Susan Meld Shell

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Aug 3, 2019 02:21
Susan Meld Shell

In this article, Susan Meld Shell reasons in favor of the authenticity of the dialog, posing a number of arguments in order to prove her claim. In recent years, many critics have argued for the opposite view, believing that the admiration Machiavelli Dante, was a satisfactory argument for their claim. Shell explains the harsh treatment Machiavelli reserved to Dante with his desire to rebuke the theses expressed in the recently discovered treatise "De Vulgari Eloquentia". Critics who claim for the non-authenticity of the text, probably forget that Machiavelli did not compose it for publication and could feel completely free of expressing himself while writing it.
Another idea about languages Machiavelli observes in the dialog, is that they are autonomous forces, independent from the power of the country in which they are spoken. Germany or France "can presume less than weaker Lombardia"; with regard of their language and literature which were less important than that of a little state as Lombardia.
As Shell points out, we owe to Machiavelli the idea that "political and literary power do not always coincide in modern times". This needs to be put in relation with the idea of language as a unitary system capable of disciplining and forging new foreign words and expressions that assimilate to it.
Continuing the examination, she notes that Dante and Machiavelli had a different explanation for the mutual intelligibility of the vernaculars spoken throughout the peninsula: in fact, Dante connects the variety of languages spoken in Italy with the diaspora following the Babel`s tower fall, while Machiavelli, views the thing differently. He binds indissolubly languages to the countries in which their are spoken, giving the greatest importance to politics. Instead, the reason for the similarity among Italian dialects is to be found in the attempt of Roman Church of taking over Roman empire in the control of Italy. It spread in the old Roman province of Italy using a vernacular language that could be understood by the greatest number of people.
Another important difference between the two writers lies on their different consideration of a quality of a language; Dante reviews Italian vernaculars and evaluate their aptness for literary purposes, while Machiavelli, completely bypasses the issue, crediting the prominence of Florentine language with the importance of writers who wrote in Florentine language. Dante, evidently following Aristotle`s lead, looks for a language immune to those extremes to which dialects seem entirely usually deemed.
The point is that the segretario fiorentino did not believe in a universal language purified by vulgar extremes, artfully or artificially, created by poets; instead he believes that poets introduce new vocabulary and expressions in grace of the power of their own natural language to which the foreign words have to respect the phonology and grammar.
For Dante in De vulgari eloquentia, the common language would represent the perfection of the particular, his emphasis goes on "eloquentia" rather than "vulgari. For Machiavelli, who ignores these elevated subtleties, "common language" means the language most in use, not that to which one aspires.