I don't know either Italian as a language or history of Italian, so I can only
make a general point: the fusion of English and French was the fusion of
two quite different language forms: germanic and romance languages.
That is not true of English and Scots or, I imagine, of the versions of Italian
spoken in the many regions or cities (they would all have been romance
languages). Moreover, Scotland was a separate country until 1707, with its
own parliament, church, law, and language. It retained a separate legal
system and church to the present day. (The Church of England, for
example, is Anglican; the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian.) So it was
not a situation of "regional" division but of countries yoked together and for
many Scots never one they wanted. There was also a large section of
Scotland that spoke Gaelic. Ireland and Wales are different problems
because unlike Scotland, they were never conquered. But the differences
in versions of Anglo-Saxon that were spoken in Scotland and England were
thus sustained by being different countries and by the retention of that as a
cultural difference up to the present time. I cannot describe what happened
in Italy, but I think it was, once "united," a single country and one in which
no comparable event to 1066 occurred.
It would need a linguist who knew Italian history to be specific.
Date sent: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 11:30:39 -0700
Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
From: "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia:
development of Engish
Why did Italy, which was not even unified until the 19th century, and
suffered numerous invasions, not have the same language developments
English did? I would think that a region broken into bickering city
states which were specialists in foreign trade would have had even more
accelerated language change than England.
McIntosh, NM, USA
From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Sunday, March 18, 2001 11:15 AM
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia: development of
The reason English changed so much is that in 1066 the Normans
conquered the Saxons, and French became the language of the court while
the common people continued to speak Anglo Saxon. The two languages fused
to become modern English. Even the English of Medieval Court poets is
easier to read than other versions of English. That is why Chaucer is
more or less readable with study, but the Pearl Poet is much much harder.
Also, there were four dialects of Old English. Mercian, which was the
language of the Midlands, developed into Middle English of the midlands,
while West Saxon and Kentish died out, and Northumbrian developed into
Modern Scots. The vowel changes took place much more slowly and less
completely in the North, so Scots, for example, is closer to German than
is English today. So a set of different "languages" in a divided set of
countries in which the court was--from 1603 on--in the English Midlands
developed in diverse ways and in ways that kept masses of French terms.
The result is that modern English is incredibly rich in synonyms, poor in
rhymes, and very difficult to learn because it is full of exceptions.
Moreover, the remnants of Germanic verb and noun forms are uneven and
erratic, so we have to learn irregular and regular verbs and differentiate
pronoun cases but not noun cases. And lots of other oddities. Nancy
Date sent: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 12:41:45 EST
Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
From: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Dans le Restaurant and the Commedia
In a message dated 3/18/01 7:43:59 AM Eastern Standard Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:
> My question was that I knew Dante's 1200 Italian was closer to modern
> Italian than Chaucher's 1200 English is to modern English but was it
> closer than Shakespeare's 1600 English. He said yes. Italian students
> of Dante do not have much trouble with the language or grammar although
> there are problems with some terms (I would guess on a parr with
> Shakespeare's "collier" for example.) Also there was trouble with some
> of the allusions and history.
Thanks, Rick, that's really interesting. Did he say why English has
changed more than Italian? Or maybe it just isn't known why.