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What Italian Do You Speak?
Dialects, Accents, and Everything in Between
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"If someone was raised speaking Standard Italian, will they understand dialects?"
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One of the first things you'll notice when eating in Italy is la cucina locale (the local cuisine). Every region has their own specialty and preparation techniques depending on the season, the local produce, and other ingredients. Likewise, most regions in Italy have their own accent, dialect, and sometimes their own language—as in the case of Sardinia, Sicily, Friuli, and Piemonte. Some of the major dialects include Abruzzese, Central Marchigiano, Laziale, Pugliese, Tuscan, Umbrian, and Venetian.

The various languages and dialects spoken in Italy evolved over centuries and remained distinct from "standard" Italian for a variety of reasons such as geopolitics, lack of mobility, the absence of radio or TV until the twentieth century, and the desire of many groups to maintain their cultural heritage and independence.

Italian dialects have many striking characteristics that distinguish themselves from others. For example, the Neapolitan dialect, Napoletano, is the most widely known because it is often employed in popular songs. The speakers of Napoletano clip the articles to single vowels, such as in the song title 'O sole mio (Il sole mio-"My sun"). In Romanesco (the Roman dialect), the letter r often replaces the letter l, so a speaker of Romanesco would pronounce volta (once) as vorta. And the Tuscans are famous for their gorgia Toscana, similar to a raspy English "h" that makes the word casa (house) sound like chasa.

Today, schoolchildren from all regions of Italy learn the standard Italian language, and perhaps also their regional dialect. Standard Italian has evolved from the times when it was a medieval Tuscan dialect, and now serves as the common language of Italy.


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