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Italian was also one of the many recognised languages in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city because the cities, until recently, were thought of as city-states. As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout Italy, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of Regional Italian.With the great majority of people illiterate, however, only a handful were well versed in the language.In Italy, as in all other countries, the majority would instead speak the vernacular (native tongue) of their region.

In fact, the earliest surviving texts that can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as distinct from its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae known as the Placiti Cassinesi from the Province of Benevento that date from 960–963, although the Veronese Riddle, probably from the 8th or early 9th century, contains a late form of Vulgar Latin that can be seen as a very early Italian dialect.The economic might and relatively advanced development of Tuscany at the time (Late Middle Ages) gave its language weight, though the Venetian language remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life, and Ligurian (or Genoese) remained in use in maritime trade alongside the Mediterranean.The increasing political and cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of the rise of the Banco Medici, Humanism, and the Renaissance made its dialect, or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts.Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language.In addition to the widespread exposure gained through literature, the Florentine language also gained prestige due to the political and cultural significance of Florence at the time and the fact that it was linguistically an intermediate between northern and southern dialects.Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City and western Istria (in Slovenia and Croatia).

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