Italian (italiano) is a Romance language spoken by about 60 million people in Italy, and by another 10 million Italian descendants in the world, making it spoken by a total of 70 million native speakers. It is also spoken by an additional 125 million people as a foreign language. In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages, spoken mainly in the cantons of Grigioni and Ticino. It is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of Vatican City. Standard Italian, adopted by the state after the unification of Italy, is based on Tuscan (in particular on the dialects of the city of Florence). Its development was also influenced by the other Italian dialects and by the Germanic language of the post-Roman invaders.
Italian derives from Latin, and is the closest national language to Latin. Unlike most other Romance languages, Italian retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants. In particular, among the Romance languages, Italian is the closest to Latin in terms of vocabulary. Lexical similarity is 89% with French, 87% with Catalan, 85% with Sardinian, 82% with Spanish, 78% with Rhaeto-Romance and 77% with Romanian.
The Italophone World