ROME It's official. The language of Italy is
Italian -- but not everyone is happy about it.
While it might seem obvious, the Italian-ness of Italian
has only just been enshrined in the constitution, with
parliament voting this week to state that: "The Italian
language is the official language of the Republic".
The seemingly uncontroversial statement was opposed by 75
members of parliament, including leftists who said it smacked
of cultural imperialism and northern separatists who are
suspicious of pretty much any diktat from Rome.
One deputy, Federico Bricolo from the Northern League
party, said his nationality, and therefore his language, was
not Italian but Venetian. He said the dialect of Venice was
spoken by "millions of men and women around the world".
"It's the language spoken in my family, in schools, at
work. I am Venetian, Mr President, my language is that of
Venice," Bricolo said in his dialect before his microphone was
switched off because he was breaking a rule that states only
Italian may be spoken in parliament.
Franco Russo, of Italy's main Communist party, said the
post-war constitution deliberately left out any mention of the
language in a reaction against dictator Benito Mussolini's
attempts to "Italianise" the country by force.
The change to the constitution, approved by 361 votes to
75, is purely symbolic and does not alter the legal status that
other languages enjoy in parts of Italy, such as German in the
Alto Adige region or French in Val d'Aosta.
But supporters of the change said it was high time the
language was recognised as a fundamental part of what made up
modern Italy -- a country which was only created by unifying
rival regions and city states in 1870.
It was Tuscan dialect -- in which Dante wrote the mediaeval
epic poem the Inferno in the fourteen century -- that emerged
as the national language of Italy, but many people still speak
local dialects some of which are largely incomprehensible to
people from other parts of the country.