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12 Languages

12.10 Italian

12.10.1 Accents

The use of accents in the Italian language is not entirely consistent; editors should as a general rule follow the author’s typescript. There are two accents, acute and grave. The acute accent is used on a ‘closed’ e and very rarely on a closed o: perché, ‘because’, né… né… ‘neither…nor…’. The grave accent is used on the ‘open’ e and o: è, ‘is’, cioè, ‘that is’, però, but’, ‘however’. The grave is also used to indicate stress on a final syllable. An alternative convention does exist for і and u, whereby they are marked with an acute accent: così and cosí (‘so’), più and piú (‘more’). However, in normal, standard Italian it is considered good practice to use the grave accent on all vowels except the closed e and, very rarely, o.

The appearance in a single text of Italian extracts with several different systems of accentuation may indicate not ignorance or carelessness in the author, but rather scrupulous fidelity to sources. Any discretional accents should be left alone unless the copy-editor is expert in the language and the author is not. There are other respects in which Italian spelling is even now less regulated than, say, French, and zeal for consistency must be tempered by either knowledge or discretion.

Leave capital letters unaccented as a general rule, unless an accent is needed to avoid confusion. The grave accent on an upper-case E is marked as an apostrophe:

E’ oggi il suo compleanno ‘It is his birthday today’

12.10.2 Abbreviation

Italian abbreviations are usually set with an initial capital only rather than in full capitals, with no full point following: An (Alleanza Nazionale), Rai (Radiotelevisione Italiana). When the expansion does not begin with a capital, neither does the abbreviation: tv (televisione).

12.10.3 Capitalization

Italian uses capital letters much less frequently than English. Capitalize names of people, places, and institutions, and some dates and festivals. Use lower-case for ίο (Ι), unless it begins a sentence. Lei, Loro, and Voi (polite forms of ‘you’) and related pronouns and adjectives, La, Le, Suo, Vi, Vostro, are often capitalized, especially in commercial correspondence:

La ringraziamo per la Sua lettera ‘Thank you for your letter’

Note that polite La and Le may be capitalized even when suffixed to a verb: ringraziarLa ‘thank you’.

When citing titles of works capitalize only the first word and proper nouns:

Il gattopardo

La vita è bella

Roman numerals indicating centuries are generally put in full capitals in both italic and roman:

l’XI secolo ‘the eleventh century’

Names of days and months (lunedì, gennaio) and languages, peoples, and adjectives of nationality are lower case:

Parlo inglese e francese ‘I speak English and French’
Gli italiani ‘the Italians’
un paese africano ‘an African country’
although the capitalization of the names of peoples (gli Italiani) is becoming more common.

12.10.4 Punctuation

Italian makes a distinction between points of omission (which are spaced) and points of suspension (which are unspaced). The latter equate with the French points de suspension, three points being used where preceded by other punctuation, four in the absence of other punctuation.

Put the ordinary interword space after an apostrophe following a vowel: a’ miei, ne’ righi, po’ duro, de’ Medici. Insert no space after an apostrophe following a consonant: l’onda, s’allontana, senz’altro. When an apostrophe replaces a vowel at the beginning of a word a space always precedes it: e ’l, su ’l, te ’l, che ’l. Note, however, that in older printing these rules may be reversed: a’miei, l’ onda, e’l.

Single and double quotation marks, and guillemets, are all used in varying combinations. A final full point is placed after the closing quotation marks even if a question mark or exclamation mark closes the matter quoted:

«Buon giorno, molto reverendo zio!». ‘Good day, most reverend Uncle!’

12.10.5 Word division

Do not divide the following compound consonants:

bl

br

ch

cl

cr

dr

fl

fr

gh

gl

gn

gr

pl

pr

sb

sc

sd

sf

sg

sl

sm

sn

sp

sq

sr

st

sv

tl

tr

vr

sbr

sch

scr

sdr

sfr

sgh

sgr

spl

spr

str

Divide between vowels only if neither is і or u. When a vowel is followed by a doubled consonant, including cq, the first of these goes with the vowel, and the second is joined to the next syllable: lab-bro, mag-gio, ac-qua. Apply the same rule if an apostrophe occurs in the middle of the word: Sen-z’altro, quaran-t’anni. In general an apostrophe may end a line if necessary, but in this case it may not, although it may be taken over along with the letter preceding it.

In the middle of a word, if the first consonant of a group is a liquid (l, m, n, or r) it remains with the preceding vowel, and the other consonant, or combination of consonants, goes with the succeeding vowel: al-tero, ar-tigiano, tem-pra.

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Preface Editorial team Proofreading marks Glossary of printing and publishing terms