Official Language: Italy, Switzerland (with German, French and Rhaeto-Romnance), San Marino, Vatican City
Home Speakers: Monaco, Slovenia and Croatia
It belongs to the Indo-European family, Romance group and is spoken by over 60 million people. Of all the major Romance languages, Italian retains the closest resemblance to the Latin spoken by the Romans. During the long period of Italian's evolution, the large number of dialects existing presented a difficulty in the evolution of a standard language, that would reflect the cultural unity of the entire peninsula. During the 14th century the Tuscan dialect began to predominate, because of the geographical location of Tuscany in the centre of Italy, the flourishing trading activities of its most important city, Florence, and the dissemination of the works of Dante, one of the greatest poets of Italian literature, whose stylistic and grammatical features began to be "imitated" by other poets, too. In modern Italian, the Latin qualities of the Tuscan dialect have been preserved but vocabulary has developed to meet the changing conditions of Italian life. Dialects and regional varieties coexist with the standard language; some are inherently unintelligible. Northern varieties are closer to French and Occitan than to standard or southern varieties. Many words used internationally in the field of gastronomy, music, the arts, etc. are of Italian origin.
Reprinted from www.unhchr.ch/udhr/