1. Education
History of the Italian Language
From a Local Tuscan Dialect to the Language of a New Nation

Origins
Linguistically speaking, the Italian language is a member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. It is spoken principally in the Italian peninsula, southern Switzerland, San Marino, Sicily, Corsica, northern Sardinia, and on the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, as well as in North and South America. Considered a single language with numerous dialects, Italian, like the other Romance languages, is the direct offspring of the Latin spoken by the Romans and imposed by them on the peoples under their dominion. Of all the major Romance languages, Italian retains the closest resemblance to Latin. The struggle between the written but dead language and the various forms of the living speech, most of which were derived from Vulgar Latin, was nowhere so intense or so protracted as in Italy.

Development
During the long period of the evolution of Italian, many dialects sprang up. The multiplicity of these dialects and their individual claims upon their native speakers as pure Italian speech presented a peculiar difficulty in the evolution of an accepted form of Italian that would reflect the cultural unity of the entire peninsula. Even the earliest popular Italian documents, produced in the 10th century, are dialectal in language, and during the following three centuries Italian writers wrote in their native dialects, producing a number of competing regional schools of literature.

During the 14th century the Tuscan dialect began to predominate, because of the central position of Tuscany in Italy, and because of the aggressive commerce of its most important city, Florence. Moreover, of all the Italian dialects, Tuscan departs least in morphology and phonology from classical Latin, and it therefore harmonizes best with the Italian traditions of Latin culture. Finally, Florentine culture produced the three literary artists who best summarized Italian thought and feeling of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance: Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio.

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