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IT10: The Language of Italy

This paper is available for the academic year 2023-24.

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 will consist of TWO parts:

1) Lent term Coursework Essay: Answer ONE question from a list that will be released at the end of Lent term. You should write no more than 1,800 words. 

2) Easter Exam: A 3-hour timed online examination. Answer TWO questions. For each answer write no more than 1,500 words. Or Answer one question selected from those which are marked with an asterisk (*). Your answer should be no more than 3,000 words. 

Candidates for this paper may not draw substantially on material from their dissertations or material which they have used or intend to use in another scheduled paper. Candidates may not draw substantially on the same material in more than one question on the same paper.

If you have any questions, please contact Adam Ledgeway (

Past exam papers can be downloaded from Moodle.

Course Contacts: 
Stefania Costea