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Gramsci did in fact write home in and , including lists of Sardinian words and constructions, and asking his father or sister to carry out actual small investigations to check for their existence in the spoken language or to verify their phonetic and semantic exactness.
Gramsci wrote the following to his father in January I am sending a list of words: have somebody translate them into Sardinian, yet into the dialect of Fonni asking around will let you be more precise.
Indicate clearly, for example, which S must be pronounced softly, as in rosa and which muted as in sordo. I beg you not to make mistakes, since this is an assignment that I was given by a professor with whom I must take an exam this year.
I would not like to jeopardize myself by something foolish. As soon as you write it down, send it to me immediately, because my professor needs it for a work of linguistics he is carrying out.
Moreover, this project had, for Gramsci, also an emotional value: it was meant to solve the old debt to his teacher.
The research Gramsci probably carried out for his graduation thesis convinced him to consider the formation of a national language as an historical and cultural fact strictly linked to the formation of the dominant intellectual stratum.
Still, this will be one of the themes that Gramsci will meditate on incessantly, during his solitary 32 Luigi Rosiello elaboration in the Prison Notebooks.
This conception of language [lingua] as cultural and social historicity is, however, already operating while he was a political militant of the Italian Socialist Party.
He will indeed use it to fight and correct those ideological utopic-humanitarian and cosmopolitan tendencies which were still operating in the socialist movement.
But what Gramsci is interested in is grasping the ideological aspect of the problem, namely, the bourgeois matrix of thought that constitutes the origin of the ideals of a linguistic unification artificially created.
Languages are very complex and subtle organisms and cannot be artificially created. Nations were formed because of the economic and political necessities of one class: the language [lingua] has only been one of the visible documents needed for propaganda, which bourgeois writers used to promote consensus among sentimental people and the ideologues.
On the contrary, it is the national unification that has always and everywhere determined the diffusion of the traditional literary language among the learned strata belonging to a certain region.
He thinks that the relationship languagenation is based on determined historical conditions that have permitted a determined social class to become hegemonic within the arena of a national unity.
On a more general level, Gramsci demonstrates that he knows how to correctly posit the problem about the relationship that must exist between linguistic science and the way Marxist theory is to be applied and specified.
In this work, Engels showed how it is possible to correctly integrate the methods elaborated and the results achieved by linguistics in his times in a global materialistic theory of history and society.
On many occasions, however, he deals with linguistics 34 Luigi Rosiello in connection with a whole series of other problems regarding the nature of Italian culture and the organization of intellectuals, the folklore and the culture of subaltern classes, the politics of education and teaching methods, etc.
In the first letter he wrote, after his arrest, in the jail of Regina Coeli, Gramsci asks his landlord, Mrs.
In a letter to Tatiana written in October , Gramsci asks again to have this book sent, which he will henceforth recall, even in the Prison Notebooks, with the title Manualetto di linguistica.
Still in December he says he never received this book from a librarian he ordered it from.
As a matter of fact, the latter does not appear in the list of books he had in prison. In the outline of , Gramsci relates his treatment of the theoretical aspects of the neo-linguistic method to his other theme concerning the definition of grammar.
Thus, the definition of grammar becomes a topic on which Gramsci constantly meditates. Many linguists, indeed, were declaring in various ways their agreement with the reigning idealism, whereas others went on with their linguistic work, isolating themselves, using the traditional method of the neo-grammarians without intervening on theoretical questions.
In this case modesty and disinterest become guilt. The unproblematized trust in a factual legitimization of the science of linguistics disarmed Italian linguists theoretically in the face of idealistic intrusiveness.
Italian linguists, since they were lacking the capability and habit of theorizing, happened to accept ideas and theories placing linguistics out of their scientific field.
This is precisely what Gramsci infers when reproaching Bartoli for collaborating with Bertoni. Historicism itself is not here to understand in the speculative sense idealistic philosophies assigned to it.
Such philosophies would consider historical linguistic facts as events that are individual, unrepeatable and revealing spiritual and universal values.
On the contrary, I think that historicism must be here understood in a more general, I would say methodological, sense: designating the time-space dimension of as a criterion for understanding and explaining the historicity of linguistic events and structures.
To be sure, they, too become individual, not as the individual-artist but in the complete, determinate individual qua [cultural]-historical element.
Gramsci goes on clarifying that linguistic innovations occur: by interference of different cultures, etc.
These concepts must refer to the different cultural, social, political and economic conditions that constitute the cause of the hegemony of one dialect or language over other languages and dialects related to the hegemony of one social class and intellectual stratum over an entire community.
The dynamics of social relations are implied in the complex network of relationships established when the linguistic system is modified and when the linguistic norm literary, national language imposes itself as an element that unifies and organizes the diversity of the uses characterizing social stratifications or diversities.
On the contrary, Gramsci conceives language [lingua] as really produced by the convergence of the social and historical interests of a determined human group that both collectively reaches a common way of expressing and also expresses social and cultural differentiations and conflicts.
Language [linguaggio] also means even though at the level of common sense culture and philosophy. Culture in its various degrees unifies a majority or minority of individuals in numerous strata, more or less in expressive contact, and that understand each other in diverse degrees etc.
It is these differences and historico-cultural distinctions that are reflected into common language [linguaggio].
Thus, language [lingua] expresses the culture of a given people, even if each culture contains some differences and diversities that are determined by historico-social conditions, which are expressed in various types of socially connoted language [linguaggio].
The fact that Gramsci takes into account the sociocultural conditions of the speakers explains his position in relation to the problem concerning the relationship between national language and dialects, which, as it seems to me, expresses the same attitude he had toward the relationship between dominant and folkloric culture.
Yet a dialectal linguistic system linked to a narrow and subaltern cultural environment will have more limited and sectarian communicative potentials than those offered by the national language that, despite its internal differentiations, expresses a hegemonic culture: Someone who only speaks dialect, or understands the standard language incompletely, necessarily has an intuition of the world which is more or less limited and provincial, which is fossilised and anachronistic in relation to the other major currents of thought which dominate world history.
His interests will be limited, more or less corporate or economistic, not universal. While it is not always possible to learn a number of foreign languages in order to put oneself in contact with other cultural lives, it is at the least necessary to learn the national language properly.
A great culture can be translated into the language of another great culture, that is to say a great national language with historic richness and complexity, and it can translate any other great culture and can be a world-wide means of expression.
But a dialect cannot do this. For Gramsci, this does not mean that one has to negate the realities of dialects: he has never argued that dialects must disappear; he only affirmed that it is necessary to set in motion a determined cultural and political situation in order for popular classes to overcome every cultural and linguistic sectarianism45 and to get the kind of linguistic system capable of guaranteeing the communication of universal cultural content, which characterize the new hegemonic function exercised by the proletariat.
Linguistics and Marxism in the Thought of Antonio Gramsci 41 When Gramsci talks about national language, however, he is well aware of using a compromised concept that, in order for it to be freed from every romantic and idealistic ideological implication, must be redefined in sociological terms and verified in the light of historical and social determinations.
Therefore, Gramsci explains the formation of national languages directly relating it to the modalities in which intellectual strata are formed, to the latter political and social function and to the traits of the hegemonic culture they represent.
His contribution is still productive if one connects it to the strong expansion of the modern sociology of language, which is attentively looking, for example, at linguistic policies in the developing countries.
Gramsci complains about the lack of works of history of the Italian language carried out using the sociological method, such as F.
He shows how the basic character of the literary, written language, not the spoken or popular language, depends on the cosmopolitan function exercised by the intellectual caste since the times when it was the language through which the Catholic and universalistic culture of the dominant class used to express itself.
The growth of the communes propelled the development of the vernaculars, and the intellectual hegemony of Florence consolidated it; that is, it created an illustrious vernacular.
But what is this illustrious vernacular? It is the Florentine [dialect] developed by the intellectuals of the old tradition: the vocabulary as well as the phonetics are Florentine, but the syntax is Latin.
The victory of the vernacular over the Latin was not easy, however: with the exception of poets and artists in general, learned Italians wrote for Christian Europe not for Italy; they were a compact group of cosmopolitan and not national intellectuals.
The fall of the communes and the advent of the principality, the creation of a governing caste detached from the people, crystallized this vernacular in the same way literary Latin had been crystallized.
Italian became, once again, a written and not a spoken language, belonging to the learned, not to the nation. In other words, it is not the case that an entire stratum of the population creates its own intellectuals when it attains power which is what happened in the fourteenth century ; rather, a traditionally selected body assimilates single individuals into its cadres the typical example of this is the ecclesiastical structure.
In other words, this approach also includes the problematic related to semiological writing systems analyzed as facts emerging from determined types of organization and the diffusion of culture.
The same function that was performed in medieval Europe by a linguistic system was in China performed by the system of writing.
In other words, this function consisted in transmitting the culture of a certain dominant class not rooted in the popular and national cultural and linguistic reality.
This scheme, based on the analysis of the relationships between communication oral and written and cultural organizational modalities, engages a wide-ranging thematic related both to the description of present conditions and to historical precedents.
These notes, as I said, should have constituted the ground for a wider and more organic examination. This way of defining grammar does not exhaust all of its modalities.
Normative grammar equals historical grammar the same as politics equals history in a relationship of complementary necessity. Put in another way, if the intervention meant to unify the dominant class is based on real processes of popular participation that tend to overcome particularism and tend to cultural and linguistic unification, an opposition on principle to such an intervention must be considered anachronistic and reactionary.
An organized intervention will speed up the time of the already existing process. This kind of grammar acts in a much less conscious way when the speakers belong to the lower classes, whereas at the level of the upper classes it is more conscious for the speakers in terms of cultural selection.
Those who belong to the high classes, and who have the adequate cultural instruments at their disposal to develop their own rational competencies, can, instead, reach this level of competence even independently of teaching.
The contents of this notebook Lo Piparo is right 55 cannot be read without taking into account the other prison notebooks, where Gramsci develops his political thought about the modalities in which organized workers can gain power in civil society and the modalities of exercising their ruling role before their complete conquest of state power.
Lo Piparo, David Forgacs and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, trans. It is hard to believe that Gramsci would find time to write such an essay in , the Linguistics and Marxism in the Thought of Antonio Gramsci 47 year in which the factories of Turin were occupied.
It has perhaps to be dated back to the year ; Leonardo Paggi, Antonio Gramsci e il moderno principe Rome: Editori Riuniti, , Guido Melis, ed.
See Melis, 44, LP1, For a different translation, see Antonio Gramsci, Letters from Prison, trans.
Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Cultural Writings, ed. William Boelhower Cambridge, Mass. SCW, SCW, 27, translation altered slightly.
See Lo Piparo about the influence of Ascoli on the formation and thought of Gramsci. Cited in Ambrosoli, Antonio Gramsci, Quaderni del Carcere, four volumes, ed.
Lo Piparo, 49ff. As the Soviet scholar E. Therefore, reelaborating the methodological questions of linguistics, Gramsci does not criticize the theories of the neo-grammarians as much as the reactionary conception of the so-called idealist neo-linguists.
In reality, the picture Gramsci had of the neogrammatical method derived, above all, from the terms of the polemic set up by Bartoli.
Gramsci was not exactly aware of the fact that there was not as great a distance between the neo-linguistic and neo-grammatical method as appeared on the level of militant polemic.
Leipzig: B. For a different translation, see SCW, Hermann Paul, Principien der Sprachgeschichte, fifth ed. Halle: Niemeyer, Strong London: wan Sonnenschein, Lowrey, Linguistics and Marxism in the Thought of Antonio Gramsci 49 Bertoni and Bartoli, This sociolinguistic thematic is broadly explored by De Mauro; however, Gramsci is only used marginally and only quoted twice.
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Lombardo, Madame de Tebe1 1 Today, we can understand that the relevance of the amount of space Antonio Gramsci devoted to language [linguaggio] in his historical and theoretical reflections is not only biographical or quantitative.
There is a renewed need to understand the role and the limits of this specific linguistic interest with respect to his thought taken as a whole and to understand its vitality within the scholarship.
This interest is not exclusively Italian anymore. It is shared by linguistics internationally. It is not possible to substitute a Gramsci seen as entirely devoted to books of linguistics for the Gramsci seen as a mere Marxist ideologue that dominated the old vernacular gramsciology, or for the Gramsci seen as a pure politician that one can find in recent works.
Gramsci was conscious of this experience and he reflected on it, as evident in his notes on journalism. This was an intense and original experience, as attested to by Paolo Spriano.
In this respect, his was really and 54 Tullio De Mauro literally the non-erudite philosophy of a varied and direct praxis. Gramsci writes: Manzoni asked himself: now that Italy is formed, how can the Italian language be created?
He answered: all Italians will have to speak Tuscan and the Italian state will have to recruit its elementary teachers in Tuscany.
Tuscan will be substituted for the numerous dialects spoken in the various regions and, with Italy formed, the Italian language will be formed too.
Manzoni managed to find government support and start the publication of a Novo dizionario which was supposed to contain the true Italian language.
But the Novo dizionario remained half-finished and teachers were recruited among educated people in all regions of Italy.
It had transpired that a scholar of the history of the language, Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, had set some thirty pages against the hundreds of pages by Manzoni in order to demonstrate: that not even a national language can be created artificially, by order of the state; that the Italian language was being formed by itself and would be formed only in so far as the shared life of the nation gave rise to numerous and stable contacts between the various parts of the nation; that the spread of a particular language is due to the productive activity of the writings, trade and commerce of the people who speak that particular language.
With regard to this latter remark, however, it is necessary to make a twofold consideration. At this stage of his experience, Gramsci has already established, in an historical way, the terms of a certain dialectic between society and language to which he will later return.
To search for a model language is, then, to look for a motionless motion. It is not only without good reason that the most ardent supporter of this or that solution to the problem of the unity of the language [lingua] be it the adoption of a Latinate, fourteenth-century, or Florentine language, or whatever else when he comes to speak, in order to communicate his views and to make them understood, feels reluctant to apply his theories; since he senses that to substitute the Latin, fourteenth-century, or Florentine words for those of a different origin which correspond to his natural impressions, would be to falsify the genuine form of the truth; so that from being a speaker, he would become a conceited listener to himself, from a serious man, a pedant; from a sincere person, a histrionic one.
The question of the unity of language continually crops up because, as it is posed, it is insoluble, being founded on a false conception of what language is.
It is not an arsenal of beautiful finished weapons, and it is not a vocabulary, which is a collection of abstractions, that is to say, a cemetery of corpses more or less progressively updated.
We would not want, by this somewhat brusque way of cutting short the question of a model language, or of the unity of the language, to appear less than respectful to the great throng of writers, who have for centuries discussed it in Italy.
This volume, as is known, shocked Bartoli because it came close to plagiarizing him; he even recommended it to his students.
This version of the text was not changed in the subsequent editions published by Laterza. But in the first version , this passage is followed by one quoted below where Croce posited the premises for an historical rethinking of what the question of language had been.
In this earlier version, he writes with more vivacity and uses concrete and openly politico-social references, reminiscent of Pontano.
Here is the continuation of the passage quoted above from the version: [We would not want to appear less than respectful.
I will add that, in my opinion, the true problem troubling Manzoni was aesthetic and was not a problem of aesthetic science, of literature or of the theory of literature, of effective speaking and writing and not of linguistic science.
Rejecting this thesis does not mean affirming that Manzoni and his followers were working on an empty terrain.
What was at stake were new impressions demanding new expressions. Moreover, the question [of the unity of the language] that had been solved practically, remained theoretically unresolved or was badly resolved by means of the false conception that Florentine authors were the repository of the only real Italian linguistic tradition.
Anyone who speaks or writes in Italy nowadays has felt the effectiveness of the movement promoted by Manzoni; even his adversaries felt it.
As is the case. Three decades later, the linguist Alfredo Schiaffini and Antonio Gramsci find themselves far enough from those texts to consider the question of language with the detachment of the historian, in the former case in a specialized journal, Italia Dialettale [Italian Dialect], and the latter, notes written in prison.
The intention of historicizing the old question of language is present in both Gramsci and Schiaffini. They both highlight the objective components Language from Nature to History 57 of the discussions among the intelligentsia.
Moreover, as is known, the subsequent historical studies have deepened, specified, and confirmed the interpretive lines Schiaffini had enunciated.
What Gramsci attempted to elaborate in his mind during the period of his stay in Vienna and in Moscow, and during the rise of the PCI [the Italian Communist Party] was a general national Italian response to the dramatic demands of the international communist movement and of the forthcoming fascisms.
This general hypothesis can be integrated with other considerations that are more specifically connected to the questions regarding the relationships between language, nationality and classes, which have been recently and rightly pointed out by Giancarlo Schirru, a young scholar from Rome.
These questions are alive in international socialism in early s. These vital questions arise while the two great multilingual Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires are collapsing and new nationalities and languages are acquiring relevance, and while the Soviet Union starts a great alphabetization process of its population targeting the most disparate languages spoken in the country.
All these 58 Tullio De Mauro languages are transformed from being almost exclusively oral to also being written languages. The alphabetization process occurs starting from the written languages and only later from the teaching of the Russian language.
It must be noted that William McKey and Miguel Siguan, two of the major scholars of the processes of alphabetization in bilingual areas, have recently stressed, in Bilinguisme et Education [Bilingualism and Education], what I have always held: the great experience of the Soviet linguistico-scholastic politics is an exemplary one.
Thanks to these techniques history is constructed on the basis of nature. Starting from the vital natural base, human beings become historical subjects thanks to these techniques.
A chaos, i. What Gramsci wants to investigate passionately and enlighten us by teaching is the nexus and the circularity of these elements: that is, the capability of transforming raw materials into new products.
This means that, for Gramsci, the economic-productive element is interwoven with the element of invention and cultural elaboration, and both cannot subsist without being woven into the capability of linguistic elaboration and communication and with the construction of life in common in both the ethnic and national dimensions of life.
Within this circle, which is vital for individuals and society, language and linguistic conformism constitute only one link; although the circle is broken without it.
Croce, pushed by dramatic theoretically external factors of the fight against the obtuse savagery of fascism and Nazism, will follow Gramsci along this path, even though much later.
The latter is always a political act and, if adequate, leads to the constitution of more or less temporary written national languages.
Whereas one can observe a neverending mobility of immanent grammars in Saussure, even though concealed by the apparent inertness of written languages with respect to the vital and primary self-making and -unmaking of spoken langue; one can observe a neverending mobility of political situations and of the political effects springing out of the constitution of relatively inert written languages, which emerge by historic-political necessity from the mobile dynamics related to the permanent innovativeness of speaking.
It is not correct to say that these discussions were useless and have not left traces in modern culture, even if the traces are modest.
Over the Language from Nature to History 61 last century a unified culture has in fact been extended, and therefore also a common unified language.
But the entire historical formation of the Italian nation moved at too slow a pace. Today, as I was recalling at the beginning of this piece, these questions are being translated into other languages and appear to have a broader attraction for those who work in the educative dimension or attend to theoretical studies on language and culture: like the tongue in cheek refrain, which Gramsci loved, Princes and people come: Madame of Tebe reads the cards.
Quoted in M. Harro Stammerjohann, ed. Croce, Tesi Fondamentali, See Croce, The Aesthetic, Translation altered. There is a radical rupture with the tradition of positivist and neo-grammatical tradition in this metaphor, in a historical moment of both very dense theoretical and meta-theoretical reflection, where linguistics starts to constitute itself as science, while including itself in the class of the semiological disciplines.
For the neo-grammarians, in fact, the society-language pair, though ever reaffirmed, did not go beyond the borders of a conventional and, therefore, a substantially static relationship.
In this relationship, languages, as given entities, are placed alongside human communities, which nominally and mechanically signify them.
This collectivity is the real historical agent that continuously establishes, disaggregates and reaggregates, the functional relationship of value within the linguistic system through social practices, in which the infinite individual linguistic acts paroles intertwine.
It can even seem odd rereading certain pages of the Course that, to some materialistically oriented authoritative scholars, the lesson of the master from Geneva may have appeared tarnished by idealistic abstractness.
The living world of historico-natural languages fades into a neutral balance of calculations. The dialectical nature of the relationship individuals-society parolelanguage[lingua] , which Saussure viewed as an always opened weaving between regularities and infractions and of innovation and conformism,4 is destroyed and flattened on the level of abstract competence, which must be presupposed as innate in the biological sense, in order to assure communication.
In this way, however, both Noam Chomsky and his followers went back to that kind of despised empiricism which some had wanted to free linguistic science from forever.
It seems to me, however, that one can find a rather interesting politico-cultural problem in the backdrop of these theoretical phenomena.
Yet one can well suspect that Chomsky remains fully within the ideological schemes of the traditional separation of the intellectual from society, despite the merits he acquired through his generous democratic and anti-imperialist struggle.
On the other hand, the academic profession of a linguist is removed from social tensions in principle.
For Chomsky, the formal aspect of theory and the isolated condition of the American intellectual truly seem to come together and designate in their own way, a less than brief epoch of the culture of linguistics in these years.
The Chomskian revolution consisted in what has been said above, socially and theoretically. This is not the place to recall the intoxication of scientism and formalism that this revolution has brought not only to the United States, but also to some European universities, including Italian ones.
Moreover, many European universities and some of the Italian ones that were intoxicated by this linguistic formalism and by scientism, while looking for mediations with other cultural currents, have not succeeded in overcoming the perfect and yet unacceptable rigor of the American master.
Yet the situation is clearly changing today. It is vital that we focus on two of these points. The various imprints of objectivism and organicism characterize not only linguistic structuralism, but, among other things, many of its transpositions in the arena of literary criticism derived from this theoretical equivocation.
It is impossible to determine what the structure of a language is without broaching the question how that structure functions, since language has no structure independent of the process.
I am alluding to his proposal of substantially reformulating linguistics as a branch of psychology. The volume Per Saussure contro Saussure17 [For Saussure against Saussure], by Annibale Elia, can be useful to broaden the horizon and clarify the contorted cultural itinerary of the linguistic sciences in this century.
The theoretical value of these two instances is certainly very different, but the results that each of them achieves are not dissimilar.
After all, the project of the GGT brings to its extreme consequences the goal that characterized various sectors of language research, not solely the American.
In different spheres, linguistic theories have run across the uncomfortable world of social phenomena. But this is not the point.
In other words, the nature of language is intrinsically informal, specifically, social and manipulative.
To tighten the various separate and wandering threads of this discussion, we will use the assistance of the important work, Lingua, Intellettuali, Egemonia in Gramsci28 [Language, Intellectuals, Hegemony in Gramsci] by Franco Lo Piparo, with an engaging preface by Tullio De Mauro.
In this essay the object of analysis is pushed back or rather qualitatively modified. The object does not concern university professors, but a politician and great intellectual [Antonio Gramsci]: a theoretician and strategist of the proletarian revolution in the West.
What is the meaning, or meanings, of this type of change of analysis? Language appears as the real terrain where civil and political society intersect, as the site of socialization or separation of experiences, knowledge and needs.
Likewise, language appears as the decisive dimension of politico-cultural stratification of the class system that crosses and defines the ways of thinking and feeling of entire populations from common sense to scientific theories of reality.
In this way, Lo Piparo both connects the case of Gramsci in the contemporary theoretical dispute, which is internal to linguistic sciences, and launches it again into the more complex historico-political debate, which, for several years, has characterized the reflections of Marxists in and outside of Italy.
Lo Piparo reconstructs with great care the materials that Gramsci certainly read and those that he probably read.
This is how Lo Piparo puts the synthesis: A solid theoretical chain in which every link that is necessary is formed by the theoretical and methodological study of comparative linguistics i.
The same problem is at stake in all four topics: how a nation-people-state is formed and organized and what invisible threads give rise to and unite it.
Yet maybe Lo Piparo did not develop some possibilities that his analysis opened. This is partly due to the specific delimitation of his project.
The notion of hegemony must always be considered in relation to the background only of what, according to me, is decisive for a man like Gramsci, namely, that he is first of all a political leader.
A propos, what must be taken into account is the concrete historical situation Gramsci faced, the immense structural and institutional transformations of the s and s together with the rise of state capitalism, the new articulations coming to light within the range of the intellectual functions, Linguistics and the Political Question of Language 73 and the necessity to elevate at these levels the struggle of the communists.
The notion of hegemony progressively acquires more and more definition within this situation, namely, in a very complex weave of historical analysis, theoretical reflection, and revolutionary planning.
He argued that Leninism taught the leader of the Italian working class the full primacy of politics, which was a decisive theoretico-practical direction for the Italian working class that had been closed in the impasse occurring between Reformism and Maximalism.
What has been learned after Gramsci on some points should also be stressed. Therefore, Gramsci sees the dialects as destined to be overcome by the national language during its expansive stage that will occur within an overall politico-cultural rise of the working classes.
Today, after the experiences of this century, we regard the question of dialects in a different fashion, both at the politico-institutional and at the scholastic level.
There is a growing possibility of the consolidation of the dialects and of cultural expansion that would be part of a conquest of the major means of communication and of culture, and therefore, above all, of a national language even today only 25 percent of the Italians claim to always use the Italian language in and outside their homes.
The second implication concerns a more theoretical level. Classic names can be listed again like Saussure; the great Soviet psychologist, Lev S.
They provide the trajectory of work in which Gramsci has the place of a master who tends to place the reflection on language in the perspective of an intrinsically critical and sociohistorical science.
It is also valuable to the extent that it presents an object of political analysis and an objective to work on. I believe that this leads to a stagnation of our capabilities to relate to reality and therefore to transform it.
Thus, what Gramsci writes in a crucial moment of his reflection in prison should be reread. Linguistics and the Political Question of Language 77 2.
Tullio De Mauro Bari: Laterza, Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, ed. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, trans. Chomsky, Intervista, Bruce L.
The citations are from K. See the classical work by C. Shannon and W. Derwing, Skinner, Verbal Behavior, now included in the reading of F.
Antinucci and C. An instance of the importance of the psychological ground for linguistic facts should be noted in the work of a great student of Vygotskij, A.
Trubetzkoy, Principles of Phonology, trans. Elia, Labov, Simone and G. Ruggiero Rome: Bulzoni, The contributions by Luigi Rosiello are, among these exceptions, of particular relevance.
His first one was delivered at the Conference on Gramsci in Valentino Gerratana Turin: Einaudi, , ff.
See, for example, R. Its goal is to create class environments where reciprocal listening and authentic communication between children and teachers can occur, in order to promote global development.
Among the founders and members of the MCE were teachers and educators like: G. Tamagnini, A. Fantini, A. Pettini, E.
Codignola and later B. Ciari, M. Lodi and many others see www. The CIDI is an association of teachers from all kinds and levels of schools and disciplines that works to reform the education system.
Its objective is to realize a democratic school attentive to the cultural needs of the students see www. See also E. Stefano Gensini and M.
The data on literacy that I cited i. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Prison Notebooks, ed. Like all cultural approaches, they meet the suspicion of displacing the primacy of the social question.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the publishing house. Translated by Peter Thomas. This discursive constellation can be traced back to the First International: political reflection or the attempt to elaborate its scientific-analytical foundation was at that time determined by the reaction to romantic-lyrical nationalism, above all in student circles, which sought a point of departure for a new political organization in linguistic criteria.
Here, Marx recognized a relative dead weight of cultural organizational forms. In the case of the Irish question, this even provoked him to an outburst of free trade dogma.
At the same time, analysis of the real difficulties of political-revolutionary undertakings above all, consideration of the Paris Commune led him to pose concrete political organization as an important question.
In the Second International, questions of culture moved into the foreground. However, they were always posed with a view to the world revolution: in the meantime, mobilizing as well as hindering cultural factors, including linguistic differences, were to be accommodated.
What one finds here are rather helpless recourses to citations from the classics with more or less moral-opportunistic concessions on the organizational-strategic level.
Gramsci brought particular presuppositions to this undertaking. He could thus treat his analytical undertaking as a working out of his own subjective contradictions.
His remarks must therefore be read in their particular context and should not be used as familiar quotations. Until the very end, he had a plan for a historical-linguistic sociological presentation of Sardinian.
The pedagogical discussion of the late nineteenth century, however, knew better: even if it usually did not put in question the high or literary languages high German, high French, etc.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, these methodological considerations were extended with the methodology of comparative linguistics and in particular their application to linguistic geography.
On the side of the linguists, Graziadio Isaia Ascoli took up a position that brought to bear for Italy what were then the leading developments of German linguistics neo-grammarians.
In opposition, Ascoli provided a consistent linguisticsociological argumentation. He showed that behind and within the question of the choice of the linguistic form there was the social problem of the socialization of education, in the foreground of which was the literacy of the great popular masses.
Looking to historical development in Germany, Ascoli propagated literacy on the basis of the spontaneous language of the learner.
He began from the supposition that becoming literate for example, in a dialect could be carried over to another language the national language unproblematically, because he saw in general the elaboration of a normative literary language as the endpoint of such a development.
Linguistic relations in Italy are distinguished by the extreme dialectal oppositions between north and south.
Finally, the prestige-charged Tuscan literary dialect, in the wake of Dante and completely detached from the development of linguistic relations, functions as an additional factor hindering a national development, because reference to it explicitly excluded the real social centers of Rome and the north Italian industrial zones from the high cultural horizon.
This confused cultural situation correlated with one of the highest rates of illiteracy in Europe. In the s, language pedagogy finally officially changed to the use of the dialectal resources of the students.
Linguistic form must be created after and then further developed in a creative process. He knew these problems as lived problems; this disrupts the extent of his Croceanism from the beginning.
As a Sardinian who had to make his career in Italy at the expense of his own language, he had to live out these tensions himself.
Stimulated by his teacher, Bartoli, he made it the object of his early scientific work his early letters home to his family in Sardinia contain detailed questions regarding his home dialect.
Time and again he interspersed Sardinian expressions in these letters: whether in an excurse about dialect names for lizards in a letter to Tatiana June 2, ; as intimate greetings to his son, Giuliano; but above all in the letters to his mother or those that are related to his mother, particularly her culinary specialties.
These letters, which were after all 86 Utz Maas written as texts for readers, have in this regard perhaps a heavier weight than the notes in the Prison Notebooks.
He prided himself on having rehearsed Sardinian songs with his son, Delio. In the same letter to Teresina of March 26, , he disapproved of his niece, Edmea, for not being able to speak Sardinian unlike his nephews.
In certain aspects, these practical problems of the International were reflected in the abstract way in which linguistic questions were articulated in programmatic expressions.
These projects were nurtured by a multiplicity of projects for an international language, among which Esperanto was only one. In the Roman federations such efforts had a certain significance; Gramsci also had to deal with them in his Turin section.
In a polemical article of against the Esperanto movement, he explicitly makes recourse to the authority of linguistics.
This can only be a formal state instrument of oppression Gramsci takes aim here explicitly at purist attempts to exclude the variety of dialects.
Here there is also the notion of language as expression of lived experiences, already noted above. Instead of making the linguistic form an ostensible problem, it must be a case of building up a new culture that entails a correspondingly new language.
However, Gramsci displaces the problem not simply from the ostensible formal debate to the underlying social question.
Rather, he is interested in the cultural determinations lying in the linguistic form. He continued this interest also in prison.
The continuity of his thoughts, but also the clarity he gained, is demonstrated when, for example, he writes in Notebook Someone who only speaks dialect, or understands the standard language incompletely, necessarily has an intuition of the world which is more or less limited and provincial, which is fossilised and anachronistic in relation to the major currents of thought which dominate world history.
Universal in this sense, however, does not mean formally the same for all. Culture is for Gramsci in this sense linked to linguistic translatability, which for him, to a certain extent, by definition only occurs between national languages, related to the universal contents that are articulated in culturally specific forms.
For the dialects, as symbolic expression of particular cultural praxes, that is excluded. In order to do this he uses the vitalizing terms of lived praxis: the life of language and organic cohesion.
The linguistic-political question was presented to him not as a decision between competing linguistic forms or varieties, but rather as work on the language, as working out of the potential of spontaneous linguistic forms and thus at the same time as their valorization.
The dialect is not to be repressed, but also not to be jumped over. The elaboration of language is therefore for him necessarily linked to the socialist social project.
Lived experience is the necessary point of departure for any educational work and thus also for any linguistic work.
Rendering coherent spontaneous philosophy, the philosophy of the nonphilosophers, can only succeed through objectivization in language [linguaggio].
This is the reason for the close linkage of language and writing, in opposition to dialects: the communal praxis of oral conversation is embedded in the flux of the immediate happening, of the interactive constellation.
Only through the objectivization of language in writing do the heterogeneous moments become comprehensible and linguistic critique becomes accessible.
Praxis necessarily contains moments that exceed its externally determined organization in the reproduction process; liberated praxis develops these surplus moments.
They are thus pressured into forms of self-organization thus also to a transformation of the language praxis on the job , which tendentiously increases their access to moments of the social organization of labor.
They become intellectuals, who shape the forms of labor organization in employment itself: liberation of labor, valorization of labor as intellectual and liberation of language constitute a situation whose realization is only possible in communism.
Nevertheless, we still should not expect to find a closed theoretical system. One must work out his linguistic theory to a certain extent against the written word.
In this context, language praxis spoken language becomes comprehensible as an exceptional moment. Labor is determined by, respectively, the relations of production and the culture linked with them.
In a very optimistic argument that sounds like something from the Proletkult, Gramsci comprehends the development of capitalism as an increasing displacement of organizing activities into production itself.
Capitalist property and domination relations, however, in the end prevent the realization of the free disposal of intelligence in the production process, because the state power apparatus secures external determination in production; the final liberation of labor is therefore only possible as a form of liberated living together he speaks expressly of convivenza umana 36 in communist society.
Intelligence stands here against the purely instrumental dimensions of the labor process operare tecnicamente, industrialmente , for the moment of autonomy.
In the later works, Gramsci then grasped the analysis of the industrial labor process more realistically and defined the analytic concept of intelligence more exactly.
Where this is externally determined, the potential of the language is reduced to the more or less ritualized reproduction of forms of intercourse.
It is otherwise if the relations are not reproduced behind the backs of the subjects, but are instead controlled by them.
A symbolic control is then particularly necessary, if, as in more developed social forms with a developed social division of labor, the relations are not immediately manageable, but only become accessible through a symbolic synthesis.
But when the categories of language praxis are developed, they exhibit a symbolic excess over the functional finalizations, which can be used for the making sense and ascertainment of the goals of action.
This process is repeated in a more potent form with writing, which is similarly learned in communicative relationships and thus is perhaps also socially developed , which, however, has potentials for the development of processes of meaning that are free, released from the communicative stress of interaction.
Not by chance, Gramsci linked discussion of the developed language to writing in the binomian formula alphabet and language [linguaggio].
They are only to be taken in regard to his analysis of the intellectuals in which he clarifies in particular the relation of analytical and empirical concepts.
He thus turns, more or less explicitly, against any type of economistic reduction of consciousness and emphasizes the relative autonomy of the linguistic problematic.
He defines here the social function of intellectuals as social cement [soziales Bindemittel] collegamento organico.
As a social group, the intellectuals are related to their social environment, embedded in the noncontemporaneous development of society.
They thus stabilize in the first instance the dominant relations of the great landowners. The left intellectuals in the large cities of the industrialized north, on the other hand, are organically linked to the emancipatory struggles of the working class.
The social function of intellectuals thus results from how they act upon social oppositions of interests. Here the empirical concept overlaps with the analytical one.
The task of left intelligence is to disarticulate the ruling discursive structures that guarantee the reproduction of relations, that is, to undertake an educational work that rearticulates these discursive structures in the perspective of social transformation.
The role of intellectuals in an analytical sense is thus determined by their key function in the development of linguistic potential.
Such an intellectual helps a language representation to achieve social validity, based upon aesthetic virtuosity in dealing with the complex norms of the school language.
For the majority of the population, however, these are founded in the obligatory school confrontation with the inferiority problems that were traumatic for them, and are the basis for the meritocratic consensus of social reproduction.
It is aimed against the existence of a particular layer of professional purveyors of sense. Its goal is the reappropriation of intellectuals and thus also language by the producers themselves.
That makes him extraordinarily contemporary, not only due to the alreadyinitially noted continuity of objective problems.
What is lost in this emotionally charged opposition is that which Gramsci had worked out in his continual confrontation with the contradictions of his own early position: that linguistic reflection should be related to the potentials of humans, to the possibilities of an educational work that leads to the liberation of labor and thus to the liberation of language.
In Italy, Gramsci has since become one of the standard references in linguistic-sociological discussion: cf. In the German Democratic Republic [East Germany], Klaus Bochmann has now created the preconditions for linguistic work on Gramsci: on the one hand, with his selected volume ; on the other hand, with the organization of a conference on Gramsci in Leipzig in see my conference report in Das Argument, Heft : I am also grateful to Michale Bommes for critical remarks on a first version of the manuscript.
Gramsci the Linguist 95 2. This is not the place to trace the history of political reflections on language, which is still to be written.
Extensive references here are therefore unnecessary. In the labor movement the obvious parallel is Engels, who, as an autodidact, reaped the harvest of the philology of his day in an extraordinarily capable manner: he applied his knowledge not only to the Plattdeutsch relations he knew where his original linguistic-sociological considerations today are being rediscovered , but also in relation to the Irish, in order to undertake foundational studies for daily political interventions.
The parallel of Engels and Gramsci would be an attractive object of investigation. Rein Langensalza: H. Grassi Turin: Einaudi De Mauro, Storia Linguistica.
On this late development, particularly in fascism and the volte-face of fascist language politics, see Gabriella Klein, La Politica Linguistica del Fascismo Bologna: Il Mulino, In general, the pedagogical concept of Lombardo Radice was expressly oriented to Croce, who was also a central reference for Gramsci.
The parallels between the linguistic politics of Italian and German fascism would be worth its own investigation, since the analogies highlighted by Klein need to be differentiated.
In at least the first phase of stabilization of its domination, German fascism integrated at least the functionaries of the corresponding organizations successfully with policies that allowed the autochthonous language forms to be used.
See Giansiro Ferrata and Nicolo Gallo, eds. See also the undated letter Ferrata and Gallo, LP, Wade Baskin Glasgow: Collins, , In his argumentation Gramsci notably agrees with contemporaneous discussion in Soviet linguistics that was similarly confronted by the problem of mass literacy and the unification of a national language.
There is, however, no evidence that he had knowledge of the works of Voloshinov, Polivanov and others. Gramsci, Scritti Giovanili, 81ff.
A great culture can be translated into the language of another great culture, that is to say a great national language with historic richness and complexity, and it can translate any other great culture and can be a worldwide means of expression.
In this sense Gramsci is also consistent in practical questions of agitation: against any form of populism, he insists that agitation in fact must be uncompromising and consequently also difficult.
Gramsci would certainly have approved of such an enterprise. SPW1, Notebook It is at any rate notable that the same emphatic formulations about intellectuals occur in completely different contexts and certainly without knowledge of Gramsci , namely in Victor Klemperer.
SWP2, ff. Also here, Gramsci operates explicitly as a linguist. Above all, he makes clear here that the reference for language analysis lies in the articulated experiences, not in the linguistic form: thus he refers to the fact that the same song that Sardinian soldiers had sung before and after their deployment against striking Turin workers was charged with entirely different meanings due to their experiences in the confrontation SPW2, ff.
Godelier puts the accent on the real use-value of the thus monopolized intelligence for the masses, whose life-level is immediately linked to this organizing achievement.
Gramsci the Linguist 99 Italian fascism carried on the pro-dialect pedagogy until In Germany, the change in cultural politics came about due to the pragmatic necessities of the strengthened centralism of the war economy.
This is arguably similar to Italy, where the synchronization with the increase of German influence is surely not accidental.
As he says, in a Gramscian sense [senso gramsciano], Pier Paolo Pasolini, Freibeuterschriften, trans.
Thomas Eisenhardt Berlin: Wagenbach, , Pier Paolo Pasolini, Ketzererfahrungen, trans. Reimar Klein Munich: Hanser, , Gramsci repeatedly posits the question of languages and asks himself if reaching a universal language is possible.
Two things seem very clear to me. For Gramsci, the fundamental content of the philosophy of praxis and of historical materialism certainly means the end of, and the overcoming of, class struggles, and the advent of communism.
This is not something we believe today, but Gramsci believed it. Gramsci meant it to be a cultural unity, in the sense that the day in which class perspective will come to an end, there will not be conflicting cultural multiplicities anymore.
He knew what it was not, although he was cautious enough not to pretend to know what it was to be. Gramsci observes that there exists a case of universal artificial language, namely, mathematics.
Sciences have the advantage of prefiguring in some way the future linguistic unification of humankind. In mathematics all humans communicate: it is the only universal language.
Language is an instrument for interexchange, communication and, at the same time, for creating identities. Therefore, language has, on the one hand, an internal and cohesive function, and on the other, a communicative and very open use.
If I were asked whether he assesses these two aspects of language as equivalent or if he has a different take on their roles, without a doubt, I would answer that Gramsci proposes an unbalanced view, sharply in favor of the communicative one.
A parallel or cautious analogy could be drawn between how Giacomo Leopardi writes the entire Zibaldone and Gramsci writes the Notebooks.