Thursday, April 12, 2007

Italian now the Official Language of Italy

With issues like illegal immigration and official languages causing controversy in the United States it is a little refreshing in an odd sort of way to see the same problem elsewhere. In a purely symbolic move the Italian parliament has made Italian the official language of Italy. However, opposition from both sides of the political spectrum has broken out.

The Communists on the left have decried the vote saying it is cultural imperialism. They see it as a repeat of the efforts by Benito Mussolini to Italianize the country. This opinion is shared by some rightist regionalists and separatists.

While many people think of Italy as having one nation and culture, that opinion is wrong. In the north there is South Tyrol was long part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and has German as an official language. If one visits the Verona-area they will notice many of the local newspapers are in German. The Aosta Valley has a large French speaking minority. The Po River Valley including Venice has its own dialect of Italian. The South has Sicily where many inhabitants speak Sicilian, which is its own unique language not derived from Italian. The same holds true for Sardinia where many people still speak Sardinian.

These languages serve to support unique cultures in different regions. Many members of these cultures still resent of what they see as Roman culture and political control rammed down their throats.

The measure passed by parliament does not forbid local languages and is only symbolic. Yet, language is a sensitive subject as it is the blood of culture.


Adrian said...

Italy's first prime minister said "We have made Italy - now we must make Italians!" The word for policeman in parts of southern Italy is "Piedmontese" - i.e., one from Piedmont (the region which 'unified' Italy in the 19th century).

Anonymous said...

You say it is only symbolism. Symbolism MATTERS.

Catholicgauze said...

Hi Anon,
By only symbolism I mean that regions will still be allowed to use their own dialects in official documents. There is no enforcement on the language law.