The Lord’s Prayer in Italian:
- Padre Nostro, che sei nei cieli,
- Sia santificato il tuo nome.
- Venga il tuo regno,
- Sia fatta la tua volontà,
- Come in cielo, così in terra.
- Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano,
- E rimetti a noi i nostri debiti,
- Come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori.
- E non ci indurre in tentazione,
- Ma liberaci dal male.
Italian (960- ) is the main language of Italy and southern Switzerland. About 70 million people speak it. It is also spoken in Savoy, Nice and Corsica, parts of France that Italy once ruled, as well as in Istria in the east, now divided between Slovenia and Croatia.
Millions of Italians have moved overseas to North and South America and Australia. Yet few of their children and grandchildren – like Madonna, Rudy Giulilani or Eva Longoria – can speak Italian.
The largest overseas Italian-speaking area is in the wine country of Rio Grande do Sul, the part of Brazil near Uruguay.
Italian seems like Spanish. But Italian words are closer to Latin. Like in Latin and unlike Spanish, double consonants still matter in Italian and plurals are made by changing the vowel at the end, not by adding an s.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, Latin continued to be spoken in Italy, but it slowly changed into Italian. It first appears in court testimony in the 960s:
Sao ko quelle terre per quelle fini que qui contene trenta anni le possette parte sancti Benedicti.
which you would now say as:
So che quelle terre per quei confini che qui sono contenuti per trenta anni le possedette la parte di San Benedetto.
But until the 1800s Italy was divided into city-states, each with its own sort of Italian. Worse still, the Italian of the north could not be understood in the south.
In other countries, the language of the capital became the language of government and education. Not so in Italy: Rome did not become the capital of Italy till the 1800s. Too late.
By the late 1500s Italian writers, no matter where they came from, wrote in the Italian of Tuscany, made famous by the works of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.
Through the work of Pietro Bembo and the Accademia della Crusca in Florence, the Italian of Petrarch and Boccaccio – but not Dante – became the model of pure, written Italian. It helped that Tuscan Italian is halfway between northern Italian and southern Italian.
Why not Dante too? Dante did not write in pure Tuscan Italian. He put southern words into his writing so that he could be understood throughout Italy.
In the 1800s Alessandro Manzoni brought that model up to date. It became the Italian of government and education, being spread by the schools, the army, television and films.
Half of all Italians – mostly those who are young and have an education – speak it as their main language. Older people still speak in the dialect of their part of Italy.