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This conference is co-organised by the Warburg Institute and was originally to have met in London, March 2020.

Speakers: David Cowling (Durham), Alessandro Carlucci (Bergen and Oxford), Valentina Sferragatta (Università Federico II, Naples), Chiara de Caprio (Università Federico II, Naples), Florence Bistagne (Avignon), Susan Baddeley (Université Versailles Saint-Quentin

Organised by: Raphaële Mouren (Warburg Institute) and Florence Bistagne (Université d’Avignon, Institut universitaire de France)

Plurilingualism is usually defined as the use of several languages by the same individual. It includes bilingualism - the most frequent case - but is distinguished from multilingualism, which means the coexistence of several languages within a specific social group. A plurilingual society is composed mainly of individuals able to communicate at various levels of ability in several languages, whereas a multilingual society can be mainly composed of monolingual individuals.  

In Naples, at the time of Alfonso and Ferrante of Aragon (1443-1458), the Catalan language was used in the city as well as in court, in synchrony with Castilian and various italic languages: Tuscan, Neapolitan, but also Greek and Latin, ancient as well as modern. The production of chancellery texts shows a development from Catalan only to the use of both Catalan and Neapolitan. Kings and nobles originating in Spain write alternatively in Catalan, then Castilian and Neapolitan, while Italians are less bilingual. In Milan, the Visconti then Sforza’ chancellery begins to use Italian in the first half of the 15th century. Languages used for communication - written but also oral - are rarely ‘pure’ dialects, and hybridizations are not always easy to identify. As the memories of the old French dynasty, its languages and models have not yet disappeared, the Kingdom of Naples sees the development of different types of hybridization, transliterations and borrowings. 

Studying literary and administrative documents, private and official correspondence from this perspective helps to understand the choice of languages used by authors, and the use of diachronic linguistics offers a new approach to the study of the use of languages during the humanistic times. The production of anonymous clerks, of well-known authors like Giovanni Pontano, of kings and educated noble men and women offers us a large corpus of texts where the links between plurilinguism and the development of languages can be studied. 

Taking the Kingdom of Naples as a starting point, the workshop will offer case studies of other languages and countries to broaden towards a re-examination of the question of plurilinguism in Early Modern Europe. 

PROGRAMME (all times below are Central European Time: BST + 1 hour): 

09:45am: Arrivals 
10.15am: Introduction (Raphaële Mouren) 



  • Florence Bistagne (Université d’Avignon, Institut universitaire de France): 'Les langues au royaume de Naples: conjuguer le multilinguisme des personnes et le plurilinguisme littéraire'
  • Chiara de Caprio (Università Federico II, Naples): 'Il plurilinguismo nel Regno: testi documentari e dell'uso e testi letterari'
  • Valentina Sferragatta (Università Federico II, Naples): 'Leggere la storiografia del Regno alla luce delle dinamiche del plurilinguismo'

1.00pm: Lunch break

… And beyond 


  • Alessandro Carlucci (University of Bergen and University of Oxford): 'Per la storia dell'intercomprensione: il caso italoromanzo tra medioevo e prima età moderna'
  • David Cowling (Durham University): 'Language mixing and its discontents in 16th-century France: the case of Henri Estienne'
  • Susan Baddeley (Université Versailles Saint-Quentin): 'Europe in a book: the "Berlaimont" dialogues and their representation of Early modern European life'

Organised with support from: 
École française de Rome; Institut universitaire de France; Laboratoire identité culturelle, textes et théâtralité (Université d’Avignon); The Warburg Institute; DYPAC (Dynamiques patrimoniales et culturelles) research centre at Université Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.