Which language is most similar to Italian?

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Levike » 2014-01-09, 13:44

Marah wrote:Hum, still, I think most people would agree that French is closer to Italian than Spanish or Portuguese are...

I don't think so. :whistle:

Plus, at first sight I see more resemblance between Spanish and Italian:

- Words ending in o and a.
Makes it seem more familiar.

- The conjugation.
Example: Ti amo = Te amo = Je t'aime / Veniamo = Venemos = Venons

- The French pronunciation is quite Qu'est-ce que c'est? while the Spanish/Italian one more normal
Maybe French has more in common in vocabulary and grammar,
but the pronunciation makes it very hard to detect.
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 14:01

Gosh, are we starting this thing anew? Isn't the whole discussion a bit hackneyed?

First: nobody will ever question the fact that Italian and Spanish are phonetically much closer than French and Italian. But phonetics is not everything in a language. For example the French lexycon is closer to Italian than the Spanish lexycon is.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_si ... _languages
Grammatically speaking, maybe I should wait to have a better knowledge of the two languages but so far I've seen several things common to French and Italian that aren't shared by Spanish; and this leads me to a question: Levente, I don't mean to be rude, but what are you doing in here if you know neither Italian nor French? :)

Maybe French has more in common in vocabulary and grammar,
but the pronunciation makes it very hard to detect.


I'm glad you added this one. But IMO this is a conceptual mistake.
If the question had been "what's the closest language to Italian, phonetically speaking", then Spanish would have been the answer, without a doubt. But here the question was broader and more general, asking what the most similar language to Italian is (without further specifications), so you cannot take only phonetics into account and marginalize everything else.
Last edited by IpseDixit on 2014-01-09, 15:56, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Levike » 2014-01-09, 14:22

I didn't only take the pronunciation part into account.

I also said that on paper French looks weird in comparison with Italian/Spanish.

Thanks for that table. :)
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Itikar » 2014-01-09, 14:23

Come on, Ipse, let them be. :)
They don't have to translate things often from Italian into French or Spanish and vice versa; therefore it is hard for them to get what we mean.
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 14:33

Levente wrote:I didn't only take the pronunciation part into account.

I also said that on paper French looks weird in comparison with Italian/Spanish


The fact that words end with a or o doesn't tell much about two languages (the same goes for the spelling IMO)... and btw the A/O thing can be still considered a "phonetic paramater".

- The conjugation.
Example: Ti amo = Te amo = Je t'aime / Veniamo = Venemos = Venons


That's cherrypicking, and doing this kind of comparison with French could be misleading because the written form and the pronunciation may vary quite a lot.

Come on, Ipse, let them be. :)
They don't have to translate things often from Italian into French or Spanish and vice versa; therefore it is hard for them to get what we mean.


But that's exactly the problem and the thing that annoys me: wanting to give an opinion largely based on phonetics and how the spelling looks. I'd never really judge a language that I don't know by those two things only.
Last edited by IpseDixit on 2014-01-09, 15:41, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Marah » 2014-01-09, 15:02

Grammatically speaking they share features like "ne/en" "ci/y".

The difference between passé composé/ passé simple is comparable to the difference between passato prossimo/ passato remoto. Spanish and its Pretérito perfecto compuesto/Pretérito perfecto simple. use a different concept.

French and Italian share a distinction between "be" and "have" verbs in using forming auxiliary tenses , whereas Spanish only uses "have" (French "je suis venu" Italian "sono venuto" compared to Spanish "he venido").


And quite frankly it makes sense that Italian is closer to French, they're neighboring countries, they're more likely to have similar grammar/vocabulary.
Par exemple, l'enfant croit au Père Noël. L'adulte non. L'adulte ne croit pas au Père Noël. Il vote.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Levike » 2014-01-09, 15:09

But I do recognise that besides pronunciation and spelling
French and Italian are more similar!

But my opinion is that all these three languages are close enough in grammar/vocab
that the looks and pronunciation take an important role when it's about understanding.

For example in that sentence that you said is cherry picking:

If an Italian hears something like yo amo
I bet he would know or he would have more chances of knowing what that is
in comparison with j'aime which is pronounced zh'em.

French/Italian are closer in grammar/vocab,
but the problem is that that similarity is hidden thanks to different phonetics and spelling.
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IpseDixit

Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 15:27

The point is that the most similar doesn't mean the most understandable when speaking.

As for reading, I assure you that reading French is really no problem for Italians, it's probably easier than reading Spanish because the lexycon is more similar.

But my opinion is that all these three languages are close enough in grammar/vocab


I'm still wondering on what you're basing your judgment, since you still don't know either Italian or French.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-01-09, 16:10

Marah wrote:Grammatically speaking they share features like "ne/en" "ci/y".

On the other hand, Spanish and Italian are pro-drop while French (which has half the number of distinctive personal endings in most conjugations) isn't. French also uses 2P for politeness whereas Standard Italian agrees with Standard Spanish in using a 3S form.

Marah wrote:The difference between passé composé/ passé simple is comparable to the difference between passato prossimo/ passato remoto. Spanish and its Pretérito perfecto compuesto/Pretérito perfecto simple. use a different concept.

My impression is that both Spanish and Italian show a lot of variation in this area. The perfect is most common in north-central and northeastern Peninsular dialects of Spanish and northern dialects of Italian whereas in Galicia, southern Spain, and Latin America on the one hand and southern Italy on the other, the simple past forms are far more frequent. There is, as far as I know, no comparable variation within French.

French and Italian share a distinction between "be" and "have" verbs in using forming auxiliary tenses , whereas Spanish only uses "have" (French "je suis venu" Italian "sono venuto" compared to Spanish "he venido").

On the other hand, Spanish and Italian share a distinction between a copula verb (ser/essere) and a verb of position (estar/stare) that is lacking in French.

Marah wrote:And quite frankly it makes sense that Italian is closer to French, they're neighboring countries, they're more likely to have similar grammar/vocabulary.

Neighbouring countries, but not neighbouring varieties. It's only within the last century that Standard French and Standard Italian have come to brush up against each other at the border; historically, the native varieties here were Occitan on one side of the border and Gallo-Romance on the other, whose close affinities are immediately self-evident. Also, geographic proximity isn't everything; southern Italy was long dominated by first the Aragonese and then the Spanish crown, which created a channel for mutual influence between the two peninsulas.

Moreover, although the position of Tuscan, the basis for Standard Italian, is relatively central within Italy (making it a natural choice for a koiné), the same can't be said of Francien, spoken in the far north of the country. The only varieties more peripheral to the Gallo-Romance Sprachraum are Norman, Picard, and Walloon. Similarly, Castilian occupies a relatively central position in Iberia and shows the influence of having been a koiné between varieties of the northern and southern parts of the peninsula on the one hand and the eastern and western ones on the other. (As I pointed out in the recent thread on Standard Italian, koineïsation tends to disfavour more progressive features.) A lot of attention gets paid to Eastern vs Western Romance, but core vs periphery is at least as important when talking about common features.
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 16:38

On the other hand, Spanish and Italian are pro-drop while French (which has half the number of distinctive personal endings in most conjugations) isn't. French also uses 2P for politeness whereas Standard Italian agrees with Standard Spanish in using a 3S form.


We can also use 2P. AFAIK, nowadays 3S is the most used because during the Fascist period people were obliged to use 2P (don't know why). And historically speaking 2P was more used.

My impression is that both Spanish and Italian show a lot of variation in this area. The perfect is most common in north-central and northeastern Peninsular dialects of Spanish and northern dialects of Italian whereas in Galicia, southern Spain, and Latin America on the one hand and southern Italy on the other, the simple past forms are far more frequent. There is, as far as I know, no comparable variation within French.


But this doesn't mean that the two tenses are more similar.

My understanding is that the pretérito perfecto compuesto is used when there is still a relation to the present, this is not the case of Italian passato prossimo.

On the other hand, Spanish and Italian share a distinction between a copula verb (ser/essere) and a verb of position (estar/stare) that is lacking in French.


Stare and estar have different meanings. Most of the times stare means to remain. Io sono qui = I am here, io sto qui = I remain/stay here, other times it means to live as in io sto a Firenze = I live in Florence. Stare cannot be used as estar in Spanish.
Last edited by IpseDixit on 2014-01-09, 17:40, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Marah » 2014-01-09, 17:03

linguoboy wrote:The perfect is most common in north-central and northeastern Peninsular dialects of Spanish and northern dialects of Italian whereas in Galicia, southern Spain, and Latin America on the one hand and southern Italy on the other, the simple past forms are far more frequent.


I know that in South America they tend to use the simple past form more frequently but I've never heard of variation within Spain itself. Maybe they tend to use the simple past form more frequently in Andalusia, but it's a dialect. As far as Galicia is concerned I don't know if this is still a feature of their accent and how widespread it is. :hmm:

But anyway, the fact that several accents/dialects (the majority actually, if we're talking figures) prefer the simple past form over the perfect just proves that in this respect Italian and French are closer.
Par exemple, l'enfant croit au Père Noël. L'adulte non. L'adulte ne croit pas au Père Noël. Il vote.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 17:09

Another difference is that in Spanish the verb "to have" is expressed with two verbs: tener and haber, whereas French and Italian only have avoir and avere. (Tenir and tenere mean to keep/to hold in [flag=]fr[/flag] and [flag=]it[/flag]).

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-01-09, 17:40

Marah wrote:I know that in South America they tend to use the simple past form more frequently but I've never heard of variation within Spain itself. Maybe they tend to use the simple past form more frequently in Andalusia, but it's a dialect. As far as Galicia is concerned I don't know if this is still a feature of their accent and how widespread it is.

No, it's not just "dialect". Andalusians, Galicians, Canarians, etc. use the simple past more often when speaking the standard as well. (For more on the phenomenon, see Ralph Penny, Variation and change in Spanish [Cambridge, 2004]). And because of the massive migration of Andalusians northward last century, features of their speech have been infiltrating the vernacular of Madrid and Barcelona, among other important places.

The same applies (mutatis mutandis) in Italy.

Marah wrote:But anyway, the fact that several accents/dialects (the majority actually, if we're talking figures) prefer the simple past form over the perfect just proves that in this respect Italian and French are closer.

Um...how? Italian has vibrant dialects and strong regional variation in pronunciation, usage, etc. Spanish has vibrant dialects and strong regional variation in pronunciation, usage, etc. French does not. So how can you say "in this respect Italian and French are closer"?
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-01-09, 18:12

IpseDixit wrote:We can also use 2P. AFAIK, nowadays 3S is the most used because during the Fascist period people were obliged to use 2P (don't know why). And historically speaking 2P was more used.

Are we comparing the languages as they are spoken today or as they once were? Because if it's the latter, the answer could change according to the historical period in question.

Vós was once a polite form of address in Spanish as well, but now it is generally the equivalent of in those varieties where it survives (to the extent that the forms are often blended), although I believe there are a few which still make a distinction. However, this isn't really relevant to how the vast majority of contemporary Spanish-speakers talk.

IpseDixit wrote:
My impression is that both Spanish and Italian show a lot of variation in this area. The perfect is most common in north-central and northeastern Peninsular dialects of Spanish and northern dialects of Italian whereas in Galicia, southern Spain, and Latin America on the one hand and southern Italy on the other, the simple past forms are far more frequent. There is, as far as I know, no comparable variation within French.

But this doesn't mean that the two tenses are more similar.

I think there's more similarity between having two past tenses not marked for imperfective aspect (one simple and one compound) in active use in speech than having only one--even if their distribution and usage varies somewhat. In any case, I disagree with Marah that the usage of the perfect is more similar between French and Italian than between Spanish and Italian. This is only true if we limit our purview to Northern varieties. But if we consider modern Italian to be "lingua toscana in bocca romana", then we should take into account the Tuscan and Roman usage, which still features the passato remoto in speech.

IpseDixit wrote:My understanding is that the pretérito perfecto compuesto is used when there is still a relation to the present, this is not the case of Italian passato prossimo.

Can you give some examples? More importantly, what does French do in the same situations?

IpseDixit wrote:Stare and estar have different meanings. Most of the times stare means to remain. Io sono qui = I am here, io sto qui = I remain/stay here, other times it means to live as in io sto a Firenze = I live in Florence. Stare cannot be used as estar in Spanish.

Of course it can, just not in this example. Do you say *sono parlando and *sono bene or do you say sto parlando and sto bene?

I accept that the usage isn't identical, but neither is it completely divergent. There's a parallel distinction to be learned in both languages, and it's not found in French at all.
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Marah » 2014-01-09, 18:25

linguoboy wrote:Um...how? Italian has vibrant dialects and strong regional variation in pronunciation, usage, etc. Spanish has vibrant dialects and strong regional variation in pronunciation, usage, etc. French does not. So how can you say "in this respect Italian and French are closer"?

What I meant is that while in general (if we take South America into consideration) Spanish speakers tend to prefer the simple past form over the perfect, French and Italian speakers tend to think the simple past form is literary style and a little bit archaic at times.

linguoboy wrote:Can you give some examples? More importantly, what does French do in the same situations?

Unlike Spanish it is not relevant whether the action is still in relation with the present we would use the perfect tense anyway. My understanding is that the situation is similar with Standard Italian.

[flag=]es[/flag]Ayer comí una manzana. [flag=]fr[/flag]Hier j'ai mangé une pomme. [flag=]it[/flag] Ieri ho mangiato una mela.
[flag=]es[/flag]Hoy he comido una manzana. [flag=]fr[/flag]Aujourd'hui j'ai mangé une pomme.[flag=]it[/flag] Oggi ho mangiato una mela.
Par exemple, l'enfant croit au Père Noël. L'adulte non. L'adulte ne croit pas au Père Noël. Il vote.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 19:36

Are we comparing the languages as they are spoken today or as they once were? Because if it's the latter, the answer could change according to the historical period in question.

Vós was once a polite form of address in Spanish as well, but now it is generally the equivalent of in those varieties where it survives (to the extent that the forms are often blended), although I believe there are a few which still make a distinction. However, this isn't really relevant to how the vast majority of contemporary Spanish-speakers talk.


No, I'm not just talking about the past. Voi is still quite used in various regional variants (by that I don't mean dialects), especially in the South, and can be used in Standard Italian too on certain occasions (quite limited). With this I'm not trying to deny that Lei is more common though.

IpseDixit wrote:My understanding is that the pretérito perfecto compuesto is used when there is still a relation to the present, this is not the case of Italian passato prossimo.

Can you give some examples? More importantly, what does French do in the same situations?


Pretty much what Marah said. Passato prossimo indicates an event that happened (and ended) in the past, Italians aren't very familiar with the idea of a tense that "started in the past and still occurs in the present or has connections with the present" (many Italians for example misuse the English present perfect). The only difference from passato remoto is that it happened in a near past.

So the "correct" use would be:

Alessandro Magno morì nel 323 a.C

but

Il mio gatto è morto nel 2000.

IpseDixit wrote:Of course it can, just not in this example. Do you say *sono parlando and *sono bene or do you say sto parlando and sto bene?

I accept that the usage isn't identical, but neither is it completely divergent. There's a parallel distinction to be learned in both languages, and it's not found in French at all.


You said as verbs of position. Stare and estar don't mean the same when they are verbs of position. Moreover idiomatic expressions with stare can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The only one else besides stare bene that comes to my mind is stare attento. Also the use of stare as copula can be only found in that tense with the gerunde.
Last edited by IpseDixit on 2014-01-09, 23:14, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Itikar » 2014-01-09, 19:49

Are we not forgetting Spanish "personal a"?
It is quite weird and contrasts with both Italian and French.
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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby linguoboy » 2014-01-09, 22:41

Itikar wrote:Are we not forgetting Spanish "personal a"?
It is quite weird and contrasts with both Italian and French.

"Quite weird" how? Plenty of languages distinguish human/animate objects from non-human/inanimate ones.

What about partitive de/di? My impression is that French uses it profligately, Italian occasionally, and Spanish not at all.

But the fundamental problem with these comparisons is that they're all impressionistic. There's no objective method of weighing one feature against another in terms of importance or divergence, so each of us is simply cherrypicking the ones which seem "weirdest" to us and ignoring the others.

That's why when this discussion first came around I fell back on the criteria of mutual intelligibility. It's not without its problems (which I've detailed at length here before), but it's the closest to a source of empirical data we've got. Both voron and I testified that we'd witnessed Italian-speakers communicate with Spanish-speakers, each speaking their own language, but that we'd never seen French-speakers do this with either group. Does anyone have any examples of the latter? If not, then I think we can say "case closed" for now.
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IpseDixit

Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby IpseDixit » 2014-01-09, 23:05

That's why when this discussion first came around I fell back on the criteria of mutual intelligibility. It's not without its problems, but it's the closest to a source of empirical data we've got. Both voron and I testified that we'd witnessed Italian-speakers communicate with Spanish-speakers, each speaking their own language, but that we'd never seen French-speakers do this with either group. Does anyone have any examples of the latter? If not, then I think we can say "case closed" for now.


No sorry, while I agree that there's a lack of a real method for judging which language is closer, this doesn't mean we have to base our answer on the phonetics and on the mutual oral intellegibility only. Nobody ever said that French is closer to Italian from that point of view, we already agreed right from the start that Spanish is closer in that regard.

Moreover we already have another definite datum: French lexycon is closer to Italian than Spanish lexycon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_si ... _languages
and I'd daresay that French is probably more comprehensible than Spanish if we consider the written form.

So, it's case closed only regarding the phonetics (but that was never really questioned) and the lexicon. As for anything else, it's case suspended.

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Re: Which language is most similar to Italian?

Postby Itikar » 2014-01-09, 23:34

linguoboy wrote:"Quite weird" how? Plenty of languages distinguish human/animate objects from non-human/inanimate ones.

Yeah, like Russian, Polish, Navajo and Sumerian. Plus italien que ça...

What about partitive de/di? My impression is that French uses it profligately, Italian occasionally, and Spanish not at all.

If you mean partitive articles we use them fairly often, maybe not as often as French but still quite a lot. It is only Italian grammarians that for unclear reasons continue to consider them and progressive tenses as something marginal.

My impression is in general that, given the similarity between Italian and Spanish on the phonetic level (although overrated and helped a lot by the context, i.e. I have personally witnessed to Spanish words like "gente" and "página" not being understood by Italians when heard outside of the proper context), one tends to be surprised by the differences between Italian and Spanish, while taking the enormous similarities as something granted; whereas with French happens exactly the opposite and given the big phonetic differences one tends to be surprised by how deep are the links that under the surface French still shares with Italian (as well as with other Romance languages).
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