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  • Author: Massimo Cerruti x
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This chapter addresses the range of relative constructions in contemporary Italian as a case in point for the investigation of the main sociolinguistic dynamics characterizing the ongoing process of restandardization. I assume that standard Italian does not coincide with the highest poles of diaphasia and diastratia, and hence that there exist varieties lower than standard (i.e. informal speech and low social varieties), referred to as sub-standard varieties, and varieties higher than standard (i.e bureaucratic, refined formal and educated varieties), referred to as supra-standard varieties. Drawing on the results of recent corpus-based studies, evidence will be presented to show that both some substandard relative constructions and some supra-standard relative constructions are actually moving towards neo-standard Italian. Such changes may fit in with the Labovian distinction between changes from below and changes from above: sub-standard constructions are extending their reach beyond the vernacular by being used in speech across social classes (a few of them are even emerging in written formal varieties), while supra-standard constructions are emerging in model texts as prestigious features introduced by highly educated social classes (and do not occur in the vernacular).


The aim of this paper is to present a small selection of linguistic facts that describe currents and contrasts in the Cisalpine Valleys, relying on some ALEPO [Atlante Linguistico ed Etnografico del Piemonte Occidentale – Linguistic and Ethnographic Atlas of Western Piedmont] data.

The area investigated is characterized by a close relationship between different languages and cultures. As it is well known, the Gallo-Italic languages of Piedmont are spoken along with local dialects of two Gallo-Romance languages, Occitan and Franco-Provençal; Italian (and, in some areas, French) obviously has to be added to this rich linguistic repertoire. Data have been collected in 42 localities: 32 pertaining to the Gallo-Romance domain (13 Franco-Provençal- and 19 Occitan-speaking); and 10 belonging to the Gallo-Italic one. The localities in question have been chosen ta take account of both social and linguistic dynamics.

Socio-cultural and economic changes that deeply affected the Alpine Valleys in the last century have also had linguistic consequences, with increasing Italian and Piedmontese influence on varieties of Gallo-Romance, and of Italian on Piedmontese; nevertheless, some instances of mutual influencing between Occitan and Franco-Provençal are also documented, as well as significant reactions on the part of these varieties to dominant codes (namely Piedmontese, Italian, and French).

We deal here with language change at three levels of linguistic analysis (lexical, morphological, and phonetic), showing moreover how a traditional reading of the maps may also yield results of sociolinguistic import.


This paper focuses on regional Italian as a special observatory for both synchronic and diachronic variation in Italian. After a brief overview of some key concepts (Section 1) and the state of the art (Section 2), I consider regional Italian in a language-contact perspective (Section 3). In addition, I analyze it from the viewpoint of the reciprocal relationship between dimensions of linguistic variation (Section 4). The topics addressed here range from the process of language shift from Italo-Romance dialects toward Italian to the decreasing regional markedness of contemporary Italian. They therefore include issues related to native-like competence, ongoing restandardization, and developmental tendencies in Italian.

Theoretical and Empirical Studies on the Restandardization of Italian


This chapter provides an overview of the main topics concerning the restandardization process of Italian. We will first discuss some general issues related to the Italian sociolinguistic situation, paying special attention to the status of Italo-Romance dialects and their relationship with Italian, the demotization process entailed by the twentieth century massive spread of the standard language, and the connection between neo-standard Italian and regional standards. The focus will then turn to neo-standard Italian: in particular, we will deal with some morphosyntactic features which were excluded from the standard literary norm but have survived over time in non-standard varieties. These features finally penetrated the standard usage, progressively giving rise to what is called neo-standard Italian. After a concise review of previous studies on neo-standard Italian, we will situate this variety within the current debate on the development of “new standards” in various European languages. In this respect, special consideration will be given to the notions of “destandardization”, “informalization” and “dehomogenization”. We conclude by presenting a brief outline of the chapters in this volume.