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Italian: The language with only 21 letters

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9 facts about the Italian language

01

The Italian language is derived from Latin and, like Spanish and French, is a Romance language.

02

Italian has approximately 85 million speakers globally and is the 22nd most spoken language in the world.

03

The Italian alphabet only has 21 letters unlike the 26-letter English alphabet; it excludes the letters j, w, k, x, and y.

04

Apart from Italy, the Italian language is also the official language of Vatican City, San Marino and Switzerland.

05

Italian is a highly popular language; it is the 4th most studied language in the world, followed by French.

06

It is the official language of classical music; musical terminology such as soprano and crescendo come from Italian.

07

Italy has many dialects which differ greatly from each other depending on their region.

08

The Italian language was popularized by the pre-Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri in his work The Divine Comedy.

09

Italian was voted “the language of love” by the majority of English speakers in a poll.

Italy

Origin of the language

Italian emerged in Central Tuscany.

Italy

History of the language

It is believed that Italian originated in the 13th century.

Italy

Learning the language

An English speaker needs about 650 hours to learn Italian.

Italian language diversity

Italian is the official language of Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, and Switzerland.

Italian was formerly an official language in Albania, Malta, Montenegro, Greece, and Monaco as well as the former colonial areas of Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa. It is still spoken in these parts of the world.

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Did you know?

The term “America” came from the name of an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who recognized that the continent British explorers thought was Asia was actually “The New World” (America).

Almost all Italian words end with a vowel; Italian has seven vowel sounds that differ depending on where they occur in a word.

Despite being derived from Latin, many dialects, including the Neapolitan and Venetian dialects, have changed drastically over the years and are almost unintelligible to each other and Latin speakers.

Italian borrows many words from other languages; for example, the word “cameo” which means a short appearance is an English word that the Italian language has adopted.

The Italian language typically uses a lot of consonants and double-consonants. The consonant “q” is, however, hardly used as a double or triple consonant in words, but this example, the Italian word soqquadro (upset), has a double consonant.

Italian language for beginners

Ten basic words to start learning in Italian:

Hello: Ciao
Beautiful: bello
Cold: freddo
Hot: caldo
Thank you: grazie
Home: casa
Family: famiglia
Italy: Italia
Happy: contenta
Sad: triste

Quotes

Three things remain with us from paradise: stars, flowers, and children.

Dante Alighieri

Poet and author

To tell the truth is revolutionary.

Antonio Gramsci

Social critic, politician, philosopher and author

Love is the crowning grace of humanity.

Petrarch

Poet and scholar

Fun facts about the Italian language

The word “volt”

Alessandro Volta created the first electronic battery in 1799; the word “volt,” a measure of current, is derived from his name.

Many dialects

Standardized Italian has numerous regional dialects, and they can vary in sound and intelligibility.

Literary language

Italian is referred to as a literary language; many Renaissance poems and books were penned by Italians.

Easy to learn

Italian is relatively easy to learn because words are pronounced how they are written, eliminating extra confusion.

fegato

No word in the Italian language rhymes with the word fegato (liver); this is because the stress falls on the first syllable.

The longest word

The longest word in Italian is 30 characters long with 13 syllables; it is psiconeuroendocrinoimmunologia which means psychoneuroendocrinoimmunology.

1000-year-old written text

Placiti Cassinesi is the first written document in Italian; it consists of four documents written in Italian dating back to 953.

Protected by an organization

Accademia della Crusca, an organization in Florence, is dedicated to protecting the sanctity of Italian.

Close relatives

Italian is closely related to many other languages; it shares 89% of its vocabulary with the French language. 

Fiorentino

Italian is derived from a dialect of Florence called Fiorentino; it gained popularity with Dante’s work.

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