School of Humanities



Joshua Brown

Phone: (+61 8) 6488 2160

Start date

Jan 2007

Submission date

Jan 2011

Joshua Brown

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Early evidence for Tuscanisation in the letters of Milanese merchants in the Datini Archive, Prato, 1396-1402


The process of Tuscanisation, understood here as the adoption of Tuscan linguistic forms in non-Tuscan regions, affected different areas of medieval Italy at different times. In the linguistic history of Lombardy, this is generally considered to have become discernible in literary texts during the late Trecento. In non-literary texts, the earliest time that has been suggested is during the late Quattrocento. This thesis examines a corpus of letters sent from Milan by merchants between 1396-1402 to show that a process of Tuscanisation was occurring even earlier. These letters, written to the 'merchant of Prato' Francesco Datini and his associates around the Mediterranean, seem to show a strong presence of Tuscan or Tuscanised forms. These letters have been published by Frangioni (1994) and are subjected to a linguistic analysis for the first time here. I define a corpus of five Milanese writers based on biographical information taken from economic histories of medieval Milan and Italy, studies of medieval anthroponomy as well as family histories, and highlight evidence of Tuscanisation in both the phonology and morphology in the letters from these five merchants.

Why my research is important

Both phonology and morphology present a wide variety of outcomes. Uncertainty regarding 'correct' Tuscan usage is evident in hypercorrect occurrences of certain phenomena, such as diphthongs. Consonants, too, show much variation and a strong presence of Latin or Latinizing forms. Tuscan or Tuscanised forms are found to be present in all areas of morphology. Overall, I find that the language is essentially Tuscan, with clearly identifiable Lombard and Latin forms less evident. The strong presence of Tuscan in this corpus of letters by Milanese merchants may suggest a process of accommodation towards their Tuscan interlocutors.


  • ACIS Cassamarca Scholarship
  • Local Travel Award
  • UWA Completion Scholarship
  • UWA Safety-Net Top-Up Scholarship
  • University Postgraduate Award