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Italian language

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Italian, occasionally called Lingua di Sì (in its own language: italiano or rarely lingua di sì), is a Romance language spoken by 66,000,000 persons. Italian-speakers are mostly found in Italy, Switzerland (where it is an official language spoken by 6.5% of the population), France, Argentina, Canada, and United States.

Naming

Besides the usual name of the language, Italian (italiano), one sometimes sees the rare name Langua di Sì. It was spread from De vulgari eloquentia (1303-1305), the famous essay by Italian writer Dante Alighieri, where three Romance languages were identified by the way of saying “yes”: Lingua di Sì (“language of sì” or Italian), Lenga d'Òc (“language of òc” or Occitan) and Langue d'Oïl (“language of oïl” or French).

Sounds

Vowels

Triphthongs always contain at least one semivowel: noia and febbraio have the sequence vowel-semivowel-vowel. In miei the first i is a semivocalic 'y' sound, [j]; in tuoi, the u functions as a [w]; and the final i of such words can become semivocalic before a following vowel in the next word. The i is a semivowel also in the first person plural of some verbs: continuiamo, dissanguiamo. And in the four-vowel sequence of aiuola ('flowerbed') the [j] is pushing out the "u" semivowel, [w], so nowadays aiola is the usual spelling. A similar process appears in words like mariuolo ('rascal') and legnaiuolo ('woodcutter'): almost everybody uses them (if at all) in the form mariolo, legnaiolo etc.