Italian language: goodbye longing, hello future


“Un viaggio meraviglioso” was the name chosen by the Societá Dante Alighieri for its 84th International Congress held in Rosario in June. Founded in 1889, La Dante promotes the Italian language and cultures. In recent globalized years, the “wonderful journey” of the peninsular language to which he referred during the meeting with the president of the institution, Andrea Riccardi, took place “throughout history, between continents and people.” Strong link with Argentina and a clear worldwide trend in the demand for the language.

Babel of dialects. Argentina was once again the country chosen by the Societá Dante Alighieri to celebrate its International Congress, an event that in 2019 was held in Buenos Aires and a few days ago in Rosario, with the participation of students, teachers, researchers and anyone interested in the Tongue by Dante Alighieri.

The choice of the city of Santa Fe was obviously not a coincidence: it is the third most important Italian consular area in the world, with thousands and thousands of families descended –in different degrees– from the immigrants who spread throughout the length and breadth of the province

The baton of the Congress, which took place in the fantastic El Círculo theater, where Caruso once sang, was led by Andrea Riccardi, who in addition to being president of “la Dante” (the usual name given to that institution) is a former minister and founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio.

In two long speeches, Riccardi addressed the different dimensions and problems related to Italian. In one of the key paragraphs of these interventions, he recalled that “Italian is not a provincial language, it is not a language of memories and the past, on the contrary, it projects itself into the future and it does so through a humanistic message ”.

The reference to “memories and the past” fits perfectly with what is a fundamental theme in the multifaceted relationship between the Italian language and Argentina: river immigration from different regions of the peninsula brought with it a great variety of dialects. ; These, in turn, represent the other side of the coin of a trait shared by a large part of the first waves of migrants, that is, the partial and sometimes total ignorance of the Italian national language.

The demographic contribution that this migratory current gave to Argentina was enormous while at the same time the national governments of the country promoted an educational policy based on monolingualism in the face of a large number of languages ​​that, precisely as a result of European migrations, were mixing to local Spanish. Law 1,420 on secular education, free and compulsory, approved in 1884 aimed to bring order to this situation by promoting the concept of linguistic standardization: in other words, the establishment of an official language throughout the national territory.

In a book published a few years ago (“Linguistic history of Italian emigration around the world”), the linguist and semiotician Massimo Vedovelli explains that the dialectic between Italian and the regional languages ​​of the peninsula – in fact, the dialects – has been “the guiding thread” of this migratory phenomenon, whose first waves were mostly illiterate and dialectophone. The linguistic diversity between the different regions of origin was very clear even from the moment of departure for the Americas, for example from Genoa or Naples: on board they spoke dialects very different from each other, while at their ports of destination such as Buenos Aires, immigrants were logically identified without any distinction simply as “Italians”.

Four aspects for a language. In his speeches, Riccardi said the importance of the “future” for the Italian language, precisely as the opposite of that past marked by fire by immigration. “Multipolar globalization is characterized by a fragmentation process. But Italian is a welcoming language, a kind of world-language, and it has a humanistic focus”, stressed Ri-ccardi, after recalling the space that Dante wants to give to foreign writers who write in Italian: an example of this decision This is the case of Edith Bruck, a Hungarian poet and translator, who survived the Shoah and who today is vice president of the Societá Dante.

“What we do is teach our language with a spirit of openness, we don’t want to control the effects of that teaching; A broader world is something positive for Italy”, stated the former vice chancellor Mario Giro, who is in charge of the Dante LAB association: “Italian has been moving on its own and is not linked, for example, to colonialism or to commerce, as happened instead with other languages.

Today, added Giro, the Italian language can be subdivided “at least” into four segments: “that of Italy, that of Italian descendants (the most numerous and with different articulations), that of the new Italians (immigrants) and that of who are ‘sympathizers’ of the language by choice or for reasons of the heart”. In a video message addressed to Congress, the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, stressed for his part that “Italian connects art, culture, the economy, tourism, food and lifestyle” of the country with each other. .

Tweet and rape. If it is true that knowing how to reconcile the old with the modern and the past with the future is one of the great qualities of Italian culture, there are, on the other hand, two very concrete examples of how this process is taking place in the national linguistic field.

In 2018, Pablo Maurette, a Buenos Aires writer and teacher who teaches abroad, had the idea of ​​posting a song from the Divine Comedy a day on Twitter to spread the work of Dante Alighieri. The success was enormous and the formula was right: a book, La Comedia, from centuries ago, disseminated through a medium of the present, of this present in which social networks are the ones in charge.

Second example. In Italy, the Divine Comedy has been much more fashionable for a long time than in the past, especially among the young, often the very young. Alighieri’s work has managed to seduce, for example, the Genoese rapper Mario Molinari (known as Tedua), whose most recent album is inspired without inhibition and self-confidence precisely by the Comedy.

The story goes that for a few years of their lives, Dante and another of the great poets of the 13th century, Guido Cavalcanti, were very close friends, a bond that they sustained precisely because of their love of poetry. With a lot of imagination and even more daring, it is not wrong to say that this image has a certain resemblance to what you can see today on the streets of any city on the planet when two or more rappers get together to write the music and texts of their songs. . The centuries that have elapsed between one scene and the next do not matter: the key is the rhymes that are born within the framework of a shared language.

Rosario Laboratory. All dressed in blue, the Italian-Rosarina Valeria Mazza felt at home when she opened the International Congress of Dante Alighieri a few days ago in Rosario. In addition to the Italian ambassador to Argentina, Fabrizio Lucentini, the event was attended by local authorities, managers and personalities from Dante, including: Andrea Riccardi, Mario Giro, Alessandro Masi, Andrea Vincenzoni, Marco Gallo. Also present were the undersecretary of the Italian Foreign Ministry Giorgio Silli and Miguel Angel Schiavone, rector of the UCA, at whose headquarters one of the days of the event took place. From Italy came the greetings of President Mattarella and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani. Massi, general secretary of the institution, underlined the importance of one of the topics of the Congress (teacher training and updating courses), which is why, he specified, Rosario became a kind of “laboratory” for the future work of Dante. The Congress was also attended by the president of the Techint group, Roberto Rocca, who was interviewed by the journalist Marco Tarquinio. Throughout the meeting, the strategic role that Argentina is destined to have in the work and the different initiatives promoted by Dante, which is present in eighty countries, will be highlighted.

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