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IT10: The Language of Italy

This paper is suspended for the academic year 2021-22 (please see CS1, which will still be running)

This course has two closely connected aims. First, you will study the external history of the Italian language, including the social, political and cultural forces which helped to promote one of the dialects (namely, Florentine) to cultural preeminence as a literary language and then to social preeminence as the basis of the modern national language. Second, you will examine the internal history of Italian and the minor language systems used in Italy, i.e., the 'dialects', exploring the two thousand year evolution from Latin to the contemporary Italo-Romance varieties. This study will provide you with a deeper understanding of the structure of modern Italian grammar through an exploration of its historical development.


Previous topics are as follows:

Michaelmas Term Lectures and Supervisions:

- Pre-Roman Italy & Substrates

- What language do Italians speak?

- Lexis and Language Contact

- Northern Italian Dialects

- Southern Italian Dialects

- Central Italian Dialects: Area Mediana

- The First Italo-Romance Texts

- Early Texts

Lent Term Lectures and Supervisions:

- The Sound System: Vowels; Consonantal Strengthening and Weakening; Raddoppiamento Sintattico

- Sardinian

- Morpho-syntax: Auxiliary Selection and Distribution; Future in the South; Negation; Complementiser Systems & Left Periphery; Sentential Word Order

- Regional Texts and Dialect Texts 

Preparatory reading: 

Maiden, M., A Linguistic History of Italian (London: Longman, 1995)

Vincent, N., "Italian" in M. Harris and N. Vincent (eds.), The Romance Languages (London: Routledge, 1988)

Teaching and learning: 

The course is taught through weekly lectures and 4 supervisions per Term.

For the It.10 Moodle site, please see here



The examination paper is made up of one compulsory commentary question (question 1) plus a wide range of other questions on structure, dialects and varieties, any two of which must be answered.

Past exam papers can be downloaded from Moodle.

Course Contacts: 
Ms. Kim Groothuis