Italian Language History

The fifth most taught foreign language in the world

Italian, a Romance language, is ranked twentieth in the world’s league table of most commonly spoken languages. It is spoken by approximately 70 million native speakers in Italy, Malta, San Marino, parts of Switzerland, the Vatican City, Slovenia, France and Croatia. An additional 120 to 150 million non-native speakers have learned this language, including some in former Italian colonies in Africa (Libya and Eritrea). Likewise in South America, where thousands of Italian migrants formed a very strong physical and cultural presence as they settled in Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Brazil and Venezuela from the late 19th to the mid-20th century.

As a Romance language, Italian is a member of the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Italian language is also of particular importance due to the fact that it has the most similarities to Latin – the language that is often deemed the basis of all Romance languages.

Like most Romance language, the Italian also has a number of different dialects – most of which are mutually intelligible. The speakers of each of these different dialects, however, would claim that the dialect which they spoke is the most authentic version of the Italian. Today, the Tuscan dialect is known as Italian and is the official language of Italy.

Throughout history, renowned personalities including Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch have been credited with the proliferation of the Italian language and its popularity across the globe. Their works were not only translated into a number of languages; they have also been taught in schools and universities throughout the world until today.

As the official language of one of the industrial democracies in the world today, the Italian still holds immense significance and the need for Italian translation services is as alive as ever before.


Italian Language Origins and Roots

Italian started to appear in written documents during the 10th century. The Italian alphabet only has 21 letters. Some letters are excluded as they appear in loanwords. The texts found from this time are also dialectal and were followed by texts in a variety of dialects of the Italian language proving how the differences of various dialects were present even in the written form of the language.

By the 14th century, the Tuscan dialect started to gain popularity, owing particularly to the central position of the region. Another important factor that contributed to the popularity of the Tuscan dialect of the Italian language was its similarities with the phonology and morphology of classical Latin and Vulgar Latin.

The Tuscan dialect was being used in political and cultural circles throughout Italy, although Latin remained the pre-eminent literary language until the 16th century. Original Italian contained many Latin words, over time Latin was used less as Italian became popular.

The Tuscan dialect of the Italian started being treated as the norm and standard during the 15th and 16th centuries. During this standardisation of the language, all other dialects and tongues slowly and gradually started to disappear, resulting in the pronunciation, syntax and vocabulary of the Tuscan dialect becoming the foundation for the Italian language.


Italian Translation Services

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