Opinions about perceived linguistic intelligibility in late-medieval Italy
This article contributes to the historical study of intercomprehension between speakers of closely related languages by focusing on Italy in the period up to the mid-fifteenth century. After an introduction to the topic, the second section will be devoted to methodological questions, including certain differences between research based on experimental testing and research based on historical evidence. The third section of the article reports opinions by medieval speakers about the intelligibility of different Italo-Romance varieties, and then compares them to opinions about genealogically and/or geographically more distant languages. While the dominant view among experts on Italy’s linguistic history is that speakers were trapped within mutually unintelligible vernaculars, this review of the extant evidence suggests a greater degree of intercomprehension than is usually supposed.
Keywords: multilingualism, communication, intelligibility, speakers’ judgments, language contact, languages of Italy, history of the Italian language
- 1.Italo-Romance intercomprehension: Towards a deeperhistorical appraisal
- 2.What to study and how to study it
- 3.Late-medieval evidence
- 3.1Italy’s Romance varieties
- 3.2Latin and other varieties
- 4.Concluding remarks
Published online: 19 August 2020
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