Italian (italiano or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe:
- San Marino
- Vatican City
- by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia
- and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia.
Many speakers are native bilinguals of both standardised Italian and other regional languages in Italy.
(sourced from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_language)
According to the statistics of the European Union, Italian is spoken:
- as a mother tongue by 65 million people in the EU (13% of the EU population), mainly in Italy
- and as a second language by 14 million (3%).
Including the Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is more than 85 million.
In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages; it is studied and learned in all the confederation schools and spoken, as mother tongue, in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Grigioni and by the Italian emigrants that are present in large numbers in German- and French-speaking cantons.
Italian is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of Vatican City.
The Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy is based on the Tuscan dialect, which beforehand was only available to upper class Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other Italian dialects and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman invaders.
Italian derives diachronically from Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. In particular, among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary.