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Accademia della Crusca
Separating the Literary Wheat from the Linguistic Chaff
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"English is a very Latinized Germanic language and a fair slice of Italian is Germanic."
BRERUS
 
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Accademia della CruscaIn a land well-renowned for its culinary traditions, perhaps it was inevitable that the national language academy of Italy would be named for a byproduct of the bread-making process.

Accademia della Crusca, or The Academy of the Bran, was founded in Florence in 1582 to maintain the purity of the language. Still in existence today, Accademia della Crusca was the first such institution in Europe and the first to produce a modern national language. The major work of the society was the compilation of A. F. Grazzini's Vocabulario, a dictionary of "pure" words first published in 1612 and later taken as a model by other European states.

Corn Flakes and Crusty Florentines
The Academy developed out of the informal meetings of a group of Florentine intellectuals (including A. F. Grazzini (Il Lasca), Giambatista Deti, Bernardo Zanchini, Bernardo Canigiani, and Bastiano de' Rossi) between 1570 and 1580. They ironically called themselves "Crusconi" (the bran flakes) with the intention of giving a jocular tone to their conversations, impatient as they were with the solemnity surrounding the erudite but futile discussions of the Sacra Accademia Fiorentina. In 1582 the Crusconi gave formal status to their assembly, christening it with the name of Accademia.

Leonardo Salviati (L'Infarinato, "the floured one") joined the group at this time and gave it renewed impetus. Salviati interpreted in a new sense the name of crusca (bran): "...as if to say that the Academy should undertake a separation of the good from the bad." Together with Il Lasca, Salviati gave the Academy a new linguistic direction, setting as its goal the promotion of a Florentine language according to the model of vernacular classicism established by Pietro Bembo, who idealized the 14th-century Italian authors, especially Boccaccio and Petrarca. The Florentines differed from the purist Bembo to the extent that they included their national poet Dante among this privileged group.

When the number of members reached several dozen, and the offices and responsibilities of the members were established, it was decided that each member should adopt a nickname, motto, and device having to do with bran and the oven. To further the symbology, the Academy's symbol was chosen to be a flour bolter.

The Academy Today - Still Fresh
If anyone thought Accademia della Crusca, like an old piece of bread, had dried up and blown away, they'd be pleasantly surprised to learn that the Academy is still active and vigorous. The baker's metaphor continues to this day at the Villa Medicea di Castello the Academy's headquarters. The traditional furnishings of the Academy consists of pale (baker's shovels), which are individual coats of arms of the members of the Academy from 16th to 18th century. The iconography of these shovels regards the cultivation of grain, the baking of bread, and other products of the flour and of the crusca (bran); these pale are housed in a hall, called the sala delle pale.

There are also gerle (baker's baskets), which are ceremonial academic chairs in the shape of baker's baskets. The earliest examples date from 1642. Then there are sacchi (sacks), cabinets where the academic secretary kept the flour, that is the status, the regulations, and other writings read and approved by the censorship academics.

The Academy, located just outside Florence has other, more serious resources too. For those interested in Italian linguistics, the history of the Italian language, and philological studies, there is the historical archive which consists of early diaries, literary manuscript texts, and correspondences from early Academy members. La Crusca per Voi is a semiannual periodical dedicated to schools and lovers of the Italian Language and published by the members of Accademia della Crusca. The biblioteca virtuale at the Academy consists of language texts, dictionaries and lexicons and works devoted to the study of the Italian and to linguistics in general.


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