Languages of Italy - History of The Italian Language

History of The Italian Language

The Tuscan dialect (or Florentine language) spoken in Tuscany was promoted as the standard due to the socio-economic power associated with Florence as well as its literary heritage (Dante's Divine Comedy is often credited with the emergence of the Tuscan dialect as a standard). Pietro Bembo, a Venetian influenced by Petrarch, also promoted Tuscan as the standard literary language (volgare illustre). The spread of the printing press and literary movements (such as petrarchism and bembism) also furthered Italian standardization.

When Italy was unified in 1861, Italian existed mainly as a literary language. Many Romance regional languages were spoken throughout the Italian Peninsula (Italian dialects), each with local variants. Following Italian unification Massimo Taparelli, marquis d'Azeglio, one of Cavour's ministers, is said to have stated that having created Italy, all that remained was to create Italians (a national identity).

The establishment of a national education system led to a decrease in variation in the languages spoken across the country. Standardization was further expanded in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to economic growth and the rise of mass media and television (the state broadcaster RAI helped set an Italian standard).

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