?The basic story is this: Italy is a very young country made up of many very old kingdoms awkwardly stapled together to make a patchwork whole. Before 1861, these different kingdoms ? Sardinia, Rome, Tuscany, Venice, Sicily (they were called different things at the time, but roughly correspond to those regions now) ? those were, basically, different countries. Its citizens didn?t speak the same language, didn?t identify as countrymen, sometimes were even at war with each other?
each of the old Italian kingdoms had their own?well, D?Imperio, who is Italian, calls them ?dialects.? But others refer to them in different ways. Basically the old Italian kingdoms each spoke their own languages that largely came from the same family tree, slightly but not all that much closer than the Romance languages, like French, Spanish, or Portuguese. The general family name for these languages is Italo-Dalmatian (Dalmatian, it turns out, refers to Croatia. The dog is from there, too.). They were not all mutually comprehensible, and had their own external influences. Calabrian, for example, is heavily influenced by Greek, thanks to a long Greek occupation and interchange. In the northwest near the border with France, Piedmont, with its capital of Turin, spoke a language called Piedmontese, which is sort of French-ish. Sicilian, very close to North Africa, had a lot of Arabic-type stuff in it?
this gets weird, because most Italian-Americans can trace their immigrant ancestors back to that time between 1861 and World War I, when the vast majority of ?Italians,? such as Italy even existed at the time, wouldn?t have spoken the same language at all, and hardly any of them would be speaking the northern Italian dialect that would eventually become Standard Italian.?