Grammar and Spelling
Section One - Grammar and Spelling
Swiss Italian does not differ in grammar or orthography to standard Italian. The main differences occur in areas such as Ticino, where regional variations can be heard.
1. Gender: As a rule singular feminine nouns end with the letter a or e and are preceded by the article la or una, e.g. la ditta, la stampante, una ditta, una stampante.
Singular masculine nouns end with the letter o or e and are preceded by the article il, lo, un, uno, e.g. il libro, il bicchiere, lo zaino, lo scaffale, un bambino, un bicchiere, uno zaino, uno studente.
2. Articles: The use of the appropriate article depends on the initial letters of the noun; for example sc requires always lo. For the orthography of articles which precede a noun that begins with vowel, please refer to the Miscellaneous Peculiarities section.
3. Plurals: plural words normally end with e or i and are preceded by the articles i, gli, le, e.g. i signori, gli amici, le amiche.
Plural feminine nouns end with the letter e or i, and are preceded
by the article le, e.g. le bambine, le stampanti.
3. One-letter words: These include a ('at' or 'to'), e ('and'), è and È ('is', also a capital letter at the start of a sentence), i ('the' - plural), o ('or').
4. Capitalisation: Capital letters in polite forms of address are used in correspondence, both for the Lei (you) form and the Voi (you) form (Lei if the letter is sent to a specific person, Voi if the letter is sent to an entity or a company). For example '… la Vostra lettera' (your letter), '… per Voi' (for you), '… per porgerVi' (to give you), '… inviarLe' (to send you).
General capitalisation rules:
Italian does not use capitals as often as English.
Paese: the word paese can mean 'country' OR 'village'. To prevent misinterpretation, when the meaning 'country' is intended, Paese within a sentence can be written with a capital 'P'.
Section Two - Punctuation
Italian tends to have a more "fluid" rhythm than English. In general it tries to organise different related ideas in a single sentence while avoiding, as much as possible, the repetition of the subject or the object.
1. Speech marks: As in English, the use of « ... » instead of inverted commas is not permitted.
2. Apostrophes: Use the curly apostrophe ’ instead of the straight one ' .
3. Dashes: The use of dashes for interpolated clauses is not used in Italian - commas or parenthesis are preferred. Under the influence of English their use is increasing, but it is not good Italian.
4. Full stops: Full stops are not used at the end of headings and titles.
5. Bullet points: Bullet points do not normally have full stops. If you are making a list of, say, actions or ideas, use the colon at the beginning, followed by the semi-colon to separate the items, e.g.:
Il Consiglio di amministrazione ha deciso di:
Section Three - Measurements and Abbreviations
1. Measurements: Metric measurements are used throughout, with the rare exception of the following, which retain the imperial measurement:
Time: the 24 hr clock is used in Italy and indication of am or pm
is therefore unnecessary:
In a written context very often the time follows the word alle, meaning 'at', e.g. alle 10.00, alle 15.00 or even alle quattro
Date: the date 25/8/99 can be written as:
Numbers over 999 are separated by a dot: 1.000, 2.233, 145.000.
Decimal: Italian uses a decimal comma.
Square metres and square centimetres are abbreviated both as m2 and mq and cm2 and cmq, respectively.
A space is normally left between numbers and the measurement abbreviation such as 25 cm, 48 g, 2 bar. However NO space is left before °C: 25°C.
N/a = n/p (non pertinente) [= not relevant]
All. (allegato) = Enc. (enclosure)
IVA (imposta valore aggiunto) = V.A.T.
Section Four - Hyphenation
Hyphenation is only used to split words over a line.
Words are hyphenated by syllables (a syllable is normally made up of one consonant followed by one or two vowels e.g. 0-ro-lo-gio)
When two similar or different consonants appear, they are split, e.g. il-lu-mina- zione, an-ti-co, stam-pan-te, par-te-ci-pa-zio-ne, cap-pel-lo
The following consonants must not be split: sp, sc, gn, gl, st, ch, gh, q, cq (a-spet-ta-re, di-sco, ci-co-gna, Ca-glia-ri, a-stan-ti)
The following vowels must not be split: ai, io, oi, ie, ia, eo (geo-gra-fia, astro-lo-gia, poi-ché)
In Italian hyphenation is logical and never guessed.
Section Five - Miscellaneous Peculiarities
Elision: "fall" of the final vowel of a word before a word that starts with vowel.
The vowel that "falls" is usually replaced by an apostrophe, for example instead of la altra we say and write l'altra, instead of lo amico we say and write l'amico, instead of dove è we say and write dov'è. However this is NEVER done with the masculine singular indefinite article "uno", ex.: un altro, un albero. This elision is not a "universal" rule and there are many exceptions. For example, both "tasso d'interesse" and "tasso di interesse".
Use of the apostrophe in front of some words which begin with h (h is a silent letter in Italian), for example l'hanno visto.
Double consonants are very common and change the meaning of a word e.g. anno = year, ano = anus.
Also be careful with the following two letters which differentiate words by the use of an accent:
- words which end with an accented 'a' have a grave accent = à
È is preferable to E' (the latter is often used by typists who do not know how to call up the symbol or to key in the ASCII character on the keyboard - or lazy ones!).
Use of foreign words in Italian: words such as il computer (the computer) and i computer (computers) are commonly used. The same word is used for both singular and plural.
In letters sent to a company, there is generally no equivalent to 'Dear Sirs' in Italian. The subject of the letter is stated first, normally followed by the body text of the letter. Many greener agencies will come back and say that the translation of this term has been missed out or forgotten, not realising that the convention is different in Italian.
Section Six - Geographic Distribution
Italian is considered by many to be the most beautiful of the world's languages. As the transmitter of the great culture of the Renaissance, its influence on the other languages of Western Europe has been profound.
Besides being spoken in Italy, it is one of the four official languages of Switzerland, and is also widely spoken in the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Brazil. All told there are about 60 million speakers of Italian. Italian is one of the Romance languages, and has remained closer to the original Latin than any of the others. Its dialects, however, vary tremendously, often to the point where communication becomes a problem.
Italian is spoken/used in the following countries:
Source: http://www.worldlanguage.com/Languages/Italian - Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.
Section Seven - Character Set
[ ] = Alt key codes
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