1887
Volume 47, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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Abstract

Summary

Petrarch’s metalinguistic observations are scattered throughout his work, rare and for the most part elliptical. The present article closely examines Petrarch’s statements about language to arrive at an alternative interpretation to that of previous scholarship. We analyse the ideas, attitudes and beliefs that inform Petrarch’s conception of the difference between Latin and the vernacular languages. The first section provides a critique of the now prevailing view on Petrarch’s metalinguistic thinking. Mirko Tavoni and Silvia Rizzo hypothesize that Petrarch ‘was not conscious of being bilingual’, since he considered Latin and vernaculars as different stylistic varieties of one and the same language. In the remaining two sections we propose an alternative account. Comparing statements made by contemporaries of Petrarch and investigating their origin and rationale, we suggest that Petrarch’s conception and practice cannot be accounted for within a modern perspective of national language and are better captured by the notion of diglossia, in which two linguistic varieties are delimited by the contexts of their use.

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