• University of Padova

Tracing the History of the Italian Language: From Dante to the Present Day

Trace the roots of Italian language that spans from Dante’s "Inferno", Bembo and their literary influence on the language.

 The image features three black-and-white portraits of Dante Alighieri, with Italian and English excerpts from his work "Divine Comedy." The background consists of colorful stripes and dots, providing a modern contrast to the classical portraits.

Tracing the History of the Italian Language: From Dante to the Present Day

  • 5 weeks

  • 5 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Beyond the Romans: unravelling Italy's rich tapestry of origins and evolution

The history of Italy and its culture expands far beyond the glory of the Roman Empire.

Join the University of Padua’s immersive five-week course to explore the development of the Italian language and its role in society. From ancient dialects to modern debates on linguistic identity, this course offers a deep dive into how Italians shape and are shaped by Italy’s cultural and political landscape.

On this course, you’ll review culture-defining historical milestones and influential figures and unravel the complexities of Italian linguistic evolution and its significance in contemporary society.

Does language shape a nation?

Delve into the relationship between the power of language and identity, examining how Italians have navigated political landscapes and societal changes.

Analyse the impact of literature and policy on shaping the national language, reflecting on language as a cornerstone of cultural identity.

Reflect on contemporary challenges

Contemplate the modern challenges Italy faces, including linguistic fragmentation and the influences of globalisation.

You’ll discuss the language’s future in the context of migration and evolving social contexts, preparing to contribute to ongoing dialogues around language and identity.

Cultivate a deeper connection with Italian heritage

By the end of the course, you will have journeyed through the rich tapestry of the Italian language and culture, understanding its evolution, cultural impact, and ongoing challenges.

Finally, this course will enhance your appreciation for the Italian language. It will also equip you to engage thoughtfully with issues of language, culture, and identity in any context.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Italian is definitely one of the most popular  and beloved languages in the world it is the language of Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Opera [music] But did you know that Dante Alighieri did not speak Italian? Did anyone ever tell you that it was a  Venetian poet who convinced everyone that the tuscan vernacular was the perfect language for all Italians? Would you ever have guessed that Italian was not the only official language of Italy?

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds In our history of the Italian Language course we will tell you about this and much more.  Together in the five-week course we will discover how the Italian language was born and how it  has evolved from the Middle Ages to the present day [music] By taking part in our course you will learn  what distinguishes language from a dialect, and understand why the Italian Peninsula is so  linguistically fragmented We will question the relationship between political power and language We will do so by retracing the unique history of the linguistic unification of a country that remained politically divided for many centuries Together we will highlight the importance  of poetry and literature in the formation of our national language, and we will  try to explain why Italian was, for so long, a predominantly written language.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds Are you ready to take this journey with us? Let’s go


  • Week 1

    The history of the Italian language: An introduction

    • The ABCs of our course

      A welcome to the course and an introduction from the Lead educator

    • What a language is: basic concepts

      Learn the characterising elements of a language

    • A diversified landscape (Italian as you've never heard it)

      Discover the many varieties of languages spoken by Italians

    • The birth of a language (Italian and its origins)

      Learn how Latin gave rise to medieval vernaculars

    • Synthesis

      Wrapping it all up

  • Week 2

    Dante and the Italian language

    • Italian, a language for literature

      Learn the situation of the Italian literary language in Dante's time

    • Dante as a linguist

      Discover Dante's ideas on language

    • Dante as a Poet

      Learn the main features of the language of the Comedy

    • Dante's Legacy

      Measure Dante's influence in Italian language and literature

    • Synthesis

      Wrapping it all up

  • Week 3

    The pursuit of a linguistic standard

    • Historical background

      Learn the linguistic theories of Italian Humanism

    • Linguistic debates

      now the fundamental role played by the linguistic debate on Italian cultural history

    • Bembo's legacy

      Know the effects of the victory of Bembo's theses on the history of the Italian language

    • The language outside literature

      Know the state of the Italian language outside literary usage

    • Synthesis

      Wrapping it all up

  • Week 4

    From political to linguistic unity

    • An official language for a brand new country

      Learn to relate historical events to changes in language

    • Can a national language arise from a novel?

      Discover Manzoni’s influence on Italian language and culture

    • Italy's language policies

      Know the active policies of the Italian state for the linguistic unification of the country

    • Paths to linguistic unification

      Know the main factors of Italian linguistic unification

    • Synthesis

      Wrapping it all up

  • Week 5

    Italian language today

    • A language for everyone

      Learn about the spread of Italian during the 20th century in Italy and abroadLearn to relate historical events to changes in language

    • A language for every situation

      Learn the fundamental characteristics of the most recent evolution of the Italian language

    • Dialects today

      Learn about the relationship between the national language and dialects in Italy today

    • Italian language in the world

      Discover the influence of Italian culture in the world through the dissemination of Italian words

    • Synthesis

      Wrapping it all up

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop an extensive knowledge and understanding of the main features characterizing Italian as a language.
  • Identify the main historical and institutional actors in Italian development.
  • Summarise how language policies have influenced the structures of Italian throughout its historical development.
  • Compare the Italian historical-linguistic situation with that of other European and world languages

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for international students new to Italian studies, linguists, cultural enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the interplay between language, society, and identity.

Who will you learn with?

I teach Italian linguistics at the University of Padua. My main interests are the language of literary texts, the study of poetic forms, and literary translation.

I teach Italian Linguistics at the University of Padua. My main research interests concern the history of the Italian language, stylistics and metrics from the 15th century to the modern and contempor

Who developed the course?

University of Padova

The University of Padova is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious seats of learning; it aims to provide its students with both professional training and a solid cultural background.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$69/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 23 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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