This diffusion of written Italian as a diplomatic and commercial lingua franca in the Ottoman Empire, that is to say as a language by which not only the Italians, but also the English and other Westerners were able to communicate with the Ottomans and their subjects, faces to a big historiographical problem. In fact, if one maintains that in the Middle Ages the international use of Italian was restricted to its spoken circulation for trading purposes, the spread of the same language for high diplomacy, already attested a few decades after the Fall of Constantinople, seems to come out of the blue. Of course, one may suggest that Italian vernaculars did serve as administrative languages in the Venetian and Genoese colonies and that their bureaucratic uses are likely to have influenced the writing practices of the Ottoman dragomans, who were mostly recruited among the Greeks of the islands, ie. among the most Italianized of the Greeks. This is certainly part of the truth, but the recurrence of a well-established diplomatic vocabulary already in the first treaties and capitulations drafted in Italian or translated into Italian by the Ottoman Porte clearly indicates that a practice of diplomatic writing in Italian existed before 1453 and that this practice increased, but not originated under Ottoman rule. Aim of the paper is to investigate the origin of this practice, on the basis of the not many extant diplomatic documents in Italian written in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean in the period going from 1100 to 1453. Firstly, a brief survey of the documents available in modern editions and of the contexts of their production is given (§ 2), with a particular attention to the multilingual «institutional patterns of communication» recently studied by David Jacobi for the Latin Empire of Constantinople and other Frankish territories. Secondly, the language of the documents is analyzed, especially for what concerns loanwords and terms regarding institutions of the Eastern Mediterranean states. This part of the vocabulary is extremely interesting, since all documents are translations of diplomas written in either French or Oriental languages often by non-Italian interpreters and, subsequently, need to be examined in a multiliteracy context. Finally, the possible relations between these documents and diplomatic writing in Italian in the Ottoman Levant from the 16th century onwards is pointed out, on the basis of some of the translators’ choices concerning honorific titles and formulas which anticipate the uses of Ottoman dragomans.

Italian Vernaculars as Diplomatic Languages in the Medieval Levant

Daniele Baglioni
In corso di stampa

Abstract

This diffusion of written Italian as a diplomatic and commercial lingua franca in the Ottoman Empire, that is to say as a language by which not only the Italians, but also the English and other Westerners were able to communicate with the Ottomans and their subjects, faces to a big historiographical problem. In fact, if one maintains that in the Middle Ages the international use of Italian was restricted to its spoken circulation for trading purposes, the spread of the same language for high diplomacy, already attested a few decades after the Fall of Constantinople, seems to come out of the blue. Of course, one may suggest that Italian vernaculars did serve as administrative languages in the Venetian and Genoese colonies and that their bureaucratic uses are likely to have influenced the writing practices of the Ottoman dragomans, who were mostly recruited among the Greeks of the islands, ie. among the most Italianized of the Greeks. This is certainly part of the truth, but the recurrence of a well-established diplomatic vocabulary already in the first treaties and capitulations drafted in Italian or translated into Italian by the Ottoman Porte clearly indicates that a practice of diplomatic writing in Italian existed before 1453 and that this practice increased, but not originated under Ottoman rule. Aim of the paper is to investigate the origin of this practice, on the basis of the not many extant diplomatic documents in Italian written in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean in the period going from 1100 to 1453. Firstly, a brief survey of the documents available in modern editions and of the contexts of their production is given (§ 2), with a particular attention to the multilingual «institutional patterns of communication» recently studied by David Jacobi for the Latin Empire of Constantinople and other Frankish territories. Secondly, the language of the documents is analyzed, especially for what concerns loanwords and terms regarding institutions of the Eastern Mediterranean states. This part of the vocabulary is extremely interesting, since all documents are translations of diplomas written in either French or Oriental languages often by non-Italian interpreters and, subsequently, need to be examined in a multiliteracy context. Finally, the possible relations between these documents and diplomatic writing in Italian in the Ottoman Levant from the 16th century onwards is pointed out, on the basis of some of the translators’ choices concerning honorific titles and formulas which anticipate the uses of Ottoman dragomans.
Crusading, Society, and Politics in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of King Peter I of Cyprus
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/5005421
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