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The Other Italy

The Other Italy: The Literary Canon in Dialect

  • Book Info
    The Other Italy
    Book Description:

    Italy possesses two literary canons, one in the Tuscan language and the other made up of the various dialects of its many regions. This book presents for the first time an overview of the principal authors and texts of Italy?s literary canon in dialect.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8199-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. MAP
    (pp. xii-2)
  5. Introduction: Literature and Dialect
    (pp. 3-22)

    Within Western literary traditions, Italy is unique in its pervasive dual literary canon, in Tuscan and in a myriad of dialects. While many countries have produced, in addition to an official literature in a standardized koine, some sporadic works in more regionalized or local forms of language¹, in the Italian context these efforts were historically continuous. Plurilingualism and its literary expressions are in fact a quintessential, fundamental aspect of Italian civilization. The dual Tuscan-based and dialect literary canons emerge from the countryʹs linguistic history, rooted in its political and social evolution. The peninsulaʹs endemic bilingualism of Latin and vernacular in...

  6. Part I A Feast of Languages:: The Different Modes of the Literary Dialects

    • 1 Dialect Poetry
      (pp. 25-38)

      Among all genres of the dialect canon, poetry stands out as the richest, the most consistent and diversified. Like the classical Tuscan tradition, this genre produced major celebrated poets. And like poetry in Tuscan, poetry in dialect flourished in some periods while declining in others. According to Dionisotti, the Quattrocento was a period without poetry,¹ and a crisis of literature in Tuscan was manifest again in the Baroque age, followed by a renewal during Romanticism. For Dionisotti, these movements are not coincidental, but are related to the cultural climates of municipal restrictions, the crisis of regional and local structures, or,...

    • 2 Language at Play: The Italian Dialect Theatre
      (pp. 39-53)

      Within the context of European theatrical culture, Italy prides itself with a tradition in the literary standard that extends from theSacre rappresentazioniof the fifteenth century to the world-renowned twentieth-century theatre giant Luigi Pirandello.² Among its outstanding expressions were the Renaissance theatre with its classical tragedies, pastoral drama, and the brilliant comedies of Ariosto, Bibbiena, Machiavelli, and Aretino, which appealed mostly to the court and to the intellectual elite; the eighteenth-century melodrama with Metastasio as a protagonist; followed by the success of Goldoniʹs comedies and Alfieriʹs tragedies. Italian theatre exerted a strong influence on foreign stages, such as the...

    • 3 Narrative Prose in Dialect
      (pp. 54-59)

      The literary dialects were adopted also in narrative prose, although on a minor scale, if one exempts the rich transcriptions of popular oral sources found in all regions and only of marginal concern in this book. Compared with the wealth of poetry and theatre, there were only a few episodes in which the dialect was adopted in short stories and novels. At the juncture between the spoken and the written word, dialect prose is present of course in the theatre. To write a narrative prose text has instead always been a marginal pursuit, not only in Italyʹs dialect canon but...

    • 4 Aspects of the History of Language and Dialects
      (pp. 60-70)

      The contributions by dialect authors and grammarians concerning linguistic questions focus on three principal themes or aspects that can be traced from the sixteenth century on. They include the defence of the dialects and, closely related to it, the debate on the dichotomy between the literary standard in Tuscan and the practice of literary dialects; the search of dialect purism, particularly from the eighteenth century on; and the dialect writersʹ philological pursuits.

      Apart from those writers who ridiculed the dialects,¹ such as the Neapolitan Giovan Battista Del Tufo (1548–1600), who distinguished between ʹfavellar gentileʹ (equivalent with Tuscan, but strangely...

  7. Part II The Dialect Canon through the Regions:: A Literary Repertory of the Other Italy

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 71-74)

      The following repertory of selected literary sources in print provides an overview of the dialect canon according to Italyʹs administrative regions. To the student and scholar engaged in literary or linguistic research it proposes a first orientation and impression of the wealth of Italian dialect literature. The reader will also grow aware of similarities among and differences between regional traditions, and of the interrelations with the ʹofficialʹ Tuscan canon.

      The seventeen chapters of this part present a journey from north to south. This order could have been reversed, as in Pasoliniʹs anthology; the sequence adopted here simply follows that chosen...

    • 1 Piedmont
      (pp. 75-93)

      The complex political and linguistic history of the multilingual and multicultural region of Piedmont determined in several ways the history of its literary production in dialect. Situated at the peninsulaʹs northwest periphery, the people of this border region between France and Italy put up an astonishing struggle to conquer the Italian language, considering the continuous territorial conflicts involving the Savoy state and the French. Although the regionʹs earliest vernacular text, theSermoni subalpini, goes back to the twelfth/thirteenth century, literary Tuscan was slow in gaining prestige: with French used at the court, the first printed texts –II Fiore di...

    • 2 Liguria
      (pp. 94-103)

      Throughout the Middle Ages, Liguria was a plurilingual region, in which Latin and particularly Provengal tended to prevail as literary languages over the Genoese vernacular. The proximity to Provence, and to a certain extent the linguistic similarity between Provencal and the Gallo-Italic dialects, explain perhaps why Raimbaut de VaqueirasʹsContrasto bilingue(in Provençal and Genoese) and theDiscorso plurilinguewere among the very first Italo-Romance literary texts, followed soon by the Genoese rhymes ofLʹAnonimo Genovese, whose name may have been Loreto according to a recent edition. Only in the fourteenth century did the Genoese vernacular gain more prestige, while...

    • 3 Lombardy
      (pp. 104-125)

      Among the northern Italian regions, Lombardy and Veneto boast the richest dialect-literature traditions. Furthermore, with a major artist such as Carlo Porta, Milanese literature reached one of the dialect canonʹs highest expressions.

      The wealth of Milanese dialect works could be related to the linguistic distance of the Gallo-Italic dialect group from Tuscan. Milanese shares with the Piedmontese, Ligurian, and Emilian-Romagnol dialects sonorization of intervocalic unvoiced consonants and loss of final vowels, while its distinctive feature is the development of Lat. A + L >ol(cold, alter). This wealth is also related to the regionʹs linguistic history, which tended to preserve...

    • 4 Veneto
      (pp. 126-159)

      Dialect literary culture in Venice and in the Veneto region is among Italyʹs richest, both in its continuity through time and in the quality of its playwrights and poets. With the advent of the Venetian Republic, and even earlier, during the late Middle Ages, the ʹSerenissimaʹ became the crossroads of trade at sea and beyond the Alps, a meeting point for people and cultures, an important cultural centre, where the linguistic revolution and search for a national language originated before spreading across Europe. It was here, in an environment of plurilingualism and against the backdrop of the carnival of languages...

    • 5 Friuli
      (pp. 160-175)

      Friuli is a border region, a door to the northeast, and thus rich in cultural contacts and conflicts throughout its history. Its unity was disrupted in the sixth century AD, when it entered the German sphere of influence lasting throughout the twelfth century. Friulian is linguistically diverse from the other Italo-Romance varieties – witness the strong diphtongization, the palatalization of Latin c- in front of a- (canem >cian), the loss of final vowels except for -a > -e; plural -s, etc. After the first vernacular document of 1290 – the legal documentStatuto dei Disciplinati di Cividale del Friuli – and...

    • 6 Emilia-Romagna
      (pp. 176-194)

      In the region that produced Italian writers such as Ariosto and Tasso, Carducci and Pascoli, most literature in dialect originated in Bologna, at least until after Italyʹs unification, when Romagnol lyrical production became more prevalent. Both from a linguistic and a historical point of view, Emilia-Romagna lacked homogeneity, being deprived of a dialect koine, and fragmented among the provincial capitals of Parma and Piacenza, Modena and Ferrara, Bologna, and Romagna. Parma was for centuries a brilliant cultural centre. It underwent strong French influence during the age of Enlightenment. An artificial Italian variety, the so-calledparlar tosquigno or in squinci(o), dominated...

    • 7 Tuscany
      (pp. 195-200)

      The linguistic hegemony of Tuscan coincides with the regionʹs early economic, political, and cultural dominance. From its first documents in the late eleventh century, thePostilla amiatinaand theConto navale pisano, and its first literary text in the early thirteenth century, theRitmo laurenziano, the spoken language of Tuscany was soon to be used widely not only by its great literary figures of the Trecento, but also in a wide range of intraregional business practice. The Tuscan vernacular was thus written not only by a cultivated elite that had access to Latin, but also by a broad bourgeois class...

    • 8 Marche
      (pp. 201-206)

      Despite an early presence of vernacular documents and a vernacular literary culture that owed much to the efforts of Benedictine monasteries and to the Franciscan influence from Umbria, the mountainous region of the Marche lacked a strong cultural centre, and tended to be somewhat isolated, as did other regions that had been incorporated in the church state. During the fifteenth century most students from the Marche attended the university of Bologna, and the only great library was located in Urbino. The best minds moved out of the region, as did Annibale Caro and, much later, the poet of Recanati, Giacomo...

    • 9 Umbria
      (pp. 207-212)

      A region in the heart of the peninsula, with many towns dispersed on both sides of the Tiber, from Perugia to Gubbio and Spoleto, Assisi, Foligno, Terni, Todi, and Orvieto, all bearing witness of a brilliant communal period in the Middle Ages, Umbria today appears with only a superficial, mostly administrative sense of unity. The heterogeneous panorama of Umbrian dialects can be divided into at least three areas, ranging from a progressive northwestern group around Perugia, with the palatalization of stresseda(fère,Pèpaforfare,Papa), to a southeastern, more conservative central Italian linguistic area around Todi and Nocera,...

    • 10 Lazio
      (pp. 213-228)

      Following its appearance in the earliest medieval vernacular mural documents, theComodillagraffiti of the ninth century, and the cartoon-like inscription of the church of S. Clemente (Fili de le pute,traite[Pull, sons of bitches]), the Roman vernacular is found in literary documents such as theRitmo cassinese, connected with the Benedictine monasticism and its great cultural centre, the Abbey of Montecassino. Despite Danteʹs epithet ofturpiloquio, it was used across social classes during the second half of the fourteenth century, a period of democratization that coincided with the transferral of the papal court to Avignon (1309–77).


    • 11 Abruzzo and Molise
      (pp. 229-242)

      While early vernacular traces were found in Abruzzo already in the twelfth century, and two centuries later in Molise, a literary tradition may have existed in this region much earlier than its first attestation in 1465. In fact, a vernacular religious theatre tradition developed between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries around the centre of LʹAquila. During the Spanish rule of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when Spanish became the official language, the Aquilejan literary tradition subsided, and only in the years of Enlightenment did Abruzzo once again participate in European culture, beginning with the Arcadian literary movement and intellectuals of...

    • 12 Campania
      (pp. 243-278)

      Among the southern Italian regions, the dialect literature of Campania – and more precisely of Naples – is by far the most unitary through time and also the richest in texts, encompassing all genres of dialect literature. It is also one of the earliest traditions with a conscious use of the literary dialect, considering that Boccaccio undertook such an experiment in hisEpistolato Franceschino Deʹ Bardi (1339). The Neapolitan dialect literature was noted soon outside the region, judging from the history of text editions. The joyful resonance and musicality of the Neapolitan dialect also translated into musical compositions, with...

    • 13 Puglia
      (pp. 279-289)

      Along a borderline that runs approximately between Taranto and Ostuni lies the division of the northern Pugliese dialect group with its Neapolitan characteristics, and the Salentine group to the south, resembling the southern Calabrese and Sicilian dialects. While disagreeing with Rohlfsʹs thesis of a weak Romanization of the southernmost areas of the peninsula and thus of a Roman-Greek bilingualism in the Salento, Parlangèli theorized a uniform Romanization of Puglia until the arrival of the Byzantines in the sixth century AD, with the Longobardsʹ linguistic influence restricted to its northern part. The presence of a variety of ethnic groups, from Arabs...

    • 14 Lucania
      (pp. 290-294)

      As in Calabria, the Lucanian dialects lack homogeneity. They can be subdivided into three areas: a Pugliese type in the north and east, an Appennine variant in the west and south, and a Calabrese-Sicilian type along the border of Calabria.

      The region of Basilicata was exposed to many ancient populations, such as Byzantines, Longobards, and Arabs. With the Norman presence in the eleventh century the northwestern town of Melfi became a capital. Frederick II spent time there on his way to Puglia. Despite these contacts, the first written documents in the vernacular appeared only toward the end of the rule...

    • 15 Calabria
      (pp. 295-303)

      The strong dialectal heterogeneity of Calabria, with its division between a more archaic and more unitary northern dialect group, a transitional intermediate group, and the neo-Romanized southern tip of the region, which shares linguistic features with Sicilian, is an expression of a multifaceted history and a presence of many diverse cultures. The relatively late attestation in 1422 of the earliest vernacular document and of literary texts a few years later is counterbalanced by early prints; the first printed book in 1475 at Reggio Calabria is in fact a Hebrew text. Rather than being immobile and isolated, during the Kingdom of...

    • 16 Sicily
      (pp. 304-322)

      At a crossroads of cultures and languages, Sicily, with its brilliant Svevan court of Frederick II, was one of the first regions to develop contacts with other areas of the peninsula and Europe, which led to a first supraregional literary vernacular koine that continued to be promoted up to the advent of the Anjou and Aragonese dynasties. This koine was based on Sicilian, not unlike Tuscan a conservative dialect. The process of Italianization was gradual; Gabriella Alfieri aptly distinguishes between ItalianinSicily (up to the Risorgimento) and ItalianofSicily (thereafter). Only in 1652 was the use of Italian...

    • 17 Sardinia
      (pp. 323-336)

      Sardinia, the island in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, was a crossroads of civilizations, not unlike other regions situated in the periphery. Inhabited and ruled by the Phoenicians and Romans, the Pisans and Genoese, and later by the Aragonese and the Castilians, the Catalonians and Piedmontese, Sardinia stands out as a multilingual and multicultural region. The Sardinian dialects are divided in two principal groups, Logudorese in the centre, north, and northwest, and Campidanese in the south. The Sassarese and Gallurese dialects in the far north are instead closer to Tuscan. Among all the Romance varieties, Logudorese is considered the...

  8. Appendix: An Overview of Major Dialect Authors across Time and Regions
    (pp. 337-340)
  9. General Bibliography
    (pp. 341-350)
  10. Index of Names and Subjects
    (pp. 351-366)
  11. Index of Dialect Repertory: Authors by Genre and Region
    (pp. 367-377)