The Movement of slow: From English to Italian and Back Again. A Diachronic Corpus-Based Study


  • Jessica Jane Nocella Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia
  • Marina Bondi Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia


Parole chiave:

Reborrowing, Slow movements, Language change, Diachronicity


The present study explores the changes in the meaning of the word slow, both in Italian and English, from the beginning of the Slow Food Movement (SFM) up to 2019. Since 1989 and the early days of Carlo Petrini’s SFM, technology has increasingly led people towards multi-tasking in an attempt to save time, while at the same time, back to the past trends are increasingly evident as seen in several other Slow Movements, for example, in catering and hand-made/retro chains. The concept of slowness is becoming a relevant and ethical topic that is often related to what is organic, local and sustainable, leading to the introduction of an anglicism in Italian, but also to a new whole re-semantization of the word slow in English. 
The primary objective of this study is to explore the semantic changes in the word slow diachronically both in Italian and in English. To this aim, two robust corpora were created, one from the Italian newspaper La Stampa and the other from the British The Guardian. The word slow was analysed within the different newspaper domains exploring frequencies, collocates, and identifying significant “repeated events” (Sinclair 2004: 28) together with their semantic preferences. Results from the diachronic analysis show that through the SFM, the word slow has taken on specific new meanings in Italian, related to the dimensions of ethics, wellbeing, and environmental awareness. These were then partly re-introduced in English. More specifically, the case of reborrowing of slow within the context of movements (slow fashion, slow tourism, etc.) has quite likely been influenced by the Italian SFM. As a matter of fact, this process of reborrowing involves both acquisition and loss in meaning in both languages. This seems to be a relevant phenomenon in a global context of constant linguistic contact where English appears to play a relevant role as a global language.

Biografie autore

Jessica Jane Nocella, Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia

Jessica Jane Nocella is a research fellow at the Department of Studies on Language and Culture at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy) where she also holds a position of Adjunct Professor in English Language at the Department of Education. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sciences with a thesis on evaluative language in the context of museums and Slow Art Day supervised by Professor Marina Bondi. Her main research interests concern corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication, trust building, corpus linguistics, and evaluative language. She is an active volunteer within the Slow Art Day project USA where she collaborates as a blog writer.

Marina Bondi, Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia

Marina Bondi is Professor of English Linguistics and Translation at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. Founding Director of the CLAVIER centre (Corpus and LAnguage Variation In English Research), she has published extensively in the field of genre analysis, EAP and corpus linguistics, with a focus on language variation across genres, disciplines and cultures. Her publications appeared in international journals such as Pragmatics, IJBC, Journal of Pragmatics, Written Communication, IEEE Transactions in Professional Communication, Discourse Context & Media, Lingua etc. She is Associate-Editor of ESP journal. Her recent interest centres on knowledge dissemination and the impact of digital media on specialized discourse.




Come citare

Nocella, J. J., & Bondi, M. (2024). The Movement of slow: From English to Italian and Back Again. A Diachronic Corpus-Based Study. Elephant & Castle, (32), 84–95.