ITAL30200 The Story of Italian 2: Modern Age and Today

Academic Year 2023/2024

Italy has only been a unified political entity since 1861, and Italian did not become a spoken language until the 19th or 20th century. Yet, the history of the Italian language and culture goes back a long time before that, and lies at the heart of what became the European civilization. This module presents the second part of this remarkable history, from the standardization of the literary language in the Renaissance to today. It charts the transformation of Italian from being a vehicle of literary expressionfor a restricted élite, to a practical language for a newly unified nation, including those social groups that traditionally been sidelined fthrough lack of education. The module details how social changes, including generalized literacy and education, and later the riase of a consumer society, turned Italian into a single spoken vernacular for the masses in the 20th century.
By presenting the key stages in this development, this module aims to provide students with a historically based understanding of the sociolinguistic situation of today's Italy. Regular attendance, active participation in tutorials, and consistent study with appropriate use of reading materials will enable students to give a short oral presentation for class discussion.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module students will be able to: 1. identify the key figures and the main events which shaped the history of the Italian language from the Renaissance to today; 2. place them in their historical context; 3. spell out their significance for the development of Italian culture; 4. give a short oral presentation for class discussion 5. approach with competence and confidence the written assessments, consisting in a term essay and a choice of exams questions.

Indicative Module Content:

The module starts by offering a quick summary of the history of Italy and the Italian civilization up to the post-Renaissance period, when a linguistic norm was developed based on the classic Tuscan Mediaeval literature. Scholars from other Italian regions accepted this norm, which became the Italian language, even though it was not their own language. After this retrospective the module details how this written standard, which was effectively something of a dead language for most, became gradually a living vernacular. A key passage in this development is the formation of Italy as a unified country, and the subsequent radical changes in its society. The second part of the module thus becomes a description of the sociolinguistic situation of Italy, which shows how Italian gradually took the place of the original regional languages (dialetti) as everyday vernacular, without however eliminating them completely. The final part of the module hosts students' presentations, which are part and parcel of the sociolinguistic description and focus on local situations in detail.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Classic lectures are integrated with discussion-led tutorial classes. An important part of the module activity is represented by students' presentations, which in the second half of the module allow students to do some autonomous research and develop their presentation and study skills, beside contributing to the whole class (which is encouraged to ask questions). 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

An acquaintance with Italian history is desirable, and a reading ability in Italian a necessary requirement.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
SLL40150 - Languages/identities in Italy

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Essay: 2,000-word essay Week 11 n/a Graded No


Examination: timed final written assessment 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No


Presentation: short class presentation Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

feedback is offered to individual members of a presentation team (per email), and then on corrected essays before exam.

• Material in CLIC - Civilta' e lingua d'Italia in CD-rom, ed. J. Kinder (especially 17th century, revolution and Risorgimento, united Italy) [available via Brightspace or drive]

• De Mauro. 1963. Storia linguistica dell’Italia unita. Bari: Laterza
[selection, chapters 1-2-3, on Brightspace]

• ‘Italy - History’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica entry) [on Brightspace]

• Morgana, S. 2009. Breve storia della lingua italiana. Roma: Carocci [campus bookshop]

Suggestions for additional reading, especially websites for first information on topics relevant to the presentations, can also be accessed on Brightspace.
Name Role
Professor Ursula Fanning Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Francesco Lucioli Lecturer / Co-Lecturer