Journal of Romance Studies

Gramsci’s interest in language: the influence of Bartoli’s Dispense di glottologia (1912–13) on the Prison Notebooks

Journal of Romance Studies (2012), 12, (3), 10–23.

Abstract

This article is based on Antonio Gramsci’s still unpublished handwritten transcription, commissioned by Matteo Bartoli, of the latter’s 1912–13 course in glottology that Gramsci followed at the University of Turin. It emerges from these notes that the course’s influence is seen in the Prison Notebooks (1929–35), not only in obvious echoes of Part I of Bartoli’s course on the history of Latin and the other languages of the ancient Italian peninsula and its peoples, but especially Part II of the course, dealing mainly with the complex linguistic situation of the Balkans, that underlies the language-social groups relationship characterizing Gramsci’s approach to the ‘language question’ in the prison writings. Bartoli’s analysis of physico-geographic factors in the development, and sometimes fossilization, of language becomes, in his pupil’s elaboration, a broader sociolinguistic discourse, avant-la-lettre, on the language-culture-civilization nexus, on ‘popular’ and ‘high’ cultures and therefore on the relations between social classes themselves.

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Boothman, Derek