As I stroll under the scorching sun in Nardò, a town in Puglia on the heel of Italy’s boot, I hear music from an open window. The melody sounds like the Lennon–McCartney classic “Yesterday,” but the lyrics are not in English — or Italian. Then I see a leaflet announcing courses in Neretino, a dialect spoken only in Nardò. But that’s not unusual: Each whitewashed village in this gorgeous region of olive groves and Baroque churches has its own tongue.
And it’s not just in the deep, primitive Italian south where ancient languages are lovingly preserved and promoted. All of Italy is seeing a renewed interest in dialects, a revival linked to a national — and greater European — identity crisis. “It’s a matter of territorial belonging,” says Andrea Maniero, a linguistics expert and resident of Nardò, where everyone understands the local lingo even if they don’t speak it. “The ones most lured to learning it are the youth, who are fascinated by the old speech of their grandparents.”
According to national statistics, half of all Italians prefer to speak in a dialect, whether it’s picturesque Napulitano (Neapolitan), Siculo (Sicilian), Francoprovenzale (an ancient Gallo-Romance language spoken in Alpine valleys), Fùrlan (Friulan, typical of the Friuli region in northeastern Italy) or Ladino (an old version of Latin) — just to name a few. In fact, Italy’s Union of Tourist Boards calculates that the country has some 11,000 dialects. The influence of Napulitano and Siculo is so strong that the iPhone offers them as language options.
Read more: Ozy
The Italian language is under assault from a growing tide of English words, the abandoning of verb tenses and a shrinking vocabulary, and could be driven to extinction altogether, the head of the country’s most illustrious language institute has warned.
The language of Dante and Petrarch is becoming vulgarised and made more simplistic as young people dispense with the subjunctive and future tenses and sprinkle their day-to-day language with Anglicisms, even where there are perfectly adequate Italian alternatives, according to the Accademia della Crusca, an academy that guards the purity of Italian, said.
“There’s been a big increase in the number of foreign words and expressions and the trend will continue, above all with English words,” said Prof Claudio Marazzini, the president of the academy, which was founded in Florence in 1582. “We are heading towards a more meagre Italian.”
Thousands of words are at risk of extinction through not being used anymore in daily discourse, he said. They include “accolito” (acolyte, henchman), “maliardo” (bewitching), “tremebondo” (tremulous, trembling), “zufolare” (to whistle), and “abbindolare” (to be taken for a ride, to be led by the nose).
Read more: The Telegraph
The 2015 World’s Fair, held in Milan, was an unexpected success. It showcased a sleek, self-confident city, all trendy architecture and eco-friendly design. How things have changed. In the 1960s, Milan was a grubby, electrifying place. Industry choked the streets, and petty crime was rife. Milan was also different linguistically. Singers belted out folk songs in milanes, the city’s distinctive dialect. This tradition is all but dead now. But recalling it conjures another Milan, charting its transformation into a modern city.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Milanese folk music was hugely popular. From legendary joints like the Derby Club, singers like Enzo Jannacci (pictured) and Nanni Svampa composed or reinterpreted dozens of songs covering all parts of Milanese life. Some bands, like I Gufi (The Owls), were famous enough to be shown on television. These chroniclers had a lot of material to work with. The post-war “economic miracle” was turning Milanese society on its head. Hundreds of thousands of poor southerners came north to work in new Milanese factories. Cheap apartment blocks sprouted up to house them. Class tensions were common: one industrial suburb was known as the Italian Stalingrad. In one song, Mr Svampa remarked that he would never stop being jealous of those who can afford to “marry for love”.
It is unsurprising that some resorted to crime. Jannacci (who died in 2013) and Mr Svampa sang at length about la mala, the now defunct Milanese underworld. Friends are betrayed and lives wasted, all for the price of a risotto and a carafe of wine. In one poignant song, the protagonist—now in jail—muses that everyone has “three things at the depth of their heart: their youth, their mother and their first love”. Now that his youth is spent, and his mother dead, the narrator concludes that he’s “stuck like a pirla (prick) with his first love”.
Read more: The Economist
ALGHERO, Italy — The first Catalans reached Sardinia in the 14th century, when troops sailed from the eastern coast of what is now Spain as part of an expansion into the Mediterranean.
After an uprising slaughtered the forces garrisoned in this northern port on the island, King Peter IV expelled many of the locals. In their place, he populated Alghero mostly with convicts, prostitutes and other undesirables, many of them Catalans.
Today, Alghero is a linguistic anomaly. This walled and picturesque city is, quite literally, the last bastion of Catalan in Italy.
In an age when people cling ever more tightly to national identity, the lingering use of Catalan in Alghero is a reminder of the ways Mediterranean cultures have blended for centuries, rendering identity a fluid thing.
But while the traditional insularity of Alghero has helped to preserve Catalan, the language is struggling to survive even here.
Read more: NY Times