Are minor languages the lifeblood of cherished local identities or just passports with restricted validity, serving no purpose in today’s transnational, global world? Italy’s north-eastern region of Friuli is a case in point: in this area, around half a million people speak Friulian, a Romance language of the Rhaeto-Romance family, which is attested to in written texts since 1150 and acquired official minority language status in 1999. Geographically and politically off-centre, Friuli remained isolated for a long part of its history and developed a unique language that sustained a distinctive identity and culture. Starting from the nineteenth century, large-scale migration towards Northern Europe and the Americas brought Friulian into contact with other languages and contexts of use.
The Friulian Language: Identity, Migration, Culture is the first comprehensive study in English of this little-known language to consider its history and the variety of its cultural manifestations from antiquity to the present day. The volume gathers together the work of ten contributors who are specialists in the fields of history (Fulvio Salimbeni), law (William Cisilino), linguistics (Paola Benincà, Franco Finco, Fabiana Fusco and Carla Marcato), literary studies (Rosa Mucignat and Rienzo Pellegrini), and migration (Javier P. Grossutti and Olga Zorzi Pugliese). The focus of the book is on Friulian, its varieties, its linguistic characteristics and its use in literature from fourteenth-century ballads to Pier Paolo Pasolini, and more recent poetry by Novella Cantarutti and others. Equal attention is given to the Friulians themselves, the social and political transformations of the region, and the experience of migration, in particular the case of high-skilled mosaic craftsmen from the Alpine foothills.
Thanks to its multidisciplinary approach, the book sheds light on the questions of why Friulian has developed the way it has, what its significance as a minor language is, and how it can negotiate its relationship to other languages on a global scale.