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Thus the dialect of Florence became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy.

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They are often mutually unintelligible, and are better classified as distinct languages.

The standard Italian language has a poetic and literary origin in the writings of Tuscan writers of the 12th century, and, even though the grammar and core lexicon are basically unchanged from those used in Florence in the 13th century, the modern standard of the language was largely shaped by relatively recent events.

In contrast to the Gallo-Italic languages of northern Italy, the Italo-Dalmatian Neapolitan language and its dialects were largely unaffected by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy mainly by bards from France during the Middle Ages, but after the Norman conquest of southern Italy, Sicily became the first Italian land to adopt Occitan lyric moods (and words) in poetry.

Even in the case of Northern Italian languages, however, scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages.

Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City and western Istria (in Slovenia and Croatia).

It used to have official status in Albania, Malta and Monaco, where it is still widely spoken, as well as in former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa regions where it plays a significant role in various sectors.

However, Italian as a language spoken in Italy and some surrounding regions has a longer history.

In fact, the earliest surviving texts that can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as distinct from its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae known as the Placiti Cassinesi from the Province of Benevento that date from 960–963, although the Veronese Riddle, probably from the 8th or early 9th century, contains a late form of Vulgar Latin that can be seen as a very early Italian dialect.

These dialects (as they are commonly referred to as) were derived from Vulgar Latin over the course of centuries, evolving naturally unaffected by formal standards and teachings.

These Languages of Italy are not truly "dialects" of Standard Italian, evolving independently (and alongside) of the predecessor of Standard Italian.

Italian was also one of the many recognised languages in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

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