DANTE - Catalyst to Italian Standardization

DANTE - Catalyst to Italian Standardization - DANTE...

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DANTE: Catalyst to Italian Standardization LING 102 Final - Fall, 2007 Alex Caire-Broudy 1
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December 21, 2007 DANTE: Catalyst to Italian Standardization Dante Alighieri was the main propulsor of Italian standardization in Late Latin's decay and its vulgar tongues' mechanization. Of his many published texts, La Divina Commedia , La Vita Nuova and Il Convivio substantially aided Italian’s standardization, as they were authoritative scriptures written in a maturing vernacular. Unlike Latin, this language variety could reach the masses; and, therein empower itself as the nominal tongue. It is important to acknowledge this linguistic trifecta as vernacular writing, for it was only this language variety, which could effectively reach both the prestigious and the plebs. The texts' content was popular and thus disseminated through subsequent generations. It instilled a vernacular image distinct to Dante, which would subsume language development during the Renaissance and, thereafter, become inherent within standard Italian. I aim to support this hypothesis such that it was the catalyst to Italian standardization. Angelo Mazzocco suggests an alternative hypothesis in his 1993 text, Linguistic Theories in Dante and the Humanists , which questions the illustrious vernacular as "the appanage of an intellectual elite," (VIII, 149). Critics label this language proposal as an abstraction, a metaphysical entity, and an afterthought, among other things, because of its remarkably estranged hindsight. I interpret the illustrious vernacular as a legitimate conceptual entity. However, to accurately understand the illustrious (‘Dantean’) vernacular one must first review the peninsula’s history, then, identify the changing linguistic diversity of Italy in the period shift between Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Italy. 2
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Withal in mind, classical Latin, while preserved by the Catholic Church, had begun its popular decline around 200 AD, after the barbaric invasions. Flavio Biondo who was a "humanist historian of the Renaissance and author of the first history of Italy that developed a chronological scheme providing an embryonic notion of the Middle Ages," 1 comments on the vulgarization of Latin in his treatise, De Verbis Romanae Locutionis . Mazzocco recapitulates: "He [Biondo] thus concludes that this vulgarization was entirely the result of the social catastrophe brought about by the barbarians, especially the Lombards. The truth is, however, that the vulgarization of classical Latin was initiated long before the arrival of the barbarians. In fact, as early as Cicero's time, classical Latin was marred by numerous barbarisms and solecisms, which resulted from Latin's interaction with the indigenous languages of the conquered nations. The barbaric invasions, then, precipated rather than originated the transformation of classical Latin," 2 (Mazzocco; IV, 49).
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