The Times has reported that the English language is currently a worry to Italian linguists. It seems that the Italian language guardians at Accadmia della Crusca are concerned that an influx of English words is corrupting the beauty of the Italian language.
The academy is looking for ways to put a stop to the Anglo-Saxon influence and will hold an emergency meeting about the matter today. We explore the recent news story and examine how the English language has influenced Italian – and in turn, how the Italian language has influenced English.
English words invading the Italian language
Words of particular concern to the academy are finance and business words, such as ‘management’ and ‘holding company’. The casino word ‘slot machine’ has also made an unwelcome appearance. Other words that pepper the Italian language, which have a conspicuously English influence, include ‘location’, ‘car sharing’, ‘reality TV’, ‘fiction’ and ‘shopping‘.
Often these English words in Italian have arrived due to television and films. Many Italians watch American films and drama series and it is no surprise that certain words will be adopted by young Italians.
Those words which might explain an item or action more succinctly or attractively will be especially likely to transfer into a new language. However, the worry is that English words are also arriving in formal language used by the media and politicians.
English words in Italian
The number of English words in Italian is growing according to some of Italy’s linguists. Claudio Marazzini, head of the Accadmia della Crusca, said that the organisation would target the ‘politicians, bureaucrats and journalists who bring English words into our language, so we can hand them Italian equivalents to use instead’.
Italian petition against English words
Earlier this year, 70,000 Italians signed a petition supporting the demand for an end to the trend for using English words in Italian publications and marketing messages.
The debate heated up in response to the Italian navy using the recruitment slogan ‘Be Cool and Join the Navy’ and the mayor of Rome using the phrase ‘Rome and You’ for the city’s new motto.
Politicians have also come under fire from the language guardians after Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, launched the ‘Jobs Act’ legislation.
Italian influence on the English language
English words can be useful if the Italian language does not have the perfect word for a specific item or concept. This happens with many finance, business and technology-related terms. Similarly in English, we have many words borrowed from other languages.
For example, English uses many Italian musical terms, such as allegro, largo, lento, forte, pianissimo, allegretto, alto, soprano, mezzo, arpeggio, glissando, virtuoso, aria, solo, opera and tempo, to name just a few. Many instruments also have Italian names in English, including cello, viola and oboe.
English words borrowed from Italian
Other commonly used words and phrases in the English language that have an Italian origin include: graffiti, cameo, patio, veranda, villa, motto, lingua franca, sotto voce, scenario, studio, grotesque, broccoli, gelatine, martini, marzipan, bruschetta, al dente, al fresco , stiletto, umbrella, casino, ghetto, ditto,and pronto. That is not to forget all the coffee house favourites: espresso, cappuccino, mocha and latte!
The trendiness of foreign words
Sometimes, using a foreign word where a native word will suffice is a way of being trendy. It can also be a form of snobbery. In the UK, the Italian language can often sound beautiful, sophisticated and cultured. For many people, using Italian words can therefore bring a feeling of sophistication to their speech.
For the Academy in Italy, however, the number of English words in Italian is not a welcome addition to their rich language. Instead the English words are seen as an invasion.
It is very difficult to stop foreign words arriving in a language due to the pervasive and inclusive nature of the internet and social media. There are sure to be many English words in Italian – and Italian words in English.
People are travelling more often and languages are evolving all the time. There is a greater inter-mingling of languages than ever before because of the constant improvements in communications technology. But can this ever be a bad thing?
What do you think? Are there too many English words in Italian?
Has English invaded your native language?
Can the inclusion of foreign words damage a language?
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