A new language, a new world: Italian immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945

Nancy C. Carnevale

    Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

    54 Scopus citations


    An examination of Italian immigrants and their children in the early twentieth century, A New Language, A New World is the first full-length historical case study of one immigrant group's experience with language in America. Incorporating the interdisciplinary literature on language within a historical framework, Nancy C. Carnevale illustrates the complexity of the topic of language in American immigrant life. By looking at language from the perspectives of both immigrants and the dominant culture as well as their interaction, this book reveals the role of language in the formation of ethnic identity and the often coercive context within which immigrants must negotiate this process. Carnevale provides the context for understanding the linguistic history of Italian Americans by presenting a brief overview of the politics of language in Italy, with its racialized split between North and South, multiple dialects, and class divisions. Exploring a range of issues faced by Italians once they reached the United States, Carnevale considers the immigrant perspective on translation in both a literal linguistic sense and a figurative translation of self-identity. Italian Americans found a familiar voice in the popular entertainer Farfariello, whose comic songs incorporating the Italo-American idiom expressed problems of immigrant life as problems of communication--often between the sexes--suggesting the centrality of language in the immigrant imagination. And with the rise of fascism in the Italian homeland, the Italian language took on even more conflicted meanings in America as Italian Americans were regarded with suspicion and scrutiny.

    Original languageEnglish
    PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
    Number of pages243
    ISBN (Print)9780252034039
    StatePublished - 2009


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