Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Despite the more lasting (and often cartoonish) exports of Italy -- food, notions of community, photogenic antiquity, the word "EHHHHHHH," mustaches, Fascism in Colour, Futurism, fast talking etc -- the Italian language seems to be one of the most diverse mother tongues in Europe. Its diversity is both in its ability to be descriptive and broad, and its moveable type through the geography of the country. One unofficial statistic of talk-lore is that a new dialect erupts in Italy, on average every 7km's or so, making quite a statement at the importance of conversation. Meaning, of course, develops through speech: without certain aids, the nuance of conveyance for mood or the genuine can be lost in type and so spoken language, tonality, gesturing etc pick up the slack.

Not much of a revelation really, but what about when such a small linguistic geography gets splintered into so many pieces? Italy is 301,338 square kilometers, and if we are judging by our unofficial statistic of a new dialect every 7km, that's about 43,000 divisions if we're being lazy about math...and we are. According to the "Global Language Monitor" - a lazy internet search-produced result - there are 1, 013, 913 words in the English language, with more being neologized everyday. For the sake of baffling statistics, if we applied the threshold of changes that there are in Italy, that's a theoretical 43,598,259,000 terms of expression happening at any given second of the day.

The point is not to impress or overwhelm, however, just to acknowledge the height of potential fracture that a language can go through. Imporant to the clip, however, is that as far as my ears are concerned, this film is shot entirely in Roman dialect. The chosen non-representation of Italian in English speaking circles is pretty much "mammanama, mammanamammanamammanamana, mannnamammanamammaNA" and of course this film does nothing to dispel the caricature of the face fireworks that occur around a Roman dinner table. What it does effectively, is represent one strain of language that has become specific to a place -- and also a time, since these dialects are changing vastly -- with shimmering, shouting result.

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