Rethinking italiano popolare for Heritage Italian

Stefania Marzo


This article questions the long-standing assumption that heritage Italian can be characterized as italiano popolare on account of a number of similar non-standard features. It is argued that this is a problematic comparison due to some methodological lacunae in research into heritage Italian and that a systematic corpus-based analysis is needed in order to reveal its underlying sociolinguistic dynamics. This study focuses on a corpus of Italian spoken by the Italian community in Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) and presents a multivariate analysis of a set of morphosyntactic simplification features that have been labelled as typical of italiano popolare. It will be shown that the features of heritage Italian clearly correlate to a set of traditional language contact variables (e.g., contact with the home language and intergenerational transmission). This variation pattern shows that heritage Italian can no longer be connected to italiano popolare in the original sense of the term (viz. an interlanguage or diastratically lower regional Italian).

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