THE ITALIAN LANGUAGE
The Italian language is a Romance language from the Indo European group. There are a very large number of Romance Italian dialects.
In the world
In spite of its such glorious imperial past, it is not spread in the world. It then counts more than 60 million native speakers, in Italia. However, linguists estimate that there are about 25 million more Italian speakers in the world. Thus, we can find some in Lybia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Eritrea, Malta, Croatia, as in Saint-Marin and Vatican of course. Also a bit in Albania, Somalia, Brazil and USA as well.
Latin roots and spread
Italian can truly be traced back to the birth of Rome, in 753 BC. At that time, Roman people spoke an old Latin from which Italian comes from. The Roman empire is one of the greatest empires ever. At its peak, the latter gathered all countries of North Africa, Middle East, West and South Europe. Thanks to centuries of power, Latin then largely spread.
Evolution of Latin
This vast empire allowed the birth of two different dialects, even if they come from a same basis which is Latin: classical Latin and vulgar Latin. While elites used the first one, settlers and soldiers used the second one. Later, a couple of Barbarian invasions weakened the Roman Empire, which further fractured these two Latin branches. Finally, classical Latin lost its rank due to troubles and lack of link between Rome and the rest of the empire.
Along with Greek, Latin was one of the two great vehicular dialects of the empire. The language was then quite standarized, at least in writing. And this, thanks to the large size of the empire. However, this was not the case in oral. When the empire fell in the 5th century, there was a lot of vulgar dialects derived from Latin. Some of these have survived and evolved until now. Until the 18th century, and even beyond, Latin played a major role accross Europe, as a scientific and religious mean of spread.
The Roman empire suffered from many invasions. Among them are the Ostrogoths (a Germanic tribe), Lombards, Francs, Muslims, Byzantines and Normands. But this cultural and linguistic mix allowed the different dialects of that time to enrich its lexicon with new words. This, from the 10th century. Until the 14th century, we counted many dialects (Lombard, Venetian, Ligurian, Tuscan, Sicilian, Sardinian, etc.) but none of them became leader as a written language alongside Latin. In this way, Italy fell far behind its neighbors. This, due to the lack of political unity of the empire and a greater influence of the Church, which relied on Latin.
The role of poetry
Experts think that the roots of the first common spoken language come from Sicilia. Considered more noble and refined, linguists translated, adapted and spread it to North Italia, mainly in Tuscany. Later, it gave birth to the dolce stil novo or new soft style, melodious and delicate. Thanks to their successful works, famous poets then gave it an impact beyond its region of origin.
This is the case of Dante. If you do not know his name, he is however crucial in the history of the language. Indeed, this poet and writer was the creator of the novel The Divine Comedy. As he wished a story reachable to all the people, he chose to write in Florentine (a form of the Tuscan language) instead of Latin. Thanks to him and other great poets, Petrarch and Beccace, it soon became the language spoken all over the region and beyond. The influence of Florence, ideal location in central Italy, and its proximity to Latin, played in its favor.
From the 16th century
Ambrogio Calepino's dictionary described Italian for the first time in 1509. Thus, Italian enjoyed a dictionary before French. This reveals the cultural lead that Italy had over the rest of Europe during Renaissance. A century later, the first one, focused on Italian only, was published, and other countries took example on it.
During the World War
As you know, the Italian leader Mussolini supported Hitler. Thus, like Hitler with German, he undertook a campaign to "purify" Italian during the Second World War. As a result, he decided to kill all minor dialects. To that, he removed all foreign lexicon from Italian. Finally, his defeat with the end of this period put an end to this tyranny.
For centuries, Italian was also the language of powerful cities, such as Florence. Thus, it was for a long time the international language of culture and the arts. Until today, the lexicon of all European countries has kept a large number of Italian terms. That is the case in music as many other dialects in the world which use it too). Thus, maestro, piano, soprano, allegro, a cappella, are a very short sample of them.
But that is not all. Indeed, Latin numbers are still daily used in many countries. For example, we can find them after the name of a monarch or to list chapters in a report.
And we can go even further as people still use plenty of Italian, or Latin words, again, in many languages. Have you ever heard about forum, opera, vice versa, recto verso, ps (post scriptum), nb (nota bene), via, visa or etc (et cetera) ? Yes, every day, you too speak Latin without even knowing about it.
Not to mention many names, all derived from Latin words adapted to each country. That is the case with the name of the planets for example, coming from the mythology.
For a century, Latin has become unknown to the public. But contrary to what people say, it is not a dead language at all. Vatican still uses it as an official language. On the other hand, in some countries, a few priests still conduct church services in Latin.
More than any other, Italian is close to French, which borrowed many words and expressions from it. It must be said that not only is French a Latin language, but some royal figures came straight from Italy.
First, it is a fact that the Italian language is such popular in the world. With French, people often consider it as the most beautiful language ever. Of course, we associate it with history, romanticism, very flirtatious Italians, fashion, the iconic rolled "r", etc. In short, Italian still has a long life to live.