Italian ( italiano (help·info) or lingua italiana) is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, 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.
According to the Bologna 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 immigrants that are present in large numbers in German- and French-speaking cantons. It is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of Vatican City. It is co-official in Slovenian Istria and in part of the Istria County in Croatia. The Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy is based on the Tuscan dialect, which beforehand was a language spoken mostly by the upper class of 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.
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