Italians are supposed to be voluble, excitable and incapable of talking without using their hands. This last, although a stereotype, seems to be particularly true: neither I nor any of my friends are capable of talking while sitting on our hands. The New York Times dedicates an article, accompanied by a video and an interactive “tutorial,” to Italian hand gestures and body language. Beyond the amusement factor, gestures are readily recognizable forms of non-verbal communication that are used for emphasis and to highlight emotions about the topic of conversation. Italians use gestures not simply as signals but to add inflection to what they are saying. Look at the interactive feature: it’s fun!
With recent budget cuts in Italy there was talk (later contradicted) that funding for the Accademia della Crusca would be cut, thus threatening this institute’s continued existence. The Accademia della Crusca, founded in Florence in 1582, is a leading institution dedicated to the study of and research on the Italian language. The founding members of the society, a group of intellectuals known as the Crusconi, gathered for convivial meetings reciting playful but highly literary discourses. Their intention was to set themselves apart form the overly pompous discussions of the Accademia Fiorentina. In 1583 the stated direction of the Crusca evolved into that of conserving the Florentine vulgar tongue. In 1612 the Crusca was the first institution in Europe to produce a national language “Vocabolario.” Today the Accademia della Crusca’s activities involve supporting research in Italian linguistics and philology and also sustaining the diffusion and knowledge of the Italian language both in Italy and elsewhere.