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Goggio Lecture: Silvana Ferreri “The Ebb and Flow of Languages Inside and Outside of Italy”
October 31, 2019 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Abstract: The mareggiare del dialetto is a plastic image describing the force with which linguistic varieties of all kinds lap and mold the shoreline of the areas and territories where a particular variety of Italian holds sway in private and family talk.
The expression was used by Tullio De Mauro, in a small book of autobiographical linguistic recollections, to highlight the ebb and flow of dialectal varieties within a family – or any small community of speakers – rigidly bent on using Italian exclusively. The continual action of the waves is both pervasive and invasive.
The image is also perfect for describing the state of the Italian language outside of Italy.
Taken in isolation, the Italian language is difficult to describe; it needs to be connected to the multiple varieties which derive from Italy’s endogenous multilingualism, and which have been transferred outside the confines of Italy by the many waves of dialect-speaking emigrants. These transplants have continued to flourish, albeit in diverse ways and forms. Moreover, they have a counterpart in the plurality of languages originating in other countries which lap and mold the areas and territories where Italian once held uncontested sway.
What about Italian on the global stage? The product of institutional and political choices, Italian must be seen globally in relation to those languages which, for centuries, have spread around the world and established themselves – for example, the most widely spoken European languages. But Italian must also been seen in relation to those languages which, although ancient, have only recently started to expand beyond their homelands and to compete for space.
The present talk will start with the history of a single linguistic scholar, a testimony of his time, and it will arrive at the – as yet unpublished – research being conducted today into the phenomenon of Global Italian (probable publication date: 2020). The research is based on interviews of cultural professionals who, thanks to their location, position and experience, can be considered valid testimonies of our time and of the history of the Italian language taking place right before their – and our — eyes.