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Italian is a Romance language of the Italo-Western grouping, with approximately 60 million native speakers worldwide. It is the official language of Italy, parts of Switzerland, and San Marino. There are also enclaves in other neighboring countries where it carries official minority status, and some speakers remain in the former Italian colonies in Africa. It is most closely related to Sicilian and Dalmatian, a now extinct language spoken along the coast from Croatia to Montenegro.
Standard Italian was officially adopted after the unification of Italy and is based on the Tuscan dialect. Italian remains the closest Romance language to Latin in terms of vocabulary, and also retains Latin's contrast between short and long consonants.
There are numerous Italian "dialects," many of which are languages in their own right, such as Sicilian, Venetian, and Neapolitan. However, these "dialects" are typically not used for mass communication.
Italian is written using the Latin alphabet, although the letters J, K, W, X, and Y are not used, except for in loanwords.
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