The history of Italian features the prestige that the language of Italy managed to achieve, even internationally, when political unity was yet to be accomplished. The literary Tuscan idiom overcame the intricate boundaries of pre-unitary states and embodied a moral ideal of nation, a literary republic equipped not with armies, but with literature, poetry, style, and elegance. Although the political and social history of mass literacy is rich and complex, even more fascinating is its cultural development, especially as regards the transition from dialect to Italian after national unification. The Italian language has been used and shaped by refined poets such as Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto, scientists such as Galileo, prose writers such as Machiavelli. This text describes the historical evolution of Italian, from its origins to the present day, thus helping the reader uncover the relationships that bound various regions to each other well before political unity became reality.
Claudio Marazzini teaches History of the Italian Language in the Faculty of Letters in the "Amedeo Avogadro" University of Western Piedmont in Vercelli.