Italian is the most commonly spoken language in Italy, as well as its official language. Although not listed by the constitution as the official language, several courts have made legal decisions identifying the language as such. Italy has a multicultural population of over 60 million residents who speak many different languages, ranging from minority languages to regional dialects. Italian, as aforementioned, is the most widely spoken and the official language of the country, spoken by around 85 million people all over the world. Italian also serves as one of the working languages of the Council of Europe.

The Rich Roots of Italian: From Tuscan Dialect to a Romance Language

The Italian language is considered a Romance language and is closely related to Latin, more so than any other Romance language. Italian has its roots in the Tuscan dialect of the Italo-Dalmatian subgroup, which is part of the Indo-European language family. The Tuscan dialect was used by writers and the upper class of the Florentine society during the 1100s, such as the famous author Dante Alighieri, who is often credited for standardizing the language.

Apart from Italian, a number of minority languages are spoken in Italy, such as French, Greek, German, Albanian, Sardinian, Croatian, Occitan, Slovene, Friulian, Catalan, Ladin, and Franco-Provencal. Out of these languages, Sardinian belongs to its own group within the Romance languages, with around 1 million people speaking Sardinian, most of which live on the island of Sardinia. Sardinian has been influenced by Catalan, Spanish, Italian, Byzantine Greek, and pre-Latin languages, and is considered to be an indigenous language and very closely related to Latin. Sardinian is further divided into two varieties: Logudorese and Campidanese. As per UNESCO, both varieties are considered endangered, as Italian gains more prominence.

Other languages are spoken in Italy, 31 of which UNESCO considers to have varying degrees of vulnerability: Griko, Gardiol, Vastese, Toitschu, and Molise Croatian, to name a few.

Minority Languages in Italy: Preserving Griko, Gardiol, Vastese, Toitschu, and Molise Croatian

Griko is the language of the Griko people, who are believed to have descended from the Southern Italy’s Ancient Greek communities. This language belongs to the Hellenic language group and has between 40,000 and 50,000 second language speakers. Gardiol is spoken in the twon of Guardia Piemontese in the Calabria region, and is considered to be a dialect of the Occitan language. Vastese is considered to be a separate language and not a dialect of Italian, and is only spoken by the inhabitants of the town of Vasto, with the majority of the native speakers being between the ages of 80 and 90. Toitschu, also known as Walser German, is spoken throughout Italy’s Piedmont and Aosta Valley regions and is considered to be a dialect of Alemmanic. However, it is not mutually intelligible with Standard German or Swiss. Molise Croatian is a dialect of Serbo-Croatian, spoken by the Italian Croats in the Campobasso province. It has less than 1,000 native speakers.