Provozně ekonomická fakulta ČZU v Praze, Kamýcká 129, 165 21 Praha-Suchdol
German-speaking groups in Italy
Author: Ondřej Křížek
Language: Czech + English version
Page Range: 27-55
No. of Pages: 29
Keywords: Germans, Italy, identity, autonomy, ethnicity, Walser, Cimbri, Mòcheni
Summary/Abstract: Ethnic diversity in northern Italy offers a unique view of a multi-ethnic society. The Italian government has long struggled to identify the right approach to ensure all local minorities have the right conditions to preserve their way of life. Most negotiations have focused around. the language, as this is one of the vital attributes of identity. At present, the system of language and, consequently, ethnic rights and freedoms for minority groups in Italy are relatively satisfactory. This work aims to answer questions regarding the relationship between the German-speaking minority and the Italian administrative establishment, who are the Italian language group.
Česká verze: Německojazyčné skupiny v Itálii – (HTML)
Celý příspěvek / Full Text Paper: Německojazyčné skupiny v Itálii
Italy is a very unique case of high linguistic diversity in the European context. Some linguistic groups have been present on Italian territory in a relatively unchanged form since the beginning of the modern era, some were added at the turn of the first millennium, some went from dialect to independent language, and others arrived in Italy as part of global migration during the last century. These are not only languages from the Romance family, but also languages within the overarching Indo-European language group. If we are interested in the German-speaking minorities, there are five of them in Italy – South Tyroleans, Walsers, Mòchens, Cimbri and Plodars. The thesis deals with the first four, with the caveat that the Plodars are a very small and essentially already assimilated group, although several revitalization projects have been launched since the 1990s. Each of these minorities has its own language, which is a dialect of German. With the exception of South Tyrol, these groups are very isolated and number at most up to a thousand speakers. Recently, they have faced considerable emigration, with the associated extinction of their mother tongue. In trying to maintain their language, they have to cope not only with the problem of attracting the interest of the state and their community, but also, for example, with the stigma attached to German (historically unpopular language, difficult to learn, etc.).
The Italian government was thus faced with the difficult problem of how to resolve the question of state sovereignty while at the same time providing the expected rights. In most cases, it chose the approach of territorial autonomy, and it is the relationship between the Italian administrative system and the identity of German-speaking minorities that is the main focus of this article. In particular, analysed data from field research in northern Italy have been applied. Specifically, this involved repeated research in South Tyrol (2011, 2014) and in other locations described in the practical part of the thesis (2017). In total, 43 informants were contacted, whose accounts are incorporated in the paper either indirectly in the text or by direct quotation in italics.
Figure 1. Italy – language map
Source: I dati cartografici provengono dall’ISTAT e sono aggiornati al 1º gennaio 2011, Wikimedia.
The Italian system of protection of ethnic minorities is based on linguistic affiliation and on two principles – personal and territorial autonomy. Personal autonomy is based on the self-identification of the citizen with his or her mother tongue and has no wider application in Italy, except for the claim to certain financial resources for the associations of such language groups, the keeping of statistics and the theoretical reference to international rights. Nevertheless, this autonomy serves as a certain basis for the territorial autonomy that is built on it.
Rights associated with a person
At present, the Italian constitution preserves only linguistic freedoms, along with the other religious, political, etc. freedoms of 1948. It also mentions in Article 6: The Republic shall protect linguistic minorities by appropriate measures. This is subsequently extended by Law 482/99, which provides that the language and culture of twelve linguistic minorities is protected. Law 482/99 also leaves the specific legislation for ensuring the protection of minorities to the sub-national government units that are mandated to do so – mainly the provinces and regions. These rights are identified through a compulsory completion of a document during the decennial census. This document includes the indication of language affiliation, thus becoming a prerequisite for the exercise of the citizen’s personal rights (public benefits, subsidised housing, etc.). It is therefore entirely up to the region or province to decide what status – official or recognised – to assign to the languages in question and what rights are attached to that status.
Rights associated with the territory
The Italian Republic has also been administratively divided into twenty regions since 1948. Five of them are granted special status under the Italian Constitution. Italy tries to give ethnic minorities on its territory a form of self-determination in the form of largely territorial autonomy. As Gabal writes: Ethnic and national minorities and ethnic conditions are therefore an important phenomenon in which the internal quality of a state’s democracy is linked to its foreign policy, agenda and the quality of international and supranational institutions. Itálie zde udělala obrovský krok oproti 20. století. Ethnically powerful minorities were indeed able to use their identity as „… a tool for the promotion of particular interests or the maximisation of values…“ However, it is evident that such a model has its drawbacks. In practice, it discriminates against minorities without a noticeably distinct language, against minorities outside certain autonomous units, and hardly guarantees legal protection for numerically even weaker minorities in those regions and provinces with autonomous status. The solution is therefore not systemic, but rather fragmented and unique to each ethnic minority.
South Tyrol is an autonomous province located in northern Italy within the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige / Trentino-Südtirol, together with the other autonomous province of Trentino. The population of half a million is 62 % German-speaking, 23 % Italian and 4 % Ladin. Historically, it is an important transit territory between the Latin and Germanic areas. Today it is characterised by a high standard of living, economic growth and also attracts with its tourist opportunities. The German-speaking group is the largest in South Tyrol with 314 604 citizens. According to the democratic electoral system of self-government, it therefore controls the province, although it is a minority in the Italian state. This ethnic minority is often referred to as Germans living outside their mother country, but this is not correct. Historically, they are a Tyrolean/Austrian population and the term in question rather reflects their spoken language, which is a dialect of German.
Figure 2. South Tyroleans – language map.
Source: I dati cartografici provengono dall’ISTAT e sono aggiornati al 1º gennaio 2011, Wikimedia.
History and identity
For many centuries the area of today’s South Tyrol enjoyed relative peace under Bavarian and later Habsburg protection. As part of these ties it was, of course, involved in several conflicts, and it was the struggle between the great powers that led the province into a complicated situation after the end of the First World War through no fault of its own. All of a sudden, the South Tyrolean population found itself a minority in the Italian state in the negotiations of the European powers, which favoured strategic and political borders over the previously promised ethnic ones.
Trauma of Italianization. After the end of the First World War, South Tyrol wanted to secure its right to self-determination – an autonomous Tyrol or existence within Austria. However, it was not represented in the negotiations in St. Germain and the decision of the powers that be to incorporate it into the Italian state came as a huge shock to the population. Despite this, the South Tyroleans tried to approach the situation rationally and awaited the possibility of further negotiations. However, the incoming fascist power was looking for various pretexts to gain full control of the strategically located province. As the fascists gained more and more power, the more aggressive they became towards South Tyrol, which was one of the thorns in their side. By 1923, the government was fully in the hands of the Fascists, who officially introduced an urgent programme of poitalisation of South Tyrol. Italian became the only official, and therefore official, language – public administration, schools, hospitals and courts. Employees of these institutions who did not speak Italian were replaced and similarly all important posts came under Italian control. Names and family names were Italianised. The South Tyrolean resistance focused on the preservation of language, culture and religion – that is, ethnic identity through these main attributes. The South Tyroleans expected some support from Nazi Germany. After a mutual agreement between Hitler and Mussolini in 1939, 180,000 people decided to leave voluntarily.
Older informant, born in 1952: „If I were older, I would probably say [the worst was] during fascism or during the war. I was still young. … But my father always said it wasn’t as bad (during the war and in the 50s-70s) as it was under Mussolini. People were angry with each other, but who knows. He said he and the boys got slapped in the mouth a few times by the Italians though. For what? I don’t remember. But for stupid shit..“ The ethnic composition and extreme conditions to which South Tyrol was subjected during Mussolini’s reign, the Second World War and the first steps in negotiating autonomy resonate with the population to this day.
In the post-war negotiations, the state borders and the fate of the „Germans“ in various areas were again discussed. The South Tyroleans were of course not too happy with the resulting Peace Treaty with Italy and the first Autonomous Statute. They saw the process as a further injustice to their self-determination from the fascist centralist government. „In South Tyrol, Italy’s northernmost trilingual region, Nazi-fascism and two world wars caused ethnicity to become a deeply divisive issue. The post-war settlement depended on its own reinterpretation of the doctrine of ‚separate but equal‘. The campaign slogan adopted by the local German majority was: „Good fences make good neighbors.“ In the post-war negotiations, the SVP (Südtiroler Völkspartei/South Tyrolean People’s Party) established itself. The SVP, based on the South Tyrolean resistance, overwhelmingly defeated its competitors in the first elections in 1948.
The Autonomous Statute of January 1948 was generally accepted, but as it was written in vague terms, each party had different expectations of it. South Tyrolean Germans expected autonomy to be further developed. The Italian government interpreted the document as final and any interference or future demands as unjustified. The political representation led by the SVP also found itself in a difficult situation. In order to advance certain interests, the province needed the counter-signature of the Italian parliament. It therefore had to weigh between protecting the interests of its citizens and maintaining a good relationship with the parliament.
Separatist sentiments and nationalistic feelings began to shake the society. The stifling situation resulted in the detonation of explosives on high tension poles by a group of activists in 1949 and bombings between 1956 and 1961, with civilian casualties. Thus, the absence of political agreement and mutual respect began to escalate into a dangerous ethnic-based inter-group conflict. However, the deployment of special police and army units further inflamed the situation (e.g. through the use of torture) and the conflict essentially turned into guerrilla-style fighting between armed groups. Separatist forces also did not shy away from heinous acts, such as targeted attacks on alleged „traitors“ to the province. The situation at that time began to become completely opaque: „My grandmother told me that they didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t know if something was going to explode next door because they lived near the post office. They didn’t know if a Molotov cocktail would land in their window. They didn’t know if the soldiers were going to break down their door. [How did people react to this?] People didn’t want to talk about the attacks in the streets. It was depressing. And they were also afraid of being overheard. Well, I guess they just didn’t want to talk about it.“
Such a radicalised conflict has already forced an international response and the UN has begun discussing Austria’s proposal to investigate the situation. As a result, several resolutions were issued to resume negotiations on the South Tyrolean question between the SVP, Italy and Austria. In this case, fortunately, a result has already been achieved. The parties agreed on the so-called „Package“, a series of treaties that internationally guaranteed the new Autonomous Statute of South Tyrol, which came into force in 1972. Although the situation was still not absolutely perfect, the South Tyroleans finally saw a more acceptable situation after more than 50 years.
Today’s form of protection and development of South Tyrolean ethnic identity is generally perceived as fulfilled and even: South Tyrol is seen as a model for other minorities and ethnic conflict resolution in Europe. However, we can observe emerging issues related to the exclusivity of specific language rights for particular ethnic minorities. The proportional system of necessary representation of linguistic groups in public positions according to the linguistic division of territories tends to build a divided society and does not address linguistic diversity at the societal level. Proportional representation and bilingualism represent not only compensation for the fascist injustices against the South Tyrolean population, but also a real basis for better understanding and cooperation between the linguistic groups and a guarantee of an essentially uncontested, but nonetheless mere, distribution of jobs in public administration. If a South Tyrolean citizen declares a linguistic affiliation, he or she is in effect segregating himself or herself from the rest of society and assigning himself or herself exclusively to his or her linguistic group. That would be absolutely fine if it were merely an individual decision. However, this public system regulates, and in fact dictates, norms and possibilities within public and personal life, as segregated institutions (schools, political parties, associations, churches, trade unions, committees, etc.) are built upon it.
For the German-speaking group, the ethnic border between them and the Italians seems to be extremely important. They are trying to maintain the ethnic border permanently, as its weakening could jeopardise their position. The ethnic border becomes geographical and political. The result of this situation is the profiling of a new South Tyrolean identity. The local population no longer sees itself as Austrian or Tyrolean, but rather as South Tyrolean, based on its historical development and contact with other linguistic groups in the territory.
Language and identity
There are three ethnic groups that clearly define each other: the Germans, the Italians and the Ladins. This view is, so to speak, ‚administrative‘, since all three groups are claiming mainly civil rights through their linguistic identity. However, the situation is not so simple, because virtually everything in South Tyrol is based on linguistic identity.
Tabulka 1. South Tyroleans – Census
Rok=Year; Němci=Germans; Italové=Italians; Ladínové=Ladins; Další=Others; Celkem=Total
Source: ISTAT, 2017
Dialekt. Italian and Standard German – Standarddeutch are the official languages of the province. In addition, Standard German is recognised as a historical minority language. However, the spoken/mother tongue is the South Tyrolean dialect. South Tyrolean differs from Standard German only in minor phonetic and grammatical differences. A view of their language is presented by one of the informants: „Our „language“ is just a German dialect. People living in different parts of Austria also have their own special dialects that are easily understood by each other. However, these are only variations of the original German and should not be considered as separate languages. Ours can be called the South Tyrolean dialect.“
The term „South Tyrolean dialect“ is beginning to be used in the literature. Informants often refer to it simply as „our dialect“: „My mother tongue is our dialect, the one we use most often at home or with friends.“ A very interesting possibility may also be the existence of variants between valleys (as is the case with Ladino): „My mother tongue is the special dialect of German that we speak in our valley.“ In most cases, however, informants answer the question „What is your mother tongue?“ with the non-specific „German“. Only after a follow-up question about whether they are aware of the existence of a specific dialect do they answer „yes“ or „of course“. This is probably where the administrative recognition of the spoken language plays a role.
Language use and knowledge. South Tyroleans are able to use their language and the rights and obligations associated with it in a similar way to a citizen of the Czech Republic – i.e. to communicate with the public administration, courts and other public authorities (including post offices and banks). In order for this system to be functional, the employees of these institutions must pass a language test to ensure that they are bilingual (or trilingual in Ladino areas). This certificate is therefore a necessity, but one of the informants assesses its actual relevance and status in practice: „For example, if you want to work as a cleaner in a public institution, you need to prove you are fluent in both languages. Like you have to talk to the floor before you clean it. But then you go to the doctor and you want to speak in your mother tongue and he doesn’t understand you at all.“
In connection with the South Tyrolean dialect and German, we can speak of a form of German-language diglossia, where the dialect plays the role of a „lower“ language. It is used enormously in informal settings, while standard German is used in formal settings – it is the official language of the province, it is taught in schools, and it is the subject of language exams. A similar reflection can be made on the relationship between the two varieties of German and Italian. Italian is a minority language that does not have such a use in formal settings. The German languages would then play a ‚higher‘ role here, as standard German is used in formal settings and dialect is used more frequently. They become ‚higher‘ in the context of the formal environment, but also of wider use in society. This emerging ‚mass‘ diglossia may be a bone of contention in the future.
The school system in South Tyrol is, as expected, closely linked to language rights, which are enshrined in more detail in the Autonomous Statute of the province. According to this, the province has full right to manage: kindergartens, to a certain extent primary and secondary schools, school construction and their condition. This is the so-called parallel division between the German, Italian and Ladin school systems. Each of them has its own administration of governance and provides a wide variation of options as long as they do not conflict with the Autonomous Statute or other laws. Schools are primarily established according to the proportional result of the census, i.e. according to the number of speakers of a particular mother tongue. The choice of language of instruction determines the school a pupil will enter. It could easily happen that a pupil who speaks Italian as a mother tongue will commute to a kindergarten outside his/her municipality. Mother tongue instruction is primarily provided until the end of secondary school. A second provincial language is added in the second grade of primary school and another (usually English) in the fourth grade.
The South Tyrolean school system is undoubtedly set up to protect the linguistic rights of the German-speaking, Italian and Ladino groups. Unfortunately, such a parallel approach does not create an interconnected society. On the contrary, it is the first systemic step towards the opposite. The current system should be changed and practically the only option would be mixed schools. Today, the South Tyrolean school system reflects the traumas of history and the resulting fear of assimilation.
Present and future
It is clear that South Tyrol has undergone a complex historical development that has challenged the boundaries of the ethnic identity of the local population – its linguistic, cultural and religious sensibilities. The demographic stratification was changed forever by Italian immigration to the South Tyrolean territories. The local ethnic group was denied the right to self-determination even after the Second World War, which triggered a developing national self-consciousness, which, however, in some of them grew into violent separatist efforts. „[Autonomy] is a big milestone on our journey, but we are not there yet. The fundamental right to self-determination did not apply to us after World War II. … We should decide for ourselves.“ It is possible, then, that a section of society would still welcome „self-determination“ at least in the form of a referendum, which could resolve this society-wide issue in a clear and permanent way. However, this historical conflict has created a „fundamental social bond“ in societythat form an inseparable part of the collective memory of contemporary ethnic identity.
Another inseparable part of ethnic identity is language, which in South Tyrol brings society together and divides it. Unfortunately, the trilingualism of the province does not clearly contribute to finding a ‚common language‘, although it tries to do so in a somewhat forced way (proportional system and the necessary multilingualism of public institutions). The German-speaking group still fears absorption by the Italian state, even with the existing guarantees, and paradoxically the Italian minority here fears the same from the German-speaking group. Although this system has certainly prevented intergroup conflict, it has begun to shape a segregated society where language determines the people with whom speakers of a particular language associate. Extreme situations arise in cases of mixed couples or immigrants. „I am German, my husband is Italian and our son goes to a German school because it was closer. We are trying to speak more Italian at home and we have also enrolled him in a special interest group run in Italian.“ Which school in the separate system should a German-Italian couple enrol their child in? Does this determine his or her linguistic identity, the circle of people with whom he or she will associate, and thus the future? Where does the language-neutral immigrant fit in this system? The current set-up does not address these questions at all and is only a kind of „language-legal ideal“ that fulfils all the prerequisites for the protection and development of a linguistic minority „on paper“.
The Cimbri are another German-speaking minority on Italian territory. Their mother tongue is Cimbro, which is a subgroup of German, and therefore this linguistic minority is protected in Italian law by Law 482/99. At present, the Cimbri are located in three territories in two Italian regions – Veneto (provinces of Verona and Vicenza) and Trentino-South Tyrol (province of Trentino). The geographical location is absolutely crucial, as Trentino has minority protection set up much better than, for example, the neighbouring provinces to the south, both legally and programmatically.
Obrázek 3. Map of Cimbri location
Source: CENTRO DOCUMENTAZIONE LUSERNA, 2012.
The special status of a recognized language was granted to Cimbri in 2001 under Article 102 of the Tridentine Autonomous Statute. Before that, the minority was already perceived as German-speaking and therefore given the same resources as the South Tyrolean group within the region and its statute. In the 1970s, the Venetian Parliament issued legislation that was very vague in nature and unworkable in practice. It was not until 1994 that Regional Law 73/1994 was passed, which more broadly protects and promotes the Cimbri, Ladino and Friuli within the region. However, this regulation has not yet influenced the active promotion of the languages through the school system or other institutions.
History and identity
Historically, the Cimbri inhabited a much larger territory. The current population is therefore found in three enclaves in the aforementioned regions. All the communities inhabit mostly mountain valleys and have thus retained their identity to some extent, although only Lusérn can be considered the last ‚living‘ community today. The name Cimbri is probably derived from „zimmern/zimbern“, which translates as „to cleave“ or „to chop“. This suggests that the first Cimbri were woodcutters or carvers, i.e. craftsmen skilled in working with wood. The arrival of the Cimbri in northern Italy and the south of what was then Tyrol dates back to 1287, when Bishop Frederick of Vanga granted them the right to farm the lands in question. There were probably several smaller groups of ‚pioneers‘ before them. Originally Bavarian, the ethnic group found a livelihood here and has survived in some form to the present day. Today, the Cimbri are found in three areas – the Seven Communities, the Thirteen Communities and the village of Lusérn.
Language and identity
Cimbro is a Bavarian dialect based on Upper German. Although it retains the character of the original German, it has also been influenced by Italian and the Italian dialects of the provinces of Veneto and Trentino. Thanks to its individual and isolated development over centuries, this dialect can now be considered a language in its own right. German and Cimbro speakers are far from being comfortable with each other. Therefore, Cimbro gradually began to disappear – its usefulness in practice became practically nil in the second half of the 20th century.
The majority of the population used one of the aforementioned Italian dialects (along with Italian) as a second language. In each province, the most widely used dialect gradually became more important and became the primary language. The Cimbri are exposed to Italian diglossia – Italian is used in formal settings (interacting with authorities), while the Italian dialect is used in informal settings (friends and family). With the spread of globalisation, the use of Cimbro no longer offered significant advantages. Knowledge of other languages such as standard German or English became a necessity, as described by a student originally from the village of Giazza: „I’m sure no one in the family speaks cimbro. They understand some, but they speak Italian. [Standard Italian? State?] No, they don’t. Local dialect. [German?] They certainly understand. A lot of German tourists come to the village, so speaking German is important for business.“ Here we can see how language preference works in practice. The necessity of knowing different languages stems more from their need in real life.
Dying language? This trend – i.e. the disappearance of Cimbro and its replacement by more universal languages – continues in the 21st century, and apart from the village of Lusérn, it is likely that Cimbro will die out, or that no one will speak it. Certainly the same factors that affected the South Tyrolean minority are responsible for this state of affairs, only of a different magnitude. The Cimbri were not so concentrated and the wave of fascist poitalisation affected them much more. The associated lack of support from the state (either before or after Mussolini), which ranged from latency to hatred, only accelerated the downward trend of transmission from one generation to the next. Today, around 300 people speak Cimbro, a sharp decline from 1921, when, according to a survey, 3,762 people identified themselves as speakers.
„The historical relationship was very complicated. The Mussolini period was the worst. … Today there are also many problems for small languages – preservation of language, culture, globalisation. It’s hard to find yourself.“ In neither area is there an effective form of planned and coordinated revitalisation. According to estimates made in 2001, the best situation from a linguistic point of view is experienced by the municipality of Lusérn in the province of Trident. There may be several reasons for this situation, but the main one appears to be long-term provincial support. The municipality of Lusérn also historically belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a more friendly environment for German-speaking groups and generally characterised by a general linguistic tolerance.
Education and revitalisation
Cimbro itself can be divided into separate dialects that are mutually intelligible: „From time to time we organize various meetings or symposia. Representatives of all the associations get together in one place and discuss the situation. … If we speak Cimbro amongst ourselves, everybody has their own version, so we understand each other and we can talk to each other.“ Especially recently, there has been an effort to create a codified version of Cimbra that bridges all three dialects. Such changes require detailed and lengthy negotiations, where one group will always have to make concessions in the end: All this points to the eternal dilemma in language planning between distinction, tradition and simplicity. This is confirmed by one of the informants: „[What do you discuss at symposia?] Various topics in relation to our culture. We usually meet on Fridays and Saturdays and talk among ourselves. On Friday we drink a lot of beer and on Saturday there’s not much time to start important topics. Everyone wants to talk about what they have done in Luzern or elsewhere and how they are doing well. This is not good.“
The educational system actually neglects the Cimbro language and most of the teaching is done on a voluntary basis in connection with associations, institutes and museums. In kindergartens, since the mid-1990s, only Lusérn has been taught for 2 hours a day. Teaching is primarily in Italian at all levels. Teaching in the mother tongue is also linked to the sheer number of candidates. Or rather, the introduction of such a subject requires a minimum number of pupils, which is a problem in most municipalities: „I would like to see the language in schools. I support that. But it’s impossible. Impossible at the moment.“ In this case, we are no longer talking about language maintenance (except in Lusérn), but actually about revitalisation.
Present and future
The Cimbri are currently in a very contradictory situation. The efforts of a certain part of the group to save, preserve and restore their ethnic and linguistic identity seem to be a positive fact. Linguistic because it is the most important element of their ethnicity. It is related to its ethnic roots in Bavaria, its cultural life and, perhaps most importantly, its definition against the Italian majority. It is only today that the Cimbri are finally being given the rights to protect and develop their language, and through it, their ethnic identity. This raises the question of whether the Cimbri even know exactly how to treat their threatened ethnic identity. As described above, they are fragmented among three smaller groups that have little cooperation. Rather, it could be said that they work on inter-community information exchange. Thus, joint planning is essentially non-existent. There are several reasons for this – the difference in dialects, and most importantly the real situations in which the communities find themselves.
The logical conclusion is therefore the need to start working closely between communities. Legal protection and financial resources are already used by all three communities to a lesser or greater extent. By joining forces, they should be able to achieve an even better result. If they should set a more specific and short-term goal, it should be to bring the mother tongue back among the Cimbri (including the development of a common script). As long as there are native speakers and functioning Cimbro language learning programs, this effort should be easier. Of course, this involves awakening interest in the language, and secondarily in the shared history – reviving the collective memory. For a minority of a few hundred individuals, language is an easily recognizable cornerstone of revitalizing ethnic identity. The language clearly defines the ethnic boundary between the Cimbri and the Italians. Drawing attention to this difference, and thus arousing a certain national feeling with its history and ethnic identity, will probably be necessary to revitalize and maintain the Cimbri ethnic identity in Italy. As the language becomes more widespread, the active community may also become larger and may then focus on other issues such as education or greater political power.
The Mòchen minority is located just 20 km east of the provincial capital of Trentino. The villages inhabited by this minority are located in the valley known as the Valley of the Mòchens (Valle dei Mòcheni/Bersntol), whose mouth starts at 621 m above sea level and ends at Palù del Fersina at 1 360 m (the mountain ridges are as high as 2 394 m). The whole area is therefore spread over a very small area of 50 km2. The most important villages in the valley are Fierozzo, Frassilongo and Palù del Fersina. The language of this German-speaking minority is Mòcheno, which is given special status in the Autonomous Statute of the Trident-South Tyrol Region.
|Figure 4. Mòchens – map.|
Source: CENTRO DOCUMENTAZIONE LUSERNA, 2012.
History and identity
Like other German-speaking minorities, the Mòchens moved to Tridentine as a result of the increasing population/settlement in Bavaria and the need to find more land for their own subsistence. Such a move is certainly not an everyday occurrence in the life of a Central European family. They had to sell everything that didn’t fit on the wagon and take the rest with them, with only the promise of new land for which they had to pay taxes anyway. Until a stable community was established in the Mòchen Valley, many families turned around after a few years and returned to Bavaria. This hard life, based on cattle breeding and working with wood, was not very attractive and could not support a very large community. The situation only worsened during the First World War, when the peaks of the surrounding mountains acted as a military line with fortifications and bunkers. The village itself was half destroyed. This was also the reason why the Mòchens (together with the South Tyroleans and the Cimbri) took the opportunity to emigrate before the start of the Second World War. However, the overall population exodus continued in the second half of the 20th century and only stopped slightly in the last ten years.
Language and identity
Mòcheno, like Cimbro, is also a dialect of South Bavarian, from which it split off due to the isolation of the mountain valleys. However, compared to the Cimbri, for example, the Mòcheno were probably more active traders and exploited the potential that the German-language variant held. Mòcheno is therefore a very interesting combination of the indigenous South Bavarian dialect, which was partly and long-lastingly influenced by it for several centuries. Then the changing South Tyrolean dialect, and then the Tridentine and at least also the Venetian dialect of Italian. Contemporary Mòcheno is not comprehensible to a speaker of standard German, but is able to get along with the South Tyrolean dialect.
Live language. The development of the total population in the Mòchen Valley has a decreasing trend. We can conclude that this trend also affects native speakers and people who speak the language. At present, the language is only found in three municipalities – Fierozzo, Frassilongo and Palù del Fersina (or the settlement of Roveda). Birgit Alber statesthat, as of 2001, 2,278 people in the valley claimed to speak Mòcheno, which would be 95 percent of the total population. This, of course, cannot reflect the actual number of speakers. It is only a matter of self-determination/self-identification with a particular ethnic group. The residents themselves describe that the language is not that widespread: „Especially the elders speak Mòchen. [Do they use it as their primary language?] Yes. They speak Mòchen among themselves. … The younger generation doesn’t, although they learn it in schools. Rather, they use a few phrases. [And you?] Of course yes, I need it for my work [institute]. But my generation doesn’t use it much either, although they certainly understand it.“ The real number is more likely to be around 600 speakers.
The linguistic amenities are concentrated in a few villages, which are mentioned above. The valley is divided into two halves (upper and lower), which are linguistically distinct. This is due to the fact that one of the parts is located at the end of the valley, crossing into an area inhabited exclusively by the Italian population. „If I walk around the village, I can recognize people with whom I can talk [in mòchen]. Since I work here [the institute], I know the communities of other villages and I also speak to them in mòchen. Speaking in mòchen is not a problem for me. I find it normal … But if I go further [down into the valley], I start the conversation in Italian.“ Logically, we can guess that this is mainly due to the adaptation of the Mòchens to foreign visitors, or rather respect – a kind of accommodating someone who is not a local: „I’m sorry that people don’t speak [mòchen] at festivals. When there is a festival, I don’t hear mòcheno at all, except for older people. I don’t like that. Where else to speak it but at traditional festivals.“ However, despite the negative undertones of the informant, it is clear that the language is still actively used, across society – family, school and within the ethnic group itself.
Teaching in schools
Mòcheno is taught for varying numbers of hours in kindergartens and primary schools – the exact setting depends on the particular institution. Commonly it is „at least 1 hour per week“, or more in after-school clubs – „it’s a start“. The aim is to bring children and parents closer to their mother tongue through German language classes, in which lessons are conducted for up to half of the week. In addition to the traditional language subject, Mòcheno is also used for contact with pupils during breaks, games and other activities. Even so, most pupils do not acquire enough of it to use it for normal communication with each other. If they use it in a family setting, it depends on the experience of the mother and father. However, they often do not have as much experience with the dialect themselves. At the same time, there are also the tendencies mentioned by the informant: „I think today [parents] want their children to learn [mòcheno]. In the past, they really tried to abandon the language. From the outside, the language was a sign of „immaturity,“ so a lot of people, a lot of families tried to get rid of the language and not pass it on to their children.“ RParents certainly play a decisive role in a child’s access to the mother tongue, since … „the first place where children learn is the family, of course. Because it’s the family language, we can say. I think it is impossible to learn a language without family. That’s why I think it’s important to show the meaning of the language especially to the parents.“ Practical and active use of the language is lacking. The question arises whether the younger generations use mòcheno at all or whether it is only a passive knowledge. Another more important question is whether they will use the language in the future and whether they will be able to use it – that is, whether they will forget it.
Present and future
The Mòchen minority is in an almost identical situation, as are the Cimbri in Luzérn. It consists of a self-conscious community of citizens that has been stable in recent years. Its members are interested in preserving their ethnic identity and are trying to expand it. To do so, they use their own determination and the tools provided by their territorial autonomy. They are therefore not only a self-conscious group, but also to a certain extent self-determining – in many issues of public life, such as administration or education, they have taken responsibility for their future. These two factors (self-consciousness and territorial autonomy) play an absolutely essential role when they are used together.
To use these two factors, a third factor is needed – determination or self-awareness. The Mòchens‘ determination to expand opportunities for their community is certainly not lacking. They are trying to deepen their teaching in schools and generally make the local language more attractive to the population so that they see it as part of their identity as well as having practical applications (e.g. in tourism). Self-confidence can also be seen in the outlook they share: „The future is far away. A hundred years ago, there was a writer who wrote that the language was dying out. And he didn’t give it a future. But a hundred years later, the language is still here. That’s why I think it’s hard to know what will happen in the future. I always say we die before the language dies. Now there are a lot of children who speak the language. They are much younger than me. This language will exist, because of them, many, many years after I die.“ Mòchens are in a very promising situation that may bring a rather positive future. The growing trend of handing over more rights to minority units can only benefit such a skilled group and, as a result, can serve as a case study for other German-speaking enclaves in Italy.
The Walsers are a German-speaking minority living in Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. The population on the Italian side of the border is located in two regions. In the northwest of Italy – the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola (municipalities of Formazza, Macugnaga) and the province of Vercelli (municipalities of Alagna Valsesia, Rima San Giuseppe, Rimella) in the Piedmont region. Then there are the municipalities of Gressoney-La-Trinité, Gressoney-Saint-Jean and Issime in the upper Lys Valley in the Valle d’Aosta region, which boast perhaps the best-preserved Walser population. For this reason, the research was carried out in these municipalities, which were compared with the municipality of Alagna, located across the regional border.
Figure 5: Walser settlement map.
Source: CENTRO DOCUMENTAZIONE LUSERNA, 2012.
Today, the linguistic minorities in his territory of the Aosta Valley region have almost identical rights and opportunities as the South Tyroleans, Ladinos and Cimbri in South Tyrol. The difference can be found, for example, in the education system, which the regions and provinces can set up to a certain extent independently according to Law 482/1999. Aosta has introduced a bilingual system as opposed to South Tyrol’s separate system. Therefore, an equal proportion of hours is devoted to both Italian and French, in kindergartens and primary schools.
History and identity
The Walsers are believed to be an offshoot of the Alemannic tribes, who decided to migrate from what is now southwestern Germany to the empty Alpine valleys in the 9th century for economic reasons. From the south of Switzerland they gradually spread over a larger area during the 12th and 13th centuries, although the natural conditions were difficult and the Walsers were not used to them. For many centuries they remained very closed groups, trading with the surrounding area only out of necessity. The isolation is therefore certainly not purely due to geographical conditions, although the surrounding ridges, exceeding 2 000 metres, combined with the influx of snow during the winter, clearly cut the small Walser communities off from the rest of the world. As a result, their language has further fragmented and today each valley uses its own dialect (sometimes even communities within the same valley). Fortunately, the post-war situation and regional autonomy have provided the local population with the tools to preserve at least part of their original identity. Walsers in other parts of Italy have not been so lucky. The communities in the Piedmont region are already essentially assimilated into the Italian population (at least linguistically) without many speakers, and their cultural identity becomes merely a tool for tourism.
Language and identity
The current dialects of Walser, based on Swiss Alemannic, are in fact not dialects but separate languages. The Töitschu used in Issim is hardly intelligible with the Titsch spoken in the village of Gressoney, 20 km away. They use a third language, Italian or French, to communicate with each other. This situation is almost incomprehensible, but it has its reasons in the manorial division of the territory in centuries past. Walser villages were under the administration of a certain lord or parish, and there was only one official language – Italian or French. The distance of the individual Walser communities probably caused their discomfort in using their mother tongue outside their village. Language remained an exclusive part of ethnic identity, even as foreign-speaking nobility began to arrive in the valley. Italianization during the fascist era only reinforced this phenomenon, if it did not eradicate the language altogether. „In the past, people only used their language with family and friends. It was strange to talk to a person you didn’t know in the local language. [Why?] I don’t know exactly. It is possible to read that the people of the valley were reluctant to share their language. I don’t think we know the exact reason.“
Today’s use of Walser generally does not go beyond the narrow and specific scope of social interactions. Neither language variant has a written form and is therefore a purely oral exchange. „Local people use the language to say hello or to express a normal feeling or mood. They also use place names or words for common foods or tools. They curse and swear in the local language. Italian is used for sentence construction and common speech. [So no one uses Walser exclusively?] Some old people do. And small communities in the mountains. … Almost nobody here in the village.“ According to informants, the situation is slightly better in Issime village, where the community is closer to the language and is trying to reintroduce it into common use. In addition to being introduced as an elective subject at the local primary school, the community also holds municipally funded classes. „I think people are excited to use language with each other. But I don’t know if it’s just in front of me [laughs, organizes the classes]. [How many people come?] It depends on the season. I’ve been organizing them for a year and a half. The older teacher did it before me and ten, twenty people came regularly. In the beginning it was difficult for me because nobody was coming. It got better over the winter. But over the summer it got bad again.“ Although Walser is not actively used, it is not completely neglected by the community. Some surveys carried out in the 1990s show 70 percent of the population understanding the language and 60 percent speaking it.
Teaching at schools
Teaching in kindergartens is conducted simultaneously in Italian and French. In primary school, German is added on a limited basis (up to three hours). This should bring the Walsers back to their language, although they are mutually unintelligible. However, their grammatical and syntactical systems are very similar, and German should offer a more „practical“ use. This view is mainly held by the school administration. Since the Regional Statute only guarantees the teaching of standard German, the local associations have not yet been able to create sufficient pressure to introduce local languages as official subjects. Another problem is simply too many languages. In addition to Italian and French, German is also taught at Walser. „[Adding a local language] I don’t think it would be possible because it’s too complicated. French and Italian of equal strength. Then German. Starting next year, English will be taught. Therefore it is not possible to learn another language.“
Parents can sign their child up for voluntary Walsershitna lessons or certain special interest groups where the person in charge speaks only the local language if possible. The child’s use of the language depends purely on the relationship built up with a particular person – parent or grandparent (or teacher, etc.). Which is not at all easy because: „… today there are only a few „pure Walser“ children. Many people come here for tourism and other things. Marriages are very mixed.“
Present and future
The Walsers are an ethnically conscious minority who are able to use the tools provided to improve their living conditions. The regional administration allows the use of funds, but lags behind in the implementation and administration of language policy. There are efforts to push French into public life, although the Franco-Provençal language plays a comparable role. This trend also affects the German-speaking minority, which is being ‚forced‘ to learn French, although Italian would have sufficed as a ‚lingua franca‘. The region should clearly adopt a different attitude towards the Walsers and should actively seek to preserve their linguistic identity. Teaching German as a bridging language is a common and justifiable practice. It can be a relatively more interesting language for the locals and can bring them back to their local. However, this strategy should not put German in the role of a third language, but a second. Another unknown is to what extent German can or cannot influence Walser itself. Would the projection of German into Walser be a natural development of linguistic identity or, on the contrary, a dampening of it?
It is possible that this uncertainty and indeterminacy on a regional level is reflected in the ethnic identity of the Walser. According to Silvia Del Negro, some describe themselves as part of a „Germanic“ collective. So is there a risk of a kind of dilution of ethnic identity? Probably not. This assumption, even if true, is only related to linguistic identity. However, the fact that the Walser people are beginning to become somewhat detached from their language may be an important finding and may play an even greater role in the future. For the Walser community is unable to come together across the whole valley and defend its interests together. From an educational point of view, the situation is even more difficult because of the different dialects of the local language. A potential teacher cannot teach pupils in Gressoney and Issim. He would have to be fully proficient in both. Only a joint approach can remove such a difficult obstacle. There is already a lack of greater proficiency in Walser among the younger generations and this trend is likely to increase. There is as yet no realistic plan to codify Walser throughout the valley, let alone to introduce a single language into teaching.
Local residents clearly feel and present themselves as Walser, even if they do not speak their mother tongue. Despite the partial absence or disappearance of linguistic identity, ethnic identity is very strong. The Walsers certainly do not lack the desire to preserve and develop it. They manage to keep a living culture that is built on their conscious past and to translate it into an effective economic tool. Visitors entering the Lys Valley are certainly in no doubt that they are in the Walser Valley as much as its inhabitants. However, there is also a need to work to connect communities with each other and to try to preserve a unique aspect of their identity – their language.
Comparison of minorities
Each minority has its own specific characteristics that define it and distinguish it from the others. The following roles seem to be crucial for the ethnic identity of these groups:
- the role of autonomy – the type of self-governing unit in which the group is located and the rights associated with it
- the role of self-awareness – the number of members, whether by language literacy or affiliation, and the relationship to their history, language and culture
- the role of vitality – the determination and self-confidence of a given minority in the present
The role of autonomy
The historical background and the way it is perceived and preserved by a given group – collective memory – is one of the most important elements of ethnic identity. It is agreed that „…the extensive historical processes and power relations inherent in the social structure…“ German-speaking groups were affected by the separation from the existing linguistic and cultural circle. In the case of the Cimbri, Mòchens and Walsers, it was more a matter of uncertainty about the future and a sense of loss of security, while the South German people also lost their homeland. Unfortunately, the subsequent rise of fascism in the 20th century confirmed the fears of the now minority population. Targeted assimilationist policies aimed to deprive the German-speaking population of their language, culture and group sympathy – their ethnic identity. The period of post-Italianisation has been indelibly etched in the collective memory and the resulting trauma has been transmitted across generations to the present day. It was also the beginning of resistance and defining oneself against the majority society. Ethnic boundaries began to blur and a sense of a definite We/Other prevailed. With the end of the Second World War, this feeling was put on paper and decided the first autonomous organisations in Italy. In the decades that followed, some minorities were in a better bargaining position thanks to their concentrated absolute numbers and the international support of related states; others were left to wait and see where the future would take them.
The issue of ethnic and linguistic groups „…has found expression in many international treaties and conventions. The diversity and variety of ethnicities, languages and cultures is increasingly understood and conceptualized as the cultural heritage of humanity…“ For the larger ethnic groups in the 20th century, these developments have offered a very solid tool to take care of their present and future. In the case of South Tyrol, these tools were not set up quite right at the beginning, which gave rise to the nationalist sentiments already emerging in society under Mussolini. Frustration and fear of continuing Italian domination brought the South Tyroleans together. A clear demarcation from Italian society was a necessity. Maintaining the language, practicing Catholicism, promoting culture and empathizing with other members of their group became automatic. South Tyrol wanted and needed to be in charge of its destiny – autonomy. A new „South Tyrolean“ identity was born, no longer fully independent of Tyrol, Austria or any Pangerman idea. The right to self-determination has been fulfilled to a certain extent and allows the preservation and development of an ethnic identity.
However, even this system is not perfect. In the chapter „The South-Europeans“ a side-effect has already been put to sleep – a kind of segregation of society according to language. Interestingly, this is also how informants from other German-speaking minorities in Italy view the South Tyrolean system. Their experience advises them to create a multicultural society and to pay attention to the intermingling of ethnicity – to take advantage of its „fluidity“. However, if there is one thing that the ethnic groups in South Tyrol are aware of, it is the rigidity and bureaucratic nature of the multilingual system. The proportional system works „…well, well so far. But many German speakers say that German employees in the public sector speak Italian quite well, but Italians speak German much worse. That’s my experience as well.“ One certainly pays a lot of attention to the reality that is closest to one’s heart, which is why complications in communicating with the public administration are a manifest shortcoming of the system. The society-wide debate on this topic is not yet sufficiently developed and heated to warrant more attention.
Compared to the smaller German-speaking groups, the South Americans have a huge advantage in terms of functioning territorial autonomy, in which they are practically in full control of their own affairs. These autonomous public administration units have considerably more powers – e.g. tax collection within their territory (90 per cent remains in the region/province). It does not seem justified to delegate more powers related to security forces, education at university level, border management, etc. However, by virtue of their majority status, they should take responsibility for all the inhabitants of the province. Autonomy is of course a tool to ensure their rights and freedoms, but it must not work exclusively for them.
Although the Cimbri, Mòchens and Walsers suffered the same fate as the South Tyroleans until the end of the Second World War, they were affected to a much greater extent by the post-italtation and the subsequent indeterminate development of language rights did not help the situation. In the case of South Tyrol, we could say that the threat of assimilation, on the contrary, encouraged them to become more ethnically active and politically active. Unfortunately, minorities with hundreds of members could not afford such a luxury. They had absolutely no say at the state level, let alone at the international level. They were only mute participants in linguistic and legal developments. The Italian state was „restrained“ from dealing with the situation of the numerically stronger minorities, which had separatist tendencies and could threaten the internal and external security of the state. The experience of this arduous negotiation led it to introduce territorially-oriented autonomy and the linguistic rights that flowed from it. He also delayed for a long time any recognition of personal language rights and ratification of international treaties on the subject.
The stabilisation of the situation around the state of autonomy also resulted in the ability of the Trident-South Tyrol region to start to take an interest in other minorities in its territory – the Ladins, Cimbri and Mòchens. The regional and provincial governments began to pass laws that allowed the minorities concerned to draw on financial resources to which they had not previously had access. The positive attitude of the regional government was reflected in an active renewed interest in ethnic issues and resulted in the establishment of various minority associations, institutes and museums.
A similar situation developed in the Aosta Valley region. The local Walsers were not affected by fascist policies to the same extent. The Francophone majority also drew most of the attention to itself. The linguistic issue in Aosta focused almost exclusively on the conflict between French and Franco-Provençal, as the regional government decided to introduce a bilingual system with Italian as the second official language, and the legislation passed corresponded to this. The Walser municipalities were therefore unable to make full use of their linguistic rights and concentrated mainly on drawing on financial resources to preserve both language and culture. They were not able to exert concerted pressure and additional rights, for example to teach the local language, were in fact only granted to them by the regional law of 2001.
The Cimbri in the Italian hegemonic region of Veneto – the Seven Communities and the Thirteen Communities – are a diametrically different case. There was no major ethnic group in the region that had claimed autonomous status. Therefore, the region actually only mediated the central government’s disinterest in addressing the issue of linguistic minorities. Therefore, the regional government did not enact a law treating specific language rights until 2001 during the national reorganization of public administration. Until then, municipalities were drawing funds that could not be directed to the protection and needs of minorities. Most Cimbri had already been assimilated in Veneto during the interwar period. Currently, there is no group large enough to be able to make use of language rights at all.
The role of self-awareness
For an ethnic group to begin to assert or practice its rights, it must, of course, be self-aware. In the case of the minorities described here, it is more a matter of maintaining or rediscovering this feeling, which is closely linked to the existing community or society. However, it is necessary to ask when one is still actually an ethnic group, meaning an existing and living one, and on the basis of which elements of ethnic identity this self-awareness arises. The Italian State considers an ethnic minority to be a group that knows its own language and expresses its affiliation to that language. Where does someone who does not speak the language and still feels part of the group fall. How is this the case in the mirror reverse? Language is the most easily identifiable element of ethnic identity. It would seem that on the basis of spoken or mother tongue we can clearly determine ethnicity. Membership in an ethnic group can easily become complicated if its members speak two or more languages or do not fully master their language. Such a potential member is insecure about himself and his ethnic identity, which translates into group identity.
In the case of German-speaking South Tyroleans, we do not even need to ask such a question. They are a clearly conscious and numerically significant group for whom language is the basis of their identity. It is a very normal part of everyday life and every member who feels part of this community knows the local language. The situation goes to an extreme in comparison with other German-speaking minorities in Italy, where a South Tyrolean does not actually have to use any language other than German (or a similar dialect) in his or her life. This is a right based on the Autonomous Statute and the Constitution, in the formation of which language was a fundamental point. To undermine these existing legal norms would be contrary to the Italian Constitution and international law, which should bring linguistic stability and self-confidence to the local population.
The situation appears to be far more complex in the cases of other minorities. For the Cimbri, the language has in most cases become only part of the history. At best, they try to preserve it as part of conservation efforts; at worst, they no longer have any relationship with Cimbri, let alone feel any affinity with it. In the best situation, not dissimilar to that of South Tyrol, are the Cimbri of Lusérn; for them too, language is an everyday affair and an automatic part of life. They have managed to maintain it through the turbulent 20th century, introduce it into schools and are quite confident in their relationship with it.
The Mòchen have long taught their language to a limited extent in local schools, as in Lusérn, and the majority of Mòchen Valley residents are classified as a local language group in census surveys. They are therefore also an ethnic minority with a high level of self-awareness, although Mòcheno is more of a secondary language. Its use nowadays has specific functions and roles linked to distinctive features of the culture – ritual social contact, traditional events and naming. It is therefore not a defining element of ethnicity for all members of a group, but remains a distinctive part of culture even for individuals who do not speak it.
The Lys valley, historically inhabited by the Walser minority, has been subjected to the constant penetration of Italian for two centuries. With the arrival of tourism, the acquisition of the Italian language was a logical consequence. The transformation of Italian into the dominant language was caused by the immigration of the Italian population, who became permanent residents. It was difficult for mixed couples to choose „their language“. Such a choice is very intimate and in many cases the decision is purely practical. One is either a member of one ethnicity or another – a „third way“ (despite the existence of ethnically mixed marriages and their offspring) is difficult to realize or virtually impossible. The regional language system and politics also influenced the Walser language skills to some extent. In the case of the Walsers, the teaching of Italian and French as official languages is supplemented by German and English (and, in the past, Franco-Provençal). In such a situation, the realistic teaching of an additional language, even a mother tongue, is not only unpopular but probably inconvenient. Moreover, the diversity of the Walser dialects has caused a kind of fragmentation of their linguistic awareness. The inhabitants of the different villages do not prefer to communicate with each other in dialects that are difficult to understand, and the clarity of ethnic identity is thus lost.
The role of vitality
For German-speaking minorities in Italy, the development of linguistic rights and the reorganisation of public administration were defining factors. For some, these developments have provided them with the appropriate tools for the development of their ethnic community. Others faced assimilation processes over which they had little influence. The research shows that the present offers the most suitable conditions for ethnic minorities on Italian territory so far. Therefore, what matters most now is also the determination or vitality of individual German-speaking groups to take advantage of this state of affairs – their increasing economic and linguistic/social status, the institutional support and autonomy granted.
The case of South Tyrol partly stands out from the rest. Since the local society was able to organise itself as early as the 1950s, it was gradually given the responsibility of self-fulfilment and therefore managed to start the revitalisation process much earlier and on a completely different scale than other minorities. South Tyroleans deal with issues at the official level, which stems from the almost unlimited governance of their region. The local population does not have to deal with issues related to language use and preservation. They do not even have to find resources for the preservation of historical sources or for cultural specificities. They can find jobs and go to school without language and geographical restrictions. The South Tyroleans manage their province and are concerned about the state of their economy, the development of unemployment, the influx of emigrants from other countries… The preservation of ethnic identity is history and now their interests stand on a completely different level from other German-speaking groups. But they face a different problem – the creation of a society with a minority Italian-speaking group. For the path they have taken so far may bring about the gradual segregation and subsequent assimilation of the Italians.
The Cimbri, Mòchens and Walsers should expect similar linguistic planning in the future if they, too, want to maintain their ethnic identity across their communities without losing one of its most important elements. Within all of these groups there are smaller or larger active communities that seek to maintain and develop language and, more comprehensively, ethnicity. Parts of these minorities even still speak the language in its full form. The strategy, therefore, should be to create a codified language that can be used for area-based teaching and accreditation by the administrative authorities. This must include official language courses, similar to the Mòchen, whose examination and certificate will be usable in job offers – teachers, civil servants, etc. (e.g. on an optional basis in the tourism industry). As a last step, the compulsory and more thorough teaching of the local language in schools should be ensured.
The Cimbri in Lusérn and Mòchens certainly have this process started. They can, however, extend it to other communities. Walsers should first of all focus on integrating their objectives and developing a common strategy. A larger community hides more opportunities, for all its members. The local language should be an alternative here, not something distracting and unnecessary. When the system is set up well, the language brings with it economic improvements for the area and for members of the ethnic minority – that is, the practical dimension. But language also brings with it a kind of abstract level – community empowerment. It must not be forgotten that „…deeply felt national/ethnic identification (alongside the potential dangers of chauvinism and conflict) can become a source of both personal joy and social enrichment.“
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