Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

A real talking point – the world’s oldest linguistic academy

A real talking point – the world’s oldest linguistic academy

There’s a famous English saying – ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’. It refers to harvesting wheat, where only the useful parts (usually the bran) are kept, and the rest discarded. It’s an idea that lies at the very heart of the Accademia della Crusca, a Florentine linguistic academy that dates back to 1582. The name literally means ‘the bran academy’, and refers to the cleaning up and documenting of language, discarding the parts that serve no purpose.

The first edition of its dictionary – the Vocabolario degli Accademici della Crusca – became the benchmark for works in French, Spanish, German and English, enabling nations to create and record definitive reference points for their languages.

Scholars of all kinds were welcomed to contribute to the works of the academy, as a result the list of scholars reads like a who’s who in literature, of renaissance Italy and beyond, including grammaticism, philologists, poets, scientists, philosophers and historians.

Even today the academy still serves as a key touch-point in Italian linguistic understanding, opening its archives to the world and taking part in leading conferences and debates on linguistics around the world. So if you ever want a glimpse at where linguistics began, you know where to start looking.