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Ideas, Attitudes and Beliefs about Language in Italy from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century

Citation: Spreafico, Marco (2018) Ideas, Attitudes and Beliefs about Language in Italy from the Thirteenth to the Fifteenth Century. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

Marco Spreafico -Warburg-PhD Thesis.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Peter Burke has described the early modern period in Europe as the age of the ‘discovery of language’. The aim of my dissertation is to trace the linguistic and cultural phenomena which prepared the way for this discovery by studying how ideas, attitudes and beliefs about language were formed and developed in Italy from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. In particular, I analyse the contemporary perception of the shifting relationship between Latin and the vernaculars in light of two highly significant events in the social history of language: on the one hand, the collapse of the medieval language system of functional compartmentalization of Latin and vernaculars, which is usually referred to as diglossia; on the other hand, the process of the formation of national languages known as standardization. I examine the concept of ‘historical language’ and construct a theoretical framework to analyse how it was formed and developed within communities of speakers. From this perspective, I discuss how specific varieties of the vernacular came to acquire recognition; and I interpret in sociological and historical terms the progressive emancipation of the vernaculars from Latin and their acquisition of autonomous existence in the minds of speakers. Finally, I advance an interpretation of the language ideas and choices of Italian humanists and the role they played in changing the image of Latin in early modern Italy and making it a prototype of European standardized national languages.

Creators: Spreafico, Marco and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Warburg Institute
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 2018 (submitted)


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