School of Humanities



Federica Verdina


Start date

Feb 2014

Submission date

Feb 2017

Federica Verdina

Federica Verdina profile photo


The correspondence in Italian of Rosendo Salvado, the Spanish founder of New Norcia, Western Australia. A linguistic analysis on Italian as lingua franca in the 19th century


This research examines the role of Italian as an international language of communication in the 19th century, with particular reference to the Catholic missionary Church. Specifically, through a linguistic analysis of the Italian correspondence of Bishop Rosendo Salvado (1814-1900), founder of the Benedictine mission of New Norcia, Western Australia, this investigation will explore the variety of Italian used for epistolary purposes by a multilingual educated Spaniard living in Australia.

To achieve these goals, I am examining the letters Salvado wrote in Italian to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in Rome, the institution that coordinated Catholic missionary activities worldwide. Because of the period it spans (more than fifty years), the quantity and quality of original material, and the linguistic dynamics it reveals, Salvado’s correspondence represents a unique point of reference if we want to better understand the linguistic shape of 19th century Italy and of the Roman Church.

Why my research is important

Until about three decades ago, scholars drew a dichotomic distinction between written and spoken language in Italy before Unification (1861). On the one hand, there was the Italian language, based on fourteenth-century Tuscan and used only as a written medium; on the other hand, the dialects, the vernacular languages spoken across the country.

More recent scholarship has taken into account new types of documents and previously uninvestigated domains of language use. This has disclosed the existence of intermediate varieties of Italian, imperfect but widespread and sufficient for communication within the Italian peninsula and abroad.

A crucial sphere of use of the Italian language was – and still is - the Catholic Church, the history of which has always been strongly interwined with the linguistic history of Italy. At a time when a common and homogeneous ‘national language’ as we intend it today did not exist, the numerous examples of use of Italian within the Church of Rome suggest once more the need to approach the linguistic dynamics of not yet unified Italy from a more complex perspective.


  • International Postgraduate Research Scholarship
  • Australian Postgraduate Award
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