It’s Not Easy to Say “Minority”. Ladin and Italian in Trentino-Alto Adige

    • IMG_7721
    • Presentation speakers
      • Chiara Meluzzi, Free University of Bozen, Italy
      • Ilaria Fiorentini, University of Pavia / Free University of Bozen, Italy


    This paper deals with the feeling of being a linguistic minority in the multilingual setting of Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy). Since 1972, Italian laws recognize the special status of linguistic minorities to both German and Ladin population, which represent a large part of people living in this area. As a matter of fact, about 73% of population living in Alto Adige declares to belong to the German linguistic group, whereas Italian speakers represent the majority in the main cities (e.g. Bozen). Ladin speakers are mainly located in the valleys historically belonging to the Dolomitic Ladinia. This leads to a peculiar situation, since every language spoken in Alto Adige could be considered a “minority”: German is a minority at a national level, whereas Italian is a minority in the local context; only Ladin represent a “real” minority language at both levels. The aim of this research is to explore the perception of being a minority in both Italian and Ladin speakers. After presenting the main laws for the protection and promotion of minority languages, we will focus on a corpus of interviews with both Italian and Ladin native speakers, by emphasizing how differences between a recognized and a non-recognized linguistic minority are reflected in language attitudes and language vitality. Our claim is that the feeling of being a minority could reflect in the creation of neologisms both in Ladin and Italian, but that the directionality of this linguistic innovation is opposite in the two languages. In Ladin, an officially recognized minority, neologisms are mainly introduced top-down (i.e. from institutions) with the intent to protect and promote the language, while in the Italian community neologisms represent a slang created from the speakers in order to build an Italian identity to oppose to the main linguistic group of Alto Adige (i.e. German).