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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1814 to 1817 > Academy papers

In July, 1816, Mezzofanti read at the Academy an essay " on the Language of the Sette Communi at Vicenza," which has been spoken of with much praise. This singular community—descended from those strag¬glers of the invading army of Cimbri and Teutones which crossed the Alps in the year of Rome, 640, who escaped amid the almost complete extermination of their companions under Marius, and took refuge in the neighbouring mountains—presents, (LIKE the similar Roman colony on the Transylvanian border,)  the strange phenomenon of a foreign race and language preserved unmixed in the midst of another people and another tongue for a space of nearly two thousand years. They occupy seven parishes in the vicinity of Vicenza, Note 1whence their name is derived ; and they still retain not only the tradition of their origin, but the substance, and even the leading forms of the Teutonic language; insomuch that Frederic IV., of Denmark, who visited them in the beginning of the last century, (1708,) discoursed with them in Danish, and found their idiom perfectly intelligible."

This was a theme peculiarly suited to Mezzofanti's powers. His essay excited considerable interest at the time, but unfortunately was never printed.

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Note 1
Besides the Sette Communi of Vicenza, there are also thirteen parishes in the province of Verona, called the TVedid Communi ; evidently of the same Teutonic stock, and a remnant of the same Roman slaughter. Adelung (II., 215) gives a specimen of each language. Both are perfectly intelligible to any German scholar : but that of Verona resembles more nearly the modern form of the German language. The affinity is much more closely preserved in both, than it is in the analogous instance of the Roman colony in Transylvania. I may be permitted to refer to the very similar example of an isolated race and language ■which subsisted among ourselves down to the last generation, in the Baronies of Forth and Bargie in the county of Wexford in Ireland. The remnant of the first English or Welsh adventurers under Strongbow, who obtained lands in that district, maintained themselves, through a long series of generations, distinct in manners, usages, costume, and even language, both from the Irish population, and, what is more remarkable, from the English settlers of all subse¬quent periods. An essay on their peculiar dialect, with a vocabulary and a metrical specimen, by Vallancey, will be found in the Trans-actions of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. II. (Antiquities), pp. 194-3.
Eustace's Classical Tour in Italy, I., 142. The fact of Frederic's visit is mentioned by Maffoi, in his Verona Illustrata.

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