8 Facts about the Italian Language that YOU may NOT know!

In this article I will reveal some facts about the Italian language! First of all, it is good to know that there are not many  Italian speakers in the world : “only” 63 million! Yet, despite being in 21st place among the most spoken languages in the world, the Italian language is still considered one of the most important for cultural reasons! Are you sure you know all about Dante’s language?

8 Interesting things about the Italian language

Let’s start!

1 – Does the Italian language really come from Latin?

How many hours I spent studying Latin at school…rosa rosae rosae rosam rosa rosa … what unforgettable times!

However, Italian doesn’t come from the Classical Latin that you study in school, but from the Vulgar one (the one spoken by soldiers, peasants and inhabitants of the Roman provinces) and its various contaminations with the languages of the “invaders”: Longombards, Goths and Franks.


2 – How many dialects are spoken in Italy?

You should  know that in Italy there are so many dialects that according to the Encyclopaedia Treccani it is even difficult to count them.

For convenience, scholars divide Italy into three large dialectal areas:

1) the La Spezia-Rimini line separates the north line from the central line;

2) the Roma-Ancona line separates the central line from the southern one.

Currently, the most important dialects are: the Neapolitan with 5.7 million speakers, the Sicilian (4.7 million), the Venetian (3.8 million), the Lombard (3.6 million) and the Piedmontese (1.6 million).


3 – Are Italians illiterate?

At the founding of the Reign of Italy in 1861, 80% of Italians were illiterate and only 0.89% of the population had a higher education in primary school.

Exactly 100 years later, in 1961, illiterates were less than 9%. And by 1971, the figure had shrunk to just over 5% of the Italian population. Today, the figure is around 2%, but functional illiterates, that are, those who can read and write despite having difficulty understanding simple texts, amount to 28% of the population!


4 – How hard is it to learn Italian (for a foreigner)?

According to the BBC, “In Italian you read how you write […]. The pronunciation is clear. The vocabulary is similar to other languages of Latin origin. […] While some aspects of the language may seem difficult at first, you just need to grab a few simple rules to be able to communicate in a variety of situations.”

So, if you’re learning Italian, don’t give up! It’s not impossible!

5 – What is the oldest document with traces of Italian?

It is a notary deed: the Placito Capuano of 960 A.D. It is the account of a process to establish the ownership of a land near the monastery of Capua.


6 – If in the past Italy was divided and people spoke so many dialects, how did we come to standard Italian as the only official language of the State?

According to the linguist Tullio De Mauro, contributing to linguistic unification from the founding of the Reign of Italy onwards was not only the school, but also other factors: the press, emigration, bureaucracy, the army with compulsory military service and the war that forced the soldiers at the front, from all over Italy, to speak Italian to understand each other! Then came the radio and TV that contributed significantly to the language unification.

7 – What is the only Italian word with two Q’s?

It is “soqquadro”, indicating a situation of complete disorder and havoc!

By the way, have you already taken the video-test on the doubles I posted last month? So far, almost no one has managed to pass it with the highest score!

8 – Do you know what neostandard Italian is?

First of all, you should know that the Italian that we learn today at school and on the grammar books is considered the Standard Italian, but, of course, it is much more widespread what many linguists have called Neostandard, namely a variety of Italian with some important differences from the standard version.

For example, in Neostandard Italian, the type 3 if clause (impossibility) is often formed with two imperfetto indicativo: “Se venivi prima, trovavi ancora posto” [“If you came earlier, you still had a place”].

If you want to know the other differences between Standard and Neostandard Italian, don’t miss our video titled “The things that grammar books don’t teach you“.

If you have difficulties with the Italian if clauses and want to learn how to use them in Standard Italian, we made a video entirely dedicated to the Italian conditional sentences.

I hope you enjoyed this video! Now, if you want, write in the comments other curiosities about Italian or other languages!

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