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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Genere dei Nomi


Note: My background is a Bachelor’s in Linguistics. This field of Linguistics is not to be confused with linguists who speak multiple languages, as there are two types. My field of knowledge is in Linguistics, which is the study of language structures, as I prefer to define it. By language structures, this means the studying of phonology (language’s ‘sound’ system), syntax (a language’s sentence structuring), and the like. There are many, many areas in Linguistics, and far too many to name at this time. In spite of the background, and touching in areas of Linguistics at times, I find that it is best not to go to in depth with the linguistical explanations of the Italian language. It can get a bit complicated, and for the most part would think my audience does not have a basic knowledge of Linguistics studies. Therefore, any lettering referencing in this post, and those that follow, are not in reference to the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), to keep things as simple as possible. The IPA is used by Linguists worldwide in order to properly represent the sounds found in a language.


Noun Genders in the Italian Language

In the English language, speakers do not have to worry about the gender of nouns. However, Italian has a two gender system for its nouns – masculine and feminine. This trait developed from Latin, which originally had a three gender system – masculine, feminine, and neuter. Accompanying adjectives must agree with the assigned gender of the noun. There are also masculine and feminine plural endings, -i for masculine and –e for feminine, in most cases. Plural endings will be discussed in a separate post. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules for determining noun gender, which take into account things like, language origin – such as Greek and English words.

Well how can I determine the origin of the word, you ask? That is also a separate topic. Back to basics!

Noun gender is defined by the vowel endings. What is a vowel? The following letters are vowels – a,e,i,o, and u, just as you would find in the English language. 


Typically, masculine nouns end in –o, whereas feminine nouns end in –a.

Some examples of masculine nouns:


Italian
English
Italian
English
 tavolo
 table
 cerchio
circle
cielo
 sky
cucchiaio
fork
albero
 tree
uccello
Bird
gatto
cat
cavallo
horse
libro
book
piatto
plate

Some examples of feminine nouns:

Italian
English
Italian
English
forchetta
Fork
zanzara
Mosquito
scarpa
Shoe
luna
Moon
macchina
Car
scala
Stair/step
Ragazza
Girl
figlia
Daughter
gonna
Skirt
Pupetta
doll


As previously stated, for the most part, masculine and feminine nouns are easily identifiable. However, there are exceptions.

Some Greek words are deceiving. In spite of its feminine ending, these Greek origin words are in fact masculine:

Italian
English
Italian
English
problema
Problem
Tema
Theme/subject

Rule: Greek words that end in –ema are masculine. What about Greek words that do not end in –a or –o? Example: tesì (thesis).

Tesì is feminine – la tesì.

What can we deduce from certain Greek words that do not follow the rules? It is unfortunately all about memorization.

Other deceiving foreign words:

La radio (English derived)
Lo smoking ( tuxedo, English derived)


Other helpful hints determining noun gender:

* Nouns that end in –zione are always feminine.

Italian
English
Italian
English
La stazione
Station
La distrazione
Distraction
La costituzione
Constitution
L’opzione
Option
La situazione
Situation
La costruzione
Construction
La distruzione
Destruction
L’operazione
operation


*Cities (le città) are always feminine.
 
Italian
English
Italian
English
La Lucca
----
La Parigi
Paris
La New York
----
L’Inghilterra
England
La Bologna
----
L’Amsterdam
----

*Regions (le regioni) are always feminine.
La Toscana
La Puglia
La Lazio
La Veneto
La Lomardia
La Calabria

*Islands (le isole) are always feminine.

La Sardegna
La Sicilia

*Countries (i paesi) are always feminine.

Italian
English
Italian
English
La Francia
France
L’Italia
----
L’America
----
La Svizza
Switzerland
La Germania
Germany
La Spagna
Spain
La Russia
----
La Cina
China


Hope this information is useful to those beginning to learn Italian. My hope is that I’ve made your life a bit easier. However, that is not to say that memorization of noun gender is not of importance.


Other helpful sites:

Orbilat: Linguistics site
Orbilat: Gender of Nouns (Genere dei nomi)
Orbilat: List of Greek masculine nouns ending in -ma.


Any other rules Italian speakers can think of? Please feel free to leave other rules in the comment area!


Buona giornata!!! And Happy Mother's Day tomorrow in the USA!!!


Photo: The above photo was taken by me. Please do not improperly use aforementioned photo elsewhere without asking for permission. Thank you!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Origin of the Italian Language (A Brief Overview)




-    Official language – Standard Italian

In my opinion, to fully understand a language, one should have a basic grasp on its history. By ‘understanding a language’, in this context however, does not mean whether or not you can hold a conversation, know your conjugations, etc. Rather it is to understand where it came from and evolved into the beautiful language we hear and study today.
     
 The Italian language was not always the official language of Italy. In fact, Italy is considered a ‘young’ state. Prior to 1861, Italy was fragmented – divided into city and regional states. The Republic of Venice is an example. At that time, it had been known as the Kingdom of Italy. On 17 March 1861, Victor Emmanuel II announced the official unity of Italy, and was thereby the first king of Italy. Last March marked the 150th anniversary of that unification, or in Italian, il Risorgimento. To accompany Victor Emmanuel in this victorious process, he had inspirational nationalistic leaders like Giuseppe Garibaldi.

Italy then became a democratic republic after WWII on 2 June 1946 after the abolishment of the monarchy. 1 January 1948 is the date on which Italy’s constitution came into effect. This date is also important to those who have a woman in their jure sanguinis line. That however is a post unto itself.
       
As a democratic republic, the official language was declared as standard Italian. At the time of Italy’s unification, it is said only 2.5% of the population could speak it. With governmental implementations, such as the standardization of language usage within the classroom, and through media, that number has since increased exponentially.

So, you ask, if it has only been during more recent history that the country has been speaking a standardized language, what were Italians speaking before that?

I’m glad you asked!


To read more about the history of Italy, you can visit the NIAF's Ambassador magazine article, History of Italian Unity Made Easy, on page 21. Note: it is a PDF file.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What is PassagetoItaly Up To?

Brainstorming ideas for this blog has temporarily been put on hold. However, I thought it was imperative to update you all on what is going on with my citizenship. Back in August was my appointment with the Newark consulate in New Jersey that confirmed that it was indeed possible for me to formally recognize my Italian citizenship. I was convinced that I did in fact qualify for recognition. After hearing many people say it would never work, the line is too far back, I poured over numerous citizenship laws just to be sure of my belief. Lo and behold, I was right and the consular officer stated, "obviously you know that you qualify. Do you do work in research? Your research is very thorough. It's like I have the history of Italy in my hands!" After all my hard work, I was beaming when I heard this, naturally. She then stated that my papers would have to be further reviewed at the New York City consulate. Why? Who knows! My thoughts - perhaps in case Italy had to make financial cuts to certain consulates due to its economic instability. Not quite sure.

Since my appointment, I have e-mailed the New York City consulate to acquire the information needed to send my paperwork there. Their response was that there were two options: (1) to make an appointment to come into the city for my papers to be reviewed, which would be a two month wait period, or (2) mail in my papers with the provided form filled out.

The latter option seems more practical, as I have started a new job, and it would be difficult at this time to take off and trek into NYC. However, honestly, I am bugging out about the possibility of my papers being lost in the mail! Of course I will take every necessary precaution for that not to happen - certified mail, quick arrival date, etc. With all the necessary precautions being made, it is still nerve racking! Thus, I'm triplicating ALL documents just in case, and may even make duplicate files on my computer... just in case.

Sigh.


If any of you have any questions about the process, please do not hesitate to message me here, or e-mail me at: PassagetoItaly@gmail.com