De vulgari eloquentia (I, x, 1-9)

(1) Triphario nunc existente nostro ydiomate ut superius dictum est, in comparatione sui ipsius, secundum quod trisonum factum est, cum tanta timiditate cunctamur librantes, quod hanc, vel istam, vel illam partem in comparando preponere non audemus, nisi eo quo gramatice positores inveniuntur accepisse sic adverbium affirmandi; quod quandam anterioritatem erogare videtur Ytalis, qui dicunt. (1) Our language now exists in a tripartite form, as I said above; yet, when it comes to assessing its constituent parts on the basis of the three types of sound that they have developed, I find myself timidly hesitating to place any of them in the scale, and not daring to prefer any one to any other for the purposes of comparison, unless it be because those who devised the rules of gramatica are known to have chosen the word sic as an adverb of affirmation: and this fact would seem to confer a certain preeminence on the Italians, who say sì.
(2) Quelibet enim partium largo testimonio se tuetur. Allegat ergo pro se lingua oïl quod propter sui faciliorem ac delectabiliorem vulgaritatem quicquid redactum sive inventum est ad vulgare prosaicum, suum est: videlicet Biblia cum Troyanorum Romanorumque gestibus compilata et Arturi regis ambages pulcerrime et quamplures alie ystorie ac doctrine. (2) Indeed each of the three parts could call significant evidence in its own favour. Thus the language of oïl adduces on its own behalf the fact that, because of the greater facility and pleasing quality of its vernacular style, everything that is recounted or invented in vernacular prose belongs to it: such as compilations from the Bible and the histories of Troy and Rome, and the beautiful tales of King Arthur, and many other works of history and doctrine.
(3) Pro se vero argumentatur alia, scilicet oc, quod vulgares eloquentes in ea primitus poetati sunt tanquam in perfectiori dulciorique loquela, ut puta Petrus de Alvernia et alii antiquiores doctores. (3) The second part, the language of oc, argues in its own favour that eloquent writers in the vernacular first composed poems in this sweeter and more perfect language: they include Peire d'Alvernha and other ancient masters.
(4) Tertia quoque, que Latinorum est, se duobus privilegiis attestatur preesse: primo quidem, quod dulcius qui subtiliusque poetati vulgariter sunt, hii familiares ac domestici sui sunt: puta Cinus Pistoriensis et amicus eius; secundo, quia magis videntur inniti gramatice, que comunis est, quod rationabiliter inspicientibus videtur gravissimum argumentum. (4) Finally, the third part, which belongs to the Italians, declares itself to be superior because it enjoys a twofold privilege: first, because those who have written vernacular poetry more sweetly and subtly, such as Cino da Pistoia and his friend, have been its intimates and faithful servants; and second, because they seem to be in the closest contact with the gramatica which is shared by all - and this, to those who consider the matter rationally, will appear a very weighty argument.
(5) Nos vero, iudicium relinquentes in hoc et tractatum nostrum ad vulgare latinum retrahentes, et receptas in se variationes dicere nec non illas invicem comparare conemur. (5) I will refrain, however, from passing judgement on this question, and, bringing the discussion back to the Italian vernacular, will try to describe the various forms it has developed, and to compare them one with another.
(6) Dicimus ergo primo Latium bipartitum esse in dextrum et sinistrum. Si quis autem querat de linea dividente, breviter respondemus esse iugum Apennini, quod, ceu fictile culmen hinc inde ad diversa stillicidia grundat, aquas ad alterna hinc inde litora per imbricia longa distillat, ut Lucanus in secundo describit. Dextrum quoque latus Tirrenum mare grundatorium habet; levum vero in Adriaticum cadit. (6) First of all, then, I state that Italy is divided in two, a left-hand and a right hand side. If anyone should ask where the dividing-line is drawn, I reply briefly that it is the range of the Apennines; for just as from the topmost rain-gutter water is carried to the ground dripping down through pipes on each side, these likewise irrigate the whole country through long conduits, on one side and the other, as far as the two opposite shores. All this is described in the second book of Lucan. The drip-tray on the right-hand side is the Tyrrhenian Sea, while the left-hand side drips into the Adriatic.
(7) Et dextri regiones sunt Apulia, sed non tota, Roma, Ducatus, Tuscia et Ianuensis Marchia; sinistri autem pars Apulie, Marchia Anconitana, Romandiola, Lombardia, Marchia Trivisiana cum Venetiis. Forum Iulii vero et Istria non nisi leve Ytalie esse possunt; nec insule Tirreni maris, videlicet Sicilia et Sardinia, non nisi dextre Ytalie sunt, vel ad dextram Ytaliam sociande. (7) The regions of the right-hand side are Apulia (though not all of it), Rome, the Duchy, Tuscany, and the Genoese Marches; those on the left, however, are the other part of Apulia, the Marches of Ancona, Romagna, Lombardy the Marches of Treviso, and Venice. As for Friuli and Istria, they can only belong to the left-hand side of Italy, while the islands in the Tyrrhenian - Sicily and Sardinia - clearly belong to the right-hand side, or at least are to be associated with it.
(8) In utroque quidem duorum laterum, et hiis que secuntur ad ea, lingue hominum variantur; ut lingua Siculorum cum Apulis, Apulorum cum Romanis, Romanorum cum Spoletanis, horum cum Tuscis, Tuscorum cum Ianuensibus, Ianuensium cum Sardis; nec non Calabrorum cum Anconitanis, horum cum Romandiolis, Romandiolorum cum Lombardis, Lombardorum cum Trivisianis et Venetis, horum cum Aquilegiensibus, et istorum cum Istrianis: de quo Latinorum neminem nobiscum dissentire putamus. (8) On each of the two sides, as well as in the areas associated with them, the language of the inhabitants varies. Thus the language of the Sicilians is different from that of the Apulians, that of the Apulians from that of the Romans, that of the Romans from that of the people of Spoleto, theirs from that of the Tuscans, that of the Tuscans from that of the Genoese, and that of the Genoese from that of the Sardinians; and, likewise, the language of the Calabrians is different from that of the people of Ancona, theirs from that of the people of Romagna, that of the people of Romagna from that of the Lombards, that of the Lombards from that of the people of Treviso and the Venetians, theirs from that of the people of Aquileia, and theirs from that of the Istrians. And I think that no Italian will disagree with me about this.
(9) Quare ad minus .xiiij. vulgaribus sola videtur Ytalia variari. Que adhuc omnia vulgaria in sese variantur: ut puta in Tuscia Senenses et Aretini, in Lombardia Ferrarienses et Placentini; nec non in eadem civitate aliqualem variationem perpendimus, ut superius in capitulo inmediato posuimus. Quapropter, si primas et secundarias et subsecundarias vulgaris Ytalie variationes calcolare velimus, et in hoc minimo mundi angulo non solum ad millenam loquele variationem venire contigerit, sed etiam ad magis ultra. (9) So we see that Italy alone presents a range of at least fourteen different vernaculars. All these vernaculars also vary internally, so that the Tuscan of Siena is distinguished from that of Arezzo, or the Lombard of Ferrara from that of Piacenza; moreover, we can detect some variation even within a single city, as was suggested above, in the preceding chapter. For this reason, if we wished to calculate the number of primary, and secondary, and still further subordinate varieties of the Italian vernacular, we would find that, even in this tiny corner of the world, the count would take us not only to a thousand different types of speech, but well beyond that figure.