The paper aims to find out the rare traces of diglossia in The Betrothed, in order to investigate the role played by the different languages (Latin, Italian, Spanish), against the theoretical background of the opposition between natural (or popular) semiosis and artificial semiosis as described by Eco (1987). The analysis reveals that the success of communication generally depends on the good will of the interlocutors and on the knowledge of facts rather than on pure linguistic competence, while only foreign languages are deliberately used to block communication (s. the Spanish language used by Ferrer or the use of Latin by Don Abbondio). Moreover, a careful analysis of the use of Latin in its various aspects, and of the different roles of language and dialogue, makes it possible to go beyond Eco’s synthetic conclusion, according to which Manzoni celebrates the defeat of language through a ‘linguistic object’ (the novel itself). The very effort of the author to develop a common Italian language, to be used also in spontaneous oral communication, testifies to his faith in words, provided they are not intentionally manipulated and rhetorically mystified.
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