Rouse Awards – Georgina Follows’ study of the standardisation of Italian
29 Oct 2019
Georgina Follows (Upper Sixth) earned the Rouse Research Award for her investigation into the influences on the standardisation of modern Italian.
A keen linguist, Georgina is studying French and German at A level, but she opted to explore the Italian language after discussing the topic of standardisation with a member of the Perse modern foreign languages department.
She said: “I went away and read about Italy’s situation with standardisation and it seemed really interesting.
“I firstly researched a rough history of the country because I knew the peninsula was originally a set of independent states and it only became unified in 1871. The language started out as a form of Latin and it was then a case of working out the key points along that timeline which would influence the language.
“There was a big north-south divide, socially as well as linguistically. People had been speaking other languages before Latin was imposed in Roman times and continued speaking these languages so I think that helped evolve these regional dialects.”
Georgina applied the theories of renowned linguists Einar Haugen and Brian Joseph for her research. Haugen’s model of language standardisation includes four stages – selection, codification, elaboration and acceptance – while Joseph’s framework focuses on the importance of the first and last of the above steps.
She felt that World Wars I and II played a big part in the spread of standardised Italian as soldiers from all corners of the country needed to communicate with each other, while a standard written form of the language became commonplace in letters home to their families. Georgina also argued that the influence of television, featuring programmes produced by a national broadcaster, had also played a role.
Georgina added that the study had sparked her interest in learning Italian.
She said: “At some universities, you can study three languages so Italian is definitely the language I’d choose if I was on one of those courses. Italy comes with amazing art history, language and culture and the language is the gateway to it.”