So today we have the letter L in my A to Z of Endangered Languages series… which in this case, stands for Ladin.
Ladin is a Rhaeto-Romance language spoken by approximately 30,000 people in the Dolomite Mountains in Northern Italy, in South Tyrol, and in the provinces of Trentino and Belluno. UNESCO classifies the language as being definitely endangered and suggests that the number of speakers may even be slightly inflated, as there are different numbers from different sources.
The Rhaetian language from which Ladin developed was spoken during the time of the Roman Empire, as its subsequent union with Latin meant that the language was spread from the Swiss Alps to the Adriatic. However, when the Germanic tribes moved south in the sixth century, the Rhaetian language was split up, leaving small areas where it has managed to survive to this day. It appears that due to being left with a limited number of speakers in such small areas, the language has not had a chance to develop in the way that many other Romance languages did over the centuries; but at the same time, this has left the language open to being influenced more strongly by other, more widely-spoken languages.
Nowadays, there are efforts in place to protect the Ladin language. Ladin is recognised as a minority language in 54 Italian municipalities and is officially recognised in Trentino and South Tyrol by provincial and national law. It is still taught in primary schools and there are books and magazines published in the language. Ethnologue states that although intergenerational transmission is in the process of being broken, attitudes towards Ladin are still positive – therefore, it may well survive into the future.
Resources to learn Ladin