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The economic might and relatively advanced development of Tuscany at the time (Late Middle Ages) gave its language weight, though the Venetian language remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life, and Ligurian (or Genoese) remained in use in maritime trade alongside the Mediterranean.The increasing political and cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of the rise of the Banco Medici, Humanism, and the Renaissance made its dialect, or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts.In contrast to the Gallo-Italic languages of northern Italy, the Italo-Dalmatian Neapolitan language and its dialects were largely unaffected by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy mainly by bards from France during the Middle Ages, but after the Norman conquest of southern Italy, Sicily became the first Italian land to adopt Occitan lyric moods (and words) in poetry.Even in the case of Northern Italian languages, however, scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages.Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City and western Istria (in Slovenia and Croatia).It used to have official status in Albania, Malta and Monaco, where it is still widely spoken, as well as in former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa regions where it plays a significant role in various sectors.The geographic distribution of the Italian language in the world: blue indicates where Italian is the main language; large Italian-speaking communities are shown in green dots; light blue indicates areas where the Italian language was used officially during the Italian colonial period. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, most literate Italian speakers were also literate in Latin; and thus they easily adopted Latin words into their writing—and eventually speech—in Italian.Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language.In addition to the widespread exposure gained through literature, the Florentine language also gained prestige due to the political and cultural significance of Florence at the time and the fact that it was linguistically an intermediate between northern and southern dialects.With the great majority of people illiterate, however, only a handful were well versed in the language.In Italy, as in all other countries, the majority would instead speak the vernacular (native tongue) of their region.

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