Although Venetian is routinely referred to as a “dialetto” in Italy, this has become misleading in that it is now widely and unthinkingly interpreted as implying that Venetian is a dialect of Italian. In fact Venetian predates Italian by hundreds of years. It grew naturally and autonomously out of the late Latin spoken in the north-east of the peninsula. Italian, on the other hand, was an artifically created language, based primarily on vernacular Tuscan and the works of Tuscan writers, notably Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio, and forged by scholars and humanists of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries in an attempt to found a national language, written and spoken, for the entire population of the yet to be unified country. More or less universal knowledge of Italian was only achieved in the second half of the twentieth century. The robustness of Venetian in the face of the exclusive use of Italian in the media, education system, bureaucracy and the Church, and in a country where other “dialects” are in more rapid decline, is remarkable.
more from the TLS here.