Language: Dethroning Dante

For 700 years, Italian language purists have held that if a word cannot be found in Dante's Divine Comedy, or did not evolve from Dante's Italian, it isn't really a word at all. This scruple and others have so seriously hobbled lexicographers that they have not been able to bring out a comprehensive Italian dictionary since 1811. Now, overriding all impediments, Italian scholars are finally compiling a modern dictionary.

Actually, Dante's Italian has seldom been spoken or written except by elite men of letters, diplomats, philosophers and scholars. The masses speak various...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!