The Italian language is a member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. It is the predominately spoken language on the peninsula called Italy. However, you might be surprised to know that Italian is also spoken in southern Switzerland, San Marino, Sicily, northern Sardinia, and on the northeastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, as well as in North and South America.
Italian is the direct offspring of the Latin spoken by the Romans and forced by them on the peoples under their control. Italian preserves the closest resemblance to Latin than all the other Romance languages.
During the evolution period of the Italian language, several dialects sprang up. The assortment of these dialects and their individual claims by their native speakers as true Italian speech presented difficulty in the evolution of an accepted form of Italian, which would reflect the cultural unity of the peninsula of Italy.
Even the earliest popular documents, which were produced in the10th century, were written in a dialect of Italian. During the next three centuries Italian writers wrote in their native dialects, which resulted in the production of several competing regional schools of literature.
It was in the 14th century the Tuscan dialect became more predominate. This could be due to the central position of Tuscany in Italy as well as the aggressive commerce of the city of Florence. The Tuscan dialect deviated very little in the formation of words and the sound of words from the classical Latin. Because of this, it harmonized with the Italian traditions of the Latin culture the best. Most of all, Florentine culture formed the three literary artists who summarized Italian thought and the feeling of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance the best. These artists were Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio.
The attempt of establish a unified norm for the Italian language occupied writers of all dialects. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the grammar specialists of the time tried putting their heads together to decide upon a norm for the pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary of the 14th century Tuscan, which was at the time the status of a central and classical Italian speech. Eventually this meeting of the minds, which could have ended with Italian being another dead language, was broadened to include the organic changes, which are inevitable in a living tongue.
In the dictionaries and the publications of the Accademia della Crusca, which was created in 1583 was accepted by Italians as the authority in Italian matters of language compromised between classical purism and living Tuscan usage were successfully achieved. During the 16th century, the most important literary event did not take place in Florence.
Pietro Bembo, a Venetian, set out in 1525 his proposals for a standardized language and style. His models were Petrarca and Boccaccio and as a result became the modern classic. Therefore, the language of Italian literature was and still is modeled after the Italian spoken in Florence in the 15th century.
Finally in the 19th century the language spoken by educated Tuscans spread and became the language of the new nation of Italy. In 1861, the unification of Italy had a dramatic effect on the political scene as well as the social, economical, and cultural transformation.
Because of mandatory schooling, the number of people with the ability to read increased and many Italians abandoned their native dialect in favor of the national language.