How has the orthography of Italian changed in the 19th century? I’m trying to find an in-depth guide but I haven’t found any resources. Maybe it just hasn’t changed except for a few technical words?

  • 1
    One issue is that at the start of the 19th century, Italy had not been unified, and what would became standard Italian was then really Florentine Tuscan (think Dante). With unification, some words from other Italian languages/dialects were incorporated into standard Italian, and that might appear as orthographic change.
    – Henry
    Commented Oct 27, 2023 at 0:37

1 Answer 1


For starters, there's a nice overview on the Treccani on the Ottocento and on the history of Italian orthography, with good references to the increasing rates of literacy among the middle classes and an overview of 19th century spelling reform.

Key takeaways are:

  • The use of j is still present, but inconsistent. The spellings gioja for modern standard gioia, jeri for ieri, and also the use of j for final -ii are all attested, e.g. studj for studii.
  • Which consonants are doubled (which reflects the irregular phonological changes of the borrowings, including those from academic Neo Latin and Greek) is not yet standardised, so we have occorono for occorrono, piutosto for piuttosto, academia for accademia. The latter is the main debate between the manzonismi, proponents of a more phonetic spelling, and classicisti, with etymological spelling preferred.
  • The use of capital letters is still in flux: either all nouns (like modern German spelling); or at the beginnings of sentences, and for the 'proper' nouns to capitalise (the definition of which then has to be made - in the modern spelling, yes for names of individual people and places, but no to the days of the week, to demonyms, to language names).
  • Use of the apostrophe is still in flux.
  • Use of the hyphen for compound words varies.
  • Use of the h diacritica changes, i.e. à, ànno for modern ha, hanno is still attested, but declines during the period.


  • 2
    À was presumably equivalent to ha, not ho? Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 22:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.