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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pronunciation /itaˈljano/
Spoken in  Italy
 San Marino
 Vatican City
 Greece (esp.Dodecanese and the Ionian Islands)
and among emigrants' communities and descendants in Canada, United States, Argentina, Australia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Germany, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Monaco.
Region Southern Europe
Total speakers 70 million native
125 million as second language
Ranking 20
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin alphabet
Official status
Official language in  European Union
 San Marino
 Vatican City
Flag of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.svg Sovereign Military Order of Malta
 Croatia (Istria County)
 Slovenia (Istria)
Regulated by not officially by Accademia della Crusca
Language codes
ISO 639-1 it
ISO 639-2 ita
ISO 639-3 ita – Italian (generic)

Italian (About this sound italiano , or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken by about 60 million people in Italy, and by another 10 million Italian descendants in the world, making it spoken by a total of approximately 70 million native speakers.[1] It is also spoken by an additional 125 million people as a foreign language. In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages, spoken mainly in the Swiss cantons of Grigioni and Ticino. It is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of Vatican City.[2] Standard Italian, adopted by the state after the unification of Italy, is based on Tuscan (in particular on the dialects of the city of Florence) and is somewhat intermediate between the Italo-Dalmatian languages of the South and the Gallo-Romance Northern Italian languages. Its development was also influenced by the other Italian dialects and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman invaders.

Italian derives diachronically from Latin and is the closest national language to Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. In particular, among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary.[3] Lexical similarity is 89% with French, 87% with Catalan, 85% with Sardinian, 82% with Spanish, 78% with Rhaeto-Romance and 77% with Romanian.[1][4]


Writing system

Italian is written in the Latin alphabet. The letters J, K, W, X and Y are not considered part of the standard Italian alphabet, but appear in loanwords (such as jeans, whisky, taxi). X has become a commonly used letter in genuine Italian words with the prefix extra-. J in Italian is an old-fashioned orthographic variant of I, appearing in the first name "Jacopo" as well as in some Italian place names, e.g., the towns of Bajardo, Bojano, Joppolo, Jesolo, Jesi, Ajaccio, among numerous others, and in the alternative spelling Mar Jonio (also spelled Mar Ionio) for the Ionian Sea. J may also appear in many words from different dialects, but its use is discouraged in contemporary Italian, and it is not part of the standard 21-letter contemporary Italian alphabet. Each of these foreign letters has an Italian equivalent spelling: gi or i for j, c or ch for k (including chilometro for kilometer in prose), u or v for w (depending on what sound it makes), s, ss, or cs for x, and i for y. (In informal Internet usage and texts, it goes back the other way; for example, ch is replaced with k.)

  • Italian uses the acute accent over the letter E (as in perché, why/because) to indicate a front mid-closed vowel, and the grave accent (as in , tea) to indicate a front mid-open vowel. The grave accent is also used on letters A, I, O, and U to mark stress when it falls on the final vowel of a word (for instance gioventù, youth). Typically, the penultimate syllable is stressed. If syllables other than the last one are stressed, the accent is not mandatory, unlike in Spanish, and, in virtually all cases, it is omitted. When the word is potentially ambiguous, the accent is sometimes used for disambiguation, for example prìncipi ("princes"), but princìpi ("principles"). For monoysyllabic words, this is compulsory (e.g. è ("is"), but e ("and")). Rare words with three or more syllables can confuse Italians themselves—the pronunciation of Istanbul represents an example of a word where stress placement is not clearly established. Turkish, like French, tends to put the accent on the ultimate syllable, but Italian doesn't. So we can hear "Istànbul" or "Ìstanbul". Another instance is the American State of Florida: the correct way to pronounce it in Italian is as in Spanish, "Florìda", but since there is an Italian word with the same meaning ("flourishing"), "flòrida", and because of the influence of English, most Italians pronounce it that way. Dictionaries give the latter as an alternative pronunciation.[5]
  • The letter H at the beginning of a word is used to distinguish ho, hai, ha, hanno (present indicative of avere, 'to have') from o ('or'), ai ('to the'), a ('to'), anno ('year'). In the spoken language this letter is always silent in the words given above, even though in ho it changes the pronunciation making the vowel open. H is also used in combinations with other letters (see below), but no phoneme [h] exists in Italian. In foreign words entered in common use, like "hotel" or "hovercraft", the H is commonly silent, so they are pronounced /oˈtɛl/ and /ˈɔverkraft/
  • The letter Z represents /dz/, for example: zanzara /dzanˈdzaːra/ (mosquito), or /ts/, for example: nazione /natˈtsjoːne/ (nation), depending on context, though there are few minimal pairs. The same goes for S, which can represent /s/ or /z/. However, these two phonemes are in complementary distribution everywhere except between two vowels in the same word, and even in that environment there are extremely few minimal pairs, so that this distinction is being lost in many varieties.
  • The letters c and g represent affricates: /tʃ/ as in "chair" and /dʒ/ as in "gem", respectively, before the front vowels I and E. They are pronounced as plosives /k/, /ɡ/ (as in "call" and "gall") otherwise. Front/back vowel rules for C and G are similar in French, Romanian, Spanish, and to some extent English (including Old English). Swedish and Norwegian have similar rules for K and G. (See also palatalization.)
  • However, an H can be added between C or G and E or I to convert the preceding consonant to a plosive, and an I can be added between C or G and A, O or U to signal that the consonant is an affricate. For example:
    Before back vowel (A, O, U) Before front vowel (I, E)
    Plosive C caramella /karaˈmɛlla/ candy CH china /ˈkina/ India ink
    G gallo /ˈɡallo/ rooster GH ghiro /ˈɡiro/ edible dormouse
    Affricate CI ciaramella /tʃaraˈmɛlla/ shawm C Cina /ˈtʃina/ China
    GI giallo /ˈdʒallo/ yellow G giro /ˈdʒiro/ round, tour
    Note that the H is silent in the digraphs CH and GH, as also the I in cia, cio, ciu and even cie is not pronounced as a separate vowel, unless it carries the primary stress. For example, it is silent in ciao /ˈtʃa.o/ and cielo /ˈtʃɛ.lo/, but it is pronounced in farmacia /ˌfar.maˈtʃi.a/ and farmacie /ˌfar.maˈtʃi.e/.
  • There are three other special digraphs in Italian: GN, GL and SC. GN represents /ɲ/. GL represents /ʎ/ only before i, and never at the beginning of a word, except in the personal pronoun and definite article gli. (Compare with Spanishñ and ll, Portuguese nh and lh.) SC represents fricative /ʃ/ before i or e. Except in the speech of some Northern Italians, all of these are normally geminate between vowels.
  • In general, there is a clear one-to-one correspondence between letters or digraphs and phonemes, As in Spanish; in standard varieties of Italian, there is little allophonic variation. The most notable exceptions are assimilation of /n/ in point of articulation before consonants, assimilatory voicing of /s/ to following voiced consonants, and vowel length (vowels are long in stressed open syllables – except at the end of words, and short elsewhere) — compare with the enormous number of allophones of the English phoneme /t/. Spelling is mostly phonemic and usually difficult to mistake, given a clear pronunciation. Exceptions exist, especially in foreign borrowings. There are fewer cases of dyslexia than among speakers of languages such as English,[6] and the concept of a spelling bee is strange to Italians.


The Italian language has a long history, but the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events. The earliest surviving texts that can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as distinct from its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae from the region of Benevento that date from 960-963.[7] What would come to be thought of as Italian was first formalized in the first years of the 14th century through the works of Dante Alighieri, who mixed southern Italian languages, especially Sicilian, with his native Tuscan in his epic poems known collectively as the Commedia, to which Giovanni Boccaccio later affixed the title Divina. Dante's much-loved works were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the "canonical standard" that all educated Italians could understand. Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language and, thus, the dialect of Tuscany became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy.

Italian was often an official language of the various Italian states pre-dating unification, slowly usurping Latin, even when ruled by foreign powers (such as the Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples, or the Austrians in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia), even though the masses spoke primarily vernacular languages and dialects. Italian was also one of the many recognised languages in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city since the cities were, until recently, thought of as city-states. Those dialects now have considerable variety, however. As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout Italy, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of Regional Italian. The most characteristic differences, for instance, between Roman Italian and Milanese Italian are the gemination of initial consonants and the pronunciation of stressed "e", and of "s" in some cases (e.g. va bene "all right": is pronounced [va ˈbːɛne] by a Roman (and by any standard-speaker, like a Florentine), [va ˈbene] by a Milanese (and by any speaker whose native dialect lies to the north of La Spezia-Rimini Line); a casa "at home": Roman and standard [a ˈkːasa], Milanese and generally northern [a ˈkaza]). (See Raddoppiamento fonosintattico).

In contrast to the Northern Italian language, southern Italian dialects and languages were largely untouched by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy, mainly by bards from France, during the Middle Ages but, after the Norman conquest of southern Italy, Sicily became the first Italian land to adopt Occitan lyric moods (and words) in poetry. Even in the case of Northern Italian language, however, scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages. (See La Spezia-Rimini Line).

The economic might and relatively advanced development of Tuscany at the time (Late Middle Ages), gave its dialect weight, though Venetian language remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life, as well as Ligurian (or Genoese) remained in use in maritime trade alongside the Mediterranean. Also, the increasing political and cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of the rise of Medici's bank, Humanism and the Renaissance made its dialect, or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts.


Middle Ages

The re-discovery of Dante's De vulgari eloquentia and a renewed interest in linguistics in the 16th century sparked a debate that raged throughout Italy concerning the criteria that should govern the establishment of a modern Italian literary and spoken language. Scholars divided into three factions:

  • The purists, headed by Pietro Bembo (who in his Gli Asolani claimed the language might only be based on the great literary classics...notably, Petrarch and Boccaccio). The purists thought the Divine Comedy not dignified enough because it used elements from non-lyric registers of the language.

A fourth faction claimed the best Italian was the one the papal court adopted. Eventually, Bembo's ideas prevailed, and led to publication of the first Italian dictionary in 1612 and the foundation of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence (1582-3), the official legislative body of the Italian language.

Modern era

Two notable defining moments in the history of the Italian language came between 1500 and 1850. Both events were invasions. The rulers of Spain invaded and occupied Italy down to Rome and the Vatican in the mid-16th century (see the aftermath of the Italian Wars). This occupation left a lasting influence upon the formerly irregular Italian grammar, simplifying it to conform more with the dominant Spanish language. The second was the conquest and occupation of Italy by Napoleon in the early 19th century (who was himself of Italian-Corsican descent). This conquest propelled the unification of Italy, and pushed the Italian language into a lingua franca. The increased unity among people on the Italian peninsula weakened many regional languages.

Contemporary times

Italian literature's first modern novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), by Alessandro Manzoni further defined the standard by "rinsing" his Milanese "in the waters of the Arno" (Florence's river), as he states in the Preface to his 1840 edition.

After unification a huge number of civil servants and soldiers recruited from all over the country introduced many more words and idioms from their home languages ("ciao" is Venetian, "panettone" is in the Milanese dialect of the Lombard language etc.). Only 2.5% of Italy’s population could speak standard Italian when the nation unified in 1861.[8]


Italian is most closely related to the other two Italo-Dalmatian languages, Sicilian and the extinct Dalmatian. The three are part of the Italo-Western grouping of the Romance languages, which are a subgroup of the Italic branch of Indo-European.

Geographic distribution

Lengua italiana.png
The geographic distribution of the Italian language in the world: large Italian-speaking communities are shown in green; light blue indicates areas where it was understood and spoken during the Italian colonial period, in the first half of the 20th century .[citation needed]

The total speakers of Italian as a maternal language are between 70 and 80 million. The speakers who use Italian as a second or cultural language are estimated at around 150 million.[9]




Historically official:

Used by some immigrant communities in:

Speakers: Maternal language: 65[19] - 75 million [9] Cultural language: c. 120-150 million [9]

Italian is the official language of Italy and San Marino, and one of the official languages of Switzerland, spoken mainly in the cantons of Ticino and part of Graubünden (Grigioni in Italian), which together are a region referred to as Italian Switzerland. It is also official language with Croatian and Slovenian in some areas of Istria, where an Italian minority exists. It is the primary language of the Vatican City and is widely used and taught in Monaco and Malta. It served as Malta's official language until the Maltese language was enshrined in the 1934 Constitution. It is also spoken to a significant extent in France, with over 1,000,000 speakers [20] (especially in Corsica and the County of Nice, areas that historically spoke Italian dialects before annexation to France), and it is understood by large parts of the populations of Albania and coastal Montenegro, reached by many Italian TV channels.

Italian is also spoken by some in former Italian colonies in Africa (Libya and Eritrea). However, its use has sharply dropped off since the colonial period. In Eritrea, Italian is widely understood [21]. In fact, for 50 years, during the colonial period, Italian was the language of education, but as of 1997, there is only one Italian-language school remaining, with 470 pupils. The name of the only Italian-language school in Eritrea is Scuola Italiana di Asmara[22], which was also the only Italian-language school in Ethiopia, when Eritrea was a province of Ethiopia[23]. The number of Italian speakers may increase a little when the number of students at that school increases and because it is still spoken in commerce[24], and Eritrea will be the only African nation where Italian is widely spoken and understood. In Libya, Italian has been wiped out by the Libyan Revolution's Arabization programs in education and media. In Egypt and Tunisia, it is mostly spoken by Italian Egyptians and Italian Tunisians and some professionals of non-Italian descent. In all of the above former Italian African colonies, most of the fluent Italian speakers are people who grew up in officially Italian-speaking nations, most especially Italy, and returned to Africa.

Italian and Italian dialects are widely used by Italian immigrants and many of their descendants (see Italians) living throughout Western Europe (especially France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg), the United States, Canada, Australia, and Latin America (especially Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela).

In the United States, Italian speakers are most commonly found in five cities: Boston (7,000),[25] Chicago (12,000),[26] the Miami region (27,000),[27] New York City (140,000),[28] and Philadelphia (15,000).[29] According to the United States Census in 2000, over 1 million Italian Americans spoke Italian at home, with the largest concentrations (nearly half) found in the states of New York (294,271) and New Jersey (116,365).[30] In Canada, Italian is the fourth most commonly spoken language, with 661,000 speakers (or about 2.1% of the population) according to the 2006 Census. Particularly large Italian-speaking communities are found in Montreal (c. 179,000) and Toronto (c. 262,000).[13] Italian is also strongly visible in the Hamilton area. Italian is the second most commonly spoken language in Australia, where 353,605 Italian Australians, or 1.9% of the population, reported speaking Italian at home in the 2001 Census.[31] In 2001 there were 130,000 Italian speakers in Melbourne,[32] and 90,000 in Sydney.[33]

Italian language education

Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first foreign language; in fact, Italian generally is the fourth or fifth most taught foreign language in the world.[34]

In anglophone parts of Canada, Italian is, after French, the third most taught language[citation needed]. In Francophone Canada it is third after English[citation needed]. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Italian ranks fourth (after Spanish-French-German and French-German-Spanish respectively). Throughout the world, Italian is the fifth most taught foreign language, after English, Spanish, French, and German.[35]

In the European Union, Italian is spoken as a mother tongue by 13% of the population (65 million[36], mainly in Italy itself) and as a second language by 3% (14 million); among EU member states, it is most likely to be desired (and therefore learned) as a second language in Malta (61%), Croatia (14%), Slovenia (12%), Austria (11%), Romania (8%), France (6%), and Greece (6%).[37] It is also an important second language in Albania and Switzerland, which are not EU members or candidates.

Influence and derived languages

From the late 19th to the mid 20th century, thousands of Italians settled in Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, and Venezuela, where they formed a very strong physical and cultural presence (see the Italian diaspora).

In some cases, colonies were established where variants of Italian dialects were used, and some continue to use a derived dialect. An example is Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, where Talian is used, and in the town of Chipilo near Puebla, Mexico; each continuing to use a derived form of Venetian dating back to the 19th century. Another example is Cocoliche, an Italian-Spanish pidgin once spoken in Argentina and especially in Buenos Aires, and Lunfardo.

Rioplatense Spanish, and particularly the speech of the city of Buenos Aires, has intonation patterns that resemble those of Italian dialects,[38] due to the fact that Argentina has had a continuous large influx of Italian settlers since the second half of the 19th century; initially primarily from Northern Italy; then, since the beginning of the twentieth century, mostly from Southern Italy.

Italian as a lingua franca

Starting in late medieval times, Italian language variants replaced Latin to become the primary commercial language in much of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea (especially the Tuscan and Venetian variants). This was consolidated during the Renaissance with the strength of Italian and the rise of humanism in the arts.

During the Renaissance, Italy held artistic sway over the rest of Europe. All educated European gentlemen were expected to make the Grand Tour, visiting Italy to see its great historical monuments and works of art. It thus became expected that educated Europeans would learn at least some Italian; the English poet John Milton, for instance, wrote some of his early poetry in Italian. In England, Italian became the second most common modern language to be learned, after French (though the classical languages, Latin and Greek, came first). However, by the late 18th century, Italian tended to be replaced by German as the second modern language in the curriculum. Yet Italian loanwords continue to be used in most other European languages in matters of art and music. Within the Catholic church, Italian is known by a large part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and is used in substitution for Latin in some official documents. The presence of Italian as the primary language in the Vatican City indicates use, not only within the Holy See, but also throughout the world where an episcopal seat is present.[citation needed] It continues to be used in music and opera. Other examples where Italian is sometimes used as a means of communication is in some sports (sometimes in football[citation needed] and motorsports) and in the design and fashion industries.


In Italy, all Romance languages spoken as the vernacular, other than standard Italian and other unrelated, non-Italian languages, are termed "Italian dialects".

Italian dialects

Many Italian dialects may be considered as historical languages in their own right.[39] These include recognized language groups such as Friulian, Neapolitan, Sardinian, Sicilian, Ligurian, Piedmontese, Venetian, and others, and regional variants of these languages such as Calabrian. The distinction between dialect and language has been made by scholars (such as Francesco Bruni): on the one hand are the languages that made up the Italian koine; and on the other, those that had little or no part in it, such as Albanian, Greek, German, Ladin, and Occitan, which some minorities still speak.

Non-standard dialects are not generally used for mass communication and are usually limited to native speakers in informal contexts. In the past, speaking in dialect was often deprecated as a sign of poor education. In parts of Italy, the younger generations tend to speak standard Italian, rather than dialects, in all situations, albeit usually with local accents and idioms.[citation needed] Regional differences can be recognized by various factors: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and influence of the local dialect (for example, in informal situations the contraction annà replaces andare in the area of Rome for the infinitive "to go").


This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.


Italian has seven vowel phonemes: /a/, /e/, /ɛ/, /i/, /o/, /ɔ/, /u/, represented by five letters: "a, e, i, o, u". The pairs /e/-/ɛ/, and /o/-/ɔ/ are seldom distinguished in writing and often confused, even though most varieties of Italian employ both phonemes consistently. Compare, for example standard "perché" [perˈke] (why, because) and "senti" [ˈsɛnti] (you hear), as pronounced by most central and southern speakers, with [perˈkɛ] and [ˈsenti], employed by most northern speakers. As a result, the usage is strongly indicative of a person's origin. The standard (Tuscan) usage of these vowels is listed in vocabularies, and employed outside Tuscany mainly by specialists, especially actors and very few (television) journalists. These are truly different phonemes, however: compare /ˈpeska/ (fishing) and /ˈpɛska/ (peach), both spelled pesca (About this sound listen ). Similarly /ˈbotte/ ('barrel') and /ˈbɔtte/ ('beatings'), both spelled botte, discriminate /o/ and /ɔ/ (About this sound listen ).

In general, vowel combinations usually pronounce each vowel separately. Diphthongs exist (e.g. uo, iu, ie, ai), but are limited to an unstressed u or i before or after a stressed vowel.

The unstressed u in a diphthong approximates the English semivowel w, and the unstressed i approximates the semivowel y. E.g.: buono [ˈbwɔːno], ieri [ˈjɛːri].

Triphthongs exist in Italian as well, like "continuiamo" ("we continue"). Three vowel combinations exist only in the form semiconsonant (/j/ or /w/), followed by a vowel, followed by a desinence vowel (usually /i/), as in miei, suoi, or two semiconsonants followed by a vowel, as the group -uia- exemplified above, or -iuo- in the word aiuola.[40]

Mobile diphthongs

Many Latin words with a short e or o have Italian counterparts with a mobile diphthong (ie and uo respectively). When the vowel sound is stressed, it is pronounced and written as a diphthong; when not stressed, it is pronounced and written as a single vowel.

So Latin focus gave rise to Italian fuoco (meaning both "fire" and "optical focus"): when unstressed, as in focale ("focal") the "o" remains alone. Latin pes (more precisely its accusative form pedem) is the source of Italian piede (foot): but unstressed "e" was left unchanged in pedone (pedestrian) and pedale (pedal). From Latin iocus comes Italian giuoco ("play", "game"), though in this case gioco is more common: giocare means "to play (a game)". From Latin homo comes Italian uomo (man), but also umano (human) and ominide (hominid). From Latin ovum comes Italian uovo (egg) and ovaie (ovaries). (The same phenomenon occurs in Spanish: juego (play, game) and jugar (to play), nieve (snow) and nevar (to snow)).


Two symbols in a table cell denote the voiceless and voiced consonant, respectively.

Consonants of Italian[41]
Bilabial Labio-
Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive p, b , k, ɡ
Affricate t̪s̪, d̪z̪ ,
Fricative f, v s, z ʃ, (ʒ)
Trill r
Lateral l ʎ
Approximant j w

Nasals undergo assimilation when followed by a consonant, e.g., when preceding a velar (/k/ or /ɡ/) only [ŋ] appears, etc.

Italian has geminate, or double, consonants, which are distinguished by length. Length is distinctive for all consonants except for /ʃ/, /ts/, /dz/, /ʎ/ /ɲ/, which are always geminate, and /z/, which is always single. Geminate plosives and affricates are realised as lengthened closures. Geminate fricatives, nasals, and /l/ are realized as lengthened continuants. The flap consonant /ɾ/ is typically dialectal. The correct standard pronunciation is [r].

Of special interest to the linguistic study of Italian is the gorgia toscana, or "Tuscan Throat", the weakening or lenition of certain intervocalic consonants in Tuscan dialects. See also Syntactic doubling.

The voiced postalveolar fricative /ʒ/ is only present in loanwords. For example, garage [ɡaˈraːʒ].


Italian has few diphthongs, so most unfamiliar diphthongs that are heard in foreign words (in particular, those beginning with vowel "a", "e", or "o") will be assimilated as the corresponding diaeresis (i.e., the vowel sounds will be pronounced separately). Italian phonotactics do not usually permit verbs and polysyllabic nouns to end with consonants, excepting poetry and song, so foreign words may receive extra terminal vowel sounds.


Common variations in the writing systems

Some variations in the usage of the writing system may be present in practical use. These are scorned by educated people, but they are so common in certain contexts that knowledge of them may be useful.

  • Usage of x instead of per: this is very common among teenagers and in SMS abbreviations. The multiplication operator is pronounced "per" in Italian, and so it is sometimes used to replace the word "per", which means "for"; thus, for example, "per te" ("for you") is shortened to "x te" (compare with English "4 U"). Words containing per can also have it replaced with x: for example, perché (both "why" and "because") is often shortened as xché or xké or x' (see below). This usage might be useful to jot down quick notes or to fit more text into the low character limit of an SMS, but it is unacceptable in formal writing.
  • Usage of foreign letters such as k, j and y, especially in nicknames and SMS language: ke instead of che, Giusy instead of Giuseppina (or sometimes Giuseppe). This is curiously mirrored in the usage of i in English names such as Staci instead of Stacey, or in the usage of c in Northern Europe (Jacob instead of Jakob). The use of "k" instead of "ch" or "c" to represent a plosive sound is documented in some historical texts from before the standardization of the Italian language; however, that usage is no longer standard in Italian. Possibly because it is associated with the German language, the letter "k" has sometimes also been used in satire to suggest that a political figure is an authoritarian or even a "pseudo-nazi": Francesco Cossiga was famously nicknamed Kossiga by rioting students during his tenure as minister of internal affairs. [Cf. the politicized spelling Amerika in the USA.] Also, while not being a letter in the standard Italian alphabet, the letter j is found in many of the languages of southern Italy, including Neapolitan and Sicilian. In modern texts written in any such language, the j is often replaced with an i.
  • Use of the following abbreviations is limited to the electronic communications media and is deprecated in all other cases: nn instead of non (not), cmq instead of comunque (anyway, however), cm instead of come (how, like, as), d instead of di (of), (io/loro) sn instead of (io/loro) sono (I am/they are), (io) dv instead of (io) devo (I must/I have to) or instead of dove (where), (tu) 6 instead of (tu) sei (you are).
  • Whenever non-ASCII characters are not available, or when they cannot be relied on, for example in emails, sometimes accents are replaced by apostrophes for convenience, such as in perche' instead of perché (this was standard in the days of manual typewriters that had no accents, and is still common for upper case letters). Uppercase È is particularly rare, as it is absent from the Italian keyboard layout, and is very often written as E' (even though there are several ways of producing the uppercase È on a computer). This never happens in books or other professionally typeset material. On the other hand, many people confuse the grave and the acute accent, and write perchè instead of perché or caffé instead of caffè, since these two accents are usually written in the same way in handwriting.[citation needed]




English Italian IPAIPA
One uno /ˈuno/
Two due /ˈdue/
Three tre /tre/
Four quattro /ˈkwattro/
Five cinque /ˈtʃiŋkwe/
Six sei /ˈsɛi/
Seven sette /ˈsɛtte/
Eight otto /ˈɔtto/
Nine nove /ˈnɔve/
Ten dieci /ˈdjɛtʃi/
English Italian IPA
Eleven undici /ˈunditʃi/
Twelve dodici /ˈdoditʃi/
Thirteen tredici /ˈtreditʃi/
Fourteen quattordici /kwatˈtorditʃi/
Fifteen quindici /ˈkwinditʃi/
Sixteen sedici /ˈseditʃi/
Seventeen diciassette /ditʃasˈsɛtte/
Eighteen diciotto /diˈtʃɔtto/
Nineteen diciannove /ditʃanˈnɔve/
Twenty venti /ˈventi/
English Italian IPA
Twenty-one ventuno /ventˈuno/
Twenty-two ventidue /ventiˈdue/
Twenty-three ventitre /ventiˈtre/
Twenty-four ventiquattro /ventiˈkwattro/
Twenty-five venticinque /ventiˈtʃiŋkwe/
Twenty-six ventisei /ventiˈsɛi/
Twenty-seven ventisette /ventiˈsɛtte/
Twenty-eight ventotto /ventˈɔtto/
Twenty-nine ventinove /ventiˈnɔve/
Thirty trenta /ˈtrenta/

Days of the week

English Italian IPA
Monday lunedì /luneˈdi/
Tuesday martedì /marteˈdi/
Wednesday mercoledì /merkoleˈdi/
Thursday giovedì /dʒoveˈdi/
Friday venerdì /venerˈdi/
Saturday sabato /ˈsabato/
Sunday domenica /doˈmenika/

Sample texts

There is a recording of Dante's Divine Comedy read by Lino Pertile available at

See also

Italian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

References and notes

  1. ^ a b Ethnologue report for language code:ita (Italy) - Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version
  2. ^ Legge sulle fonti del diritto of 7 June 1929, laws and regulations are published in the Italian-language Supplemento per le leggi e disposizioni dello Stato della Città del Vaticano attached to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. See also Languages of the Vatican City
  3. ^ Grimes, Barbara F. (October 1996). Barbara F. Grimes. ed. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Consulting Editors: Richard S. Pittman & Joseph E. Grimes (thirteenth edition ed.). Dallas, Texas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, Academic Pub. ISBN 1-55671-026-7. 
  4. ^ Brincat (2005)
  5. ^ (Italian) Dizionario d'ortografia e di pronunzia
  6. ^ E. Paulescu et al., Dyslexia - cultural diversity and biological unity, "Science", vol. 291, pp. 2165–2167.
  7. ^ "History of the Italian language.". Retrieved 2006-09-24. 
  8. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition
  9. ^ a b c Microsoft Word - Frontespizio.doc
  10. ^ 1,500,000 mother tongue Italian speakers in Brazil
  11. ^ 1,500,000 mother tongue Italian speakers in Argentina
  12. ^ over 1 million Americans speak Italian at home
  13. ^ a b Statistics Canada 2006
  14. ^ 548,000 mother tongue Italian speakers in Germany
  15. ^ Vannini, Marisa. Italia y los Italianos en la Historia y en la Cultura de Venezuela. Oficina Central de Información (Ministerio del Interior). Caracas, 1966
  16. ^ 353,605 mother tongue Italian speakers in Australia
  17. ^ 200,000 mother tongue Italian speakers in the UK
  18. ^ 72,400 mother tongue Italian speakers in Egypt
  19. ^ "Languages Spoken by More Than 10 Million People". Microsoft Encarta 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  20. ^ Ethnologue report for France
  21. ^ Languages of Eritrea - Tigrinya
  22. ^ Scuola Italiana di Asmara (in Italian)
  23. ^ Tekle M. Woldemikael, "Language, Education, and Public Policy in Eritrea," in African Studies Review, Vol. 46, No. 1. (Apr., 2003), pp. 117–136.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Boston, Massachusetts, MLA Data Center
  26. ^ Chicago, Illinois, MLA Data Center
  27. ^
  28. ^ New York, New York, MLA Data Center
  29. ^ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, MLA Data Center
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005, "Language other than English" (spreadsheet of figures from 2001 Census)
  32. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002, "A Snapshot of Melbourne"
  33. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002, "A Snapshot of Sydney"
  34. ^ 9
  35. ^
  36. ^ Eurobarometer – Europeans and their languagesPDF (485 KiB), February 2006
  37. ^ Eurobarometer – Europeans and their languagesPDF (485 KiB), February 2006
  38. ^ Unidad en la diversidad – Portal informativo sobre la lengua castellana
  39. ^ Ethnologue web reference for Italian
  40. ^ Serianni, Luca; Castelvecchi, Alberto (1997). Italiano. Garzanti. pp. 15. 
  41. ^ Rogers & d'Arcangeli (2004:117)


  • Rogers, Derek; d'Arcangeli, Luciana (2004), "Italian", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (1): 117–121 
  • M. Vitale, Studi di Storia della Lingua Italiana, LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 1992, ISBN 88-7916-015-X
  • S. Morgana, Capitoli di Storia Linguistica Italiana, LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2003, ISBN 88-7916-211-X
  • J. Kinder, CLIC: Cultura e Lingua d'Italia in Cd-rom / Culture and Language of Italy on Cd-rom, Interlinea, Novara, 2008, ISBN 978-88-8212-637-7

External links

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

This page has been moved to introduction to Italian for organizational purposes!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to Italian article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also italian



Wikipedia has an article on:



Mediaeval Latin Italiānus, from Italia (Italy)


  • enPR: ĭtălʹyən, IPA: /ɪˈtæljən/, SAMPA: /I"t{lj@n/
  •  Audio (US)help, file
  • IPA: /ˌaɪˈtæljən/ (derogatory)


Italian (comparative more Italian, superlative most Italian)


more Italian

most Italian

  1. Pertaining to Italy, its people or its language.





Italian (plural Italians)

  1. An inhabitant of Italy, or a person of Italian descent.


Proper noun




  1. The official language of Italy, also spoken in San Marino, the Vatican, and parts of Switzerland.

Derived terms


See also

External links


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Italian article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Development stage: 50% (as of Jan 11, 2008)(Jan 11, 2008)

Italian Language Course   
Learning the Italian Language

Introduction | Lessons | Grammar | Vocabulary | About the Book | Layout


Serenissima Repubblica
di San Marino
Stato della
Città del Vaticano
I This is a Category I Language.

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|250px|Where Italian is spoken in Europe.]]

Italian is a language spoken by about 70 million people, mostly people from Italy, from which it gets its name. It is the official language in Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, Switzerland and in some cities of Slovenia and Croatia. It is also used in some parts of Monaco, Malta, Albania, Dodecaneso (Greece), Eritrea, Libya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tunisia, Slovenia, Croatia and some other places.

It is mostly derived from Latin, with some words from Greek, Etruscan and elsewhere. It is called an inflected language - that means that the meaning of words can be changed by changing their endings. Italian nouns are either masculine or feminine (these are grammatical terms, normally only indirectly to do with sex).

Most singular masculine nouns end in -o, and most plural masculine nouns end in -i.

Most singular feminine nouns end in -a, and most plural feminine nouns end in -e.


  • gatto = male cat
  • gatta = female cat
  • gatti = male cats
  • gatte = female cats

The ending of verbs are quite complicated, because they depend upon the tense of the verb (past, present, future and so on) and on the person of the verb (I, you, they etc). Because of that, the personal pronoun is not compulsory (in the following example it is in parenthesis).


  • (io) parlo = I speak
  • (noi) parliamo = we speak
  • (lui) parlava = he was speaking
  • (loro) parlarono = they spoke
  • (io) parlerò = I will speak
  • parliamo! = let's speak!

There are very many of these endings to learn - it is a difficult part of Italian. But pronunciation is simple - there are just a few rules to learn, and hardly any difficult sounds.

Many Italian words have entered the English language. Pizza, spaghetti and ravioli are just some of the food words that we use. Many technical words in music are Italian, such as forte and allegro. Many musical instrument names are also Italian, such as cello and tuba. From the darker side of Italian life we get Mafia and vendetta. But Bravo for Italian - it's a good language to learn.

Other websites

koi:Италия кыв


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