18 October 2021

What can Italian teaching learn from Dante not as a poet,

but as the world’s first language planner?

by

Professor Emeritus Joseph Lo Bianco, University of Melbourne

In this presentation, Professor Lo Bianco will explore a much less recognised achievement of the great and foundational poet of Italian and Italy. He will discuss the significance of De Vulgari Eloquentia (DVE), a Latin text that Dante wrote proposing the development of a national language as part of the process of national unification. It would take more than six centuries for his dream to be fulfilled, but in DVE Dante established himself as possibly the first serious theoriser of how language change occurs, how vernaculars can be developed, and how multilingualism functions. He will describe the situation of Italian in Australia today and develop some critical lines for future development building on insights from Dante, which, even if they are very old, are still surprisingly fresh and relevant. In this work we find insights also into a precursor of access and opportunity to language, so often an instrument of exclusion and so richly a tool of emancipation.

Joseph Lo Bianco is Professor Emeritus of Language and Literacy Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. He was the first educator elected as President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In 2012 he was appointed Research Director of the UNICEF Language and Peacebuilding initiative in Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand. Since 2011 he has served as senior research advisor for LUCIDE, a European Commission project on Languages in Urban Communities - Integration and Diversity for Europe, conducting large scale 6-year research on multilingualism at the municipal level in 12 European cities. In January 2014 he commenced in an academic advisory role with the National Research Centre for Foreign Language Education at Beijing Foreign Studies University a role which included discussions with the State Language Commission and supporting academic research initiatives. Professor Lo Bianco wrote Australia’s National Policy on Languages in 1987, the first multilingual national language policy in an English-speaking country and was Chief Executive of the National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia until 2002. He is a specialist in language policy studies and in the practical formulation of effective language policy. He has also written extensively about Italian in Australia and its future. He was president of the Dante Alighieri Society in the ACT for several years.

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