13

Should one prefer «…», “…” or ‘…’?

I.e., suppose one has to write reported speech, which one one should choice or prefer, 1., 2. or 3.?

  1. Qualcuno disse «Eppur si muove!»
  2. Qualcuno disse “Eppur si muove!”
  3. Qualcuno disse ‘Eppur si muove!’
3
  • 1
    Nice quote! :D I took the liberty of fixing the list using the tool from markdown (as soon as someone approves it). :P
    – Alenanno
    Nov 7 '13 at 9:59
  • @Alenanno That's not a quote since Galileo never ever said "Eppur si muove!".
    – Bakuriu
    Nov 25 '13 at 23:22
  • @Bakuriu Nice fake quote then! :P
    – Alenanno
    Nov 26 '13 at 10:10
13

The guillemet («…») is the traditional quotation mark used in Italian, but it has been nowadays replaced from the double quotes (“…”). The single quotation marks (‘…’) are used for nested quotations.

Depending on the newspaper, you could still see the guillemet being used for quotations.

Reference

2
  • 4
    IMO the disappearing of « ... » comes from the fact that they are not available by default in the Windows Italian keyboard layout (on Linux fortunately it's AltGr + < / AltGr + >). Nov 11 '13 at 14:38
  • @MatteoItalia That's the reason I prefer using a Linux distribution running on VirtualBox rather than using Windows.
    – apaderno
    Aug 24 at 18:08
8

In handwritten Italian, double quotes are used almost universally for reported speech. The matter is less standardised in print. Distinct publishing houses have distinct guidelines, but AFAIK they all fall into three cases:

  1. Those using guillemets («…») and reserving double quotes for other functions.
  2. Those using upper double quotes (“…”).
  3. Those using long dashes (), whose exact length is a matter for typographic debate.

The first case («…») is the most common in newspapers.

The second case (“…”) is used mostly on websites, including the website of major newspapers (weird enough, La Repubblica uses the guillemets on paper and the double quotes on the Web, and even worse, they use the non-curly version: "…").

The third case () is the choice of some major publishers (e.g. Einaudi), like it or not it has to be mentioned.

Single quotes (‘…’) are sometimes used for nested quotations or to quote a sentence but not as reported speech, e.g.:

Riprenditi pure tutti i tuoi ‘non so’. [Take back all your maybes.]

It's important to remember that different set of rules are equally acceptable as long as they are used in a consistent way, Italian is much less standardised than most European languages and this particularly affects punctuation, italics etc. that are left to the taste, style and tradition of individual publishers.

5

Nowadays there is not a fixed rule. I translate into Italian for several publishers and journals, and the guidelines are about equally divided among those prescribing «…» and those prescribing “…”. Single quotes, on the other hand, are almost always reserved for quotes within quotes and the like.

2

I would say to use «…» when reporting a direct speech or a dialogue, while “…” when reporting an indirect one.

You usually find «…» in Italian books, while “…” is very often used in newspapers when using someone else's textual words thoughts in the writer arguments.

I give you two examples:

  1. Novel style

    Disse Galileo uscendo di prigione: «Eppur si muove!». «Non dica fesserie!», rispose il Papa.

  2. Newspaper style

    Il ministro dell'economia Saccomanni afferma che “abbiamo bisogno di ridurre il deficit” al fine di “rilanciare la crescita della nostra economia”.

In this last case the words between “…” could have been said during an interview of minister Saccomanni, but used by the journalist in a condensed form fitting its article.

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