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The parent of the Italian indefinite article uno was the Latin nu. meral unus.
In the most ancient form of the Latin this was aino, which must have been ai-no in the primitive Aryan. In the Eugabine tables we have une-unu.
The final syllable of ille, illa, etc., was the source from which the Italian took its definite article. The partitive article degli would appear a compound, dei-de-i, with the g intruded. Where the language got g we have already shown. The Gothic sa, in the sense of ille, ipse, of the Latin (avtos of the Greek), appears only three times in the Bible of Ulphilas : Sa ïst Hélias (Matt. xi. : 14) ; sa ïst (Mark xiv.: 44); and sah vas Samareitês (Luke xvii. : 16).
The prepositions used in Italian declensions are taken, with a single exception, from the Latin. These are: A, ad, di, da, con, fra, in, per, su, tra, which are known as real prepositions. Fra is pure Gothic, from whence our English from. This single invader, standing solitary and alone among the natives, looks melancholy indeed. The other Italian prepositions not ranked as real prepositions are Latin adverbs, or compounds of adverbs, prepositions, nouns, and parti ciples. Their dissection would afford some amusement to the curious in such things. Fuori is no doubt the Latin adverb foras; eccetto comes from ad excepto; dopo is possibly a compound of de and postea ; adosso, certainly a compound of a and dorsum ; giusta, Latin adjective justus; salvo, also from an adjective salvus; senza, from sine. sotto, Latin adverb subter; dietro, Latin adverb dierecte (with a mischief, and hence, by inference, from behind).
The ancient Italian pronoun of the first person, eo, approaches nearer the Latin ego than anything that can be found in the Neolatin languages, with a single exception. Both the Italian and Daco-Roman
ave io; but it is a well-known fact that the French in the ninth century used eo and io for Je. In the oaths of 842 we find Si valvarai eo, and si io returnas.
Ci and e, of the Italian personal pronouns of the third person singular, comes from the Sanscrit ayam (e + am) of which it is only a contraction. Esso is probably the old form of the Latin pronoun ipse, with the p elided. In the Eugabine tables we have isec and issoc, and in Oscan inscriptions, iseis Tu of the Italian is the San. scrit pronoun tvam, rejecting the suffix am,
Questo, in all certainty, comes from the Latin demonstrative iste, ista, which makes its dative in isto. Several of the Italian dialects have preserved it without any modification or change whatever ; others, by a retrenchment similar to that effected in ille, illo,-out of which the Italian lo has been made,-have made sto and sta from isto and ista. Documents of the sixth century prove that this change was then in general usage in certain parts of Italy; as in Ravenna, in Rimini, and along the shores of the Adriatic, where these words were used sometimes as articles, and sometimes simply as pronouns.
The Latin being synthetic in form, made its comparisons by suffixes. The Italian, held to be analytic, shows here only some, not all, of the weakness of the Neolatin tongues. The Italian, in its comparisons, is rich with both forms. To express the comparative of bono, the Italian has meglio, as well as più bono ; for the comparative of male, the Italian has peggio, as well as più male. The French would appear to be entirely deficient in a superlative for these two words, unless it be proper to say tres, or plus meilleure, and plus, or tres pire; while the Italian, in -simo and -ssimo, has a superlative for everything
It should be observed that the Latin did not form the first person singular present of its verbs from the oblique cases of the first person of the pronoun, as the Sanscrit, but directly from the nominative ego. Thus, amo is a contraction of am-n-o, which is also a contraction of am-a-ego. In the first person of the verb the Italian retains the Latin terminal o. The Italian terminal of the second person is i. This is no doubt a retention of the old vulgar Latin. We have already noticed this very corruption as far back as the days of Nævius. The French form, at one time, was tu pars, tu dis, tu reçois, etc. The Italian has been more consistent in its old ways. It has entirely rejected the s-terminal of the second person singular in all its cases, as well as the t-terminations of the third person, of the classic Latin.
Besides the letter-changes already given, there are others, which are most observable in some of the Italian verbs. B here takes the place of v, and ss of x. Thus, instead of amabam of the Latin, we have amava in the Italian imperfect indicative; while ressero, the Italian future indicative, answers to rexerunt of the Latin.
The preterit of the Sanscrit b'u, disengaged of its augment, furnishes the Latin with the inflections of its imperfect indicative. This was ab'av-a-m, ab'av-a-s, ab'av-a-t; ab'av-á-ma, ab'av-a-ta, ab'.
These inflections, all of the Neolatin languages, follow; consequently we find in the Provençal : ama-va, amavas, ama-va; ama-vam, ama-vats, ama-van; in the Spanish, ama-ba, ama-bas, amaba, ama-bamos, ama-bais, ama-ban; in the Italian, ama-va, ama-vi, ama-va, ama-va-mo, ama-vate, ama-vano. The perfect-indicative of the Latin verb sum was the source from which all the Neolatin verbs took their perfect or past definite. In the Latin we have fu-i for fu-v-i of the ancient verb fu-o, fu-iste, fu-it, fu-imus, fu-istis, fuerunt or fuere.
In the perfect-indicative of amo we have ama-v-i for ama-fui, am-a-v. isti for ama-fu-isti, ama-v-it for ama-fu-it, amav-i-mus for ama-fu-imus, ama-v-istis for ama-fu-istis, ama-v-erunt for ama-fu-erunt or -ere. So in the Italian we find vende-i, vende-sti, vende, vende-mmo, vendete, vende-cono,
The formation of the Neolatin future is still more curious. This is made up of the auxiliary verb ho and the infinitive of the associated verb, and shows how strong the tendency of the language was to disintegration. Under this singular composition, amare ho, amare hai, amare ha, amare abbiamo, amare avete, amare hanno, becomes amero, amerai, amera, ameremo, amerete, ameranno. This mode of forming the future is found in all of the Neolatin languages except the Wallachian. With particular reference to the Spanish, this is noticed by Antonio di Nebrixia, or Lebrixa, in his “Grammatica sobre la lengua Costellana," in 1492.
In åse, one form of the Sanscrit infinitive, we recognize the original of the infinitive of Neolatin verbs; hence es-se, pos-se, ama-re, mone-re, etc.
The suffix -ant, -nt, which occurs in all Aryan languages, is chiefly employed in the formation of the present participle. The Gothic form of the suffix is -nd, -nda, and this the Italian very nearly approaches in vende-nd-o, serve-nd-o, ama-nd o, etc. In Sanscrit the suffix of the past participle is -ta (-tas, tå, -tam), corresponding to the the Latin -tus, ta -tum. In the Italian we have avu-to, avu-ta, avu-ti, avu-te ; sta-to, sta-ta, sta-ti, sta-te ; comprá-to, servi-to, vendu-to.
It would seem most proper that these notes upon origin of the Italian language should end here, but a friend asks, “Can the time be fixed exactly when the Italian superseded the Latin, and became entirely and absolutely the language of Italy?' We doubt if any such date could be given. As early as the beginning of the XIIIth century the Italian had something of a literature of its own. Two inscriptions have been generally quoted, which, if their dates are correct (and they have been questioned), might place the Italian as pretty well developed in the middle of the XIIth century. One of these, at one time, might have been seen in the Cathedral of Ferrara, and bore date 1135. The other commemorated an event that happened in Tuscany in 1184.
The story goes that the Emperor Frederich, surnamed Barbarossa, in a visit to the Magello, took up his residence with one of the Ubal. dini. In a hunt one day, a stag was about escaping, when Ubaldino degli Ubaldini seized it by the horns, and so held it fast until the Emperor came up and killed it. Struck by the boldness of the deed
Frederich gave the Ubaldini the horns of the stag as a cognizance, which his family ever afterward bore. The inscription, cut to commemorate this event, was written both in Latin and Italian, The Italian ran thus :
Con lo meo cantare
Cacciato da Veltri,
The ecclesiastic writers, in giving an account of the struggle between Victor and Alexander III., tell us that the Roman people who favored the former ran about the street crying, “Papa Vittore S. Pietro l'elegge !” Now this phrase is entirely Italian, and would go to show that something very much like Italian, in 1160, was the spoken language of Rome.
Here is another anecdote: One of the historians of Milan, in relating the debates that occurred at the election of an archbishop, puts this exclamation into the mouths of the populace: “Ecco la stola! Ecco la stola !” Now, as this incident happened beiore 1118, the inference may be drawn that at this time there existed at least a vulgar dialect in Milan which must have been pretty fair Italian, One fact is incontestible: the Italian and Latin, as two separate and dis. tinct languages, already existed in Italy as early as 960. This is shown by the letter of a certain Gunzone, published by Martene and Durand : “Vet: Scriptor ampliss: collectio tom i, col. 294-295-298."
If we extend our researches still further back,-indeed, as far as the Xth century,—we find even here a considerable number of proper names the elements of which are pure Italian. For example, in Ravenna, in a document bearing date 983, the three following may be seen: Domenico Barbalisciado ; Leozoppo; Dominico Tornafolio, In Modena another document exists in which the name of a certain Lambertus appears with the curious cognomen of Cavinsacco, -that is, Capo in sacco, In Verona, in an act drawn in 985, we see the name Lupo supla in punio, i. e., suffiio in pugno. In the IXth and VIIIth centuries proper names formed from vulgar words are not entirely wanting
in the different acts, only they appear less frequently, Those oftenest seen are really common nouns used as names, which, despite of their Latin terminations, are actually Italian; e. g., Fertellus, Fuscarus, Muzuco, and Bonella.
Here we have traced the language up from the first half-formed lisping of the infant to at least the intelligible babble of the child. When Dante was born there was no one common language in Italy; instead, only rude, uncouth dialects existed in every petty State. The Tuscans, to be sure, made the greatest pretensions to supremacy; but these Dante himself rejects, reproaching them for the baseness of their expressions, not less corrupt than their dress. Passing to the left of the Apennines, he treats no less severely the dialects cf Ancona, Vicenza, Mantua, Verona, Venice, Pado. He considers the dialect of Bologna simply as the least unworthy,—nothing more.
All of these dialects continued to revolve apart, - each in a little sphere of its own,-as long as they continued to be simply spoken. The poets of Rome created the language of Rome; the poets of Italy created the language of Italy. When the Divina Comedia was written the language of Italy was made.