The Power of National Identity at the Grapho-Phonological Level: A Case in Italian

Author: Stefano Presutti (University of California, U.S.)
Speaker: Stefano Presutti
Topic: Language Ideologies
COMELA 2022 General Session


The Western European nationalism in the modern era which developed the ideal of nation-state was based on two key concepts: language standardization and monolingualism. However, today the relationship between language and national identity is too rigid and anachronistic, and it should be modified in order to be more suitable for contemporary transnational fluidity. Respect to previous researches in linguistic anthropology and sociolinguistics, this study originally focuses the attention on the interrelations between written and spoken language, specifically at a grapho-phonological level. This paper investigates distinct elements of a specific language: the phoneme of palatal lateral approximant and its related graphemes in standard Italian. We examine through historical-linguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives the diachronic, diatopic and diastratic features that, during the formation, standardization and massification language processes, led these target elements to cross boundaries: passing the non-symbolic to symbolic threshold; becoming standard and prestigious identity markers of Italian. The findings showed that today, national languages and identities are not disappearing, but with the formation of global identity and language, new and more flexible boundaries are being created, more appropriate to faster and more layered inter- and intralinguistic communication.


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Keywords: language ideologies, politics of language, Italian identity, phonology, writing