Should one prefer «…», “…” or ‘…’?
I.e., suppose one has to write reported speech, which one one should choice or prefer, 1., 2. or 3.?
- Qualcuno disse «Eppur si muove!»
- Qualcuno disse “Eppur si muove!”
- Qualcuno disse ‘Eppur si muove!’
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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.
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:
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.
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:
Disse Galileo uscendo di prigione: «Eppur si muove!». «Non dica fesserie!», rispose il Papa.
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.