The Evolution, History, and Origins of The Italian Language

The Italian language belongs in the group of Romance language and is spoken by around 66 million people worldwide. Besides being the only official language in Italy, it is officially used in San Marino, Switzerland, and together with Latin in the Vatican City.

Italian is used as a common (but not official) language in France (the Alps and Côte d’Azur) and in small communities in Croatia and Slovenia. On the island of Corsica, a Tuscan variety of Italian is spoken, though Italian is not the language of culture. Standard Italian was once widely used in Somalia and Malta, but no longer. In Libya too, its use has died out. In the United States, according to statistics, Italian is spoken by 708,966 individuals.

The History of Italian

In the beginning, Latin was most vastly used and spoken on the territory of Italy, however, after the 13th-century things started to change. Namely, during the 13th century, notable writers like Dante Alighieri Petrarch and Boccaccio were influential in popularizing their own dialect of Italian – the Tuscan of Florence (la lingua Fiorentina) – as a standard literary language. Then in the 14th century, the Tuscan dialect was being used in political and cultural circles throughout Italy, though Latin remained the pre-eminent literary language until the 16th century – time during which both Latin and Italian were used for technical and scientific texts. The Italian use was increasing and over time the Latin was used less and less as Italian became increasingly popular.

The first grammatical rules in a book were printed by Leon Battista Alberti in his book with the Latin title Regule lingue florentine (Rules of the Florentine language) published in 1495.

The Structure of The Language

Its standard literary form is based on the dialect of Florence, however, as in every language there are several dialects within the country of Italy:

  • Northern Italian, or Gallo-Italian
  • Venetian, spoken in northeastern Italy
  • Tuscan (including Corsican)
  • The southern and eastern Italy dialects (Marche, Umbria, Rome, Calabria, Otranto, and Sicily)

Today the main language of literature and the media is the Tuscan dialect also known as Italian (Italiano) and is the official language of Italy.

Grammatically, the structure of the language and its sound system is quite similar to Latin, Romanian, and Spanish as well as the other modern Romance languages. For instance, the use of definite and indefinite articles, loss of noun declension for the case, the adjectives and nouns, two genders (masculine and feminine), and an elaborate system of perfect and progressive tenses for the verb are all similar to how they are formed as in the other Romance languages too. However, the most notable difference is in its formation of the plural forms of the nouns. For instance, in French, it is done by adding –s at the end, or –es, but in Italian –e or – i are most commonly added.

ULS Services in Italian

At United Language Services we work with a wide array of certified professional translators and interpreters that have mastered the Italian language in all its forms. So if you need translation, interpretation, localization, or transcription of the language, please do not hesitate to contact us.