The Problem of a National Literary Language in Italy and in China in the 20th Century: Antonio Gramsci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Lu Xun

Sha Ha


The Italian scholar and political leader Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was an active opponent of the dictatorial government ruling his country before the 2nd World War. He was kept in prison for11 years, until his death, by the ruling Fascist Party and during that time he filled over 3,000 pages, writing about Linguistics, History and Philosophy. He was concerned with the duty of Italian progressive intellectuals to create a ‘common literary language’, accessible to the under-privileged Italian people, who until then had been excluded from culture. After the war, during the sixties of last century, a ‘common Italian language’ started developing, through the introduction of the 10-years long compulsory school and the increasing power of mass media: that language was not fit to become the common literary language of the Nation. The writer and movie director Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), who in his novels gave voice to the sub-urban proletarians of the city of Rome, was highly unsatisfied with the new common language that was in the process of being established in the country. As for China, when the imperial system was abolished by the ‘Xinhai revolution’, in 1911, the belief became increasingly widespread among intellectuals that the rebirth of China had to be based in the global rejection of the Confucian tradition and that the ‘Báihuà’ (people’s language) should be adopted in literature, replacing the ‘Wényán’ (classical language), not accessible to the common people. Lu Xun and his colleagues eventually succeeded in their efforts of establishing the ‘Báihuà’ as the common literary language of China. Purpose of the paper is the comparison between the efforts exerted by these literati in creating a ‘common literary language’ in their respective countries.


Vernacular Language, Báihuà, Wényán

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