Is Calabrese a Dialect of Italian?
by Joseph Lo Bianco
An explanation on the distinction between Calabrese being a language and not a dialect of Italian.
I want to make a point about how we name Calabrisi/Calavrisi. Calabrian is not a dialect of Italian, it is an Italian dialect, ie a dialect of Italy. The distinction is important.
Let me explain. Calabrian, and all the forms of speaking usually known as Dialects of Italian (incorrectly) are all direct descendents of proto-Latin (ie vulgar Latin) with all the mixtures that different areas encountered (Calabrian has a lot of Greek influence, obviously from the Magna Graecia period but also from the Byzantine period (which although it was a continuation of the Roman Empire was actually quite Eastern) and Spanish.
What is commonly called Italian is also a direct descendent of Latin, ie it is la lingua toscana in bocca romana. Tuscan as pronounced by Romans. So this thing, which linguists call standard Italian, or Italiano standard is a sibling of Calabrian, not its parent. Non so se mi spiego?
There is also something called Italiano popolare. Which is the way in which Standard Italian (Lingua Toscana etc) is itself spoken in the dialect regions. So in Calabria we have the various forms of Calabrese (there are several) then we have Italiano popolare, ie how Standard Italian is spoken with a Calabrian accent etc then we have standard Italian (sister (or brother) of Calabrian. There are also language islands, ie villages where Greek (ancient Greek), Albanian and even Piemontese are spoken.
Standard Italian was a literary language from S. Francis of Assisi's time (he wrote the first recognisably non-Latin, Italian texts, Canticle of the Creatures etc) to Dante Alighieri who wrote in De Volgari Eloquentia (popular speech). However, this Italian remained a non-spoken literary language until unification. Indeed, in 1861, only about 2.5% of the population of Italy knew Italian (ie. lingua toscana, etc.). So Calabrisi is a proud and ancient tongue and we should not put up with anyone sneering at it.