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Italian language

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Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 70 million people, most of whom live in Italy. Standard Italian is based on Tuscan dialects and is somewhat intermediate between the languages of Southern Italy and the Gallo-Romance languages of the North. The long-established Tuscan standard has, over the last few decades, been slightly eroded by the variety of Italian spoken in Milan, the economic capital of Italy. Italian has double (or long) consonants, like Latin (but unlike most modern Romance languages, e.g., French and Spanish). As in most Romance languages (with the notable exception of French), stress is distinctive.

Italian (Italiano)
Spoken in: Italy and 29 other countries
Region: Southern Europe
Total speakers: 70 million
Ranking: 21


Official status
Official language of: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Slovenia, Vatican City, Istria county (Croatia)
Regulated by: Accademia della Crusca
Language codes
ISO 639-1: it
ISO 639-2: ita


The history of the Italian language is quite complex but the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. Italian was first formalized through the works of Dante Alighieri, who mixed southern Italian dialects, especially Sicilian with his native Tuscan (supposedly derived from Etruscan and Oscan). In contrast to the dialects of northern Italy, these older Italian dialects were largely untouched by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy, mainly by bards from France, during the middle ages. Of the major Latin language-derived Romance languages Italian is the closest to Latin, although there are several isolated minority languages spoken in Italy which are even closer to Latin, for example Sardo logudorese language.

Italians generally beleive that the best spoken Italian is lingua toscana in bocca romana - 'the Tuscan tongue, in a Roman mouth'Dante_Alighieri" title ="Dante Alighieri">Dante's Commedia, to which Boccaccio affixed the title Divina in the 14th century.

The economic might and relative advanced development of Tuscany at the time (late middle ages), gave its dialect weight, though Venetian remained widespread in medeival Italian commercial life. Also, the increasing cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of 'Umanesimo'Renaissance" title ="Renaissance">Rinascimento(Renaissance) made its vulgare (dialect) a standard in the arts.


Italian is a member of the Italo-Dalmatian group of languages, which is part of the Italo-Western grouping of the Romance languages, which are a subgroup of the Italic branch of Indo-European.

Geographic distribution

Italian is the official language of Italy and San Marino, and is an official language in the Ticino and Grigioni cantons or regions of Switzerland. It is also the second official language in Vatican City and in some areas of Istria in Slovenia and Croatia with an Italian minority. It is widely used by immigrant groups in Luxembourg, the United States, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Australia, and is also spoken in neighbouring Malta and Albania. It is spoken, to a much lesser extent, in parts of Africa formerly under Italian rule such as Somalia, Libya and Eritrea.

Official status

Italian is an official language of Italy, San Marino, Switzerland and Vatican City. It is also an official language in the Istria county (Croatia) and municipalities of Koper, Piran and Izola (Slovenia).


The dialects of Italian identified by the Ethnologue are Tuscan, Piemontese, Sardinian, Abruzzese, Pugliese (Apulian), Umbrian, Laziale, Central Marchigiano, Cicolano-Reatino-Aquilano, and Molisan. Other dialects are Milanese, Brescian, Bergamasc, Venetian, Modenese, Bolognese, Sicilian and so on, essentially one per city.

Many of the so-called dialects of Italian spoken around the country are different enough from standard Italian to be considered separate languages by most linguists and some speakers themselves. Thus a distinction can be made between "dialects of (standard) Italian" and "dialects (or languages) of Italy".

A link to an Italian site with translation features between Italian dialects and Italian: [1]


Description of the sound set of the language. Can include phoneme charts and example words for each phoneme like in French language. If there is significant discussion here, it is probably best to divide the section into vowels and consonants subsections.


Italian has seven vowel phonemes: /a/, /e/, /E/, /i/, /o/, /O/, /u/. The words /'peska/ (fishing) and /'pEska/ (peach), both spelled as "pesca", show that /e/ and /E/are in fact two different phonemes. Similarly, the words /'bot:e/ (barrel) and /'bOt:e/ (beatings), both spelled as "botte", discriminate /o/ and /O/.


Two symbols in a table cell denote the voiceless and voiced consonant, respectively.

bilabial labiodental dental alveolar postalveolar palatal velar
plosive p b t d k g
nasal m n ɲ
trill r
flap ɾ
fricative f v s z ʃ
affricate ʦ ʣ ʧ ʤ
lateral l ʎ

The sound [ŋ] is an allophone of /n/ when followed by a velar consonant, i.e., /k/ or /g/.

Italian plosives are in general not aspirated, though they are in English. Italian speakers are very sensitive to this difference.

Italian has geminate, or double, consonants, which are distinguished by length. Length is distinctive for all consonants except for /z/, /ʃ/, /ʦ/, /ʣ/, /ʎ/ /ɲ/ . Geminate plosives and affricates are realized as lengthened closures. Geminate fricatives, nasals, and /l/ are realized as lengthened continuants. Geminate /ɾ/ is realized as the trill [r:].


see Italian grammar.

Writing system

Italian is written using the Latin alphabet. The letters J, K, W, X and Y and not part of the standard Italian alphabet - but are seen in imported words (such as Taxi).

Italian uses the acute accent over the letter E (as in perch√©) to form a more open vowel, and a grave accent for indicating an unusual stress position (for instance giovent√Ļ). Typically, the penultimate syllable is stressed.


  • cheers (generic toast): salute /sa"lute/ (sall-OO-teh)
  • English: inglese /iN"glEze/ (ing-GLAY-zay)
  • good-bye: arrivederci /ar:ive"dErtSi/ (a-ree-veh-DARE-chee)
  • hello: ciao /"tSAo/ (CHAH-oh) (informal); buon giorno /"bwon "dZOrno/ (bwon JAWR-noh) (good morning), buona sera /"bwona "s:era/ (BWO-na SAY-ra) (good evening)
  • how much? quanto /"kwAnto/ (KWAN-tuh) (masculine); quanta /"kwAnta/ (KWAN-tah) (feminine)

External links

Wikibooks has a textbook about Italian language.

Wiktionary information

  • For more information: Italian

cy:Eidaleg da:Italiensk de:Italienische Sprache et:Itaalia keel es:Idioma italiano eo:Itala lingvo fr:Italien it:Lingua italiana he:איטלקית la:Lingua Italica nl:Italiaans ja:イタリア語 no:Italiensk spr√•k pl:Język włoski pt:L√≠ngua italiana ro:Limba italiană ru:Испанский язык sl:Italijanščina su:Basa Itali fi:Italian kieli zh:意大利语

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