Ciao a tutti! The third week in October is Italian Language Week so we’ve put together some interesting facts about the Italian language. If you know any other facts that aren’t on our list then make sure you share them with us in the comments section at the end of the blog!
Italian became an official language in 1861
For centuries Italy was divided up into a number of different states, until the Unification of Italy in 1861. These states were often under foreign rule therefore there were a number of different dialects spoken throughout the country. When Italy was united in 1861 the decision was taken to make the Tuscan dialect the official language of the country.
The Italian alphabet only has 21 letters
Historically, the standard Italian alphabet has only 21 letters as J, K, W, X and Y aren’t used in Italian words but only in foreign loan words or, less frequently, in old writings.
Italian is considered one of the closest languages to Latin
When looking at similarities in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation, Italian is considered one of the closest languages to Latin. This is because Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire and was used until the empire’s dissolution in the 6th Century, when vulgar versions replaced it and started to develop into the Romance languages we know. Latin is also the official language of the Catholic Church and of the Vatican City.
Some Italian words are misused in English
Every culture uses loan words from other languages but sometimes these words are misused and have a different meaning in English. The word ‘panini’ in English refers to a type of sandwich however in Italian panini indicates more than 1 sandwich/bread roll so hearing “a panini” sounds strange to an Italian person when using the term for just a single type of sandwich.
Approximately 66 million people speak Italian worldwide
Around 63 million people in the world speak Italian as their first language and approximately 3 million speak Italian as a second language. According to Babbel, Italian is around the 20th most-spoken language in the world and it’s also the 4th most studied language in the world.
Over 700,000 Americans speak Italian
Due to the large number of migration from Italy to US in the 19th century, Italian has always been a popular language in the States. Approximately 709,000 Americans speak Italian according to the U.S Census Bureau, with the majority residing in New York and New Jersey.
The word ‘Volt’ was created by an Italian
Alessandro Volta was an Italian scientist and inventor who is known for his breakthrough in 1799 where he created the Voltaic pile. His last name is where the word ‘volt’ originates from and it describes the measuring unit of electricity.
The Italian language loves double consonants
Some Italian words have as many as four pairs of consonants and as much as the Italian language loves double consonants, you’ll rarely find an instance of double ‘q’. One of the few words it does feature in is ‘soqquadro’, which can be translated as ‘disarray’ or ‘shambles’.
The longest Italian word contains 30 letters
Italian’s longest word is psiconeuroendocrinoimmunologia (“Psycho Neuro Endocrino Immunology”) and there are other similarly long medical terms; however, the general public would all agree that the longest word used in everyday speech is precipitevolissimevolmente, and stands for “very hastily”. Other long Italian words include particolareggiatissimamente (“in an extremely detailed way”) and anticostituzionalissimamente (“in a way that strongly violates the constitution”).
The word ‘America’ comes from Italian
That’s right, ‘America’ is named after Amerigo Vespucci. This 15th-century Italian explorer was the first European to recognize that North and South America were separate continents and not part of Asia.