Academic journal article Italica

Evidence for Early Tuscanisation in the Commercial Letters of the Milanese Merchant Giovannino Da Dugnano (?-1398) in the Datini Archive in Prato

Academic journal article Italica

Evidence for Early Tuscanisation in the Commercial Letters of the Milanese Merchant Giovannino Da Dugnano (?-1398) in the Datini Archive in Prato

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Tuscanisation is taken here in a broad sense to refer to the presence of Tuscan elements in writing outside of Tuscany. The earliest time this has been suggested for Milan is during the late Quattrocento, when Tuscan became a model for the chancery, well before Bembo's codification of Tuscan (Vitale 1953, 36; Vitale 1988). (1) Acquaintance with Tuscan during the 14th and 15th centuries was advanced not only through the reading of the Three Crowns, an increased mobility of poets, notaries, podesta, judges and ambassadors, but also through the geographical mobility of merchants who brought different vernaculars into contact through their frequent correspondence. This paper will offer evidence that a similar process of Tuscanisation was occurring, a century earlier, in a corpus of merchant letters sent from Milan during the late Trecento. At first sight, the letters from the Milanese merchant Giovannino da Dugnano (?-1398) to employees of Francesco di Marco Datini of Prato seem to show a significant degree of Tuscanisation.

First, I give a brief background of the linguistic make-up of Lombardy in the Tre- and Quattrocento and the presence of Tuscan there, then move briefly to Giovannino da Dugnano. The final part of this paper looks at some Tuscan(ised or-ising) elements in the orthography and morphology of the language of his letters.

2. THE LANGUAGE SITUATION IN LOMBARDY FROM THE TRE TO THE QUATTROCENTO (2)

The linguistic make-up of Lombardy at the beginning of the Trecento was a picture of fragmentation with every comune having its own local, municipal scripta. In the following two centuries, the rapid expansion of certain centres of power with new political structures, such as courts and chanceries, led to the formation of a pan-Lombard, supra-regional language or what has been called a "koine letteraria" or "semi-letteraria" (Vitale 1953, 36). (3) The question of how to characterize the northern koinai dates back at least to Mussafia who described it as a "way of speaking (un parlare) that was not without refinement (coltura), with no few Latin reminiscences, with a large number of those elegancies that were not exclusively Tuscan nor Provencal nor French, which in the Middle Ages arrived at a literary development" (Mussafia 229). Bongrani and Morgana prefer to speak of multiple koinai, calling them "instruments endowed with a wider validity and diffusion than those of the old municipal vernaculars" (1992, 96). Due to a lack of documents from the Trecento in Lombardy, and from Milan especially, these two authors highlight the difficulty in tracing the histories of particular centres, but nevertheless canvass the evidence available from Mantua, Milan and Cremona. On the other hand, Stella's approach CLombardia") is to survey the available documents from major Lombard cities such as Cremona, Mantua, Milan, Brescia, Bergamo, and Pavia. (4) The most locally marked dialectal features of the vernaculars were progressively abandoned during the Tre- and Quattrocento in favour of linguistic forms common to Lombardy. Vitale explains that the koine was itself a fragmented language, with much internal variation, and tending towards "a literary and Latinizing mixture" (1953, 36) and thus acquired a non-local, unprovincial nature. (5) Texts which present some of the earliest features of pan-Lombard are the gride gonzaghesche from Mantua, dated 1374. In comparing the language of the gride to that of Vivaldo Belcalzer (a notary from Mantua writing sometime in the early 14th century), Bongrani and Morgana (1994, 117-118) identify elements such as the restoration of word-final vowels, the use of the masculine definite article 'li', the use of 'li' for the feminine definite article and the use of -i as a desinence for feminine plural nouns (alternating with-e), as typical traits of the evolving koine language in the gride. In describing this 'official language', they note that, when compared to Belcalzer's prose, the most obvious dialect features are, in general, not present in the gride and have disappeared. …

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