Estonian Language Renewal and the Italian questione della lingua. 
Parallels and Intersections Cover Image

Eesti keeleuuenduse ja itaalia questione della lingua paralleelid ja põimumised
Estonian Language Renewal and the Italian questione della lingua. Parallels and Intersections

Author(s): Daniele Monticelli
Subject(s): Cultural history
Published by: SA Kultuurileht
Keywords: linguistics; philosophy of language; cultural studies; Estonian language; Italian language; Johannes Aavik; Dante Alighieri; language planning; language renewal

Summary/Abstract: The article analyses the theoretical premises, strategies of argumentation and rhetoric that Italian linguists and writers have used at different historical periods to motivate their activity in the field of language planning and renewal. These are compared with analogous aspects of the broad linguistic debate which took place in Estonia in the early 20th century around the language renewal movement. The purpose of the contrastive study is to pinpoint the cultural and ideological grounds of the Estonian renewers’ aspirations towards a radical linguistic change. The comparison between the linguistic work of Dante Alighieri and Johannes Aavik brings to the fore the ambiguous relationship between language renewal and creation of a literary style (linguistics and aesthetics). More generally the question of the naturalness or artificiality of human languages is considered. The socio-political aspects of the dispute between Estonian language renewers and their opponents are analyzed against the background of the polemics on standard Italian, which took place between the writer Alessandro Manzoni and the linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, following the birth of the Italian state, in the late 19th century. Both the Estonian and Italian debates consider the ideologically charged alternatives of stability or change, unity or multiplicity, economy or proliferation, which relate to socio-political questions such as the distinction (or confusion) of the own and the foreign. The strong influence of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s and Benedetto Croce’s ideas about aesthetics, literature and language finally establish a direct relation between the Estonian language renewal and the Italian questione della lingua. In my discussion on why Aavik and Villem Ridala chose to draw upon the two Italian authors’ theoretical suggestions, I try to demonstrate a fundamental and fruitful ambiguity in the activity of the Estonian language renewers.

  • Issue Year: LII/2009
  • Issue No: 02
  • Page Range: 104-123
  • Page Count: 20
  • Language: Estonian