When you say Italian, people are ready to pronounce words with sounds, open vowels and, of course, moving their hands. What people do not take into account is that the Italian peninsula, the Boot, has always been the center of historical invasions and in the linguist context, it constitutes a big mix. Basically a “soup”, where languages have been melted and have evolved together.
In the history, the Italian language is synonym of vulgar language. In fact, what can be considered the very first transcription of Vulgar Latin (proto-Italian) is located on the frescoes in Pompeii and on the funereal constructions from the 3rd century B.C., this is the first step for the creation of what today is the fifth most studied languages in the world, according to EU resources.
It is useless to remind here all the populations that have conquered this “Italian territory”.
Anyway those are the most important conquerors, resumed for you ;): Etruscans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Lombards, Franks, Arabs, Vikings, Austrians, Spanish, and finally the House of Savoy.
So the word “Italian”, represents a unique mosaic of expressions and roots which go deep into the history.
It is important to say that those languages are mostly in a state of abandon, the youth is slowly forgetting them, so we will call them dialect for now on. I will try to divide them by region.
The dialects which are still in use are: the Franco-Provençal, located in the North-West sector of Italy, mainly in Valle d’Aosta, Piemont and in the French Valleys. The Occitan is spoken in the Western part of Piemont and in the homonym French region. The Tyrolean is a Germanic language, spoken in Trentino-Alto-Adige as well known as Südtirol. The Ladin-Friuli and the Slovenian, are mainly diffused on the East side of the boot, to the borders with Slovenia and they show a huge number of influences from Slavic languages. The Venetian language, which is an “autonom” linguistic group, is well known for its beautiful sounds, complexity and its use: here young people still use it daily. It is spoken in the whole region of Veneto and in Trieste’s area. The Galloitalic regroups the area of Emilia, Romagna, Liguria and Lombardy. Those are the areas which have got more influence from the southern Celtic and barbarian populations.
The Tuscan, is known for being the “Italian language’s father”, in fact, starting from the Tuscan Vulgar dialect, Dante Alighieri gave life to his Divine Comedy, which has been adopted as the first epic poem wrote in Italian. The Median language, for instance is regrouping all the dialects spoken in the center of the peninsula from the coasts of Rome on the Tirrenian side to the Adriatic bay, which in Italy, called barbarously “romanaccio”.
Well, for today that’s enough! But if you want to know more about the rest of Italy (the most exciting part in my opinion :P) do not miss my next article! With languages of South Italy and their history!