The Social, Political and Cultural History of an International Prestige Language
Edited By Vladislav Rjéoutski, Gesine Argent and Derek Offord
5. The Two Latin Sisters: Representations of the French and the French Language in Italy
In the long history of cultural relations between France and Italy, particular attention should be paid to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These centuries witnessed first the unfurling of ‘Gallomania’ – when the consecration of French as the language of cultivated Europe completed a rise begun in Italy in the mid-seventeenth century – and then the decline of the infatuation with France and its language, which coincided with the development of movements of national resistance across Europe as a whole at the time of the Napoleonic invasions in the early nineteenth century. The spread of French in Italy was late by comparison with its spread in northern European countries such as England, where French enjoyed privileged status, and the Netherlands, to which Protestants had fled at the time of their first flight from France, which began in the 1560s. A whole century separated the first grammar designed for Italian-speakers, which was published in Rome in 1625,1 and Lesclarcissement de la langue françoyse [The Explanation of the French Language] which the Englishman John Palsgrave brought out in 1530. The first Italian works intended for teaching and learning French were aimed at private secretaries, translators, travellers and tradespeople. A language of ‘convenience’ which was of interest only to professional people, French would not become the language of culture until around 1670, when it made its appearance in Jesuit colleges. From that moment French would make an essential contribution to the education of the ruling class, hence the need to put in place...
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