Ladin in Italy
Research Centre of Multilingualism
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Ladin in Italy
  1. Introduction
  2. The language in the country
    1. General information on the language community
    2. Geographical and language background
    3. General history and history of the language
    4. Legal status and official policies
  3. The use of the language in various fields
    1. Education
    2. Judicial Authorities
    3. Public Authorities and services
    4. Mass media and Information technology
    5. The Arts
    6. The business world
    7. Family and social use of the language
    8. Transnational exchanges
  4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

There is no dat for this topic.

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2. The language in the country

2.1. General information on the language community

There is no dat for this topic.

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2.2. Geographical and language background

The Ladin-speaking community lives in an area of northern Italy covering 7km2 and including the four valleys of Val Badia, Gardena, Avisio and Livinallongo, as well as Cortina d'Ampezzo. According to the last census in 1991, the area, which is also popularly known as South Tyrol, had a population of 440,508 with an average population density of 60 inhabitants per km2;. The number of Ladin speakers in South Tyrol and elsewhere is unofficially estimated at 28 and, according to the 1991 census, 18 of these live in the Province of Bolzano. 95% of the people in the Val Badia learnt Ladin as their first language, while in Gardena the figure was 60-70%, in the Avisio valley 60-75% and in Livinallongo 95%. Ladin is used in everyday speech by the following number of inhabitants (in %):

Val Badia: 98% Gardena: 60% Avisio: 70% Livinallongo: 95% Ampezzo: 30%

Ladin is referred to as Ladin Dles Dolomites by its users; it belongs to the Rhaeto-Romanic subgroup within the Romance family. Its major dialects are Mareo, Badiot, Gherdëina, Fascian, Fodomi und Anpezan. In terms of a lingua franca for the Rhaetian languages, of which Ladin is one, Rumantsch Grischun was created for the Romansch language of the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the late 1980s.

The Val Badia and the Gardena valley belong to the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and therefore enjoy more rights than Livinallongo and Cortina d'Ampezzo, which come under the Province of Belluno, or the Avisio valley, which comes under the Province of Trentino. Since Italy's 95 Provinces have ultimate authority over the administration of language and culture, the three Provinces differ considerably from each other on these matters. In the Province of Bolzano, Ladin speakers live in the Communes of St. Ulrich, St. Christina, Wolkenstein, Abtei, Corvara, Wengen, Enneberg and St. Martin in Thurn. In the Province of Trentino, they live in Campitello di Fassa, Canazei, Mazzin, Moena, Pozza di Fassa, Soraga and Vigo di Fassa. In the Province of Belluno, the Ladin-speakers of the Communes of Rocca Pietore and Selva di Cadore cannot be unconditionally referred to as Ladins, since there is not such a great sense of the Ladin language and community in those Communes. Furthermore, the dialects of these Communes, which are said to be forms of Ladin, are very much diluted by Italian or Venetian. The Communes of Livinallongo and Colle Santa Lucia can, however, be counted as part of the Ladin community.

The population in the area originally lived only off the land but has moved, in the last fifty years, over to the hotel and catering trade, and nearly 70% of small businesses are now in this sector. Poor agricultural yields are one of the main reasons for this. In Gardena, a further source of income is wood-carving. Only in the past ten years has there been a slight upturn in agricultural activity with a return to traditional values. In 1991, 35.87% of agricultural enterprises were engaged in fruit-growing and wine-making and 46.28% in stock breeding.

The populations of Val Badia and the Gardena and Avisio valleys increased steadily between 1961 and 1991 because of the flourishing economic situation (7 148/9 6 106/8 148; 6 974/8 620). The decline in the population of Livinallongo from 2to 1over the same period was due to a shortage of employment opportunities.

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2.3. General history and history of the language

The Ladin-speaking area became part of the Roman Empire in the year 15 BC. The Romans introduced Latin, which evolved into Ladin in this area. Around 1000 AD the area was divided into individual principalities. Around the year 1800 some areas of the Ladin-speaking area came under the rule of Joseph II, later to come under the Austrian government; between 1806 and 1813 they fell to Bavaria and Italy and then remained part of Austria until the end of the First World War. In 1927, the Ladin-speaking valleys were allocated to the three Provinces mentioned above as a way of weakening the national groups. Four years beforehand Belluno, Val Badia and Gardena were made part of the Province of Bolzano, while Avisio remained in Trentino. In 1939 the government offered the Ladins the opportunity to emigrate under the Option; they were classified as Allogeni, although Ladin was officially classified as an Italian Dialect by the Italian government. This Option was cancelled by the German occupation in 1943. Annexation to Italy took place against the wishes of the people after the Second World War. After the War, in 1948 the Ladins in Bolzano and Trentino were given a Special Statute, but this was not the case in Belluno. In 1972, the new Autonomous Statute came into force in Bolzano, strengthening the legal position of the Ladins.

Nowadays there are a large number of organisations devoted to the preservation of the Ladin language and culture, the oldest being the Naziun Ladina, which was founded in 1870. The Union di Ladins, which was founded in 1914, performed useful work in setting up various organisations, such as libraries, and took over the editing of the Usc di Ladins, which subsequently grew from a monthly into a highly regarded weekly. In 1975, the Avisio valley was given its own Ladin cultural institute (Istitut Cultural Ladin Majon di Fashegn). One year later, the Ladin cultural institute Istitut Ladin Micurà de Rü was set up under the new Autonomous Statute and opened its doors in 1977. This institute has its own library and has concentrated on preserving the language. It is also concerned with the training of teachers of Ladin and with adult education in the broader sense.

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2.4. Legal status and official policies

With the Autonomous Statute for the Trentino/South Tyrol Region in 1948, the Ladins of the Provinces of Bolzano and Trentino were given special, albeit different, rights such as the promise of the teaching of Ladin in primary schools, Ladin placenames and the enhancement of Ladin culture in general.

Since the concessions of the Autonomous Statute did not satisfy either the Ladins or the German speakers of South Tyrol, the new Autonomous Statute for Bolzano and Trentino came into force in 1972, some 20 of its 115 Articles being of immediate relevance to the Ladins. In the process, however, the Avisio Ladins did not receive the same rights as the South Tyrol Ladins, and the Belluno Ladins of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region came away empty-handed. Under the Autonomous Statute, the Ladin community in the two Provinces mentioned above were made the following promises in the area of the arts: creation of a cultural institute for the preservation and promotion of the Ladin language and culture, the preservation of tradition and customs, and the broadcasting of radio and television programmes in Ladin. Following their recognition as a minority in the Autonomous Statute, the Ladin speakers of the Province of Bolzano also enjoy proportional representation under Article 61, as a result of which Ladins are entitled to occupy 4.2% of government posts in South Tyrol. This percentage is not, however, a fixed quota: it is revised according to the percentage of the total population for which the Ladin community accounts in any census. Under this Statute, the Ladin minority has one representative on the Regional Council and one in the South Tyrol Parliament.

Despite the status they enjoy, Ladins are still excluded from the Autonomous Bolzano Section of the Administrative Court, from the Committee of Six, from the Budget Committees in the Provincial Parliament and the Regional Council, from the Committees for Bilingual Testing and from the Examining Panels for government competitions.

Official policy as regards the support of Ladin varies considerably from one area to another. In Bolzano, Ladin is supported in schools and the public media by financial contributions and by the payment of a trilingualism allowance to public servants. Language expansion and standardisation programmes have never been exploited, however, at political level. In Trentino, on the other hand, Ladin enjoys very much less support than in Bolzano. Although there is a Ladin cultural institute and a recognised Ladin valley community, activities are very limited. Finally, in Belluno, Ladins are not recognised as a separate language community. The Law on the financial support of cultural initiatives, which has been in existence since 1984, has not up to now been properly implemented.

The recent past has been marked by legislation. On 3 December 1993, the Italian government passed a decree to protect Avisio Ladins in the Province of Trentino since the Autonomous Statute was not being properly applied to the group. Despite this new legislation involving the implementation and clarification of the provisions of the Autonomous Statute for the Trentino/South Tyrol Region, Avisio Ladins still enjoy less protection than Ladins in the Province of Bolzano.

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3. The use of the language in various fields

3.1. Education

In the Province of Bolzano, educational matters are governed by Article of the Autonomous Statute and its Implementing Regulations, Regional Law 36 of 17 August 1976, Constitutional Law 1 of 10 November 1971, and Presidential Decree 116 of 20 January 1973. In the Province of Trentino, the relevant legislation is Regional Law 13 of 21 March 1977 and Articleof the Decree of 3 December 1993 which allows the use of Ladin in all schools.

The education system in South Tyrol is subject to central control at four levels: the Education Ministry, the Provincial Director of Education for schools in Ladin towns and villages, the governing boards of nursery schools, two primary schools, five lower secondary schools and four upper secondary schools and these schools themselves.

Ladin does not feature in higher education. Adult education is offered only in local institutions in the form of lectures and courses, 95% of which are sponsored by the Ladin cultural institute Istitut Ladin Micurà de Rü. In 1982, the cultural institute began a programme of Ladin teaching, as a result of which attendance at courses and programmes increased considerably. As one of the Rhaeto-Romanic languages, Ladin nevertheless features in linguistics lectures in Padua and Innsbruck. The teaching of history and culture is again found only in local cultural institutes.

In the Province of Bolzano, the Ladin school population in the 1990/91 academic year was 2 pupils taught by 252 teachers. Of these, 1pupils were at primary school, 697 at lower secondary school and 466 at upper secondary school, accounting for a total of 3.87% of the total school population of some 60 000.

In the Val Badia, and to some extent also in Gardena, Ladin is the main language of the nursery school. In the Avisio valley, it is an optional language, and in the Province of Belluno it is not used in pre-school education.

The situation is similar in primary eduction. When pupils start school, parents - in cooperation with teachers and perhaps by means of a language test - may elect whether their children attend the German-Ladin or Italian-Ladin class where Ladin is used as a language of communication and instruction in a play context in the first year. From the second year onwards, "ordinary" teaching is then carried out in the other two languages, and these classes include two hours of Ladin a week. From the third to fifth year of the primary school, the division of languages remains the same. The following abbreviated, diagrammatic representation should help to clarify this:

Hours of tuition a week in primary school in the relevant languages:

GermanItalianLadinLadin as auxiliary language
First year216-27
Second year12.512.52-
Third year12.512.52-
Fourth year12.512.52-
Fifth year12.512.52-

In Trentino, one hour of Ladin a week is taught, while all other teaching is in Italian. In Belluno, only Italian is used in schools.

The secondary schools in South Tyrol have a subject-teacher system, which means that parity between the languages of instruction is not possible in the same way as in primary education. For this reason, when unified lower secondary education was established in 1962 it was decided which subjects would be taught in German and which in Italian. Ladin is therefore no longer a medium of instruction and is taught for two hours in years 1 to 3 of lower secondary education. In the five upper secondary schools (since the 1991/92 academic year) which include two arts schools, a scientific lycée, a business school and a commercial school, Ladin is hardly taught as a subject at all. Ladin is only taught for two hours in the scientific lycée and as an optional subject in other upper secondary schools.

There are no separate establishments for teacher training, despite the use of Ladin in primary and secondary education. The German-speaking and Italian-speaking teacher training colleges for primary school teachers in Bruneck and Bressanone take no account whatsoever of the needs of Ladin speakers, since they are too small in number. The teaching of Ladin is therefore prepared in-service. Subject teachers in upper secondary schools are not prepared for multilingual teaching either.

The Ladin Institute of Education for Gardena and Val Badia, which was set up in 1987, has done nothing to alter this situation.

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3.2. Judicial authorities

Under Articles 32-4 of Presidential Decree 574 of 15 July 1988, Ladins living in the Province of Bolzano are entitled to be questioned in their own language with the aid of an interpreter in court proceedings. The inhabitants of the other valleys must speak Italian before the judicial authorities. The use of interpreters, who are always available in the Province of Bolzano, does not incur any extra cost for the client.

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3.3. Public authorities and services

Ladin is not used in Italian central government agencies.

The situation at regional level is more complex. For the Province of Bolzano, Article 32 of Presidential Decree 574 of 15 July 1988 rules that spoken and written Ladin may be used in dealings with authorities outside the Ladin-speaking area and if Ladin issues are primarily concerned. Official communications (elections, census) also appear in three languages, as do official forms. Articleof the Law passed by the Italian government in 1993 gives the Ladins of the Province of Trentino the same rights.

In Val Badia and Gardena (Bolzano) the use of Ladin is permitted in dealings with authorities (except the police) on the basis of the above legislation. The authorities are urged to respond orally in Ladin and in writing in the three languages. The same has applied to the Province of Trentino since 1993.

If this legislation is disregarded by the authorities, an action can be brought before the Higher Administrative Court. Public servants in the Province of Bolzano receive a trilingualism allowance. The testing of a candidate's actual knowledge of Ladin when recruiting is not yet very efficient, despite the fact that under Article of the 1993 Law absolute priority is given to staff with a knowledge of Ladin in the case of transfers to Ladin-speaking areas.

In the service sector, Ladin can be used only in the post office and with local electricity companies in the Province of Bolzano. Over the past 10 to 15 years, the situation in the Province of Bolzano has improved dramatically, while no major changes have occurred in the other valleys.

As far as the use of placenames is concerned, it appears that they are largely used correctly only in the Province of Bolzano, although there is no law governing placenames. In the other valleys, only Avisio has its own official toponymy.

In the Province of Bolzano, the authorities permit the adoption of surnames and first names in Ladin. Road signs in the focal Ladin area of the Province of Bolzano are always in Ladin and sometimes also in Italian or German. In shops and businesses the three languages (Italian, German and Ladin) or two languages (Italian and German) are used. In the other valleys, Italian predominates.

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3.4. Mass media and information technology

The language is officially permitted in the mass media in the Province of Bolzano. Between the War and 1973, regular radio broadcasts were permitted. The statutory basis for radio and television broadcasts was enacted in 1973 (Presidential Decree 691 of 1 January 1973). Article also stipulates that Bolzano has to ensure that transmissions can be received from the Ladin-speaking area abroad.


The Journal La Usc di Ladins appears once a week entirely in Ladin. Circulation is now 3,000 an increase of 500 since 1987. The information booklet Sas Dla Crusc also appears once a year in Ladin. Ladinia and Mondo Ladino are annual academic journals, some 5% of which are in Ladin.


The Italian radio station RAI broadcasts some 4.5 hours a week in Ladin, otherwise in Italian and German. Radio Rumantsch, which can be received only in the Province of Bolzano, broadcasts in Romansch, which is related to Ladin. There are also a large number of private stations, the best known of which is Radio Gherdëina, which broadcasts for 4 hours a week in Ladin.


The Italian station RAI broadcasts for 10 minutes a week in Ladin and for 30 minutes every third week. Otherwise the station broadcasts in Italian and German. The Swiss station SRG also broadcasts in Romansch. No films are dubbed into Ladin.

Generally speaking, there are no difficulties in understanding Ladin in the official media, although there is no lingua franca for all the valleys.


There is no separate software in Ladin. When using the commercially available MS DOS programs, there are, however, difficulties with the characteristic Ladin letters c and s, both of which have an acute accent.

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3.5. The Arts

In 1990, 22 books were published in Ladin, while the 1991 and 1992 figures were 20 and 26 books respectively, along with other smaller works and brochures. This literature in Ladin includes schoolbooks, children's books and books of poetry, as well as literary works and reference books. Since the books are always written in the dialect of the individual valley, the print run is usually only between 100 and 400.

A number of choirs perform popular music. These include the Val Fassa, Enrosadira and Anton Bruckner choirs. Ladin has also established itself in the area of pop and rock music with the performers Alexander and Acajo, both of whom have recorded on cassette or compact disc. The Ladin group Marascogn performs instrumental music on traditional instruments of the region. The Ladiniatour (a tour by Ladin singer-songwriters) is an annual event, while the Dis Culturai is an occasional event, as are the Dé la Cianta Ladina and the Cortina literary competition.

Protected by the Autonomous Statute or the 1993 Law, there are five theatre groups in the Val Badia, two in Gardena and one in Ampezzo. Under this legislation, they receive financial support from the Provinces.

The cultural life of the Ladins is also supported by independent cultural establishments in the various Provinces. In the Avisio valley there are the following folklore groups: Alba, Schuhplattler and Das lustige Musikanten Sextett. In the Province of Bolzano, these cultural institutions include the St. Ulrich cultural association, the Comunanza Ladina a Bulsan - Bozen, the Union di Ladins in St. Ulrich und Abtei, the Uniun Scriturs Ladins and the Union Generala di ladins dla dolomites. The latter claims to represent the cultural interests of all the Dolomite valleys, particularly through the mouthpiece of its journal Usc di Ladins. The first real boost to the cultural life of the Ladin-speaking community was, however, the creation of the Ladin cultural institute Micurà de Rü in St. Martin de Tor in the Province of Bolzano. The Ladins in Belluno, who cannot unreservedly be termed a Ladin-speaking community, have the following cultural associations: Folkloregruppe I Legar, Fodom (Ladin Choir), the Dosoledo arts group and the Costalta arts group with song and drama.

Since central government agencies are not responsible for the arts, there is no support from the Italian government. The extent of support from the regional authorities, under the above- mentioned legislation, has already been discussed above.

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3.6. The business world

In the Ladin focal area in the Province of Bolzano, a knowledge of Ladin is an advantage when applying for jobs, and for some posts in the civil service it is actually a requirement. In recent years, jobs in administration, cultural institutions, schools and health care have been specifically offered to Ladin speakers, as stipulated by the Autonomous Statute for the Province of Bolzano and by the 1993 Law for the Province of Trentino. In the other valleys, a knowledge of Ladin is an advantage but not a requirement.

There are few visual advertising campaigns in Ladin. On the Ladin radio stations, most commercials are in Ladin, although this is never the case on television. In the Ladin periodicals all the advertising is in Ladin.

No consumer information appears to exist in Ladin.

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3.7. Family and social use of the language

The use of Ladin in informal and semi-informal situations has not been studied since the 1970s, and no quotations from those studies will be given here. For later figures, reference is made to the study by the EUROMOSAIC Group.

The use of Ladin within the family differs enormously from valley to valley. Generally speaking, the situation in Avisio and Cortina has deteriorated considerably, while in Livinallongo and the Val Badia Ladin is still widely used in the family.

In Cortina, dissociation from Ladin came with the Winter Games of 1956, while in Gardena "de- ladinisation" started as early as the turn of the century. During the Fascist period there were also political reasons for speaking other languages.

Most marriages are made within the Ladin-speaking community. In the tourist areas, relationships between Ladin speakers and speakers of other languages are more common. In general there appears to be an increase in multilingual relationships.

According to a survey carried out in December 1978, 84.9% of Ladin speakers in the Val Badia and 69.4% of those in Gardena were regular churchgoers. It is estimated that the figures for Ladin speakers in the Avisio valley and Livinallongo are some 70 to 75%, and far lower in Cortina. In the Province of Bolzano, all the ministers are Ladin speakers and roughly half the services are held in Ladin; the parties may choose the language for ceremonies. In the other valleys Ladin is never or hardly ever used in services. Since 1984 there has been a prayer book in Ladin, and a translation of St Mark's Gospel has also been published. The following texts have been translated but not yet published for Val Badia: Catholic missal, three Gospels, and the parts of the Old Testament which appear in the liturgy. In the Val Badia the liturgical texts Laldun l' Signur (1984) and Ciantun y periun deboriada (1992) have been printed. In Gardena, texts have been produced for a book of liturgy but have not yet been published.

According to our sources, a knowledge of Ladin is regarded as very important by its speakers and as "fairly important" by speakers of other languages. This attitude varies enormously from valley to valley. According to our sources, young people nowadays speak Ladin less well than their parents' generation but in general they are motivated to learn and use it (except in Cortina). Non- speakers usually learn Ladin in Val Badia, learn it relatively frequently in Gardena and hardly at all in the other valleys.

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3.8. Transnational exchanges

There are cultural ties with the Ladins of Graubünden. The first inter-Ladin meeting took place in St. Ulrich in 1954 and other meetings followed in 1955, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1972 and 1980. There are also close contacts with the International Association for the Defence of Menaced Languages and Cultures (AIDLCM) and with the Federal Union of European Nationalities (FUEN).

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4. Conclusion

According to the latest information, the Ladin minority in the Provinces of Bolzano and Trentino is an active group. This is due in particular to the economic stability of the area, to the Autonomous Statute for the Province of Bolzano and the Law of 3 December 1993 for the Province of Trentino, and to the skilful policy whereby teaching takes place in the two dominant languages of Italian and German with two hours' teaching in Ladin in the Province of Bolzano. While the position of Ladin in these Provinces appears to be relatively stable, it does not fare so well in the Province of Belluno.

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