UNESCO recently declared that the Neapolitan dialect should be considered a language on its own. Spoken across Italy, Neapolitan is most dominant in Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise, Puglia and Calabria. Its origins go as far back as the time of Pompei. It then thrived under Federico II up until the reign of the Aragonesi. Under the Spanish domination, it used to be the State’s official administrative language. Neapolitan experienced many changes and influences throughout its evolution, but it always remained close to its original roots. That’s up until the Savoia’s reign.
With the arrival of Garibaldi and the end of the Regno delle due Sicilie, Neapolitan was officially substituted with Italian, even though French used to be the administrative language of Piemonte in the early 1800s. Parliament had even suggested officially abolishing the Neapolitan dialect, which was considered to be prevalently spoken by second-class citizens.
Throughout time, the Neapolitan language has experienced many variations, which purists would define as “vulgar influences,” yet it inspired many great poets and writers. According to historians and linguists, the Neapolitan dialect can easily be considered Italy’s second official language, thanks in part to popular songs that have contributed to spreading its influence across the world. No other dialect is as popular and yet, UNESCO has declared Neapolitan as a language to be preserved and protected.
According to the international body, it is an easy shortcut to classify Neapolitan as a dialect. This declaration gives pride to all of those that express themselves using this colourful language, not only in Italy, but all around the world.
Think of it this way... It's like someone from Texas saying "y'all" instead of "you all", along with the odd ways they use the expression in conversation. We all have regional differences in American English and though it might be difficult to understand ever word we Americans say to each other at times (remind me to tell you about a country auction in West Virginia I attended once...) we still are speaking the same language. Just think of how French has evolved differently in various parts of the world. The French in La Belle France is the purest, but there are dialects within that country too. The French spoken in Haiti or Quebec or in Cajon-Zydeco country in East Texas and Lousiana are all very different from the French spoken in France simply because they evolved separately from the Mother Tongue. But in the end, in a pinch, all of them could have a basic conversation with each other.
High Italian is "the" Italian and but the dialects from various regions are valid too. Each has its place. It makes Italian all the more textured and colorful. I'm glad UNESCO wants the Neapolitan dialect to be preserved, but to declare it as its own language is a stretch. Italy is a mish-mosh of regions--it always was and perhaps always will be. The one outstanding truth I learned from traveling in Italy is... There is no one single "Italy".
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends on your favorite social media! Ciao!