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Dialects of Italian (not to be confused with the Languages of Italy) are regional varieties of the Italian language, more commonly and more accurately referred to as Regional Italian. The dialects have features, most notably phonological and lexical, percolating from the underlying substrate languages. Tuscan and Central Italian are in some respects not distant from standard Italian in their linguistic features, due to Italian's history as derived from a somewhat polished form of Florentine. Nevertheless, the traditional speech of Tuscany is rightly viewed as part of the collection of dialects of Italy. Several of the "dialects of Italy" should be considered distinct languages in their own right, and are assigned to separate branches on the Romance language family tree by Ethnologue and other academic works.
Origin of Italian dialects 
Many Italian regions already had different substrata before the conquest of Italy by the Romans: Northern Italy had a Celtic substratum (this part of Italy was known as Gallia Cisalpina, "Gallia on this side of the Alps"), a Ligurian substratum, or a Venetic substratum. Central Italy had an Etruscan substratum, and Southern Italy had an Italic or Greek substratum. These began as a diversification between the ways of speaking Latin, the official language of the Roman Empire.
Due to the Italian Peninsula's history of fragmentation and colonization by foreign powers (especially France, Spain and Austria-Hungary) between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and unification in 1861, there was considerable linguistic diversification.
The vulgar (i.e., spoken) language of Florence gained prestige in the 14th century after Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) and Giovanni Boccaccio wrote major works in it: the Divina Commedia, the Canzoniere and the Decameron. It was up to Pietro Bembo, a Venitian, to identify Florentine as the language for all of Italy in the Prose della volgar lingua, where he set Petrarch up as the perfect model. Italian, however, was a literary language, hence a written rather than spoken one, except in Tuscany. It soon developed into a different tongue from vernacular Tuscan, a language actually spoken by the populace.
In the parts of Italy that were colonized, official business was often conducted in the colonial power's language, i.e. in French, German or Spanish.
The synthesis of a unified Italian language was the main goal of Alessandro Manzoni, who advocated building a national language derived mainly from Florence's vernacular. Italian was then an unwieldy means for expressing thought. Having lived in Paris a long time, Manzoni had noticed that French, on the contrary, was a very lively language, spoken by ordinary people in the city's streets. The only Italian city where ordinary people spoke something pretty much like literary Italian was Florence, so Italians, in Manzoni's opinion, should take Florentine usage as the basis for a renewal of the national language.
Italian as a spoken language originated in two "linguistic labs", i.e. the metropolitan areas of Milan and Rome, which functioned as magnets for immigrants from the rest of Italy. Immigrants had no other means but the national language to communicate with the locals and other immigrants. After Italy's unification, Italian was also taught in primary schools and its use by ordinary people developed along with mass literacy.
Various regional languages remained the normal means of expression of the populace until the 1950s, when, with breakthroughs in literacy and the emergence of national television programs, Italian became more and more widespread, usually in its regional varieties (Italian dialects).
Current usage 
The solution to the so-called language question that had also interested Manzoni came to the nation as a whole in the second half of the 20th century through television. The TV's widespread adoption as a popular household appliance in Italy was the main factor in helping all Italians learn the common national language regardless of class or education level. At roughly the same time, many southerners moved to the north to find jobs. The powerful trade unions successfully campaigned against the use of dialects to maintain unity among the workers. This allowed the southerners, whose "dialects" were not mutually intelligible with the northerners', to assimilate by using Standard Italian. The large number of mixed marriages, especially in large industrial cities such as Milan and Turin, resulted in a generation that could speak only Standard Italian, and usually only partly understand the "dialects" of their parents.
As a result of these phenomena, dialects in Italy remain in use mostly where less immigration occurred; that is, in the South, North-Eastern Italy, in rural areas (where there has been less ethnic blending and influence from trade unions), and among older speakers. Being unable to speak Standard Italian still carries a stigma as it presents a barrier to writing official documents, performing business, or carrying out any kind of legal transaction (all of which use Standard Italian as the dominant language). Even strongly pro-dialect political forces such as the Northern League rarely resort to anything else than Standard Italian to write or speak publicly.[dubious ]
Also, the use of dialect remains prominent only among less literate classes, the older folks who have resided in the same community since birth, and those living in small towns and villages where there is a much closer community with little interaction with the bigger cities. In no case, however, can the use of local dialects substitute Standard Italian in official transactions, documents, legal matters or else, as stated above.
Use of dialects in literature is not inconsiderable. The plays of Carlo Goldoni in Venetian are notable example. In music, the Neapolitan dialect is the basis of Canzone Napoletana. The various dialects of Italy are also spoken in parts of the world with significant Italian immigrant populations, such as those cited above. Single words or very brief sentences from some more commonly heard dialects, such as Neapolitan or Sicilian, or even Roman or Milanese, are often used all over Italy even in regions far from their places of origin, having been spread by television personalities or movies.
Primarily within North American Italian diaspora communities, Italian dialects that have nearly died out in Italy have been preserved in several major cities across Australia, Canada and the United States. This is due in large part to older-generation immigrants, often with low levels of education, having left Italy during or before World War II and maintaining little contact with Italy or with Standard Italian. A significant number of endangered dialects have survived, they've been passed on generationally to varying degrees, and have kept innumerable archaisms as well as have adopted linguistic features and lexical borrowings from American English, Canadian English, Canadian French, and Latin American Spanish, respective to the milieu of the individual community in question.
Similar holds true to much smaller degrees in Middle Eastern-Italian communities, namely those of Egypt and Lebanon, as well as South American-Italian diasporas in Argentina and Brazil. Italian diasporas within Europe tend to maintain much stronger ties with Italy and have easier access to Italian television as well, which almost exclusively broadcasts in the standard language.
Italian dialects and dialects of Italy 
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For historical, cultural and political reasons, most "Italian dialects" have not yet been given the status of an official language, with the Italian legislation recognizing only Franco-Provençal, Friulan, Ladin, Occitan, Catalan, and Sardinian as proper languages.
The difference, and confusion, between "dialects of Italy" and "Italian dialects" is exemplified by the following. The Venetian language, a language of Italy, has a very different grammar from Italian. In Venetian, "we are arriving" would be translated "sémo drio rivàr", which is quite distinct from the Italian "stiamo arrivando". In Venetian Italian (inflessione veneziana, italiano regionale del Veneto), the statement would be "stémo rivando". The same holds for many of the "dialects" of Italy, being very different in grammar, syntax and vocabulary from and unintelligible with standard Italian and between each other. Despite this, these are commonly thought of as dialects, derivations of standard Italian.
All the dialects of Italy exhibit internal variety, especially the dialects of the South-Central, where the fragmentation into different states was more pronounced and where there was montane isolation. An example is Sicilian, where at least three different and non-mutually intelligible linguistic groups are to be found (including Western and Eastern Sicilian), further divisible into six varieties within which there are differences in pronunciation, grammar and lexicon between one village and another (especially in Western Sicilian). Yet the several varieties spoken in Sicily are all conventionally referred to as Sicilian.
Malta's close ties with Italy meant that Maltese played a role similar to the other Italian dialects, and under Fascist Italy it was simply considered another dialect, even though it is based on Western Arabic heavily interspersed with Sicilian vocabulary.
List of languages of Italy 
Dialect areas closest to Standard Italian in features:
- Tuscan dialect — the base of modern Standard Italian, despite many differences
- Corsican — generally considered to be related to Italian, and particularly to the dialects of Tuscany
- Gallurese and Sassarese (Northern Sardinia)
- Central Italian dialects
Regional variants of the Italian language influenced by regional languages:
- influence of Piedmontese language (Piedmont)
- influence of Franco-Provençal language (Valle d'Aosta, Faeto and Celle di San Vito). Faeto population 644 as of 2010 census and Celle di San Vito population 186 as of 2001 census are small isolated communes in the Apulia) region of the Foggia provence in central southeast Italy about 9km apart. Less than 850 speakers exist between both communes and 1400 in the entire province of Foggia. The Franco-Provençal language came to this region in the thirteenth century when the brother of Louis IX, Charles D'Anjou (1226–1285) left behind an army in the Apulia Region of southern Italy. Today, the descendants, culture — and Franco-Provençal language — of that medieval garrison still thrive in the small mountain municipality of Faeto. In 1268 Charles stationed a garrison of soldiers in the fortified center of Crepacore. Charles ordered his soldiers to defend the center and to create a permanent French community. To shore up the fledgling settlement; Charles encouraged significant immigration from southeastern France. By 1340 Charles was gone, and hostilities had died down. With no war to carry on, and now with family responsibilities, the French soldiers of Crepacore sought better domestic surroundings. This set off an exodus to the nearby high ground in and around a Benedictine monastery. From here, Faeto was born. The Faetar dialect spoken today in Faeto — and its neighboring village, Celle di San Vito — owes its existence to those French homesteaders. And, while the language has since incorporated many aspects of Apulian and Neapolitan dialects, Faetar remains Franco-Provençal.Because of mass immigrations from Faeto and the surrounding area, the language also survives in small emigrant pockets in Italy, Switzerland, US, and Canada.
- influence of Ladin language (Trentino, South Tyrol, Province of Belluno)
- influence of Western Lombard (Western Lombardy, Eastern Piedmont, Ticino and Grisons) and intermediate Western-Eastern Lombard dialects
- influence of Eastern Lombard (Eastern Lombardy, Western Trentino)
- influence of the Milanese variety of Italian — Western Lombard has been argued to also have an "indirect" influence on the development of a modern standard Italian, as the regional Italian spoken in Milan has become increasingly important in the Italian sociolinguistic scenario due to the strong socio-economic position of Milan. In this case, however, the linguistic influence comes fom the Italian spoken in Milan, not from Milanese -hence from the Milanese dialect of Italian, as opposed to the Milanese dialect of Western Lombard- although the two are necessarily related, for the latter has served as substrate to the development of the former.
- influence of Venetian language (Veneto, Eastern Trentino, Julian March)
- influence of Emiliano-Romagnolo language (Emilia-Romagna, Northern Marche, Southern Lombardy)
- influence of Ligurian language (Liguria, Southern Piedmont, Islands of Sulcis)
- influence of Sardinian language (Central and Southern Sardinia)
- influence of Catalan language (Alghero in Sardinia)
- influence of Friulian language (Friuli)
- influence of Neapolitan language in Southern Italian (Campania, Abruzzo, Molise, Northern Apulia, Northern Calabria, Basilicata)
- influence of Sicilian language (Sicily, Southern Calabria, Southern Apulia)
See also 
- Regional language
- Languages of the European Union
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
- Tullio DE MAURO, Storia linguistica dell'Italia unita, Bari, Laterza, 1963.
- Law n. 482 of the Italian Republic, art. 2
- A view of the linguistic situation in Malta, by Ignasi Badia i Capdevila
- From Malta By Sean Sheehan
- Harris, Martin; Nigel Vincent (2001). The Romance Languages (4th ed. ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16417-6.
- ""Italian Language", Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31.
- Eurolang report on Corsican
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- Galli de Paratesi, N. (1984). Lingua toscana in bocca ambrosiana. Bologna: Il Mulino.
- Comrie, Bernard, Matthews, Stephen and Polinsky, Maria: The Atlas of Languages: The Origin and Development of Languages Throughout the World. Rev. ed., New York 2003.
- Manlio Cortelazzo, Carla Marcato, Dizionario etimologico dei dialetti italiani, Torino: UTET libreria, 2005, ISBN 88-7750-039-5.
- Giacomo Devoto and Gabriella Giacomelli, I Dialetti delle Regioni d'Italia, Florence: Sansoni Editore, 1971 (3rd edition, Tascabili Bompiani, 2002).
- Grimes, Barbara F. (ed.): Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Vol. 1, 2000.
- Hall, Robert A. Jr.: External History of the Romance Languages, New York 1974.
- Maiden, Martin: A Linguistic History of Italian, London 1995.
- Maiden, Martin and Parry, Mair: The Dialects of Italy, London 1997.
- Andrea Rognoni, Grammatica dei dialetti della Lombardia, Oscar Mondadori, 2005.
- Ethnologue - Languages of Italy
- Swadesh lists of Italian basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh list appendix)
- Library of Congress ISO 639-2 Language Code
- Documentation Center for the Dialects of Southern Lazio
- Sito Veneto - Tradizsion e Progreso (in English too)
- Raixe Venete - Storia Cultura Tradisiòn e Progreso
- Neapolitan language introduction
- Interactive Map of languages in Italy
- Accademia Napulitana
- Neapolitan on-line radio station
- Online weekly in Neapolitan
- Il Siciliano
- Lingua Siciliana Viva
- Neapolitan glossary on Wiktionary
- 330 Calabrian verbs cross-referenced into English and Italian
- Calabrian dictionary and proverbs
- eBooks in Calabrian
- Calabrian Proverbs, Riddles, Rhymes, Tongue Twisters, Jokes and Curses
- Calabrian phrasing (page in Italian)
- Calabrian poetry with Italian footnotes
- Gerhard Rohlfs: "Studi e ricerche su lingua e dialetti d'Italia"
- Umberto Zanetti: "La grammatica bergamasca"
- Dizsionario.org - Dictionary of Venetan and its varieties (venetan-Italian)