Italian (italiano [itaˈljaːno] (listen) or lingua italiana [ˈliŋɡwa itaˈljaːna]) is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family that evolved from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire. About 85 million people speak this language (2022). Italian is credited as the most direct descendant of Latin, being the closest to it among the national languages and the least divergent from it together with Sardinian when regional and minority languages are also taken into account. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland (Ticino and the Grisons), San Marino, and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria (Croatia and Slovenia).
|italiano, lingua italiana|
|Native to||Italy, Ticino and Italian Grisons (Switzerland), San Marino, Vatican City, Slovene Istria (Slovenia), Istria County (Croatia)|
|Region||Italy, Ticino and Italian Grisons, Slovenian Littoral, Western Istria|
|67 million native speakers in the European Union (2020)|
L2 speakers in the European Union: 13.4 million
c. 85 million total speakers
|Latin (Italian alphabet)|
|Italiano segnato "(Signed Italian)" |
italiano segnato esatto "(Signed Exact Italian)"
Official language in
|Regulated by||Accademia della Crusca (de facto)|
Former co-official language
Presence of Italian-speaking communities
|This article is part of the series on the|
|Literature and other|
It formerly had official status in Albania (due to the annexation of the country to the Kingdom of Italy), Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (because of the Venetian Albania), parts of France (Nice, Savoy and Corsica), parts of Slovenia and Croatia (because of the Venetian Istria and Venetian Dalmatia), parts of Greece (because of the Venetian rule in the Ionian Islands and by the Kingdom of Italy in the Dodecanese), and is generally understood in Corsica by the population resident therein who speak Corsican, which is an Italo-Romance idiom similar to Tuscan. It used to be an official language in the former colonial areas of Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still has a significant role in various sectors.
Italian is also spoken by large immigrant and expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian (either in its standard form or regional varieties) and another regional language of Italy.
Italian is a major European language, being one of the official languages of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and one of the working languages of the Council of Europe. It is the second-most-widely spoken native language in the European Union with 67 million speakers (15% of the EU population) and it is spoken as a second language by 13.4 million EU citizens (3%). Including Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland, Albania and the United Kingdom) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is approximately 85 million. Italian is the main working language of the Holy See, serving as the lingua franca (common language) in the Roman Catholic hierarchy as well as the official language of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Italian is known as the language of music because of its use in musical terminology and opera; numerous Italian words referring to music have become international terms taken into various languages worldwide. Its influence is also widespread in the arts and in the food and luxury goods markets.
Italian was adopted by the state after the Unification of Italy, having previously been a literary language based on Tuscan as spoken mostly by the upper class of Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other Italian languages and, to some minor extent, by the Germanic languages of the post-Roman invaders. The incorporation into Italian of learned words from its own ancestor language, Latin, is another form of lexical borrowing through the influence of written language, scientific terminology and the liturgical language of the Church. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, most literate Italians were also literate in Latin, and thus they easily adopted Latin words into their writing—and eventually speech—in Italian. Almost all native Italian words end with vowels, a factor that makes Italian words extremely easy to use in rhyming. Italian has a 7-vowel sound system ('e' and 'o' have mid-low and mid-high sounds); Classical Latin had 10, 5 with short and 5 with long sounds. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. Gemination (doubling) of consonants is a characteristic feature of Italian.