low. My dear, give me a kiss, I should sleep the better.
-You are not sick since you talk of kissing. I would rather die than kiss a man in his bed, or any other place. Take your rest in God's name. God give you a good night and good rest.
-I thank you, fair maid. ( The Gentleman Pocket Companion For Travelling into Foreign Parts ', 1722)
Other expression in Standard Italian ( vetturini; la buona mancia per il signor ufficiale della dogana, banditi, guardia, lascia passare, minestra di grasso/magro, scemo, minchione (a ninny), lazzarone, simpatia. faccia verde, faccia gialluta ).
'I hardly think you would like Turin. The court is old and dull; [...] The principal amusement seems to be driving about in your coach in the evening and bowing to the people you meet. [...] and a poor Englishman , who can neither talk Piedmontese nor play at Faro, stands by himself , without one of their haughty nobility doing him the honour of speaking to him. [..] If there is any pleasure in watching a play which one does not understand, in listening to a Piedmontese jargon of which one does not take in a word, and in finding oneself in the midst of a proud nobility who will not speak a word to you, we had a most amusing time in this assembly [ public assembly held by a Lady of Turin]. (Gibbon in Turin)
'the very worst Italian dialect [was] spoken there [Genoa] (James Howell in Instruction for Forreine Travell)
No spoken Italian as such then, or at least not amog the uneducated. Across the whole of the Italian peninsula there were dialects and a plethora of local variations. However, as we shall see, there existed a written Italian or Italiano volgare primarily used in writing and it was known and practiced by the educated.
The acceptance of one particular dialect as the basis of the Italian language, and its codification (ie.g., the production of dictionaries, and of grammars, serving to fix and prescribe norms of correct usage) comes about at a much later date.
"Long after Latin of imperial Rome had ceased to be anybody's native language, it continued to be universally accepted, and employed, in literature, philosophy, theology, history, medicine and other intellectual activities, as well as in the writing of legal administrative documents. By the early sixteen century, there had emerged a general recognition in Italy that some form of the 'lingua volgare'(i.e., some form of indigenous spoken language of Italy, as opposed to Latin) should supplant Latin as the medium of written cultural discourse. The Questione della Lingua, the debate about which form of the 'lingua volgare' should be employed for this purpose, was a complex one which continued, in various forms, well into the nineteenth century." (M. Maiden, A linguistic History of Italian ).
The Questione della Lingua 'in one form or another', was still with us in the 20th century.
No Italian State or Nation but a written Italian language ( primarily a medium of written cultural discourse) and many spoken languages (dialects).
Dialects and Language
One language one nation?
Some audio examples