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Italian language

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Italiano, Lingua italiana
Pronunciation [itaˈljaːno]
Native to Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, Slovenia (Slovenian Istria), Croatia (Istria County) and the Italian diaspora
Region (widely known among older people and in commercial sectors in Somalia, Eritrea, and Libya; used in the Federal Government of Somalia)
Native speakers 59 million Italian proper, native and native bilingual  (2007)[1]
85 million all varieties[2]
Language family
Writing system Latin (Italian alphabet)
Italian Braille
Official status
Official language in  European Union
 San Marino
 Vatican City
 Slovenia (Slovenian Istria)
 Croatia (Istria County)
Regulated by not officially by Accademia della Crusca
Language codes
ISO 639-1 it
ISO 639-2 ita
ISO 639-3 ita
Linguasphere 51-AAA-q
Where Italian is spoken in Europe

The Italian language is the language of Italy. The other countries that have Italian as their official language are San Marino, Vatican City, and Switzerland. The cities of Slovenia and Croatia also have made Italian their official language, only in some regions. Italian is spoken by about 70 million people, including some parts of Monaco, Malta, Albania, Montenegro, Dodecaneso (Greece), Eritrea, Libya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Tunisia.

It is mostly derived from Latin, with some words from Greek, Etruscan and elsewhere. It is called an inflected language - that means that the meaning of words can be changed by changing their endings. Italian nouns are either masculine or feminine (these are grammatical terms, normally only indirectly to do with genders).

Most singular masculine nouns end in -o, and most plural masculine nouns end in -i.

Most singular feminine nouns end in -a, and most plural feminine nouns end in -e.


  • gatto = male cat
  • gatta = female cat
  • gatti = male cats
  • gatte = female cats

The ending of verbs are quite complicated, because they depend upon the tense of the verb (past, present, future and so on) and on the person of the verb (I, you, they etc.). Because of that, the personal pronoun is not always needed (in the following example it is in parenthesis).


  • (io) parlo = I speak
  • (noi) parliamo = we speak
  • (lui) parlava = he was speaking
  • (loro) parlarono = they spoke
  • (io) parlerò = I will speak
  • parliamo! = let's speak!

There are very many of these endings to learn - it is a difficult part of Italian. But pronunciation is simple - there are just a few rules to learn, and hardly any difficult sounds.

Many Italian words for food have entered the English language, such as: pizza, spaghetti and ravioli. Many technical words in music are Italian, such as forte and allegro. Many musical instrument names are also Italian, such as cello and tuba. Mafia and come from the darker side of Italian culture .


  1. Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. Eurobarometer – Europeans and their languagesPDF (485 KB), February 2006

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