Research topic: Italian
Italian is a Romance language that is spoken by over 60 million people, most of whom live in Italy.
Italian is also one of Switzerland's four official languages. As a result of a long period of large-scale emigration, Italian is spoken in many parts of the world. It also continues to be spoken in former Italian colonies such as Eritrea and Somalia.
The Italian language occupies a unique position as one of Europe's leading cultural languages and Italian literature has a long and influential history that extends back to the 12th century. Prominent authors include Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio and Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch).
Notable Italian authors in more recent times have included Umberto Eco and the Nobel prize-winners Luigi Pirandello, Eugenio Montale and Dario Fo.
Italian vocabulary is mostly inherited from Latin. There are also many words of Greek origin. In recent times, many English and French loanwords have also entered the language. Italian also has loanwords from other major language, but only to a relatively modest extent.
With approximately 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth largest EU member state. Its size, combined with its unusually rich cultural traditions, give Italy an important position in Europe, both politically, culturally and economically.
Research and study programmes in this field provide a deeper insight into cultural and social conditions in Italy.
Because Italy was not unified until after 1860, the language still has a rich diversity of dialects, even though there is also a standard form of the language – so-called Standard Italian.
For many centuries Italy was divided into independent duchies, with different parts of the country developing their own strong and characteristic dialects.