In the European linguistic landscape Italy stands out for its high stratification and rich diversity, with evolving identities, and with evolving relations between its language and dialects, alloglot languages, and a great number of immigrant tongues. While Italy boasts one of the historically most prestigious civilizations, its national language, unlike English, does not have the status of a language for international communication, and, unlike Spanish or Chinese, it does not span entire continents. Yet the language has spread across continents without an empire and armies, primarily through migrations of people who left the country at different times and with different purposes.
As a tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Italian unification, this issue of Forum Italicum explores the linguistic identities of contemporary Italian, including its multiple identities encountered in North America. It includes papers presented for this occasion during the fifth ‘Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo’ at a conference held at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York on 20 October 2011, on the topic ‘The Identity of Italian in Italy and North America’