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ITALIAN

ITALIAN A ROMANCE LANGUAGE, the official language of Italy and an official language of Switzerland, also spoken by Italian communities in Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, the US, Venezuela, and elsewhere. The term refers to both the STANDARD and literary language in contrast to the many DIALECTS and the entire complex of standard language and dialects, some of which are mutually unintelligible. In addition, some regional varieties, such as Friulian and Sardinian, are regarded as more or less distinct languages. Standard Italian is based on the medieval Tuscan dialect.

Italian in English

. The influence of Italian on English is almost entirely lexical and has continued over many centuries. Since medieval times, Italian has had a strong influence on FRENCH, as a result of which many borrowings into English have had a distinctly Gallic aspect, as with battalion (16c: from bataillon, from battaglione), caprice (17c: from caprice, from capriccio the skip of a goat, a sudden sharp movement), charlatan (16c: from charlatan, from ciarlatano, from ciarlare to chatter), frigate (16c: from frégate, from fregata), picturesque (17c: from pittoresque, from pittoresco, with assimilation to picture), tirade (c.1800, from tirade, from tirata volley, from tirade to pull, fire a shot). Direct borrowings fall into four broad categories: (1) Terms from the centuries-old pan-European tradition of using Italian to discuss and describe music: for example, adagio, alto, andante, arpeggio, bel canto, cello, coloratura, con brio, concerto, contralto, crescendo, diminuendo, divertimento, fortissimo, libretto, mezzosoprano, pianoforte, pizzicato, scherzo, solo, sonata. (2) Comparable literary, architectural, artistic, and cultural terms, such as canto, conversazione, cupola, extravaganza, fresco, intaglio, novella, palazzo, stanza, tarantella. (3) Internationalized culinary terms, such as lasagne, minestrone, mozzarella, pasta, pizza, ravioli, spaghetti, tagliatelle, vermicelli. (4) A variety of social words, including alfresco, bimbo, bordello, bravo, condottiere, confetti, fiasco, ghetto, gigolo, graffiti, imbroglio, mafia, piazza, regatta. Some loans have adapted spellings, as with macaroni (Italian maccheroni, earlier maccaroni), seraglio (Italian serraglio, ultimately from Persian). In addition, some words have moved to a greater or less extent from their original area of application into wider use, as with crescendo, extravaganza, piano, solo. Italian singular/plural inflections usually apply among terms restricted to musical, cultural, and culinary registers (concerto/concerti, scherzo/scherzi), but English inflections apply in general use (concerto/concertos, scherzo/scherzos).

English in Italian

. The influence of English on Italian is essentially lexical and relatively recent. Noticeable in the 1930s, it has accelerated greatly since the 1960s, encouraged not only by the growing international use and prestige of English, but also by the adoption after the Second World War of English (to replace French) as the first foreign language in schools. Recent borrowings, often described as contributions to Itangliano (highly Anglicized Italian), include: baby, boom, boy, budget, cartoon, catering, ceiling, club, control system, deadline, dee-jay, designer, egghead, fifty-fifty, flash, girl, happiness, identikit, killer, lady, leader, life-saver, market, partner, shop, shopping, show, spray, staff, standard, stop, style, target, trekking, trend. The assimilation and use of many borrowings resemble the processes by which English is absorbed into French, including: (1) The adaptation of words to fit the gender and inflectional systems: un bluff a bluff, bluffare to bluff; uno snob a snob, snobbare to snub; handicappati the handicapped. Compounds may be reversed to conform to Italian norms, a pocket radio becoming un radio-pocket. (2) The restriction and adaptation of senses: un flirt an affair; look used only as a noun; un mister a sports coach. (3) The clipping of compounds: un full a full hand (of cards); un night a night club.

See CANADIAN ENGLISH, EARLY MODERN ENGLISH, EUROPEAN UNION, INDO-EUROPEAN LANGUAGES, LATIN, LINGUISTIC TYPOLOGY, MALTA, ROMANCE LANGUAGES.

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Italian language

Italian language, member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Romance languages). The official language of Italy and San Marino, and one of the official languages of Switzerland, Italian is spoken by about 58 million people in Italy, 30,000 in San Marino, 840,000 in Switzerland, another 1 million in other European countries, and approximately 5 million in North and South America. Historically, Italian is a daughter language of Latin (see Latin language). Northern Italian dialects are the Gallo-Italian—including Piedmontese, Ligurian, Lombard, and Emilian—and Venetian. Further south, the major dialects are Tuscan and various others from Umbria to Sicily. Sardinian, spoken on the island of Sardinia, is sufficiently distinct from other dialects to be considered by some a Romance language in its own right. The Rhaeto-Romance forms, similar to the dialects of northern Italy, are spoken in the border region between Italy and Switzerland. It is not known exactly when Italian could be distinguished from its parent tongue; however, no text in Italian is recorded before the 10th cent. AD

The idiom of Florence, one of the Tuscan dialects of Italian, became dominant from the end of the 13th cent. to the middle of the 14th cent., largely owing to the growing prestige of the city of Florence and the literary works written in the Florentine dialect during that period. These literary works included Dante's Divine Comedy and the vernacular writings of Petrarch and Boccaccio. Thus, although Italian had—and still has—a great many dialects, it was the culturally important idiom of Florence that in time gave rise to modern standard Italian. The dialect of the Italian capital, Rome, also has influenced modern standard Italian. The Roman alphabet is used for Italian. The employment of diacritics is limited to the grave (`) and acute (´) accents, which sometimes serve to make clear where the stress of a word is to fall (as in caffè=coffee); they also serve to distinguish between homonyms (as with ne =  "of it" or "of them," but né … né =  "neither … nor" ). The pronunciation of the language follows the spelling very closely. Italian is often described both as the language of art and music and as the language best suited to singing. Since the Renaissance its general cultural importance has been considerable.

See I. Iordan et al., An Introduction to Romance Linguistics (1970); A. L. Lepschy and G. C. Lepschy, The Italian Language Today (1977); M. Harris and N. Vincent, The Romance Languages (1988).

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Italian

Italian Language of Italy, where it is spoken by most of its 57 million inhabitants, and of the canton of Ticino, Switzerland. It is one of the Romance languages descended from spoken Latin, and so belongs ultimately to the Italic group of Indo-European languages. There are many Italian dialects, and the official language is based on those of central Italy, particularly Tuscan. During the 20th century, broadcasting and the cinema standardized the language greatly, but most Italians continue to use a regional dialect for everyday communication.

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