9 Pages

Italian and emigration

In the communities of Italian migrants outside Italy, the use of Italian and of dialects is still widespread, although it tends to decrease in the transition from the first generation, that is, Italians born in Italy, to the subsequent generations, those born in the country of migration. At the community level, Italian and dialects are generally spoken in the more informal social domains, whereas the host language is dominant in the formal ones (such as work, education and government offices). More specifically, dialect tends to be used more in the family and with friends from the same region, while Italian is the language of the wider ethnic community (clubs and associations, Italian cafes and restaurants, radio and television programmes). Due to this reduced use across generations and domains, and to the continual pressure from the host language, Italian and dialects abroad undergo formal changes. These occur differently in each generation, as levels of competence and preference in the various languages are also different. In general, the impact of the host language on the speech of the first generation is limited to the insertion of single words into their Italian or dialect discourse. Its impact on Italian and dialect spoken by the second generation can be much stronger, and affects also sounds and intonation patterns and rules about word order in the sentence and about contextual use of the language. Another feature of the Italian or dialect speech of second generation is code switching, that is, the alternate use of the host language with Italian or dialect in conversation, particularly due to a lack of competence in these latter two languages.