Language Policy and Planning – The Case of Ladin

1. Introduction

One of my interview partners from Gherdëina gave me the most compact description of Ladin. Quoting a ski instructor, he said that there are as many Ladin speakers as there are people in a couple of apartment buildings in Hamburg. The only difference is that these approximately 30.000 speakers of Ladin are separated by five Chinese walls known as the Dolomite mountains.

This unusual situation of having ‘a handful’ of minority language speakers sandwiched between the two national languages Italian and German and, on top of that, split into three different political-administrative entities1The Talschaften of Val Badia and Gherdëina take part in the Autonomous province of Bozen (Südtirol), Val de Fascia is situated in the Autonomous province of Trento (Trentino), while Fodòm and Anpezo pertain to the Venetian province of Belluno. has sparked a fair amount of interest by linguists, sociologists, and historians in recent decades. It is fair to assume that one of the first questions that comes to mind is: How is it possible that Ladin still exists?

Looking at other minority languages of comparable size in Europe, the survival of Ladin is truly amazing. Notwithstanding the advent of full-on globalization in the form of mass tourism and the dissolution of traditional social structures, Ladin does not seem to be disappearing like the neighboring German minority languages of Mòcheni and Zimbarn. To the contrary, the numbers of speakers have remained stable and, in some valleys, are even on the rise.

It seems as if the intuitive answers that linguists often make use of to describe the extinction of a language or the maintenance thereof do not apply to the case of Ladin. For this reason, scholars recently concentrated more on the socioeconomic factors of language maintenance, including the prestige attributed to Ladin. The arguably most important contribution is the Survey Ladins (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c), a large-scale sociolinguistic survey with around 3,200 participants from all Ladin communities. (A remarkable number considering the total number of inhabitants.)

Even though the sociolinguistic work in the aftermath of the Survey Ladin provides valuable data, it often only gives a momentaneous account of speakers’ attitudes and competencies. Furthermore, they have largely overlooked a crucial factor in the processes affecting language change and maintenance: language policy and planning (short: LPP).

Since the 2nd World War, and to a larger extent since the mid-1970s, Ladin communities gradually achieved official recognition for their cultural and linguistic idiosyncrasies. Some communities enjoy considerable financial support for the protection and cultivation of the local language and culture. During recent decades, all Talschaften institutionalized their language maintenance efforts through cultural organizations, museums, school offices and associations.

The aim of this study is to close this gap in research by providing an overview of the different types and forms of language policy and planning in the Ladin valleys.

A mere list of language institutes along with their goals and activities surely is of use. It does not, however, get us any closer to the answer as to what role LPP has played in the greater processes of language maintenance and language shift. That is why this study does not stop at the mere listing of language institutes.

In about 30 interviews with local language planners and implementers and several casual conversations on the street, and taking sociolinguistic notes, I investigated the question of the influence of language planning and how it affected the use, competency of its speakers and the prestige of Ladin. In this paper I analyze these personal encounters along with existing data concerning the number of Ladin speakers, their competence in the language as well as attitudes toward this language based on sociolinguistic surveys and censuses.

The focus of my analysis is the (re-)valorization Ladin seems to have experienced in the last one or two generations of speakers. While at the beginning of the touristic boom of the 1960s and 1970s it had been considered to be a language only to be spoken at home, Ladin now appears on street signs, is used in public speeches, on TV and radio, as well as on social media platforms like Instagram.

This analysis will focus  on three social aspects which have had a crucial influence on the prestige, the level of competency and – in the end – the use of Ladin: the schools, the Ladin media, and the local economy.

Before that however, a lot of theoretical groundwork needs to be done. The first main chapter will straighten out some of the definitional topics which come with the fairly young discipline of LPP research. In general, I will provide an idea of what language planning is and who is behind it. Lengthy parts of this chapter are more relevant to the theoretical discussion within the field of LPP research and can be skipped. Only the terms language planner, language implementer and linguistic authority might pop up in the analysis later in the text.

In the second chapter, I will go into detail about the way I collected the data and the way I conducted the interviews. Furthermore, it contains the important methodological framework of implementational spaces, which I adopted from (Johnson 2009). The third main chapter contains the analysis already sketched out above.



The topic that eventually became this master’s thesis has accompanied me throughout the last 18 months and it became a matter of the heart. It sparked a couple of important and positive life decisions that I probably would not have taken otherwise. And most importantly, it gave rise to acquaintances and friendship with many kind people.

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to

Prof. Wolfgang Schulze (†) for sparking and fostering my interest in this and many other language topics.

Dr. Ilona Schulze for introducing me to Ladin and for the indispensable support during the first phase of my research on Ladin.

Prof.ssa Patrizia Cordin for the advice, the hospitality at the university of Trento and the valuable contacts in Val de Fascia.

Prof. Thomas Krefeld for his frank and highly useful advice.

All informants for their time, openness, and kindness.

The officials of Micurà de Rü, Majon di Fascegn, Istitut Cultural Ladin Cesa de Jan, Comun General de Fascia, Ladinisches Schulamt, OLFED for their time and support.

My parents for their continuous support.

Beatrice Colcuc and Jasmin Ferdigg, and David Lardschneider for the insightful conversations and the valuable contacts.

Marie Hurd, José Martínez and Tom Weidensdorfer for the proof-reading and editorial advice.

All other that have provided their thoughts and critique to the project.




2. Language Policy & Planning

2.1. Language Policy & Planning: An Overview

The following theoretical chapter is set out to plow through some definitional problems that come with a relatively new and inter-disciplinary research area like Language Policy and Planning (henceforth: LPP). First, I will try to disentangle the relationship between language policy and language planning. I will offer a multi-layered view by carving out four different (research) perspectives on language planning that are often (unreflectedly) intermingled in LPP literature (chapter on  Some Definitional Problems).

Next up are questions about the locus and form of language policies: Where can language policies or plans be found? What do they look like? As I will try to show, it is not enough to only analyze legal documents, language policies do not always lay out on the open, i.e. in written form. Instead, LPP researchers may want to include implicit as well as explicit instances of policies (chapter on Explicit and Implicit Policies).

The next two sub-chapters take a first glance on the relationship of language planning and language shift. I will argue that it is necessary to distinguish language policy goals from the actual linguistic behavior resulting from it. (chapter on Intended vs. Factual Language Change).

Applied LPP is full of examples where a policy goal did not become reality (immediately). In my view, a closer look on such instances can reveal the social, economic, and cultural pressures under which language planners work. And – to a certain degree – these pressures apply to ‘natural’ language shift as well. The search for these extra-linguistic pressures prompts a closer look on the implementation of policy goals. Consequently, the discussion provides a first terminology to describe possible obstacles on the way from plan to (sociolinguistic) reality (chapter on Implementation of Language Policies)

These potential obstacles and pressures inevitably lead to the question how much influence language planning has on linguistic realities at all. I will try a first approximation by discussing a couple of existing concepts from sociolinguistics that are all trying to capture the influence of single social actors or organizations on some speech group. The concept of linguistic authority will try to give a synthesis of these different approaches (chapter on Linguistic Authority).


2.1.1. Some Definitional Problems

The PlanningPolicy Relationship

The first problem to be discussed here is the distinction between the terms ‘language policy’ and ‘language planning’. As (Baldauf 2006, 149) notes the terms are often used interchangeably – which leads to instances where for example Cooper’s (Cooper 1989) famous definition of language planning is used as a working definition for ‘language policy’ or the umbrella term ‘language policy & planning’ (see for example (Canagarjah 2005, 154). Cooper’s definition is a good starting point, nonetheless. To him, language planning comprises “deliberate efforts to influence the behavior of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (Cooper 1989, 45).

Baldauf shares this core definition and puts policy and planning into a relation by writing that “[…] language planning is directed by, or leads to, the promulgation of a language policy(s)” (Baldauf 2006, 148-149). And these “[…] bodies of ideas, laws, regulations, rules and practices intended to achieve some planned language change” (Baldauf 2006, 148-149).

How does Baldauf characterize the relationship between planning and policy here? A plan for a language seems to involve some vision of how and where a language should be used in the future. His definition of policy, however, does not help a lot at first sight: How do, for example, the “bodies of ideas” about language differ from someone’s vision about the future of this language? And: Who is planning language and who is making language policies? Are these the same individuals or organizations or is it more reasonable to separate the two?

Obviously, Baldauf does not define language policy as just one single legislative document but rather as a whole bunch of them. It is fair to conclude then that policy is meant as all laws and regulations that possibly have an influence on linguistic behavior within some population. From the point of view of some language planner (e.g. a language institute), these regulations and laws represents the legal conditions that can hamper or promote his/her/its goals for the language.

This first meaning of language policy takes the perspective of some language planner who has to deal with existing language policies while trying to achieve his/her/its goals (language policy as a condition). Second, language planners may also strive to change the legal conditions in order to achieve certain language planning goals. This sort of language planning depends on the accessibility and openness of the political system in general (compare (Burstein 1991, 333) and, in a democracy, on the amount of support some language planner receives from the population. Since these efforts are only concerned with changing linguistic behavior indirectly, I would rather call this (language) political activism.

Third, the term language policy can also come up when asking about the sociolinguistic effects of a specific legislative innovation like a national law. This reading of policy doesn’t presuppose a language planner or his/her vision. Instead, it is trying to reveal what sociolinguistic reality some piece of legislation promotes or hampers, e.g. To what degree does the national law no. 482 from 1999 really protect the historic linguistic minorities of Italy?


Policies and Plans on All Levels

It is possible to further clarify the policy-planning distinction by looking at language planning on different levels on the macro-micro-continuum. For Baldauf, micro planning

[…] refers to cases where businesses, institutions, groups or individuals hold agency and create what can be recognized as a language policy and plan to utilize and develop their language resources. (Baldauf 2006, 155)

On the micro level, single policy innovations (e.g. the officialization of a linguistic code within a regional administration) or language planning projects (e.g. Ladin courses for adults) can be traced back to specific groups or organizations.

The macro view is instead usually dealing with the body of laws and regulations of whole states or even supra-national entities like the EU (see Baldauf 2006, 149 and 155). 

The layered, multi-level view on language policy adds a fourth understanding to the list. Here, language policy is perceived as the (communicational) infrastructures and sets of norms to be found within some organizational entity, be it micro as in the case of a single company or be it macro as in the case of the whole state of Italy. The leading analytical question for this organizational view can be formulated as follows: What linguistic behaviors are being favored or hampered by what means within some organization?

The macro-micro dichotomy should not be taken as referring to two perfectly delineable levels on which language planning is taking place. Rather it should be clear that LPP can be described on various levels within the macro-micro spectrum. And it should also be clear that “various dominant and counter-discourses“ (Baldauf 2006, 152) can appear on all levels.

What I want to stress here is that LPP analysis will have to describe the planning goals (including the promotion of laws and regulations) through the eyes of

  1. a specific social actor, which can be a single person, a nuclear family, a sports club, an international company up to a supra-national administration, an institute, a government etc. or
  2. a (more or less specific) language planning goal.

Taking the level of analysis and perspective as given, I can also stress a dependency between language policy and language planning. The LPP analysis of, for example, the Istitut Cultural Ladin Cesa de Jan will furnish a couple of language-related goals. But these goals are reconstructions by the researcher, based on the study of policy texts (e.g. the Institutes statute, or interviews with institute officials) or measures (e.g. the re-furnishing of Castello di Andraz2 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) for a higher visibility of the ties with Ladin history and language). The analysis of organization-external policies in the sense of overarching legal conditions, again, depends on the goals identified within the institute.

To summarize, I tried to show that the distinction between policy and planning is based on four different analytical perspectives, which are presented in Table no. 1.

Table no. 1, Title: Four perspectives on language policy


i) Language policy as an implementational condition

ii) Language policy as a result of a political process

iii) A specific language policy (text)

iv) The language policy of a group, organization or government

Point of view

Language planner or implementer

Language political activist / legislator

Language policy text or measure

Some group, organization, government or state

Leading analytical question

What legal and budgetary conditions does a language planning implementer have to deal with?

What legal and budgetary conditions does a language planner want to change through political activism? To what extent does s/he succeed?

How does the introduction or implementation of a specific language policy affect sociolinguistic reality (e.g. linguistic competency within the population)?

What linguistic behaviors are being favored or hampered by what means within some organization?


“How many h/week of Ladin does the curriculum provide? Are there enough teaching materials for the teacher to instruct students effectively?”

“To what extent can the communities of Val de Fascia enact language-related laws and regulations including the distribution of tax money for language promotion?”

“Does legge no. 482/99 really protect linguistic minorities in Italy?” [macro]

“Does the restructuring of Radio Studiorecord (Fascia) re-attract younger listeners?” [micro]

“The use and acquisition of what languages does the Repubblica Italiana favor or hamper through their legal and administrative systems?” [macro]

“Does hotel XY favor the use of Ladin among their clerks?” [micro]


2.1.2. Explicit and Implicit Policies

It is time to address another problem with severe methodological implications: What does a language policy look like and where can it be found? In case the researcher of LPP is set out to investigate the sociolinguistic impact of e.g. Italian National Law no. 482/99, the question seems obsolete. But even in this rather clear-cut case, an analysis might want to take other legal texts into consideration that potentially override or amend the central policy text. This doesn’t appear far-fetched when looking at Südtirol: here, Law no. 482/99 never entered into factual force since the already existing legislation of the autonomous province has been perceived as much more effective when it comes to protection of the Ladin minority (Pescosta 2013, 557). The analysis of one piece of legislation can, therefore, require the knowledge of many more legal texts on higher (e.g. European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages3Full text available here (last accessed  on August 20th 2020): or lower levels of legislation.

Things become even more complicated when analyzing the language policy of a specific organizational entity. In the lucky case, the inspected organization issued a concrete policy text. The Istitut Cultural Ladin, for example, states on its website that it is working for “[…] the valorization, promotion and preservation of the Ladin identity: history, language, culture, toponomastics and traditions”4In case the original policy text or interview excerpt is not in English, the original will be added in the footnotes: “[la] valorizzazione, promozione e tutela della identità ladina: storia, lingua, cultura, toponomastica e tradizioni”. For a first categorization, such an explicit mention of a planning goal can be sufficient. But if the researcher aims for a more fine-grained description, it might become necessary to infer from the institutes planning projects or effectuate an interview with one of the officials, since documents might remain silent.

This lack of explicit policy documents is often the default case. Of course, a cultural institute can be expected to be quite colloquial about its language policies since this is one of its main fields of action. A nuclear family, but also companies which produce lots of internal written documents often don’t explicitly mention their language policy. As Baldauf puts it, “language policy may be realized in very formal (overt) language planning documents and pronouncements […], in informal statements of intent […], or may be left unstated (covert)” (Baldauf 2006, 149). This coincides with the view of political scientists Jann & Wegrich who state that the results of policy-formulation don’t have to exist in written form; they might alternatively be visible in the annual budget or the actions applied to attain the policy goals themselves (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104).

Does that mean that organizational units like families or companies don’t have a language policy? Parents often can choose what languages their children will learn at school. Furthermore, the members can be expected to follow a set of (more or less fixed) norms that concern the choice of register and linguistic code within the family. Curdt-Christiansen (2009), for example, shows how the school experiences and educational ideologies of Chinese parents influence the way languages are transmitted to their children (or not). But are these family policies (Curdt-Christiansen 2009, 352-353) the product of language planning? Are parents’ decisions “deliberate” (Cooper 1989, 45) or even “intended to achieve some planned language change” (Baldauf 2006, 149)?


2.1.3. Intended Vs. Factual Language Change

Johnson points towards this exact problem by calling attention to the fact that it is often difficult to establish intentionality from the policy text alone (Johnson 2009, 146). Clear planning goals might not be deducible even though a written policy text exists. One reason is that policy texts and laws should be regarded as multi-intentional texts (Johnson 2009, 146) They are the product of complex processes of policy-making in which various counter-acting interest groups and intentions compete (Burstein 1991, 344). In addition, the issuing of a statement of intent, of course, doesn’t guarantee the organizations factual endeavor for the goal. It follows, that LPP researchers should not rely solely on the study of written documents but confront their content with organizational practices and most importantly an analysis of the “sociolinguistic circumstances ‘on the ground’” (Hornberger/Hult 2008, 285).

Second, it is difficult to predict the de-facto effect of written policy documents (terminology by Schiffman 1996) since these effects are moderated by the interpretations and resources of lower-level actors during the implementation of the previously stated goal (Johnson 2009, 146). With that, he introduces a clear distinction between, on the one hand, the goals, or intentions of a policy and, on the other hand, its de-facto effects. This distinction comes especially handy if the research objective is not only to simply collect existing official language planning goals and measures, but mostly in the effects of LPP on language change. From the point of view of a specific planning goal, this directs attention to

[…] not only the explicit, written, overt, de jure, official and „top-down“ decision-making about language, but also the implicit, unwritten, covert, de facto, grass-roots, and unofficial ideas and assumptions, which can influence the outcomes of policy-making just as emphatically and definitively as the more explicit decisions (Schiffman 2005, 112)

Schiffman’s use of the terms effects, output and outcome of language planning can be further specified by borrowing some useful theoretical elements from political science, or more precisely: policy analysis. Policy analysts have often taken the perspective of a specific policy text, i.e. their aim is to assess the effectiveness of a legislative innovation (e.g. a new law). The case in which a new policy text doesn’t show the desired effects or even leads to undesired effects is not uncommon. For that reason, political scientist developed a terminology that could “[explain] the implementation gap between policy intention and outcome” (Pülzl/Treib 2007, 99). The most important distinction is that between the output, the impact, and the outcome of a policy.

First, the output can be called “the interventions or efforts of the state that are trying to influence the behavior of actors” (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104). From a procedural point of view, the output is associated with (the process of) implementation.

Second, the impact of a policy should be understood as the reactions of the target group or addressees of the policy (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104, see also Cooper 1989, 4). That means: To which extent does the target group change its behavior because of the new policy? Note that the policy sometimes may affect people or organizational entities which weren’t intended to be affected by it in the first place.

And third, the outcome of a policy is defined as the reaction of the whole system (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104).

An example from Fodòm, a village in the Dolomites of Belluno, may help to clarify the difference between impact and outcome. Since 2013, the Ladin Cultural Institut for the three Ladin communities of Belluno, finances the teaching of Ladin in elementary school, which is accomplished by one teacher only, namely Isabella Marchione. When asked whether parents react to the increased competence of Ladin among the children, Marchione said:

I also had experiences with parents that told me ‘my son is speaking a Ladin that I don’t talk anymore. He uses words that I don’t use anymore.’ And often the parents even are corrected by the children.5[…] anch’io ho avuto esperienze di genitori che mi hanno detto ‘mio figlio parla un ladino che io non parlo più. Utilizza delle parole che io non utilizzavo più.’ E tante volte anche i genitori che vengono corretti dai bambini.” (Isabella Marchione)

Here, the increased ‘correct’ or less ‘italianised’ use of Ladin among children can be called the desired impact of the language policy, namely the introduction of Ladin into the curriculum of elementary teaching. But as Marchione explains, the teaching also has an impact that exceeds the primary target group (her students): Within the family realm children apply their competency of Ladin and use Ladin versions of words which over time have been replaced by Italian words in common use – Marchione mentions the Ladin word ‘ciauzèl’ [shoe] which had been replaced by Italian ‘scarpa’ and now seems to come in use again. The impact therefore leads to desired side-effects within the whole system, i.e. changes in the linguistic behavior of not only the students (target group) but of the whole village or valley, which then would be called the (desired) outcome of the policy.


2.1.4. Who Is Planning?

When a social situation or reality has been defined as a problem and has thereby entered the agenda of actors in the political system, these actors can be expected to move the issue forward in order to become a more or less binding policy, e.g. a law. Political scientists call this phase policy-formation (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 121). Usually, more than one opinion has entered the political system. Therefore, the pursuit of (more or less) binding commitments involves the negotiation of various, often not fully compatible goals and options of action (ibd.). The results of policy formulation are relatively binding, normative commitments (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104) which, looking at Table 1, can be investigated either as single outputs in the sense of a specific language policy or as the sum of outputs in the sense of the language policy of an organization X.

Theoretically, every social group or organization can be assumed to have a process in which relatively binding rules, regulations, or norms regarding the use of language are formed.6(Eggington 2010) discusses this under the confusing notion of unplanned language planning, and also Schiffman’s (Schiffman 1996) broadening of the term language policy reflects on that. But at the same time organizations differ in the degree to which they are aware of these processes and verbalize them. So, while drawing attention to un-institutionalized, micro-level instances of planning is important, the analytical terminology should reflect these different degrees of verbalization of goals, institutionalization, officiality, and awareness. The question is: Who can be called a language planner?

Let us take a look at some existing definitions from LPP research. Baldauf for example holds that language planning is “[…] most visibly undertaken by government” (Baldauf 2006, 148), an assessment uttered in a similar way by Cooper, who thinks that language planning is mostly done by „authoritative institutions“ (Cooper 1989, 31). Nevertheless, both authors leave some space in their definitions for non-governmental or non-official kinds of actors. Cooper, for example, is naming the case of Israelian journalist Ben Yehuda who is considered the first author of a modern Hebrew dictionary (Cooper 1989, 31).

But things become more complicated. To Cooper also small-scale social units “[…] as individual schools, workplaces, churches, and families […]” might display “instances of language planning” (Cooper 1989, 38). In a similar tone, Schiffman (Schiffman 1996, 2) holds that having a language policy is not limited to nation states. Instead, language policies can also be found in „smaller administrative or territorial divisions of them“ (Schiffman 1996, 2), at „[…] the municipal level, in educational institutions […]“ like libraries, in judiciary institutions and all levels of bureaucracy. Furthermore, he includes non-governmental bodies: “churches, labor unions, fraternal lodges, companies […]”.

With these definitions in mind, I would like to propose two potential criteria to differentiate between a (language) planning organization or actor and those that may establish rules and norms of language use but do not plan them. These criteria are outward-directedness and primary function.

The rules and actions of a language planning entity are usually not only directed at the language use within the entity itself but most of all at linguistic behavior outside of the entity itself. Of course, a cultural institute will want to embody a good example for the socio-linguistic rules they promote – its language policy however will be thought out for the implementation within a much bigger frame, e.g. the whole village or valley. In fact, promoting language policies can be called one of the primary functions of the cultural institute. Its activities not only concern linguistic behavior within the organization but – most of all – the linguistic behavior outside of it, that is within other organizational units or social domains like families, school, companies, restaurants, sport clubs etc. In addition, it is fair to say that organizational entities like families, companies or sports clubs do not regard the planning of linguistic behavior as one of their central tasks, while the cultural institutes and other organizations do.

As already implied, none of the three criteria alone – degree of verbalization, outward-directedness of planning and primary function – are sufficient to perfectly define and consequently identify language planners. Nevertheless, they can serve as analytical tools to assess the language planning activity of organizations in general.


2.1.5. The Implementation of Language Policies

It is time to look at the process of policy implementation. Or in less technical terms: How does a language plan become reality? (And if not, why?)

Jan & Wegrich (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 121) talk about ‘programs’ or ‘policies’ as the output of policy formulation process. As already mentioned above, these ‘policies’ or ‘programs’ aren’t necessarily codified or written; they can appear in the form of “laws or regulations, governmental statements, the annual budget or also more or less explicit political declarations of will and plans” (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104). To affect the social reality, these programs need to be implemented.

Jan & Wegrich (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 104) name two important dimensions that influence a successful implementation of some plan. First, an existing program might be rendered more concrete through the creation of more specific, lower-level laws and regulations. Policies in the form of national laws like legge no. 482/99, for example, can be formulated in a rather general way that asks for legislative efforts on the regional or even municipal level. Second, the success of the program of course will also be affected by the amount of resources made available, including money, materials, infrastructure, and human resources. The implementation of Ladin into an Italianized school system, for example, will depend on the availability of teaching personnel.

For analytical purposes, I propose to differentiate between three different groups involved in every implementation process: the (language) planner, the implementer, and the target group.

Language planners have a vision about a desired linguistic behavior of some social group or the population within some territory. They define concrete measures and steps of action to reach this goal. Prototypical candidates for this role are cultural institutes and associations, governments, political activist groups.

An implementer can be thought of as a person that is mainly occupied with efforts to translate an existing language plan or language policy into sociolinguistic reality. Implementers preferably hold contacts with a higher amount of people and function as a linguistic authority or point of reference within a community or social group. Potential candidates for this role are teachers for their (present or past) students, parents and grandparents for their offspring, or people in the public eye like musicians, writers, journalists, politicians for their audience or peer group. In a village or valley context, we could add people like the local doctor, pharmacist, bar owner, barber etc. that is people that are known (including their linguistic style) by a high number of people in the village (as a social entity).

Target group refers to a group of speakers whose linguistic behavior needs to be changed (or maintained) in the eyes of language planners and/or implementers. While the boundaries of the target group are not always totally clear, it is reasonable to differentiate between the target group of an entire language plan (e.g. all inhabitants of the Ladin valleys) or of one language planning measure or policy (e.g. all students of two schools where Ladin teaching is being implemented).

Table no. 2, Title: Language planners, implementers and target group.


Language planners


Target group


Language planners formulate goals regarding the (future) linguistic behavior of some target group as well as measures to implement these objectives.

Implementers try to translate language planning goals into linguistic behavior among the target group.

Language planners aim to influence the linguistic behavior of a group of speakers, the target group of a language policy.

Typical examples

Cultural institutes & associations, educational authorities, editor’s offices, public institutions

Teachers, public clerks, youth and social workers, journalists



[In the broader sense:] The speech community of language X, the population of territory Y;

[In the narrower sense:] a language class, ‘young speakers’, the readers of newspaper Z etc.


2.1.6. Linguistic Authority7For a critical review of the term see (Woolard 2005, 1-9).

The term linguistic influence is an attempt to capture the ‘uneven’ linguistic co-orientation8Here, co-orientation should not be understood as copy-and-paste process of linguistic material. It is, on the contrary, possible that a speaker A is trying to shape his/her linguistic behavior exactly not like some other prototypical speaker. But in both cases, the ‘positive’ and the ‘negative’ orientation, the prototypical speaker functions as a point of reference or prototype for a certain way of speaking and – most importantly – a specific role in society. of speakers: Some speakers within a community or group seem to function as role model for a certain way of speaking. Blommaert (Blommaert 2006) calls these kinds of role models central action since they have a ‘centering’ function within the community:

The centering function is attributive: it generates indexicalities to which others orient in order to be ‘social,’ i.e., to produce meanings that ‘belong’ somewhere and thus to produce categorizable identities. These attributions are emblematic: they revolve around the potential to articulate the perceived ‘central values’ of a group or system (the ‘good’ group member, the ‘ideal’ father/mother/child, ‘God,’ ‘the country/nation,’ ‘the law,’ the ‘good’ student, the ‘ideal’ intellectual, the ‘real’ man/woman.) (Blommaert 2006, 520).

There is a prominent discipline within linguistics that has been interested in these agents of linguistic change (or maintenance) for quite some time, namely the sociolinguistic study of language change. William Labov, for example, mentions the stronger role of a certain type of speaker for the diffusion of linguistic innovations9Labov does not use the term linguistic innovation since his assumption is the diffusion of sound changes – his main object of study – in the form of waves. Even though in early works like the study on Martha’s Vineyard he discusses the agentive role of individual speakers within language change. The term seems therefore applicable to his work.: these speakers usually have the highest social (class) status within their local community and possess the highest number of contacts both within and outside of the community (cited from Milroy/Milroy 1985, 343).

Milroy & Milroy differentiate between innovators and early-adopters while also mentioning the (high) number and quality of social ties with other speakers in the social network as the central social factor in the diffusion of linguistic innovations: They make a difference between weak ties and strong ties while not naming an underlying criterion beyond the frequency of contacts between two persons (Milroy/Milroy 1985, 365). In accordance with the factors of number and frequency of contacts, Trudgill assumes that the mass media has another great influence on the diffusion, in his view, mostly for lexical innovations (Trudgill 1974, 223).

To summarize, the number and quality of contacts with other speakers seems to play a role in the diffusion of linguistic innovations10I find no strong argument to not expand the scope of this observation to language maintenance too. Linguistic innovators can be perceived to be in competition with linguistic conservators within the same community. Both (theoritical) groups exert linguistic influence, i.e. speakers orient their linguistic behavior towards the conservative or the innovative group. Again, the distinction is only theoretical. Social reality is much more complex: There can be expected to be a myriad of prototypical speakers which to orient towards. And what is more, conservation or innovation is not an either-or-decision for speakers. They may preserve some linguistic behaviors while at the same time allowing new competing forms in certain occasions. – a view also held by Cooper (Cooper 1989, 71) who notes that “[s]ome individuals or some roles, teachers for example, may be more important than others as sources of influence, depending in part upon the nature and frequency of their interactions with the potential adopter“ (ibd.). These thoughts are useful when trying to determine the role of language planning on language shift and maintenance. The question then is whether planners and implementers succeed to become linguistic authorities or central speakers.

This linguistic authority can be defined as the extent to which a person’s or organization’s linguistic behavior is accepted as legitimate within a group or community. As mentioned above, Labov theorizes that a high linguistic influence can be footed on high social status within the group, which for him mostly meant higher income (see the setup of his social stratification studies, most prominently (Labov 1966). But social status does not have to be footed solely on economic wealth, and in turn also linguistic authority can have various kinds of sources. In his work on linguistic norms in Tamil-speaking communities in India, Schiffman for example reveals religiously based mechanisms of linguistic authority (Schiffman 2005).

Through their central position within a social group, linguistic authorities also hold many contacts with other members of the social group. But I argue that in addition it is crucial that this contact is public: Priests, teachers, newsreaders, news editors, coaches – they all speak or write in front of a crowd. Their linguistic behavior is not only legitimized by their role within a social institution, it is also audible and visible to the group, which is the precondition of becoming a point of reference when it comes to linguistic behavior.

The previous observations have some implications for the study of language policies and their implementation. First, the role of language planning and policy on language change can only be assessed by looking out for these relevant linguistic authorities. Of course, this master’s thesis can’t give a list of all important people and institutions involved. Nonetheless, researchers should at least ask what potentially relevant linguistic authorities there might be.

The most obvious linguistic authorities in the Ladin valleys beside the cultural institutes are the schools and teachers as well as the local Ladin media. Linguistic authorities with a presumably smaller reach, which is not to say ‘weaker influence’, are e.g. priests, sport or dance coaches and instructors, local musicians, actors and writers, and the owners of hotels and restaurants, especially if they represent economic wealth and therefore social status.

The question remains, whether all these potential linguistic authorities should be called implementers. When looking at the definitions from political science above, a parent or football coach does not come to mind first. Nonetheless, they might be influential speakers since they hold a crucial position in the social processes of language transmission, maintenance, and change. It is important to note here that official implementers are not necessarily influential speakers and vice versa. Single individuals may possess local prominence and may represent a prototypical (‘central’) speaker for many people in the community. Their comments on linguistic behavior of others may carry weight within the community, too. Nonetheless, they may not be part of some official or public apparatus charged with the objective of language planning. At the same time, official implementers may not succeed to influence the behavior of their target group due to lack of contact or linguistic authority and influence.

From a micro-social perspective, the influence of language planning on language change can be modelled in exactly this way: In which degree do language policy implementers succeed to influence the linguistic behavior of the target group and what other crucial speakers may exert a similar influence – be it contrary or supportive.


2.2. Language Ecology & Planning

This chapter has two complementary tasks. As a first objective, I will try to further localize language planning efforts within the processes of language change and maintenance. How do language planning efforts try to influence – i.e. change or maintain – the linguistic behavior of some population? A comprehensive answer will require a more profound notion of the different dimensions of language change in general and for minority languages like Ladin in particular.

From a societal point of view, this will lead to the question why language A and not language B is used in some social domain. This is the basic thinking of a fairly new field in sociolinguistics, namely the study of language ecology, which was first defined by Haugen as “the study of interactions between any given language and its environment” (Haugen 1966b, 57), e.g. Ladin and its contact languages German and Italian.

In Haugen’s view, the language ecology within a given society should be described along three dimensions, which he calls the function, the status, and the structure of language (Haugen 1966b, 57). I will pick up on these dimensions and bring them together with the terminology that has been used to categorize different types or dimensions of language planning efforts.

The fields of acquisition planning and status planning concern the transmission of linguistic competencies and their application in specific social domains of use (for an overview see Hornberger 2006, 28-30). Existing competencies undoubtedly exert a major influence on the function of a language: If only few people within a village have a proper proficiency in Ladin while everyone is more or less fluent in Italian, chances are low that Ladin is the default language on the street, in local shops and the sports club.

But the actual social function of a language – reflected by the amount and types of social domains in which the language is used – is seldom the mere outcome of existing linguistic competencies. The (public) use of a language is far from being a neutral business. On the contrary, contact languages can be expected to carry sometimes contrasting social meanings or connotations. In LPP research, efforts to change these social meanings – or the attitudes of speakers towards a language – are labelled prestige planning. As the analysis of Language Planning for Ladin will show, the attitudes and beliefs of speakers can amplify a minority-majority contrast, e.g. if speakers become ashamed of their native tongue. But speakers can also become proud of their language, and some may even try to promote the use of the minority language in social domains where it has never been used before – and where native competency can hardly be said to exist.

Even though not a focal point of this thesis, I will also shortly glance at the mutual influence of the structure of a language and its social function. It should be clear that the structural properties and differences between contact languages exert an influence on their learnability as a second language – which is an important factor in the transmission of linguistic competencies.

Moreover, a contact situation often leads to instances of interference or mixing of languages in the actual use of speakers. Language planning often tries to counteract this behavior. And in the eyes of many planners, this requires an official, codified form of the language. While dominant languages like German and Italian not only possess a codified form of their language but also a supra-regional standard, embodied by dictionaries and language academies, this is sometimes not the case for minority languages. Standardization and codification have been subsumed under the term corpus planning in LPP research. But it also has a second dimension, namely the creation of new words and expressions for (new) semantic fields, in which the language may never have been used before. Such efforts are, of course, directed at an expansion of the social function of the language and thereby indirectly also at its prestige.


2.2.1. The Social Function of a Language

According to Hornberger (Hornberger 2006, 28), status planning are efforts directed towards “the allocation of functions of languages/literacies in a given speech community”. From an ecological point of view, one could also ask about the „position of one language in relation to others“ (Cooper 1989, 32) and perceive status planning as those efforts aiming at a change of this constellation of contact languages. As Calvet puts it, “languages in contact maintain relationships that create ecological niches for each of them” (Calvet 1999 cited from Hornberger/Hult 2008, 281).

Calvet was mostly thinking about language ecological relationships between languages on the global or regional level. But these niches can also be modelled as corresponding to rather micro-social domains of conduct involving the use of language. Following the thoughts of Joshua Fishman, Cooper further defines these social domains  as “[…] each determined by the intersection of role-relationship, locale, and time […] [and] all constrained by the same set of behavioral norms“ (Cooper 1989, 67). Schiffman offers a heuristic to describe this compartmentalization of the social world into specific social domains (Schiffman 1996, 64). His model is largely based on prototypical biographies of language acquisition:

[A]ll speakers of a diglossic language share the innermost circle, which also represents early childhood and nuclear-family intimacy. This is the domain of family life, story-telling, jokes, folk wisdom, conversation, food, street life and intimacy.“ (Schiffman 1996, 45)

Next up in their prototypical language biography, speakers attend school where they usually acquire the written competency. The official linguistic code of school can be an entirely different language, but it can as well be similar to the family language. The important thing according to Schiffman is that the language taught at school represents the high-status variety (short ‘H-variety’) (Schiffman 1996, 45).

School usually is the most important realm of language acquisition planning. Acquisition planning can be thought of as all efforts aimed to increase the number of users of a language. But as the analysis of teaching of and in Ladin below will show, this definition needs to be refined. Children do not just acquire an entire language when they go to school. They acquire linguistic competencies within a language, or: linguistic repertoires for different social domains of use (see the discussion below).

As Cooper points out, the perceived usefulness of a language, i.e. its applicability in different communicative situations, probably has a major influence on the amount of people transmitting and learning it (Cooper 1989, 33). Together with the student’s mobility, future field of work, relationship, hobbies et cetera, the foundation of linguistic competency that the school transmits conditions her/his further language biography (Schiffman 1996, 45): Specialized language proficiencies for scientific, economic, legal, religious, administrative or governmental contexts often function as an access requirement into the respective social domains and milieus. And in turn, access to these domains is necessary to expand already existing proficiency. The success of acquisition planning on the actual linguistic behavior of the target group will, therefore, also depend on the types of competencies transmitted in the language class.

The competencies of speaker groups within a society has of course been identified as a potential factor of language shift before: Kloss’s (Kloss 1966, cited by Schiffman 1996: 30–33) typology already included the number of languages used by individuals as well as the type or degree of (personal) bilingualism (how developed or elaborated is the personal proficiency in each language). Similarly, Haugen made out three types of bilingualism:

  1. occasional supplementary use
  2. complementary use which means an alternating use according to different social functions – adaptable to our terminology of social domains – and
  3. a replacive type in which a historically supplementary or complementary variety or language has become the dominant one (Haugen 1966b, 64).

But Kloss and Haugen remain unclear on whether their types refer to the actual use or the language policy of the governmental and associated bodies within the territory of the social group under investigation. Schiffman, instead, solves this problem by distinguishing between repertoire and register (Schiffman 1996, 35). The former represents the proficiencies or competencies of users in different social domains. The latter captures the functional differentiation of linguistic codes in the diglossic, bi- or multi-lingual society (Schiffman 1996, 16).

Thanks to this distinction, Schiffman’s concentric circles can be used for different aims that are relevant here. First and foremost, they can be used to describe the prototypical language biography and resulting proficiencies in the different Ladin valleys. Second, this prototypical speaker can be confronted with the different linguistic registers in the village society. Third, the same could be done with (sub-)groups of speakers, e.g. by creating a prototypical speaker from a whole bunch of individual data, or by testing the influence of sociodemographic variables on speaker proficiency. Fourth, language shift can be described as changes in the different social domains.

One problem, however, remains with Schiffman’s heuristic. His understanding of language policy is so broad that it not only includes the official planning associated with what I called language planning institutions, but also “de facto norms”, beliefs and habits regarding language use and acquisition (Schiffman 2005, 112). This lacking distinction between official, institutionalized planning and the ‘unplanned’ (see Eggington 2010) language policies within companies, families leads to the problem that the notion of register remains rather unclear. Since register does not regard the actual competencies of speakers, a better understanding of the term might result from a closer look at the attitudinal side of language.


2.2.2. Status, Prestige & Officiality

For Haugen, the psychological aspect of language ecology is “[a language’s] interaction with other languages in the minds of bi- and multi-lingual speakers” (Haugen 1966b, 57). The study of this psychological dimension asks „what are the attitudes of its users toward the language, in terms of intimacy and status, leading to personal identification?“ (Haugen 1966b, 65). Status to him bears an „association with power and influence in the social group“ (Haugen 1966b, 60). Consequentially,

[…] the plus status variety (H) is used by the government, in the schools, by persons of high social and economic rank, or by city-dwellers, while the minus status variety (L) is not used by one or all of these groups“ (Haugen 1966b, 60).

As an ideal realization of a high-status variety, the features that Haugen lists seem reasonable. But it should be added that sociolinguistic realities do not have to look like that at all. And since Haugen was concerned with language shift, which includes the shift of a language varieties status, it seems fair to assume that he saw his definition rather as an idealization of perfect distinction between H- and L-variety.

The question then remains, how exactly a language changes its ‘status’ over time? Following Haugen’s thought, the status of a language changes when governments, schools, and persons of high social and economic rank start using it – instead of another language or variety. But why should these social actors do that? And how do their language choices affect the linguistic behavior of others?

An obvious reason for a change in the language policy of governments and schools is that of a regime change, of which the younger history of Ladin is packed with11In the last 150 years alone, the Ladin territory was part of the Habsburger Reich, the Italian monarchy, the Italian Fascist regime, the German National Socialist regime, and the Republic of Italy. For a historic overview, see (Pescosta 2013).. But recent Ladin history also shows examples of cases in which the amount and official status of Ladin changed in a less dramatic way, that is to say: due to political activism within a democratic system. And it should be clear that some parts of Ladin society already possessed social or economic power, otherwise they would not have succeeded to exert political influence in the first place. At the same time, a regime change including the de-officialization of a native language doesn’t automatically change the speakers’ appreciation or pride in their native tongue.

The word used to describe this identity-based factor potentially counteracting official language policies is language loyalty (see, for example, Fishman 2013). Early on, Kloss pointed out that language loyalty is moderated by different levels of language awareness or consciousness. Language might be “[…] highly valued as means of collective self-expression, as the group’s main highway into contemporaneous culture” (Kloss 1969, 64), which Kloss labels linguism, and it can even be the vehicle of some form of “modern ethnicity-centered nationalism.“ (Kloss 1969, 64). On the other hand, individuals and social groups may also think about language in a rather technical way, as a means of communication but without a relevant connotational load12The latter position, for example, would coincide with the argument to use English as the only language in the European Union’s institutions since the vast majority of speakers possesses an acceptable competence in it and since it would save all the costs for translations..

Language loyalty is often a central part of a cultural or ethnic identity: A high degree of competency of the language and the public display thereof are then seen as necessary preconditions for participation in the identity group (see Woolard 2005, and Woolard 2007). The sources to reinforce this link between language and identity, group members often refer to the historicity or originality of the language (Haugen 1966b, 63) which often profits from a rich and long tradition of literature (Kloss according to Schiffman 1996, 32-33). So why do speakers not abandon their (native) language even though it neither possesses much (economically defined) usability nor officiality. This question is answered in a convincing way in Jaffe’s work on language ideologies on Corsica. She holds that

‚[O]utside‘ values are not always positively marked in ‚inside‘ interaction. The price of authority/distance is the loss of intimacy and solidarity; […] The existence of this alternative market guarantees that there will be cracks in the effects of domination. (Jaffe 1999, 110)

In Jaffe’s view a language or linguistic variety does not have just one social meaning (or connotation) as either the H- or L-variety, that is to say: as having high or low social status. Languages may be appreciated within one social group or domain while in another context, group members may wrinkle their nose on the same language. That is, different levels of prestige are often captured in terms of ‘high’ and ‘low’ prestige even though the attitudes and associations that speakers utter are usually much richer and more complex. German standard, for example, might be called ‘professionell’ [professional]13The examples come from a couple of test runs of a (unrelated) questionnaire that I did with a couple of relatives and friends in Germany. Note that the seemingly contradictory evaluations of dialect come from the same person, uttered within the same interview., ‘sachlich’ [factual], or ‘klar’ [clear] with a middle-class workplace context in mind. Against the same backdrop, a regional dialect14In this case, the interviewee is referring to two regional dialects (“Fränkisch” [Franconian] and “Oberpfälzisch” [Upper Palatinate dialect] at the same time, both spoken in his town of residence. can be evaluated as ‘faul’ [lazy]. But when changing the context of the question from a professional to a recreational situation, the same person might perceive the dialect as ‘warm’ [warm] or even ‘schön’ [beautiful/nice]. In short, the attitudinal side of a linguistic code – its connotation – sometimes does not fit the high-low prestige framework.

Nonetheless, it is necessary to assume a general connotation of a given language within a (e.g. valley or village) community, which is exactly what Schiffman tries to capture with the term register. As already insinuated in the discussion of the concept of linguistic authority above (see chapter on Linguistic Authority), the public use of language seems important here: a speaker’s appreciation for a language in connection with his social or economic standing can only be expected to have an influence on the general ‘status’ (Haugen) or ‘register’ (Schiffman) in the minds of the speech community if both aspects are displayed together: social standing and the linguistic code. The use of Ladin in the family realm of some person with high social or economic standing will probably affect the value of Ladin within the family – if the same person, however, only uses standard Italian outside of his four walls, his/her private appreciation for Ladin cannot be expected to affect the prestige of Ladin in the community.

The discussion shows that Haugen’s definition of status as well as Schiffman’s use of the term register should be refined. For languages used by official institutions associated with the government or state I would like to propose the term officiality. And for languages associated with high social and economic status, I would like to use the term (high) prestige. This distinction is important since a prestigious language may not be the official language. And, vice versa, the fact that a language is the official one does not automatically mean that speakers perceive it as a prestigious language – which is not to say that both officiality and prestige can’t coincide. (They often do.)

Keeping officiality and prestige analytically separate is a precondition to answer an important question, namely: What influence has the officialization of a language on speaker attitudes? – which, in turn, might influence the actual use of the language.

As the discussion of language loyalty has shown, there are identity-based factors that potentially counteract economic pressures of a language’s usability as well as language structure-based factors of learnability. Due to this obvious relationship between the attitudinal dimensions of language on the acquisition and situational use of a language, language planners often specifically try to change the language attitudes and beliefs of their target group in favor of their policy goals. I would like to call these efforts prestige planning even though slightly diverging definitions exist15For Baldauf prestige planning refers to efforts that aim “[…] to give certain languages, or language related issues greater status in particular situation” (Baldauf 2006, 158). The definitional problem is Baldauf’s mixing of the terms status – which in Haugen’s sense only intends the social domains in which a language is spoken – and prestige, which usually alludes to the attitudinal side of language, potentially including its social value in different social groups. The definitional shortcomings aside, it seems necessary to have a planning type that represents the attitudinal side (prestige) for two reasons..


2.2.3. Language Structure

How may the language structure itself affect language shift or maintenance? Kloss identifies two aspects that can be affected by differences in the language structure in a contact situation. Most obviously, mutual intelligibility between the languages has a potential impact on language shift (Kloss, according to Schiffman 1996, 32-33). According to Kloss, languages that are mutually intelligible to a certain degree are more prone to interferences in the individuals’ language use, most prominently resulting in the (mutual) appropriation of lexical as well as morpho-syntactic elements from the other language or variety, sometimes even to externally unmotivated codemixing. Kloss here distinguishes between interference on the individual use perspective and borrowing, which looks at influences of the neighboring language on the language structure itself (Kloss 1969, 78).

Kloss also tries to capture different degrees of language distance based on mutual intellgibility (see also Haugen 1966b, 63): He distinguishes receptive from productive bilingualism (Kloss 1969, 62), which corresponds to passive and active language proficiencies on the individual level. This distance between languages may not only affect the situational use of a language, but also its acquisition. Some languages are in a relationship of what Kloss calls inherent bilingualism: „This means a person growing up speaking Czech is ipso facto passively bilingual with regard to Slovak. This kind of bilingualism is thus implicit or inherent in certain languages” (Kloss 1969, 76). For everyday situations, a speaker of Czech will not have to invest additional time into learning Slovak – while more specific use situations may require some effort. Even though Kloss does not make this explicit, it seems useful to differentiate here between spoken and written competencies again (see also Haugen 1966b, 65).

A third aspect of language structure to be mentioned here had already been encountered above, while discussing Kloss’s notion of the Ausbau: Some social domains, especially in the scientific or work context may require specific terminologies that sometimes are not available in a native language. On a related note, Baldauf talks about the “language needs” of specific (“micro-level”) domains like “sales and services, manufacturing, the law and legal systems, administration, education and schooling, families and community language needs” (Baldauf 2006, 159). A lack of sufficient vocabulary may lead to, for example, the creation of new words. In a bi- or multilingual situation, however this lack may also favor the use of one of the context languages, given that here the semantic field corresponding to the social domain of use is more elaborated.




3. Methodology & Data

3.1. Methodology

This study promotes the view of the emic accounts16For a discussion of the distinction between the emic and the etic perspective, see (Krefeld 2019aq) of language planners as a window into both socio-economic factors of language change and factors determining the success of language planning per se. This basic assumption, of course, requires a methodological framework which enables me to describe

  1. the kinds of obstacles language planners and implementers face in their work; and
  2. to draw connections between these obstacles and socio-economic factors of language change and maintenance.

For this purpose, I will slightly adapt Johnson’s (Johnson 2009) framework of implementational spaces.


3.1.1. Implementational Spaces

My central assumption is this: Problems that arise during the implementation of (official) language policies can be expected to not only point at factors determining the successful implementation itself, but also at general factors of language change and maintenance. In a metaphorical sense, language planning efforts function like a stimulus that produce reactions in the socio-linguistic system (e.g. the valley or village community).

From a methodological point of view, it needs to be asked where these reactions of the speech community can be observed. Johnson (Johnson 2009) advocates a closer look on the work of language policy practitioners like teachers, which is compatible with my definition of language policy implementers above. Accordingly, he followed teachers and other educational practitioners in their everyday work and especially in situations when they stood in exchange with other teachers, parents, or their students. According to Johnson, in these discursive situations relevant players surrounding the language policy display their interpretation of the policy, sometimes resulting in open reservations or opposition towards the (perceived) policy goals Johnson (Johnson 2009, 143-146).

Johnson’s basic assumption is that language policies are „enacted by educational practitioners through discursive practices that operate in relation to some authoritative criteria“ (following Pennycook 2006) (Johnson 2009, 140), which calls for a his very focus on the micro-social level. But these relatively fixed “authoritative criteria” like a national curriculum don’t allow for just one way of enacting the policy: Instead, Johnson holds that implementers interpret and appropriate the policy texts “[…] in potentially unpredictable ways“ (Johnson 2009, 145-146). The reason for this is that policy texts are often underspecified in the sense that implementers experience a certain freedom – and practical necessity – to further specify the policy goals (ibd.). A teacher may write her own curriculum as well as create her own teaching materials, since none of the two exist already. Or she may have to follow strict teaching guidelines, using fully standardized schoolbooks, exercises, and tests, provided and supervised by higher-level administrations. But even here, the teacher’s way of presenting the subject (enthusiastically, grudgingly, etc.) may influence the implementational success.

This varying degree of freedom given by the legal and associated administrative apparatus is joined by the attitudes of the target group itself. Students may look at Ladin as an uncool, ‘peasant’ language that does not fit their peer group’s orientation beyond the valley borders, which naturally affects their motivation and learning outcomes. Parents may see Ladin as an economically useless language and therefore oppose to policies that are giving Ladin teaching more room to the detriment of ‘more useful’ languages like Italian or English.

Many scholars in language policy and political science argue that the attitudes towards and interpretations of a specific language policy can potentially be influenced by the public discourse surrounding the policy. Pülzl & Treib (Pülzl/Treib 2007, 100) point to the fact that the interpretation of policies depends on symbols, metaphors and similar interpretational patterns that can vary among members of the social group. At the same time, policy texts themselves may influence the public discourse and resulting attitudes towards language. Johnson, for example, finds that educational policies often „[…] set discursive boundaries on what is considered educationally feasible or normal“ (Johnson 2009, 143). In a similar way, Fishman is convinced that „the negative impact and tone of restrictive non-English mother tongue (NEMT) legislation easily carries the day as a sociolinguistic mood-setter in many corners of American life.“ (Fishman 2013, 743). As a result for the work of policy implementers, „[…] some interpretations of policy will be privileged, especially those which are aligned with dominant societal discourses“ (Johnson 2009, 155).

The metaphor that Johnson uses to describe these different kinds of restraints and freedoms that language policy implementers encounter in their work is that of implementational and ideological spaces:

Certainly language policies can define the limits of what is educationally normal and/or possible but, even within restrictive language policies, there are often implementational spaces in the policy texts, and ideological spaces in schools and communities […] (Johnson 2009, 155)

Johnson perceives the implementational space that implementers work in as determined by the policy text, the ideological spaces as determined by the discourses concerning the policy and language in general in the target group and their communities (see again Johnson 2009, 155). This differentiation between the policy’s goals on the one hand, and socio-psychological factors on the other hand makes sense. But as I tried to show above, in addition to the attitudinal dimension of language shift, also language-internal factors with implications on e.g. the learnability of the language may affect the implementers success. Therefore, I propose to add the dimension of language structure-related boundaries like learnability and mutual intelligibility to Johnson’s framework. Moreover, I deem it necessary to include a fourth dimension in Johnson’s implementation space framework, which reflects the potential cleft between some policies overt goals and the allocation of resources necessary to implement the goal successfully. The implementational space will therefore also be determined by available resources.

As a final step, it is necessary to modify Johnson’s terminology slightly to fit the newly created dimensions in his framework. I would like to broaden Johnson’s use of the term implementational space in that it stands for the general room for maneuver of language implementers. This view is, by the way, in line with more recent trends in political science that try to model the rooms for maneuver of “street level bureaucrats” (Jann/Wegrich 2003, 117), a methodology which is called backward mapping (ibd.). The implementational space in this overarching sense can then be perceived as affected by the three dimensions just described: language-internal factors, attitudinal factors, resource-related factors. As a fourth and final category, I will maintain the core of what Johnson called the implementational space in the narrow sense, namely the goals and restriction given by the policy text itself. I will call this the legal-administrative factor of policy implementation.


3.1.2. (Increasing) The Validity of Interview Data

The expert interviews were aimed at collecting the emic perspective of language planners and implementers on both their LPP work and their native language in its social environment. These personal accounts are indispensable if one wants to understand the relative importance of legal texts, budgets, and administrative structures on a practical level. But most importantly, this qualitative, open approach leaves room for potential factors in LPP and language change that often can’t be predicted beforehand.17My personal experience with Ladin is full of examples where my previous expectations and even beliefs about language in general had to be revised: I didn’t believe that it is possible to successfully teach three languages to more than a fraction of the students in a school system; I didn’t understand why the Ladin valleys didn’t just use Ladin Dolomitan as their written standard and I didn’t expect parents or teachers to look at more Ladin at school with restraint, since I had only taken the ‘endangered language’ perspective. I have not figured out, why some speakers seem to use more than one language (e.g. Ladin and Italian) in their family, even though all family members are perfectly fluent in Ladin (FO_02, FA_08). I also did not expect the gap between spoken and written competency that prevail in some of the valleys, which of course makes sense when looking at the different school systems.

But the researcher should not rely on the personal accounts of social actors entirely. First and foremost, the number of interviews is necessarily limited. Furthermore, the focus on ‘language officials’ is a conscious step away from having a balanced sample of the local societies: Due to their job and formation, these institute officials, journalists, tourism operators, teachers etc. have a higher degree of awareness when it comes to their sociolinguistic environment and language use in general. But as far as the researcher is aware of that fact, it is an advantage. Teachers, journalists etc. are in contact with many speakers from the local communities and often experience their reaction to present language policies or changes in the sociolinguistic constellation directly.

Nonetheless, it is always necessary to confront their statements and rationalizations with ‘hard data’ from public statistics and existing survey data (e.g. by Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c or Riz 2018). (And, of course, the accounts of informants must be confronted among each other. If people from the same valley describe the sociolinguistic reality in completely different ways, I cannot just pick the description that better fits into my hypthesis. I then must find explanations for their diverging views – which is not always possible.)

A methodological drop-net I often applied in interviews is to ask the interlocutor whether he or she perceives him/herself as part of the majority or minority of people in their community regarding an opinion or reported linguistic behavior. Another important interview technique I often use is to take an unpopular opinion or to (anonymously) report the opinion of previous interlocutors. Due to the rather official setting of the expert interviews, informants can be expected to openly disagree or correct my statements. In this way, a lot of informants’ personal and organizational goals and assumptions could be clarified.

Needless to say, I am always basing my results on as many sources as available. Where this was not possible, but some speaker’s account seemed important nonetheless, the reader will find this explicated in the text.


3.2. Data

3.2.1. A Short Research History

My research on LPP in the Ladin valleys started in February 2019. I was attending a course on linguistic documentation by Dr. Ilona Schulze. As a course assessment, Dr. Schulze postulated a (fictional) research plan on language contact and offered two potential research areas, one of which was Ladin.

The work on the fictional research plan sparked my interest beyond Dr. Schulze’s course. With her help, I applied for funding at the Studienbüro [students’ office] of my faculty at the University of Munich to translate the research plan into reality. The focus on language policy and planning was born out of both a fascination for the sociology of language – which I owe to Prof. Wolfgang Schulze – and a practical reason, that is my non-existent competency in Ladin, which would have been a precondition for research on the language structure of Ladin.

Thanks to the official support by the Studienbüro of the University of Munich, I spent two weeks Südtirol in April 2019, where I conducted the first batch of interviews. Out of logistic reasons, I concentrated on the valleys of Badia and Gherdëina. My interview partners were mainly officials from language planning institutes (Micurá de Rü, the Ladin school office of Südtirol, Union di Ladins de Gherdëina), journalists of Ladin media (TRaiL, La Usc di Ladins), local politicians and several teachers.

Thanks to a grant for the ERASMUS program, I returned to the region on September 2019, for a semester at the University of Trento. Thanks to the support of, among others, Prof.ssa Patrizia Cordin (University of Munich) and Beatrice Colcuc (University of Munich), I was also able to conduct further interviews – again with the type of ‘language officials’ named above – in Val de Fascia and the Ladin communities in Belluno. These interviews fall into a period between December 2019 and March 2020. In the same period, I also had several second or third conversations with people from Val Badia and Gherdëina I had already spoken to in April 2019.

Alongside these extensive interviews with language planners and implementers, which were mostly conducted on site, that is in the respective valley, I always tried to start small conversations with ‘people on the street’, weaving in one or two questions on the situational use and the prestige of Ladin. Furthermore, my stays in the valleys were always accompanied by taking field notes on linguistic landscape, the just mentioned little conversations, observed linguistic behavior etc. I also regularly consumed the daily news show TRaiL as well as the weekly newspaper Usc di Ladins, to keep track with recent developments in the Ladin communities, but also to test some assumptions on common language attitudes and beliefs.

In June 2020, I conducted a handful of interviews with ‘normal speakers’ via Zoom. Instead of the extensive open interviews with language officials, these interviews followed a structured questionnaire aimed to test some of the hypothesis that emerged from the previous conversations and observations. Due to the limited resources, the interview project was not fully executed. Nonetheless, the couple of conversations I had with speakers within this context helped to affirm or modify one or two hypothesis and assumptions I held before and which are relevant for this present thesis.


3.2.2. Expert Interviews: Guiding Questions & Presentation of The Data

The most important type of data on which my thoughts and hypotheses are footed on are undoubtedly the extensive – most of them with a recorded length between 60 and 90 minutes – expert interviews I conducted with local language planners and implementers. The total number of these ‘language officials’ interviewed is 24, while the total number of interviews is probably slightly higher. (in some occasions, more than one interviewee was present and with some previous interviewees I had 2nd and 3rd conversations, which added to the overall picture.)

As implied in the short research history above, I also had several short and spontaneous conversations ‘on the street’ or simply with inhabitants of the Ladin valleys who cannot be said to be ‘language officials’, planners or implementers. Due to their spontaneous character, these conversations often did not follow a specific agenda other than my general guiding questions which – after the second interview latest – come natural to the researcher.

These guiding questions for interviews can be separated into two groups. The first only concerns the goals, implementational obstacles, and efforts of language planners and implementers. The second concerns the use and prestige of Ladin as my interlocutors perceive them.

Research questions for language planners and implementers in particular:

  • What is your role within this organization?
  • What are the goals of this organization regarding the future of Ladin?
  • What is your personal motivation to work in this field?
  • What different projects, tools or methods do you (or the whole organization) apply to reach your goals for the future of Ladin?
  • What other important goals does the organization have?
  • What problems or obstacles arise in your everyday work?
  • Where do these problems come from?
  • How are you trying to overcome them?

General research questions regarding the socio-linguistic situation of Ladin:

  • Has the use of Ladin changed (in social domain _____) during your lifetime notably?
  • If yes, in what way has the use of Ladin changed?
  • Why do you think has the use of Ladin changed? What events lead to the present situation?
  • Have the attitudes of speakers towards Ladin changed during your lifetime notably?
  • If yes, in what have the attitudes of speakers towards Ladin changed?
  • Why do you think speakers’ attitudes have changed? What events lead to the present situation?

The questions were not asked in the order above. I usually started from the personal role of my interlocutors. My general aim was to ‘get the other person talking’ and listen closely, chiming in only for questions of clarification. Since my knowledge of the Ladin realities was basically null, I tried not to carry my expectations and inevitable language ideologies into the conversation. Accordingly, the interview questions are formulated in a maximally open and non-suggestive way that still allowed me to keep the conversation on my research questions. 

Most interviews with planners and implementers were recorded with my smartphone. Of course, I obtained the approval of every interlocutor before the recording. In some slightly more confidential or amicable settings, no recording was made, which also holds for most of the spontaneous conversations with people on the street, in bars, shops etc.

Shortly after both recorded and unrecorded interviews, I took structured notes on the most important topics, the interlocutor, his/her reactions, and documents he/she might have given me. (In fact, people often kindly provided me with various kinds of scientific literature on Ladin, brochures, calendars, policy texts etc. in or about Ladin.) The notes of unrecorded interviews consequently were more detailed than the recorded ones.


3.2.3. Field Notes, Documents & Policy Texts

As already mentioned, all my interviews were accompanied by field notes which filled two notebooks in the meantime. In addition, I often used these notebooks as research a diary, which helped to reflect on the observations and conversation contents encountered throughout the day.

During my stays in the villages of the valleys, I inevitably stumbled upon many instances of written use of Ladin, some of which I could take with me. These documents include newspapers, calendars, books, menus, brochures, posters, and public announcements. Furthermore, I took notes and pictures of several instances of linguistic landscape, e.g. graffities, street signs, hotel and shop signs, posters, etc. 

The most important written documents for this present analysis are, however, policy documents and statistic survey from the public census. Except for some information on the financial situation of Ladin institutes and media as well as mention of one or two internal documents, all these data are publicly available and will be recognizable as such below.


3.2.4. A note on privacy and presentation of interview data

As the reader will notice, my analysis below only names two or three interviewees by their name. Most excerpts are accompanied by a token which only contains the information where the person is from and a numeral code which allows me to assign the token to the real person internally. The first two letters of the token correspond to one of four areas within the Ladin territory, which is explained in Table no. 3.

Table no. 3. Title: Interviewee tokens explained


Corresponding Ladin communities

e.g. BA_02

Speaker from Val Badia

e.g. GR_05

Speaker from Val Gardena

e.g. FA_03

Speaker from Val de Fascia

e.g. FO_01

Speaker from either Fodòm, Col or Anpezo

Even though more than the ones explicitly named allowed me to use their name next to their statements, I decided for this model, since there still is the danger to accidentally publish a statement that – in retrospective – the person feels should better not have been published. Or put simply: I am rather over-cautious in order not to infringe the relationship of trust with the informants. In my opinion, this is perfectly reconcilable with the objective of this study.




4. Language Planning & Policy: The Case of Ladin

I will start with a short history of language planning for Ladin from the end of WWII until now, which will provide a first overview of relevant language planning institutions. Furthermore, the reader will get a first glimpse at the diverging legal and financial conditions pertaining to the different Ladin valleys. The historical notes are complemented by a list of the relevant Ladin language planning institutes and associations. The ‘profile’ of every organization describes its legal and financial basis as well as its main goals and planning regarding the future of Ladin. (The educational planning organizations will mostly be presented in the chapter on Ladin at school).

Following the theoretical discussions on language ecology and societal multilingualism above, the second part of this chapter will sketch out the present language ecology of Ladin. Starting from rather quantitative data about numbers of speakers and linguistic competencies, I will gradually weave in qualitative data from my own interviews to also be able to shed light on the attitudinal dimension of Ladin. Here, the guiding question remains the following: In what way do attitudes towards Ladin influence its use in different social domains beyond the mere numbers and competency of its speakers?

Based on these thoughts, it is then also possible to obtain the following diachronic view: Did the prestige of Ladin change in the last couple of years? And if so, why? Answers from my and others’ data then also allow for a tentative assessment of the role of official language planning in prestige change (which is a part of language change).

The third and central part of this analysis picks out three important sites of language change, namely the school, the local economy (with a focus on Alpine tourism) and the Ladin media. My main objectives are a) to show how each of these social domains relate to changes regarding the situational use and prestige of Ladin and b) to show to what extent language planners are able to influence these domains. Consequentially, the latter will rely on my adaption of Johnson’s (Johnson 2009) implementational spaces discussed above (see chapter on Implementational Spaces)

The last and concluding chapter ties the results of previous analyses together and provides an outlook of what further research on the topic would be merited in the light of these results. Also, the study’s limitations are discussed in this chapter.


4.1. Official Language Planning for Ladin: An Overview

4.1.1. A Short History of Language Planning for Ladin

The territory associated with the Ladin speech community is divided into three political-administrative entities. The valleys of Badia and Gherdëina belong to the autonomous province of Bozen. Val de Fascia belongs to the autonomous province of Trento. And the Ladin communities Fodòm, Col and Anpezo belong to the province of Belluno (see map). The latter belongs to the region of Veneto with its capital in Venice, while the two autonomous provinces of Trento and Bozen form the autonomous region of Trentino-Südtirol.

Since the 2nd Statute of Autonomy of 1972, major parts of their regional political competencies were re-distributed at the provincial level. Altogether, this creates three strongly diverging legal and administrative conditions that render the inter-provincial collaboration among the valleys challenging or even useless. For most aspects of the Ladin language group, this tripartition has therefore been deemed to be a tragedy for the common Ladin identity and has impeded efforts to protect and maintain the Ladin language and culture. This sentiment of an externally imposed division is enhanced by the fact that this so-called principle of divide et impera (divide and rule) is still associated with the fascist regime which pursued aggressive language policies of oppression and complete Italianization of the Ladin people, including the disacknowledgement of a distinct Ladin language and identity (see Forni 2005, 29-31; topic brought up by GR_04, BA_02, FA_07, FO_04).

After WWII, this political-administrative division carried over into the newly founded Republic of Italy. Even though, the provincial and regional governments of the new regime did not follow aggressive Italianization of the area, Ladin was still not fully acknowledged nor were institutionalized measures of language minority protection enacted during the first decades after 1945. One of the first important decisions that shaped (and still shapes) linguistic Ladin competency was the introduction of a school system in Gherdëina and Val Badia in 1948 incorporating Italian and German as the two languages of instruction. Ladin was tolerated as an adjunct language in the first years and for the subject of religion. As a subject of its own, Ladin was allotted little time. One hour per week was the time allotted for Ladin instruction as a native language. (Fontana 2004, 61; Vittur 2004, 80).

This met with strong opposition from some parts of the Ladin population (see (Fontana 2004)), especially regarding the use and teaching of written Ladin which was seen as a disadvantage for learning Italian and German. Except for some hours of Ladin at school, the language protection rights for Val Badia and Gherdëina did not improve until the 2nd Statute of Autonomy of Trentino-Südtirol, which now for the first time assured the use of Ladin in kindergarten, the teaching of Ladin in elementary schools, and its additional instruction in middle and high schools (Art. 19). The Ladins of Südtirol have since then been also the only two valleys with guaranteed political representation–in this case–in the provincial parliament of Südtirol (Südtiroler Landtag)(Art. 62)(Pescosta 2013, 514).

In 1975, the foundation of a Ladin school administration followed. In 1976, the principle of ethnic proportionality was introduced into Südtirol’s public system. Roughly speaking, if 4% of the population were Ladin, 4% of public jobs in Südtirol were guaranteed to be given to Ladins; if 85% of a community’s inhabitants were Ladin, 85% of the public jobs at the community level were guaranteed to be given to Ladins. This, according to Pescosta “[…] allocated public jobs to the Ladin minority, but it also hampered the access of Ladins to higher offices” (Pescosta 2013, 550). Finally, in 1977, language planning for Val Badia and Gherdëina became fully institutionalized with the foundation of the cultural institute Micurá de Rü as a public entity. With a decree from 1989 (DPR, 15.07.1988, Nr. 574) Ladin became an official administrative language which included the introduction of the mandatory trilingual test as a prerequisite for public jobs, including teaching positions (Pescosta 2013, 551). The latter was perceived to enable a high quality of education in Ladin.

In Fascia, the path towards the institutionalization and officialization of Ladin and its language planning after the 2nd world war took more time than in Val Badia and Gherdëina. Even though Article 87 of First Statute of Autonomy from 1948 guaranteed the teaching of Ladin in villages where it was spoken, this right was not implemented before 1965 after the political intervention individual activists from Val de Fascia (Pescosta 2013, 512). The second statute of autonomy from 1972 underscored this right for the seven Ladin communities of Fascia. A direct political representation of Ladin people in the provincial council in Trento like the valleys of Badia and Gherdëina had gained seats in the Südtiroler Landtag, did not, however, make it into the new statute (Pescosta 2013, 514).

Due to political activism by the political elites of Val de Fascia which were all but pleased by the outcome of the 2nd Statute of Autonomy, the Provincial Council of Trentino declared the communities of Cianacéi, Mazin, Moéna, Poza, Soraga, and Vich to be official Ladin territory (decree no. 19/1976)(Pescosta 2013, 512). Furthermore, in the same year, the cultural institute Majon di Fascegn marked the institutionalization of language planning in the valley. Even before Val Badia and Gherdëina, Ladin became an official language in local administration due to the Decreto del Presidente della Repubblica no. 574 of 1988 (Verra 2016, 9). Even three years before that the provincial law n. 17. of 1985 granted funding for cultural activities, associations, publications, media, and the institute’s work (Verra 2016, 9).

In the province of Belluno, on the other hand, Ladin was not acknowledged before 1999 by national law nr. 482, which is based on Article 6 of the Italian Constitution, previsioning the protection of historical linguistic minorities (see Pescosta 2013, 556). Pescosta (Pescosta 2013, 556), however, deems the national law insufficient since the competency to assign minority status to communities is at the provincial level (an opinion shared by language officials from Fodòm). Shortly after 1999, in addition to the Fodòm, Col and Anpezo, 35 other communities of Belluno claimed minority status as Ladins. (This became known as the Neoladin movement which is institutionalized in the form of the Istituto Ladin de la Dolomites18 (last accessed  on August 20th 2020)). As a result, the designated funds are being divided between the historical 3 and the other 35 Neoladin communities (ibd.).

The Ladin people in Belluno have no direct political representation in neither the provincial council of Belluno, nor in the regional council of Veneto (Pescosta 2013, 555) and due to the relatively small number of Ladin speakers in Belluno, there is also no party or representative in these councils stand up for language minority rights of the Ladin people (like is the case of Fascia in Trentino). Nonetheless, the three Ladin cultural associations of Fodòm, Anpezo and Col in 2008 founded the cultural institute Cesa de Jan in Col. The institute undoubtedly is a step towards the institutionalization of Ladin language planning even though its official status is that of an association, not that of a public institution as is the case of Majon di Fascegn and Micurá de Rü. Due to the legal situation however both funding of and the influence the institute has are much smaller than the other two do.


4.1.2. The Language Planning Institutes Istitut Ladin Micurá de Rü

Website: https://www.Micurá.it/en/

The institute was founded based on P.L. of 31st July 1976 n. 27 and is active since 1977. It has the status of an official body of the province of Bozen. Accordingly, it is completely funded publicly. Its director explains that the institute receives approximately 350.000 € per year for their projects, which is almost entirely balanced out by revenues, mostly from book sells, as well as around 900.000 € of payroll costs, which equals 12,25 official job positions, embodied by 18 people. According to its director, the funding of Micurá de Rü can be considered stable which allows for the support and execution of mid- and long-term language planning projects.

The two major objectives of Micurá de Rü are the “scientific study of the language, the history and the culture of the Ladin people of the Dolomites” as well as the “promotion of the use of the oral and written Ladin language”19https://www.Micurá.it/en/istitut-ladin/objectives (last accessed  on August 20th 2020).

The Institute supports scientific research on Ladin language and culture in various ways. First and foremost, it is continuously working on “[…] setting up of an archive with documents, photographs and tape recordings [and a] library for researches on the Ladin language”20https://www.Micurá.it/en/istitut-ladin/objectives (last accessed  on August 20th 2020). In collaboration with the Fascian institute Majon di Fascegn and the universities of Innsbruck and Salzburg, it started the linguistic atlas project Atlante linguistico del ladino dolomitico e dei dialetti limitrofi with the goal “to underscore linguistic peculiarities of Ladin” (Pescosta 2013, 620). Moreover, since its birth in 1977, the institute annually publishes the scientific journal Ladinia – sföi cultural dai ladins dles Dolomites21All issues and articles are available here: https://www.Micurá.it/la/sorvisc-online/mediateca-schema/22-mediateca/470-mediateca-ladinia (last accessed  on August 20th 2020). With an eye on the history of disacknowledgement, these efforts seem to partly follow a poltical aim: By the incentivization of research and the resulting valorization of Ladin its distinct character, its minority status and need for protection (and funding) is emphasized on the political levels beyond the valley borders.

Even though, the promotion of scientific research might have a positive effect on the prestige of the language and the institute itself, it is not aimed at the language use directly. There are, however, other projects aimed at promoting use of the language directly in numerous publications in the Ladin language which the Institute acknowledges and finances. Among the most important thematic realms are various books for children which aim to help parents with the pre- or early school alphabetization like Mi prima paroles (“My first words”), the singing book jun a cianté (“let’s sing”) or the famous story of Pinocchio in Ladin language. With the publication of the first two books in four languages (one of the Ladin valley varieties, German, Italian and English), they reflect an additional line of thinking of Micurá de Rü: According to the Institute’s director, Ladin can only survive as long as it is “keeping equal distance” to the more-widely spoken official languages of German and Italian. In consequence, the Ladin dictionaries that the Institute publishes are available in both Ladin-German/German-Ladin and Ladin-Italian/Italian-Ladin.

The children’s publications and the dictionaries aid young and older speakers on their path to becoming alphabetized in Ladin. As mentioned above, wide-spread written competency and therefore the use of Ladin by large parts of society is fairly new. Therefore, a situation has arisen in which it is not uncommon for children to feel more secure and confident in writing Ladin than their parents. As a result, the dictionaries which Micurá also offers online and the mobile app are an important point of reference and orientation for many users. A further source of support for prevalent questions concerning spelling in Ladin are the Institute’s translation and consultation service as well as an online spellchecker22https://www.Micurá.it/en/online-services/spellchecker (last accessed on 20.08.2020). Micurá has in the past and continues to expand both its archive and library containing scientific as well as everyday literature. As a digital supplement, the Institute also runs a multimedia platform offering videos, audio files and literature23https://www.Micurá.it/en/activities/multimedia and https://www.Micurá.it/la/sorvisc-online/mediateca-schema, last accessed on 20.08.2020.

The sole purpose of Micurá de Rü is not only to increase the use of Ladin: it also actively works to increase the speakers’ language awareness for a ‘more pure’ Ladin. In the eyes of the officials–but also of other Ladin speakers with no affiliation with the Institute–especially those Ladins who have a certain degree of public standing like politicians should function as role models when it comes to speaking good Ladin. This means, most importantly, not to use German and/or Italian words or syntactic structures when there is a Ladin alternative. It seems as if Ladin officials pursue a two-sided strategy here. First, they seem to use their linguistic authority and standing within the community and sometimes (openly) criticize the incorrect use of Ladin. At the same time, the Institute is trying to offer ‘a Ladin alternative’ for as many semantic fields as possible: an aim that is reflected in the support for large-scale lexicographic projects like VoLaNet. Comun General de Fascia


The Comun General de Fascia was officially constituted in 2010 on the basis of the provincial law Nr. 1 of February 10, 2010 and consists of the seven communities of Val de Fascia. The Comun General is the result of a process of administrative de-centralization that was introduced in Trentino in 2006 to protect and promote the three linguistic minorities of the province, i.e. the German minorities of Mocheni and Cimbri and the Ladins of Val de Fascia. Through this de-centralization, some executive competencies (mostly the distribution of funds) that before were located at the province went to the Comun General de Fascia.

Alongside its general aim for wealth and social cohesion for the valley population, the Comun General also thinks of itself as “giving an administrative form to the identity of the Ladin minority population”24 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). This includes the “protection of Ladin language and culture”25 (last accessed on August 20th 2020), an aim that is fully institutionalized in the form of a proper administrative body within the Comun, namely the Servijes linguistics e culturèi (Linguistic and cultural services). It is also fair to say, that the language planning of the Servijes linguistics e culturèi are professional and transparent. The language planning goals and measures are published every year on the community website26 (last accessed on August 20th 2020); the documents use the present scientific LPP terminology, clearly separating between status planning, prestige planning, etc.

Another fact underscores this professionalization of LPP in Val de Fascia: In my interviews, officials of all language planning bodies in Val de Fascia, including Servijes linguistics e culturèi, mentioned the findings of ongoing sociolinguistic studies in the valley, on which they base their language planning. Furthermore, the three planning bodies seem to follow a principle of labor division including, of course, a high degree of collaboration and sharing of information. This sense of collaboration is also visible in the participation of the Comun in the European Minority Language Network NPLD27 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) . The network aims to share the best practices and research on language maintenance, but also create opportunities for exchange among minority cultures in order to associate Ladin with opportunities of international exchange for youth.

The main language planning objective of the Comun General is to safeguard the language, but most of all to spread it into all domains of the Fascian society, increasing its importance and duration”. The main fields of activity are

  1. (public) information, i.e. media,
  2. the organization of events,
  3. the organization and financing of projects for the Ladin language.

These realms coincide with the status and prestige planning, leaving the job of acquisition planning mainly to the Scuola Ladina de Fascia (and OLFED) and corpus planning mainly to the cultural institute Majon di Fascegn. Like Micurá de Rü, the Comun offers a translation service for administrative and public documents but also for books, websites and so on. It also introduced the official certification of Ladin competency in order to augment the prestige and officiality of the language. Majon di Fascegn


The cultural institute Majon di Fascegn was founded in 1975 which marked an important step towards the institutionalization of language planning in Val de Fascia.

The two main objectives of the Institute are, on the one hand, research on Ladin language, culture, and history and, on the other hand, the active promotion of the language in use. As already mentioned, there is a general division of labor between the institute and both the Comun General and the Scuola Ladina regarding the fields of language planning, leaving the Majon di Fascegn with the main task of corpus planning. Nonetheless, the institute harbors the Museo Ladino (Ladin Museum) which also can be said to play an important role in obtaining official status for and prestige planning of Ladin; especially as a visible communicator and translator of the linguistic and cultural distinctions of Ladins and Val de Fascia for people from outside of the valley. This task is also driven forward by the institute’s role as a publisher of books on Ladin language and culture as well as the annual scientific journal Mondo Ladino, which published its first issue in 197728 (last accessed on August 20th 2020).

The thinking behind the language planning of Majon di Fascegn is like that of Micurá de Rü. Language planners want to foster the use of Ladin in all realms of communication, administration, formal education as well as the production of literature and other forms of art29 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). And again, in the eyes of the officials, the spoken or written Ladin used in these situations should use the traditional, that is not-Italianized vocabulary and syntax, and/or the terminology for modern semantic fields that the institute provides. The traditional language corpus is manifested in the Ladin-Italian/Italian-Ladin dictionaries that the institute publishes for the valley varieties.

Again, together with Micurá de Rü, the institute participates in the VoLaNet project to find Ladinia-wide neologisms for modern semantic fields, always finding ways to provide the speech communities with Ladin alternatives to prevent further inference of the neighboring languages, which in Val de Fascia is mainly Italian. For the everyday speaker, the institute furnishes the already mentioned dictionaries, which are also available online30 (last accessed on August 20th 2020), and an online spell-checker31 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) to increase a ‘more correct’ use of Ladin in the written form.

But the institute also participates in efforts to increase the prestige and use of Ladin within Val de Fascia. The Museo Ladino, for example, continuously organizes events for children and adults that explain particular topics of Ladin culture and language. The premises of the Majon di Fascegn also host Ladin courses for adults as well as the public Ladin library Padre Frumenzo Ghetta. Further media resources for Ladin speakers are furnished online, first and foremost on the platform Mediateca Ladina, which offers free access to audiobooks, videos, didactic materials, radio recordings and more in Ladin language, demonstrating a focus on audio content for children.32 (last accessed  on August 20th 2020) Istitut Cultural Ladin Cesa de Jan


The Cesa de Jan represents the Ladin communities of Col, Fodòm and Anpezo and was founded in 2004 in accordance with National Law no. 482 of 1999 which regulates the norms on the protection of historic linguistic minorities. The institute receives half of its funding from the three communities and the other half from the region of Trentino-Alto Adige33 (last accessed  on August 20th 2020), which in sum makes about 150.000 € per year, including personnel costs. Compared to the approximately 1,250,000 € that Micurá de Rü receives annually, this can be called a rather small amount, even more so since the Cesa the Jan also has to finance its language acquisition efforts, which is done by the Ladin school office in Bozen for Val Badia and Gherdëina.

The general goal of Cesa de Jan towards Ladin does not differ much from Micurá de Rü or Majon di Fascegn. The Institute works for “the promotion and protection of the Ladin identity: history, language, culture, toponomastics and traditions”. However, the financial and legal situation is less favorable for the Ladins in Belluno, which limits the sphere of influence and scope of projects that the institute is able to pursue. As a consequence, the institute can’t contribute as much to the research on Ladin Micurá de Rü and Majong de Fascegn do, for example, with their annual scientific journals, but is trying to stay on track with it.

Because of the relative lack of language protection rights in Belluno, the Institute’s role in political activism is significantly more important than in Trentino and Südtirol, where minority language protection is largely supported by the provincial governments. The political struggle of Cesa de Jan is twofold: First, the institute aims to delineate the Ladin communities of Col, Anpezo and Fodòm from the Neoladin movement. Second, it continuously demands the incorporation of the three communities into the province of Südtirol as expressed by the referendum of 2007 which was never implemented.

Language planning efforts in the narrower sense are achieved as the institute works to increase the use of Ladin and decrease the amount of interference with Italian, just like the other institutes do. Just recently, the institute started to work together with touristic sites like the castle of Andraz34 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) to increase the visibility of Ladin for both tourists and the local population. The objective is to increase the prestige of Ladin among its speakers by incorporating it into prestigious sites as well as presenting the language and culture in an appealing way which of itself will hopefully attract tourists leading to an increase of economic wealth.

The most important part of language maintenance and promotion, however, is the teaching of Ladin. In Belluno, Ladin is not an obligatory part of the school curriculum and therefore it is not financed by the state or province as it is the case in Trentino and Südtirol. Consequently, it is the institute’s main job to provide at least some teaching of Ladin, which is a legal requirement if the parents ask for it. The institute’s main merits are the funding of teaching personnel as well as the creation of didactic materials for the classroom. Union Generela di Ladins dla Dolomites (UGDL)


An overview of Ladin language planning institutes would not be complete without the Union Generela di Ladins dla Dolomites (UGDL). The association was founded in 1905 is the oldest still existing organization that promotes the use and legal status of Ladin. The UGDL is also the only relevant organization that acts in all Ladin valleys and functions as an umbrella organization for the local sections and branch offices in all Ladin valleys.

Alongside its long history of political activism for language minority rights, the UGDL is the publisher and financing organization of La Usc di Ladins, a weekly newspaper which can be considered the most important Ladin print medium. Its local branches also act as publishers for smaller publications, but most of all they act as organizers of cultural events that promote the use of Ladin. Regarding language acquisition planning, the UGDL has taken up the task of offering adult language courses in Ladin. In Urtijëi, Gherdëina, it runs the Cesa di Ladins which contains a museum about Ladin culture and language, and a public library with scientific and everyday publications in Ladin.


4.2. The language Ecology of Ladin

4.2.1. Language Ecology by Numbers35For a more comprehensive  overview on population growth in the Ladin valleys see (Videsott 2010, 178) Val Badia36Sources: (Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 2012a), (Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 1983); for 2011, no there are no total numbers per speech group available; furthermore, foreigners living in the valleys are not included which is why I included data from (Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 2012b) to get an idea about the shares of all permanent residents; due to this data situation, rounding errors and small deviations from the actual numbers can appear

Table no. 4a: Language Ecology by Numbers: Val Badia

Val Badia





Inhabitants 1981

% per speech group

Inhabitants 2011

% per speech group

Population growth 1981-2011 in %































San Martin de Tor






























La Val

































































































Table no. 4b: Language Ecology by Numbers: Val Badia

Val Badia





“Which language is the easiest for you to speak?”*

“Can you speak the Ladin of your valley?”**









San Martin de Tor




La Val












*from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254
** from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 278 Gherdëina37Sources: (Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 2012a), (Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 1983); for 2011, no there are no total numbers per speech group available; furthermore, foreigners living in the valleys are not included which is why I included data from (Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 2012b) to get an idea about the shares of all permanent residents; due to this data situation, rounding errors and small deviations from the actual numbers can appear

Table no. 5a: Language Ecology by Numbers: Gherdëina








Inhabitants 1981

% per speech group

Inhabitants 2011

% per speech group

Population growth 1981-2011 in %































Ladin villages of the community of Ćiastel






























Santa Cristina




































































Table no. 5b: Language Ecology by Numbers: Gherdëina






“Which language is the easiest for you to speak?”*

“Can you speak the Ladin of your valley?”**









Ladin villages of the community of Ćiastel




Santa Cristina








*from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254
** from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 278 Val de Fascia38Sources: (Servizio Statistica della Provincia Autonoma di Trento 2014)

Table no. 6a: Language Ecology by Numbers: Val de Fascia

Val de Fascia







Inhabitants 1981

% per speech group

Inhabitants 2011

% per speech group

Population growth 1981-2011 in %













Italian & other


















Italian & other


















Italian & other


















Italian & other


















Italian & other


















Italian & other


















Italian & other














Table no. 6b: Language Ecology by Numbers: Val de Fascia

Val de Fascia





“Which language is the easiest for you to speak?”**

“Can you speak the Ladin of your valley?”***

































*from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254
** from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 278 Fodòm, Col & Anpezo39Sources: for Inhabitants in 2001 and Inhabitants in 2011: (last accessed  on August 20th 2020)

Table no. 7a: Language ecology by numbers: Fodòm, Col & Anpezo

Fodòm, Col & Anpezo






Inhabitants 2001

Which language group do you belong to?*

Inhabitants 2011

Population growth 2001-2011 in %



















































* from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 238-239


Table no. 7b: Language Ecology by Numbers: Fodòm, Col & Anpezo

Fodòm & Anpezo





“Which language is the easiest for you to speak?”**

“Can you speak the Ladin of your valley?”***


















*from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254
** from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 278



A comment on the data situation

The numbers above are a good preliminary window into the language competencies in the Ladin valleys. They should, however, be read with caution – for several reasons: In all valleys, the Ladin speech group is not exclusively language-based, but also a cultural identity that does not automatically reflect their actual language competency. A Ladin inhabitant may have a better proficiency in German (as sometimes seems/seemed to be the case in some villages), while members of other speech groups may also have a high proficiency of Ladin.

The self-declared group-membership that the census data is based on says even less about the actual use, transmission, and prestige of Ladin. For this reason, I included data of two questions from the Survey Ladins, namely “Personally, which language is the easiest to speak?” (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254) and “[How good] can you speak Ladin?” (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 278).

As can be seen, the data situation for the five Talschaften varies. Due to its system of proportionality, the administration of Südtirol had been counting the proportion of Ladins per community since the 1970s. For Trentino, the earliest census data with proportions per speech group that I found stems back to 2001. In Belluno, the census does not gather ethnicity or speech group.


Bilingualism prototype40I thought I read the term in Postlep (2020) (last accessed on August 20th 2020) even though I didn’t find it in there.

All valley populations have good passive spoken proficiency in Italian. Almost no one says they only had a bad or no proficiency in Italian (highest value in Urtijëi with 1.4% saying only bad proficiency, while a higher percentage of good proficiency was stated by at least three quarters of the community population, ranging from 75.7% in Badia and 75.4% in Santa Cristina up to as high as 95.8% in Anpezo and 95.8 % in Vich.

Spoken proficiency is expectedly lower, but still with values ranging between 0% (Col & Anpezo) and 5.2% (La Val) of poor or no active spoken proficiency in Italian. Val Gardena, Val Badia and Val de Fascia display slightly lower values for good proficiency, ranging from 53.7% in Soraga and 57.7% in Badia up to 74.3% in the Ladin villages of Ćiastel and 79.2% in Vich. Fodòm is near the median with some having 69.7% in good proficiency, while Col and Anpezo speakers have 80% of good spoken active proficiency.

Major differences between the valleys arise when looking at the proficiency in German. In the valleys of Fascia, Fodòm and Anpezo, between 3% (Soraga) and 15.2% (Vich) stated that they speak German well. Acceptable active proficiency ranged between 14.5% (Anpezo) and 30% (Vich). Even lower numbers for good or acceptable spoken proficiency in these valleys emerged for the South Tyrolese dialect of German (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 269-301).

The picture, however, changes when looking at the Ladin valleys of Südtirol. Most speakers here claim to have a good or acceptable spoken proficiency of South Tyrolese which is the conversational variant of German in the valleys. (Values for High German are in a similar range.) Only between 23.5% (La Val) and 2.1% (Ladin villages of Ćiastel) of community populations declare that they speak little or no South Tyrolese (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 269-301).

Taking all these numbers into consideration together, it can be fairly roughly assumed that two prototypes of bi- or multilingualism exist at the valley-level. The first prototype is basically trilingual in Ladin, German (or South Tyrolese), and Italian and can be found in the valleys of Badia and Gherdëina. In terms of relative competency, Ladin here still seems to be at the center, accompanied by good passive and active competency in both Italian and German (or South Tyrolese). The second prototype is basically a bilingual41Since tourism is the major economic sector in most communities, it can be assumed that a good proficiency of English can be added to both prototypes, which would render the second also multilingual. As an everyday language among inhabitants of the valleys as well as in neighboring Ladin or non-Ladin valleys, the use of English can be considered marginal beyond the usual borrowings in youth talk.  one in Ladin and Italian (or the respective neighboring dialects of Trentino or Veneto) and can be found in Val de Fascia, Col, Fodòm and Anpezo. (The situation of Ladins in Anpezo, though, has already become that of a language minority at the village level which is not the case for the other Ladin valleys.)

This prototype is, of course, only acceptable as a first impression and a working hypothesis of sociolinguistic reality in the valleys. It says little about the actual use and the social norms and factors involved in it: In what language do Ladin speakers interact with non-Ladin residents? What languages are transmitted in mixed families? Are there places where Ladin has been or is not spoken even though all speakers in the room would possess a sufficient (general) proficiency in Ladin? All these questions have to be answered with a more detailed look at different social domains down below.


4.2.2. Prestige and Social Function of Ladin: A Diachronic View

FO_04: That is, I’ll give you an example: My father, born and raised there in Fodòm, saw Ladin as a language that wasn’t supposed to be used in…/
TW: … at the doctor?/
FO_04: Exactly! In official contexts. On the contrary, it was a language of minor value. […] Ladin was little more than a colloquial form you talk with your family. But a different perception took place. Also – and this is essential, right? – I say that until 10 years ago, writing a message or mail or whatsapp in Ladin wouldn’t even have appeared to us. But now [it’s happening] more and more. Also because who learns it [=Ladin] at school knows how to write it. In consequence there’s- in this sense I perceive the school as the fundamental instrument (FO_04)42[Original:] “FO_04: Cioè- da esempio, mio papa, nato e cresciuto là sempre a Livinallongo che però la lingua ladina ha visto come una lingua che non andava utilizzata in…/
T. Walter: Al dottore? /
FO_04: Esatto! In via ufficiale! Era comunque una lingua di minore valore. […] Il ladino era poco più una forma colloquiale in famiglia. Invece (è successo) una percezione anche diversa. Anche proprio – e questa è fondamentale, no? – io dico che fino a una decina di anni fa ma neanche a noi non veniva neanche sponteano scrivere un messaggio o una mail o un whatsapp ladino. Adesso sempre di più. Anche perché chi lo fa a scuola sa come scriverlo. E in conseguenza c’è- in questo senso io vedo uno strumento – quello della scuola – fondamentale.”


Another important thing that many recognized in cultural politics was the appropriation of this multilingualism as a trademark. That is, the Ladin is Ladin, also because he manages to speak more languages. […] The generation of my parents, they went out into the world with an inferiority complex. They said, ‘what a second, we are Ladins, we don’t know the language. We must take a low profile and must not emphasize our Ladin origin. (BA_01)43[Original:] “Was wichtig war, was auch viele erkannt haben, auch im kulturpolitischen Bereich, dass man diese Mehrsprachigkeit als Markenzeichen sich angeeignet [hat]. Also der Ladiner ist Ladiner, auch weil er mehr Sprachen beherrscht. […] Die Generation meiner Eltern, die sind in die Welt hinausgegangen mit einem MInderwertigkeitskomplex. Also sie haben gesagt ‘Moment, wir sind Ladiner, wir können die Sprache nicht, wir müssen uns zurückhalten und unsere ladinische Herkunft jetzt nicht so groß uns an die Fahne schreiben’.” (BA_01)


When I was little, the doctor said to my mother: Don’t speak Ladin, speak in Italian. Why if- got it? While what is happening now- The same teachers – (Woe!) – if they were hearing [you] talk Ladin. ‘() [you] didn’t learn nothing, didn’t learn good Italian, (you) couldn’t study. While now we’re witnessing almost the opposite phenomenon () that you see children – if they come from families with that knowledge, that awareness – who speak some Ladin, some Italian and even some English. I often hear parents- the young ones, ok? who speak Lad(in). There’s that awareness that more (many) languages can be useful – for other reasons. (FA_05)44[Original:] “[…] Quando io ero piccola il medico diceva alla mia mamma: Non parlare in ladino, parla in italiano. Perché se- Capito? Mentre adesso si sta arrivando- Le stesse insegnanti (Guai!) se sentivano parlare il ladino. () non imparava nulla, non imparava bene l’italiano, non potevi studiare. Mentre adesso stiamo assistendo quasi al fenomeno opposto (della seria che vedi, della serie) che vedi bambini piccoli – se c’è nelle famiglie questa conoscenza, questa consapevolezza – che parlano un po’ in ladino, un po’ in italiano addirittura anche in inglese, io sento tanti i genitor- i giovani, no? che parlano lad- C’è questa consapevolezza che tante lingue sono comunque utili – per altri motivi.” (FA_05)

There is a common theme that appeared in almost all of my interviews with language planners, implementers, and ‘normal speakers’: The common perception that the prestige of Ladin and its contexts of use have changed within the lifetime of my interlocutors. Apparently, Ladin had been perceived as a language (and sometimes even dialect) only to be spoken within the family realm, with friends and neighbors. Now, however, the language is also used in more official, ‘prestigious’ social domains and contexts that had been reserved for Italian or German before. These official realms seem to be connected with personalities of authority: the doctor in his office (see example from Fascia), the teacher in her classroom, the politician on the stage at a public event (mentioned by BA_07 and GR_01). Speakers seem to have an awareness of where Ladin is spoken and where not. Moreover, these distinct social realms seem to be associated with rules regarding the situationally appropriate linguistic behavior, which in the valleys often involves the contrast between Ladin and Italian and/or German.

It is fair to say that today smooth communication is the general guiding principle for Ladin speakers of all valleys. Given that a Ladin speaker also has a sufficient competency in Italian, German or English – which, as we saw, is often the case – he or she is likely to switch into either of these languages whenever the interlocutor has troubles speaking Ladin. This general norm or rule seems to be the strongest among children:

Children among each other just speak how things come. Then, of course, you have everything [=languages] on the football field. And then maybe you have to understand the Ladin person or the one who speaks Italian. (BA_03)45[Original:] “Unter den Kindern wird einfach gesprochen, so wie man das hat. Dann ist natürlich am Fußballfeld alles da. Und dann musst du vielleicht den Ladiner verstehen oder den, der italienisch spricht.” (BA_03)

And see also:

The teenagers also adapt. That is, a Ladin speaker then speaks German when required or Italian. Vice versa it’s not like that. That is, Italians don’t speak German or Italian. And the Germans also not necessarily Ladin – even though they try to, but- The Ladin speakers are just used to adapt, since you don’t get very far with Ladin. (GR_03)46[Original:] “[Die] Jugendlichen passen sich dann auch an. Das heißt, ein Ladinischsprachiger der spricht dann halt deutsch, wenn‘s nötig ist (und die/oder) italienisch. Umgekehrt ist es halt nicht so. D.h. Italiener sprechen dann nicht deutsch oder italienisch. Und die deutschen auch nicht unbedingt das Ladinische – obwohl man das dann schon versucht, aber- Die Ladinischsprachigen sind es einfach gewöhnt, dass man sich anpasst, weil ja mit dem Ladinischen kommt man ja nicht weit.” GR_03

In the eyes of some, this continuous switching between languages also bears some dangers for the native language, especially for its ‘purity’ and ‘correctness’. One teacher from Gherdëina explains this habit to use the word that comes to mind first, which she seems to perceive as a violation of another rule, namely ‘only use one language at a time (e.g. in the same sentence)’:

Nowadays everything’s a little different: The word that comes in mind first, every time a word doesn’t come to mind or when you want to express yourself precisely, you just say it in the language that comes to mind. You may speak a different language, but then words show up that you just have in that moment. (GR_02)47[Original:] “Heutzutage ist das ein bisschen anders: Das Wort, das zuerst präziser einfällt, immer wenn einem was nicht einfällt oder man sich genau ausdrücken möchte, dann sagt man es in der Sprache, die einem einfällt. Man spricht zwar die eine oder die andere Sprache, aber dann fallen Worte an, die man einfach in dem Moment nur so hat.” (GR_02)

The openly stated disapproval of linguistic behavior like, in this case, code switching within the same sentence or situation should be taken into consideration as a potential factor of language maintenance, too. Negative comments on linguistic behavior of other can be seen as a form of social sanctioning which represents a potential threat to face or a person’s social status, especially if the metalinguistic commentary comes from a person who her-/himself is widely respected as some kind of authority within the community. This kind of language-related sanctioning is undoubtedly going on in the Ladin valleys. One example that was mentioned in several interviews was the speech of a local politician from Val Badia who publicly stated something like “messunse einsetzen per erreichen la Zielsetzung” – a sentence with more than 50% of words in (or more correctly: perceived as) German from a Ladin native speaker in a public context. The reactions to this kind of mixing by institute officials, teachers and journalists probably usually sound like the following excerpts from my data:

I often recognize it in interviews on the radio. Sometimes there are interviews that should be cut away. Right? When a person uses three German words in one sentence. This can’t be possible! On the Ladin channel! (BA_03)48[Original:] “Ich stelle das sehr oft bei Interviews im Radio fest. Da gibt es manchmal Interviews, die wären wegzuschneiden. Nicht? Wo eine Person in einem Satz drei deutsche Wörter benützt. Das kann’s nicht sein! Im Ladinischen Sender!” (BA_03)

Ok, now I got six words, of which four were German and two little Ladin words. It is possible to say that in Ladin. (GR_01)49[Original:] “Ok, jetzt hab ich dann sechs Worte, wovon vier deutsche Worte waren und zwei kleine ladinische Wörter. Das kann man auch auf Ladinisch sagen. […]” (GR_01)

For someone who has some ‘ear’ – because this is about hearing, about linguistic hearing and a feeling for language –, this is like a punch into the belly. And why do these things happen? Because we got no school!” (GR_04)50[Original:] “Somit ist das für einen, der ein bisschen Ohr hat, denn es geht hier um gehör, so um sprachwissenschaftliches Gehör und einfach um Sprachgefühl ist das wie ein Schlag in den Unterleib. Und wieso passieren diese Sachen? Weil wir keine Schule haben!” (GR_04)

But as already implied, there seem to be generational differences regarding the strictness of this ‘no mixing’ rule but also regarding the use of Ladin in general. As a youth worker from Gherdëina explains, Ladin is not really considered ‘cool’ among teenagers in the valley – even though in his opinion there are differences depending on the village and family the teenagers come from (GR_03). And I also encountered similar anecdotal evidence in interviews with speakers in their 20s from Val de Fascia who stated that they didn’t have a high esteem of Ladin throughout their adolescence, which changed later in their life.


Sources of local pride and Ladin identity

The cultural, artistic, musical and sports clubs and associations of the valleys represent another type of institution that contributes to the preservation of Ladin. Equal participation and integration in these societies often seems to be conditioned by an acceptable proficiency of Ladin – or at least recognizable efforts to learn it for the case of non-Ladins (BA_02, GR_04, GR_01). Many of these societies also actively engage in the cultivation of Ladin culture tradition and history, e.g. folk-dance groups like the Union Bal Popolar dla Val Badia and the Grupa Balarins de Gherdëina Urtijei.

In some of these associations, the traditional costume represents an important social sign to display ‘Ladin-ness’. Participants of the big political demonstration on the Sellajoch were wearing their traditional costume51 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). The same costume can also be seen at the Dé dla ciantia ladina (Day of Ladin song)52 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). Furthermore, prominent Ladin music groups like Ganes who achieved fame way beyond the Ladin valleys, have become a source of cultural pride – which now is even used as a marketing vehicle: tourist associations organize touristic events with musical performances from local folk music groups; single hoteliers hire local musicians to both entertain the hotel guests and explain the peculiarities of the Ladin culture and language (GR_07, BA_04, BA_03).

Another important source of pride that became associated with Ladin identity and language over the years is winter sports. Some of the best skiing areas worldwide are in (or rather: between) the Ladin valleys. The region also hosts prestigious winter sports championships like the FIS Ski World Cup in Gherdëina. (According to one language official the skiing region Dolomiti superski is not only the best skiing area in the world but also one of the few unifying factors of the five Ladin valleys.) The many (winter) sports clubs as well as the Creusc Blanica Gherdëina and Crusc Blancia Alta Badia represent a crucial part of the community life, where Ladin is openly displayed and internally spoken.


Integration and Language Maintenance

As the numbers on inhabitants and population growth show, there are not only Ladin people living in the valleys. As a prosperous touristic region with an attractive job market for seasonal workers, the Ladin valleys became the residence of many people from outside. These new citizens of Ladin communities mostly do not understand Ladin, which is usually not a problem in everyday communication since they mostly either speak Italian, German or at least English. In a long-term view, the lack of competency in Ladin of outsiders can however become a problem.

As mentioned above, the general communication rule of Ladin speakers is to switch into German or Italian (or English) whenever communication in Ladin is not possible. At the same time, the fully accepted participation in crucial parts of the village life like the church community, the choir, sport clubs, the local ‘bar crowd’ and other associations, some competency of Ladin seems to be a precondition. As an institute official explains, new speakers almost automatically learn Ladin on the street, together with their children. A waitress from Pustertal told me she reached an acceptable amount of Ladin in approximately two years. An Italian-native bar owner in Vich gave a similar response, adding she would learn Ladin together with her daughter, who also was born outside of the valley and is learning it now at school.

Nonetheless, a proper knowledge of Ladin may not come as easily to all new speakers, especially if they have no previous experience with learning a second language. An excerpt from an interview with a teacher from Gherdëina explains how things differ in Urtijëi (Gherdëina), where only about 55% consider Ladin the language they speak the easiest (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254):

Those who marry into Val Badia automatically learn Ladin. In the village and so on. At home people speak predominantly Ladin then (in families with a parent from outside of the valley). It’s just the rule. In Gherdëina, this is not the case! In St. Christina and Sëlva still almost like that [= Val Badia], BUT: parents are bilingual at home then. In Urtijëi it depends on the part of the village: Who doesn’t marry into the village center, probably learns Ladin.[…] the graveyard for example is a part of the village where ladin is still being cultivated. […] Down there however, the big church, the parish church and especially the small church, the church of St. Antonius where the square is and the shopping center, – a lot of German is being spoken there. (GR_02)53[Original:] “Wer ins Gadertal reinheiratet, lernt automatisch das Ladinische. Im Dorf und so. Zuhause wird dann auch vor allem Ladinisch gesprochen (in den Familien mit einem Elternteil von außen). Gehört sich so. In Gröden ist das nicht so. (!) In St. Cristina und Wolkenstein auch noch eher so, ABER: Elternhaus dann zweisprachig. In St. Ulrich geht es nach Dorfvierteln/teilen: Wer nicht ins Zentrum hineinheiratet, der nimmt das Ladinische mit auf. […] Der Friedhof jetzt zum Beispiel, der ist in dem Viertel, wo Ladinisch noch gepflegt wird. […] Hingegen unten, die große Kirch, die Pfarrkirche und unten vor allem die kleine Kirche, die Antoniuskirche wo der Platz ist und wo auch das Einkaufszentrum ist, da wird eigentlich sehr viel deutsch gesprochen.” (GR_02)

The language planning institutes as well as the Ladin school officials are aware of these potential threats to the survival of Ladin. The Comun General de Fascia, for example, invites these new speakers and neighbors to participate in welcome events which present the Ladin language and culture in a game-ified, entertaining way (FA_02). Furthermore, the Comun specifically finances projects within associations like sports clubs that incentivize the use of Ladin among members (FA_02). In the valleys of Südtirol, children from non-Ladin families receive a so-called welcome box which contains materials and tips which are designed to facilitate the introduction into the Ladin school system (BA_01).

But maybe even more important are the Ladin courses for non-Ladins which are organized by the local sections of the UGDL. As David Lardschneider, a school teacher and journalist of the Usc, and also pro bono teacher of these Ladin evening classes explains, the people originally come from the neighboring valleys, from ex-soviet countries, from other places in Italy, from South America etcetera. The number of hours does not suffice to transmit a good level of Ladin. His main mission is therefore to convey a sense of motivation and entertainment as well as materials for self-reliant studying when the class is over.


5. Three Social Domains: Ladin in Education, Economy, Media

5.1. The Role of Ladin at School

5.1.1. School in Val Badia and Gherdëina

The Ladin school office (Intendënza y Cultura ladina) was founded as a public institution of the province of Bozen in 1975 after the 2nd Statute of Autonomy which cemented the school system of parity for Val Badia and Gherdëina. Up until then, the German School Office of the Province was responsible for those areas.

The School Office’s main objective is to enact and monitor the school system of parity (between Italian and German as vehicular languages). But even though the curricular languages are in actuality only German and Italian, school office officials perceive it as a genuinely trilingual system. On the office’s website they state that “[…] the maintenance and promotion of Ladin as well as the equal competence in Italian and German”54 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) are their main objectives.

Increased attention being paid to Ladin since 1975 seems to be reflected in statements of former students from Val Badia and Gherdëina who went to school between the late 1970s and late 1980s. Two interviewees (BA_04, BA_07) claimed they were the first generation which had been properly alphabetized in Ladin, even though this should have been the teachers’ goal since 1948. Interestingly, students and teachers seem to use a lot more Ladin as a means of communication than the official curriculum suggest at first sight. Asked what languages they speak or spoke with their teachers, for all age groups except for the youngest (12-18 years old), Ladin was the most frequent answer with around 80% (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 218). Only in the age group born between 1988 and 1994, the values coincided with the official school system (German:71.1%, Italian: 69.4%, Ladin: 57.7%)(ibd.).

The school system for the Ladin schools of Südtirol is sketched out in Table no. 8. When compared to the bi- or multilingual competencies of German as well as Italian schools in Südtirol, the Ladin school constantly yields good results: In the bi-  or trilingual tests (German/Italian and, in Val Badia and Gherdëina, German/Italian/Ladin), which are a prerequisite for public job positions in Südtirol, Ladins always exceed the provincial median by far (Verra 2008, 255, citing Ellecosta 2007: 175; confirmed by Ladin school office).

The prototypical Ladin speaker in Val Badia and Gherdëina is tri- or multilingual, with a native competency in Ladin, and good competencies in German/South Tyrolese and Italian. In addition, competencies in the global lingua franca English can be expected to be high, too, since it is an important means of communication with tourists. For that reason, the school system has a reputation as a role model for other schools in Südtirol and for bilingual regions from all over Europe (BA_03).

Table no. 8: The school system of Val Badia and Gherdëina


Vehicular languages

Curricular languages

Pre-school (3-6 years old)


Some games and activities in Italian, Ladin & German

Elementary school



Ladin55In the 1st year and after that as a support language; plus religious education in all three languages.


Ladin (2 hours/week),

English (2 hours/week from 4th year on)

Middle school




Ladin (2 hours/week),

English (2 hours/week from 4th year on)

High school




Ladin (2 hours/week),

English (2 hours/week from 4th year on)

*Ladin can be used for teaching “whenever considered appropriate by the teacher”56 (last accessed  on August 20th 2020). The official plan is that of a parity between German and Italian as vehicular languages.


Obstacles and Methods

The good results, however, are not achieved without obstacles along the way. Teachers and school office officials admit that the three languages put a high cognitive load on the children, especially in the beginning of their school career. Some younger children cover their ears when they hear a non-native language spoken in their presence. Especially children from more rural backgrounds often do not have much contact with German or Italian before being enrolled in school. In addition, there are, of course, also children from non-Ladin families who speak German or Italian. These different levels of bi- and trilingual competency at home are often paralleled by different degrees of ability of parents to support their children on their way to becoming trilingual.

All these factors create a need for well-trained teachers who know how to handle these different degrees of competency and ability, as well as accompanying measures to bridge these gaps between the students. One experienced teacher from Gherdëina describes the situation (GR_02):

For example, there are definitely problems with students or children that have less talent for languages or can’t learn new vocabulary as quickly. They sometimes lag behind a little more. Here you need extremely competent teacher who (can) compensate for that somehow by using games, exercises, poems, songs. (GR_02)57[Original:] “Zum Beispiel es gibt schon Probleme mit Schülern oder Kindern, die nicht so sprachgewandt sind oder eben, die nicht so schnell einen Wortschatz sich merken können. Die hinken schon oft länger nach. Da braucht’s sehr sehr kompetente Lehrer, die das wettmachen irgendwie über Spiele, Übungen, Gedichte, Lieder.” (GR_02)

All teachers from preschool to high-school level in Südtirol must submit themselves to a bilingual test before they are allowed to work. In the Ladin valleys of Südtirol, Ladin is added to the test making it trilingual. This guarantees a sufficient Ladin proficiency of all teaching personnel, at least as a vehicular language. But the test does not include any further education qualifying them to be able to handle the problems which arise in a trilingual education system. For this reason, the Free University of Bozen established a Ladin section in the pedagogical faculty in Brixen in 200658 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). Here, aspiring teachers take courses in all three languages to equal parts and, most importantly, learn teaching methods adapted to the unique situation in Ladin classrooms.

The school system tries not to overcharge the children, also to not create negative attitudes towards one of the second languages or language learning in general (Ladin School Office). Therefore, in preschool Ladin is used as the main language, while the nursery schoolteachers try to sensitize the children for the second languages. One teacher explains a method in which every room in the kindergarten is reserved for one of the three languages: When in one of those rooms, the children should try to speak only in the respective language reserved for that room; the linguistic borders are further emphasized by the use of three different colors (BA_03).

In the first year of elementary school, Ladin is still used as the main vehicular language. Italian and German are added gradually in the following years of elementary school, while Ladin always remains a possible auxiliary language (Ladin School Office, see also Verra 2016). Children from non-Ladin backgrounds that arrive later in their school career receive a so-called “welcome box” which includes teaching materials and resources to facilitate their way towards trilingual competency, too (Ladin School Office, personal communication). Notwithstanding this institutionalized gradual familiarization with multilingualism, everyday life at school seems to require a high degree of flexibility, motivation, and capability of teachers in all subjects.

Not much space in the curriculum is allotted to the teaching of Ladin. Two hours per week are devoted to Ladin language and culture, a subject that is not easy to teach even though it is the students’ native language. The biggest task Ladin teachers are faced with is that of teaching all students to read and write Even academically trained teachers correct writing in the official valley variants of Ladin does not seem to come naturally. According to some teachers and speakers, written Gherdëina and Badiot possesses a relatively complicated accent system which is rather nonintuitive in some village variants which often differ notably from each other in the spoken form (BA_03, GR_02, BA_05).

The students seem to have difficulties in understanding why the written form is different from the spoken structure (BA_01). Teachers are expected to react to these inner-linguistic differences and their practical implications with a certain degree of flexibility. Students can speak and write their local variety even though the teacher or school building is from/in the territory of another variant.

There is also anecdotal evidence that written and spoken competency in Ladin increased in the last three decades. According to one teacher from Gherdëina and Val Badia, in Urtijëi where German has had a relatively high influence for over 100 years, there now seems to be more Ladin spoken again which these teachers attribute to improvements in teaching methods (BA_03, GR_02).

Also, there seems to be a more favorable attitude of parents towards talking and transmitting Ladin to their children than about 1,5 generations ago (GR_02). Apparently, the success of the school system supported a more positive view towards the trilingual system including the teaching of Ladin. According to all interview partners from the two valleys, the school system and its economically favorable outcome has become a source of pride for the Ladins of Val Badia and Gherdëina. As a School Office official puts it, the Ladins of Val Badia and Gherdëina have appropriated multilingualism as a unique feature: “Also der Ladiner ist Ladiner, auch weil er mehr Sprachen beherrscht” [A Ladin is Ladin, also because he manages to speak many languages” (BA_01).


Critique from inside the valleys

Nonetheless, the relatively small amount of Ladin, especially as a vehicular language, in the school system is not without critics. As one teacher from Gherdëina states, the law does not allow Ladin to become a vehicular language even though, in his opinion, this would have several advantages:

As a Ladin teacher I have to teach everything, I would have to: history, Ladin history in Ladin, geography, geology, biology, history of art, counting, language, literature, chemistry, physics- That’s not possible! […] Contents would still be conveyed, the image of Ladin would increase, students would be more confident in their mother tongue, the Ladin teacher could teach Ladin language and literature effectively, and that would be particularly important. And for Gherdëina, it would foster our personality and identity somehow. (GR_04)59[Original:] “Als Ladinischlehrer muss ich alles unterrichten, ich müsste: Geschichte, ladinische Geschichte auf Ladinisch, Geografie, Geologie, Biologie, Kunstgeschichte, Rechnen, Sprache, Literatur, Chemie, Physi- Das geht nicht! […] Inhalte würden trotzdem weitergegeben, das Ladinische würde Image-mäßig wachsen, man wär’ sattelfester in der eigenen Muttersprache, der Ladinischlehrer könnte effektiv Sprache und Literatur unterrichten und das wär‘ sehr sehr wichtig. Und für Gröden unsere Persönlichkeit und Identität irgendwie stärken.” (GR_04)

Because of these limits in law and attitude, the responsibility to compensate for the inequality of Ladin in the curriculum lies with other social actors. These are, first and foremost the families, but also the teachers that I talked to.  All actively contributed to the social cohesion of the Ladin communities and to the maintenance of Ladin outside of the classroom–as journalists, ski instructors, authors and editors of local publications in Ladin, as Ladin folk dance instructors for children or local guides who explain the history and uniqueness of the Ladin people and language to tourists (see chapter on The Role of the Individual).

But even within the school system, the coverage of Ladin often seems to be a matter of whether educators are willing to put some financially unrewarded extra work into certain projects, as illustrated in the last example for Val Badia and Gherdëina. During an interview, my interlocutor Lois Castlunger, a former teacher, and then education coordinator, talks about an anti-mobbing campaign which included a poster that could be found in schools all over Südtirol. The example is remarkable not only because it illustrates how respected and motivated actors can make a difference when it comes to the presence of Ladin at school. It also shows how this engagement leads to an organic growth of the language corpus itself.

It always depends on whose turn it is. For example, this thing about mobbing. I was part of that project group. And then they said, let’s make it bilingual. And I went: ‘look, for the little ones-’ – it’s rather made for the little ones in elementary school – ‘why don’t we make it trilingual?’. They went ‘yeah, and?’ and I said ‘I will handle that if you provide the money so that we can produce a poster in Ladin as well. It looks so nice, does it always have to hang there in German [only]?’ […] for this [poster] I contacted the Ladin cultural institute [Micurá de Rü], they were supposed to do it in Ladin. And that was the creation of a new word field that probably didn’t exist before. (Lois Castlunger)60[Original:] “Das hängt immer davon ab, wer dran ist. Zum Beispiel dieses Dings für Mobbing. Da war ich halt auch in der Arbeitsgruppe. […] Da hieß es halt, wir machen das zweisprachig. Und da sag ich, ‘du, für die Kleinen-’, das ist eher für die Kleinen auch in der Grundschule- ‘warum machen wir das nicht dreisprachig?” Dann heißt es ‘ja und?’ Da sag ich’dafür sorge ich, wenn ihr für die Gelder sorgt, dass wir dafür auch ein ladinisches Plakat machen können, das hängt doch so schön. Muss das immer nur auf deutsch hängen?’. […] für dieses hab ich das ladinische Kulturinstitut angeheuert, sie sollen das doch auf Ladinisch machen. Das war dann auch wieder die Schaffung eines Wortfeldes, das es vielleicht nicht einmal so gab.” (Lois Castlunger)


5.1.2. School in Val de Fascia

The school system of Val de Fascia has undergone far reaching changes in the last 20-25 years. Since 1969, Ladin is being taught in the valley as a curricular subject (OLFED, personal communication). Even though its obligatory teaching “was not implemented in the valley before 1997” (Verra 2016, 8, also OLFED, personal communication). The legislation from this very year (Legge Provinciale, 13 febbraio 1997, n.4), however, brought important improvements with it. First, what became obligatory was not only one curricular hour of Ladin: the minority language was now also previsioned to be used in as an instructional language for at least two additional hours per week. And second, from 1997 on, a mandatory language test guaranteed that aspiring teacher possessed sufficient competencies in Ladin (Verra 2016, also OLFED, personal communication).

A few years later in 200461OLFED gained official status two years later, based on Provincial Law no.5 Art. 50 of 2006., the foundation of the Ofize Ladin Formazion e Enrescida Didatica (OLFED) followed. The Ladin Office of Education and Didactic Research is part of the Scuola Ladina di Fassa and represents the most important language acquisition planning institution in the valley. As its name implies, a main task of OLFED is to provide didactic materials for teachers in Ladin. The office creates schoolbooks and exercises in Ladin language and distributes them to teachers, parents, and students. Many of these publications are also available online and can be accessed freely in the Mediateca Ladina62 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) or on the school website63 (last accessed on August 20th 2020).

OLFED also drives to improve the transmission of Ladin by offering professional formation to teaching personnel. Among other things, this objective led to a collaboration with the University of Trento and the Free University of Bozen to set up the teacher training ANTROPOLAD64According to OLFED, coordination and supervision of courses is mostly done by the Free University of Bozen; (last accessed on August 20th 2020) as part of the official curriculum of the University of Trento, including Ladin culture, linguistics, ethnography and most of all pedagogics/didactics.

The third big task of OLFED is the monitoring of language acquisition outcomes. For that purpose, the office constantly assesses the language competency of classes and confronts it with research on the sociolinguistic behavior among the students. The monitoring is of course important to assess the efficiency of present language teaching methods but also helps to justify and explain steps towards a bigger role of Ladin in the curriculum to parents.


Introduction of multilingualism

An important test balloon that tried to increase the amount of Ladin was started in 2010. On the primary education level (1st to 5th year), parents could choose to enroll their children in a new education model that previsioned the use of Ladin as a language of instruction (33-50%) next to Italian (50-66%). The project, however, faced resistance by some parents which hampered its full implementation.

In 2017/18, the school of Val de Fascia introduced the “progetto plurilingue” as an adaption of a partial provincial school reform from 2015/16, called Trentino Trelingue65 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). The general aim was to increase the amount of foreign languages, especially of German and English since they have a high importance for the touristic area. The program previsions the use of CLIL (Content and language integrated learning), a method that not only teaches the foreign language but uses it as a vehicle to teach another subject (e.g. history, maths). The provincial program was adapted to include Ladin as well.

The current state of the school system is presented in Table no. 966see for (Scola Ladina de Fascia 2018): p. 24 for primary school, pp. 36-41 for middle and high school. The “progetto plurilingue” has so far been implemented for the first 5 years of schooling (elementary school). Within the new project, the role of Ladin is comparatively high. In elementary school, 4 hours of Ladin as a vehicular language plus one hour of curricular teaching are previsioned per week.

In the following three years of middle school, the official syllabus contains a total of three hours of Ladin per week (two hours vehicular and one hour curricular). At the same time, also German and English are being taught using the CLIL method (3-4 hours per week for each language).

In high school, one curricular hour of Ladin per week remains, except for the Linguistic Highschool (Liceo linguistico). Here, Ladin enjoys the sane share in the syllabus as the foreign languages German, English, and Russian or Spanish, i.e. about four hours per week.

Table no. 9, Title: School system in Val de Fascia since the scholastic year 2017/18


Vehicular languages

Curricular languages


Ladin, Italian (approx. 50/50)[7]

Elementary school

Italian (8-11h/week)

Ladin (4h/week)

German (3h/week)

English (3/week)*


Italian (6-8 week)

Ladin (1h/week)

German (1-2h/week

English (1-2h/week)

Middle school


Ladin (2h/week)

+ CLIL activities (German or English)

Italian (7h/week)

Ladin (1h/week)

German (4h/week)

Italian (3h/week)

High school


+ 2h of CLIL

Italian (4h/week)

Ladin (1h/week)**

German (3h/week)***

English (3h/week)***

*from 4th year on
**optional in artistic and scientific high school, up to 4h/week in linguistic high school
***4h/week in linguistic high school plus 4h/week in a foreign language (Spanish or Russian)


Obstacles in and outside of the classroom

Regarding the curricular teaching of Ladin, teachers in Val de Fascia seem to encounter challenges similar to their colleagues in Val Badia and Gherdëina. Their students seem to have difficulties in separating their local variety, of which there are three, from the valley standard. The levels of previous proficiency in Ladin also vary strongly, which is partly due to the fact that non-Ladins can choose the Ladin courses, and partly because even in some families that consider themselves Ladin, the actual proficiency of Italian might be higher than for Ladin.

Simonetta Iori, who is a high school teacher of Ladin for about 200 students per year, explains that her students often arrive with a Ladin that is full of interferences from Italian. But what is more, students arrive at the classroom with a preconception of how Ladin should be spoken or written that sometimes collides with the correct way she aims to teach. But since these incorrect forms and preconceptions had been affirmed through everyday use for many years, it is hard to replace them with less Italianized, that is, more correct forms of Ladin.

Students may just be used to a way of speaking Ladin that contains many interferences with Italian. But there seems to be an attitudinal component involved here, too: The preconceptions of what is correct Ladin or not can be traced back to other linguistic authorities, namely the parents. Children seem to be faced with a ‘linguistic conflict of interest’, in the sense that the linguistic authority of the teacher may collide with those of their parents:

And then, since it is the language of your home, a little bit- you know, there is this attitude of ‘yes, but it is Ladin’ (Simonetta Iori)67[Original:] “E poi siccome è la lingua di casa tua, un po’- sai, (c’è) questo sentimento di ‘ma sì è ladino’” (Simonetta Iori)

In general, these occasional conflicts of linguistic authorities in the children’s heads do not become a major problem because the curricular teaching of Ladin is accepted and mostly supported by the parents of Fascia (OLFED). There are, however, two other potential obstacles.

The first problem concerns the parents’ attitudes towards Ladin which can be observed with a closer look on the implementation process of a new educational track in 2010 (see description above). The new educational track contained almost one third of Ladin and encountered significant restraint from parents. According to OLFED, the reason for the low numbers of enrollments in the new curriculum was the low prestige of Ladin (a language attitude that is confirmed by a study by Fiorentini 2014, 340-342). Reportedly, parents stated the following:

‘Studying Ladin isn’t of much use because Ladin doesn’t help me much in life.’ (FA_05)68[Original:] “È inutile studiare il ladino perché tanto il ladino non mi serve nella vita.” (FA_05)

The parents’ hesitation to sign their children up was clearly because Ladin was not of much use outside of the valley and on the local labor market which is dominated by alpine tourism. In the communication with tourists, next to Italian, German and English are the most important languages of conduct. The acceptance of the plurilingual project is higher than for the previous model, supposedly because it includes the more ‘useful’ languages English and German.

Similar hurdles emerged during the implementation of the progretto pultilingue a couple of years later. Again, some convincing had to be done to get parents to enroll their children into a program with more Ladin instruction (4h of vehicular plus 1h of curricular use) than the obligatory previous syllabus. For this purpose, OLFED continuously monitors the learning outcomes and presents evaluations of research to parents, thereby showing that Ladin does not decrease the children’s competency in Italian (one of the main fears among parents)69 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). In the first ‘marketing’ phase for the new program, OLFED even invited professors of linguistics from the Universities of Trento and Edinburgh. These external linguistic authorities clarified some preconceptions about the influence of a second (or third/fourth) vehicular language on teaching outcomes, underscoring the advantages children can gain from Ladin, English and German as additional languages of instruction70 (last accessed on August 20th 2020).

The second major obstacle in keeping Ladin in the school system has to do with the language attitudes of the students themselves. Both language officials as well as younger ‘normal’ speakers mentioned that Ladin doesn’t enjoy a high prestige among adolescents (FA_02, FA_08, FA_06): For some younger speakers, Ladin seems to represent a backward-oriented village life that doesn’t fit the orientation towards internationality, urbanism and cosmopolitanism. Thanks to continuous feedback that language officials obtain from parents and students, this prestige problem is high up on the agenda of teachers and local language planners.

The sometimes-unfavorable attitudes can result in a lack of motivation which requires a high amount of creativity, flexibility, and sensitivity from teachers like Simonetta Iori. She holds that the teacher’s own way of presenting the language plays a crucial role in motivating the pupils and thereby maintaining the language. To achieve that goal, Iori, for example, uses memes — a format that is associated with social media and youth culture — to explain and exercise grammar rules:

Well, then you invent something, ‘how do I do it?’. We do a song and sing. Then, what do we do? We make memes. Or madlibs. (…) about what? About grammar rules. (-) It’s really entertaining. At that point, the students see that it is nice. It’s nice to speak good. It’s nice knowing my language. It’s nice speaking it correctly. (Simonetta Iori)71[Original:] “Allora ti inventi, come faccio? Facciamo una canzone e cantiamo. Allora che cosa facciamo? Facciamo i meme. O i madlibs. (…) Su che cosa? Sulle regole della grammatica. (-) è veramente divertente. A quel punto i ragazzi vedono che è bello. Che è bello parlare bene. Che è bello conoscere la mia lingua. Che è bello parlarla giusto.” (Simonetta Iori)

These and similar methods create entertaining situations as a means of approaching the culture of the youth. As already implied, this requires a lot of extra work, motivation, and creativity from the teachers because they are restricted by one hour only of Ladin instruction per week and few some materials for curricular Ladin.

The aim of giving language a more modern look among students and therefore rendering it more compatible with their group values is also expressed by OLFED and the Comun General de Fascia. OLFED is currently working to modernize the contents and layout of teaching materials for Ladin.

FA_03: Before, there was a notable part connected to those aspects of tradition and culture.
FA_04: Folkore
FA_03: Now, we are closer to emphasizing the linguistic aspect, [the aspect of] language education.72[Original:] “FA_03: […] prima c’era una parte considorevole legata a quelli che erano gli aspetti delle tradizioni e gli aspetti culturali. /
FA_04: Folklore. /
FA_03: Adesso si cerca di puntare maggioramente sull’aspetto linguistico proprio, dell’educazione linguistica.”

But even though the teaching of Ladin is essential, its vehicular use is key in the eyes of OLFED officials: The resulting association of Ladin with subjects like technology or music eventually leads to the impression that Ladin is a vivid, living language.

Outside of the school system itself, the Comun General is working to promote a connotation of modernity and usability, for example through exchange projects with other European regional language minorities in the European NPLD network73 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). The aim is to present Ladin as a language that does not chain its users to a life in the valley but, on the contrary, opens possibilities beyond the valley, in an international, European context. This is also supported by the recently introduced language tests elaborated to demonstrate speakers’ proficiency following the European reference frame for language competency. And a closer look on the Comun’s approach towards Ladin media (chapter on Ladin Media) will show this aim of modernizing the connotation of Ladin, too.

The outcomes of these coordinated efforts to align the prestige of Ladin and competency of its speakers will have to be assessed in the future since they have only recently been implemented. The monitoring of OLFED as well as a study by (Fiorentini 2014, 343) on language attitudes in the valley seem to show promising results regarding the general linguistic competency of students who participate in the “progetto plurilingue” (OLFED).


Regarding the prestige of Ladin, additional data large-scale survey data would be necessary that could then be compared with existing data from Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c. The interviews with language implementers, however, also contained some anecdotal evidence that some children start to correct their parents who didn’t undergo the same amount of Ladin at school when they used Italianized words and expressions – a phenomenon that is even appreciated by the parents who also adapt their linguistic behavior as a consequence according to interview partners (FA_03, FA_01).


5.1.3. School in Fodòm & Anpezo

Language acquisition planning can be considered fully institutionalized in Val de Fascia, Val Badia and Gherdëina. For all three valleys, Ladin is thought of as an integral part of the children’s education. The self-administration and partial financial autonomy of Ladin communities in Trentino and Südtirol not only allowed for the embedding of Ladin teaching but also for accompanying measures to increase students’ motivation and the language prestige within the community. The legal, infrastructural, and financial situation for the three Ladin communities of Col, Fodòm and Anpezo in Belluno is less favorable.

Legally, the introduction of Ladin into the curriculum was made possible in accordance with National Law no. 482 of 1999. The implementation thereof, though, is has been severely hindered. First and foremost, it has to be noted that, due to the educational infrastructure, the institutionalized teaching of Ladin is only possible in Fodòm and Anpezo: Since there is no school in Col, the students of this village visit the schools of Selva di Cadore and Caprile, which are both outside the historical Ladin territory and therefore do not offer Ladin as a subject (FO_02, FO_04).

In 2015, the Institute Cesa de Jan achieved an agreement with the local schools of Anpezo that included the teaching of one hour of Ladin per week in some classes of elementary school. But the agreement included some hurdles for both the consistency of teaching and the prestige of the language. First, Ladin parents had to give their affirmation annually. Their choice was made difficult by the fact that an hour of Ladin would have meant to give up one hour of another subject (Cesa de Jan, personal communication). In addition, the program faced a “certain resistance” from the school superintendent of Anpezo, who eventually cancelled it in March 2020. Therefore, no Ladin will be taught in the schools of Anpezo from this year on (Cesa de Jan, personal communication).

The room for educational initiatives is obviously much more limited for language planners in Belluno. And also financially, bigger improvements would not be feasible: In Belluno, Ladin teaching is not paid by public funds as an equal part of the general curriculum. The Institute Cesa de Jan has to bear all costs for teachers and materials. Notwithstanding the unfavorable financial conditions, the institute along with Ladin teachers managed to enforce one hour of curricular Ladin in elementary schools in Fodòm since the school year 2013/14. Since 2019/20, Ladin is also being taught in from the 1st to the 3rd grade of middle school, which includes an official test and a certificate (FO_04).

It needs to be noted, though, that further steps towards the institutionalization of Ladin are limited by the availability of trained teachers. In Fodòm, for example, at the moment there is only one teacher, Isabella Marchione, who received academic training to teach Ladin (in the pedagogic program at the Free University of Bozen that was set up to train the teachers of Val Badia and Gherdëina). Marchione is also the only author who created teaching materials for the Ladin variety of Fodòm so far.

Table no. 10, Title: School system in Fodòm since the scholastic year 2019/20


Vehicular languages

Curricular Ladin


Italian, Ladin*

Elementary school



Ladin (1h/week)

Middle school



Ladin (1h/week from 1st to 3rd year)

High school



* In the kindergarten of Arabba (community of Fodòm)

As Marchione reports, her students often do not have a good competence in Ladin when they enter the classroom for the first time. One of the reasons is probably that their parents also already speak a form of Ladin which has a lot of interference with Ladin. Furthermore, the prestige of the language cannot be considered remarkably high:

I think that it [Ladin] is perceived to be a language of little importance, of little utility, and like a dialect, not like a language. […] Unfortunately, many parents don’t understand that, instead, it’s an additional asset that can be transmitted to the children. (Isabella Marchione)74[Original:] “Io penso che venga ritenuta come una lingua poco importante, di poca utilità, e come un dialetto non come una lingua. […] purtroppo tanti genitori non capiscono che invece è una richezza in più che si può trasmettere i figli.” (Isabella Marchione)

And at another point in the conversation:

The adults that today are in their 50s, 60s- their 40s, 50s around that age. They aren’t really proud of their own language, in my opinion. Maybe because when they were children or adolescents, there has been a strong Italianization. It became a trend to sepak Italian, to translate everything into Italian. Thus, I don’t want to say that they’re ashamed of it. But almost. (Isabella Marchione)75[Original:] “Gli adulti che al giorni d’oggi hanno più o meno i suoi 50, 60 anni- 40, 50 anni così. Sono poco orgogliosi secondo me, della propria lingua. Forse perché quando erano giovani o bambini e poi giovani c’è stata una forte italianizzazione. Andava di moda proprio parlare italiano, tradurre tutto in italiano. Quindi non voglio dire che ci sia vergogna. Però quasi.”(Isabella Marchione)

Fortunately, Marchione explains, the students do not have similar preconceptions about Ladin. Therefore, her teaching methods can counteract this lack of prestige among parents successfully.

In the weekly hour of Ladin, Marchione does not just teach the grammar of the local variety. On the contrary, she mostly uses Ladin as a vehicular language to talk about science, geography, music and so on, probably with the same desired effect as the vehicular model in Val de Fascia, that is to say to increase the prestige and use of the language by showing that it can be used for all types of contents and contexts, not only as a family language at home.

Again like in Val de Fascia, the outcome of this recently introduced model can only be assessed in a couple of years, most likely based on comprehensive surveys of the area. Until then, the report of Marchione gives the impression that there are positive effects. Like the Ladin teacher in Val de Fascia, she also reports that children not only have a higher esteem of the language than their parents, they also speak a better, purer Ladin and start correcting their parents whenever they make mistakes:

I also experienced parents who told me ‘my son speaks a Ladin that I don’t speak anymore. He uses words that I no longer use’. And often the parents are being corrected by their children. (Isabella Marchione)76[Original:] “Anch’io ho avuto esperienze di genitori che mi hanno detto ‘mio figlio parla un ladino che io non parlo più. Utilizza delle parole che io non utilizzavo più. E tante volte anche i genitori che vengono corretti dai bambini.” (Isabella Marchione)

These positive results which are confirmed by officials of Cesa de Jan need to be contextualized, though. In Marchione’s opinion, one hour of Ladin is surely not enough to maintain the language in use. Due to the limited space of the language in the official curriculum, language acquisition becomes an even greater responsibility for parents and the village community than it already is in Val Badia, Gherdëina and Fascia. Furthermore, Marchione is the only trained teacher for Ladin in Belluno, where one of the three Ladin communities (Col) doesn’t even have a school where Ladin could be taught.

The engaged and motivated single actors like Marchione and the institute officials, will find that without further financial and human resources and more legal leeway for language planners, it will be much harder to maintain the language in the communities of Belluno than in Trentino or Südtirol. These differences in the amount of institutionalized Ladin acquisition are further aggravated by the economic and demographic differences: The tourism industry of Col and Fodòm is not comparable to that of Fascia or even Val Badia and Gherdëina, which are among the wealthiest communities in Südtirol, which is the richest province of Italy. This can be considered to be one of the factors for the negative population growth that the Ladin communities of Belluno experienced in the last 20 years.

5.2. Ladin Media

5.2.1. Consumption & Competencies

Next to the institutionalized transmission of a language (school), the mass media should be considered the most important unifying and prestige-generating social institution. While mass education guarantees the standardized transmission of linguistic knowledge and basic ideologies of, e.g. linguistic correctness, mass media represents a similar point of reference when it comes to how Ladin is written or spoken correctly.

Another aspect that merits a closer look on Ladin media is that private media use also enhances the language competency of the user: The availability and attractivity of public information, entertainment, scientific topics, religious texts etc. in Ladin influence the general competency of the speech community. As third aspect, the mere fact that some linguistic code is used in the context of a well-made newspaper, a professionally produced daily news show on television etc. seems to have an effect of the prestige and connotation of the language itself. Dialects do not have their own TV news.

Language planners in all Ladin valleys are well-aware of these connections between the media available in Ladin and the language’s prestige as well as speaker’s competencies. Therefore, the cultural institutes and the valley-overarching Union Generela di Ladins dla Dolomites (UGDL) all put high efforts and a big proportion of their funds into several publications in Ladin. The creation of professional and official dictionaries for the Ladin valley varieties was and is considered a precondition for the elaboration of written use within the Ladin communities as well as the valorization of the language.

In 1993, the project SPELL was introduced with the aim to furnish a valley-overarching (written) standard (Videsott 1997, 194). Due to political opposition, especially by the Südtiroler Volkspartei (South Tyrolese Popular Party) of Gherdëina, which succeeded to spark a public discussion in disfavor of Ladin Dolomitan, the large-scale project lost crucial political and public support (BA_05, BA_02). As a result, it now is only used in few occasions, i.e. where one valley variety alone is not considered appropriate like the trilingual inscriptions at the university of Bozen and the provincial council of Südtirol (BA_05, BA_02). Standardization and codification remained an important objective on the valley-level where it was accepted much more. Since the 2000s, the valley-level codification and standardization for Fascia, Val Badia and Gherdëina can be considered complete, in the sense that for all three valleys a local written standard in the form of dictionaries (now available also online and as a mobile app) exists. For the local variants of Fodòm, Col and Anpezo, work is still in progress, again hampered by much more limited funds.

This situation of a handful of official standards and dictionaries for some 30.000-35.000 speakers in total might seem strange or ‘ineffective’ in the eyes of someone who was socialized in a country (and school system) with a written standard that has been implemented generations ago. As a result, German is not only accepted but completely normalized: There is no discussion about which variety of German to write. Obviously the Ladin situation is different. Spoken and written Ladin was implemented into the curriculum only recently. In Val Badia and Gherdëina, students were effectively alphabetized from the late 1970s and beginning 1980s on, due to the foundation of the Ladin school office and a process of professionalization of teaching Ladin; in Fascia, only since the late 1990s, the school system can be considered to be giving Ladin enough space, attention and resources to guarantee a good competency in reading and writing; in Belluno, however, the institutionalized teaching of Ladin has just begun, limited to the communities of Fodòm and, to a smaller degree, Anpezo (see previous chapters).

The data on reading competencies from the Survey Ladins reflect these educational differences among the valleys. About 15 years ago, when the data was collected, only around a third of the population in Belluno claimed to have a good reading proficiency in their own valley variety of Ladin (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 266). While the situation may change for the first generation of Ladin children in Belluno that receives an alphabetization in Ladin now, the proficiency among adult seems to remain the same as in 2005. A journalist and native speaker of Ladin from Belluno, who himself is occupied with written Ladin constantly, explains the relationship between Ladin and Italian in the heads of readers in Belluno:

When I see a text in Italian, I have no problem whatsoever reading it. No doubt of pronunciation. […] in Ladin this automatism doesn’t exist, and that is a problem. Let’s say this lacking routine brings some reluctance with it. (FO_03)77[Original:] “Quando vedo un testo italiano non ho nessun problema a leggerlo, nessun dubbio di pronuncia, […] in ladino non c’è questo automatismo, e questo è un problema. Diciamo questa (mancata) abitudine porta la disaffezione.” FO_03

This does not surprise when considering that the school system in Belluno is set up to almost convey written proficiency exclusively in Italian. Except for the recent small-scale introduction of Ladin in Fodòm and Anpezo, reading and writing of Ladin needs to be acquired outside of the school realm. Or it needs to be inferred from spoken proficiency in Ladin, probably applying knowledge about the Italian writing system when translating (combinations of) letters into sounds and words. Hence, as the journalist states, reading texts in Ladin takes about twice as long as Italian (FO_03).

The data form the Survey Ladins from 2006 show even worse reading proficiencies for Ladin in Val de Fascia, ranging from around 25% to 35% percent of good reading competency in the native language (Iannaccarò & Dell’Aquila 2006: 266). However, due to the far-reaching changes in the Fascian school system, this seems to have changed. All my interviewees from Fascia, officials as well as lay persons, held that the general and written proficiency in the valley has increased in the last 10 to 20 years. The following excerpt from an interview with officials of OLFED, the situation before 2000 is confronted with the recent changes:

Walter: At school nowadays [Ladin] is being written. But in the past– also for the parents: Was that something that already existed – let’s say 30 or 40 years ago – that culture of writing. /
FA_03: Far far less. Also, because, let’s say, the linguistic standardization within Fascian Ladin and the orthographic normalization had been done probably in the end of the 1990s. Therefore, a facultative hour of Ladin had already been introduced in the beginning sixties in elementary school. (three count-) by all, right? /
FA_05: But there wasn’t that orthographic certainty etc. Then, however the [writing] norms stabilized. There are alphabetization courses for adults. /
FA_04: Yes, yes. Ladin was seen as a language to convey the traditions rather than the language itself. And therefore, it had been accepted a little by everyone but throughout the years [that was] the erosive element of Ladin – we also confirmed that. However now, with schooling there is an implementation of awareness of writing, (of linguistics), of the lexical. In short, school brought about a revitalization.78[Original:] “Walter: A scuola si scrive anche adesso. Ma una volta- anche per i genitori: È una cosa che esisteva già – diciamo trent’anni fa o quarant’anni fa – questa cultura di scrivere. /
FA_03: Molto molto meno. Anche perché, diciamo, la standardizzazione linguistica all’interno del fasssano e la normazione ortogrfica si (è avuta) la fine degli anni novanta probabilmente. Per cui anche si era iniziato nei primi anni sessanta al livello facoltativo ancora d’insegnamento di un’ora di ladino nella scuola primaria. (Tre cont-?) da tutti, eh. /
FA_05: Però, non c’era ancora questa sicurezza ortografica ecetera. Poi invece si sono stabilite le norme adesso. Si fanno corsi di alfabetizzazione per gli adulti. /
FA_04: Sì, sì. Il ladino era visto come una lingua per veicolare le tradizioni più che per veiculare la lingua stessa. E quindi era anche accettato un po’ da tutti, però negli anni, [era] il fenomeno erosivo del ladino – l’abbiamo verificato anche noi. Invece adesso con la scolarizzazione c’è un implemento della consapevolezza sulla scrittura, (sulla linguistica), sul lessicale. Insomma la scuola ha portato un riinvigorimento.”

The excerpt shows the probable importance of the school system on writing and reading proficiencies, but also on the attitudes of speakers towards the language and its (written) use: The officialization that the introduction into the school system embodies, seems to have had an influence on the ‘normalness’ of writing and reading in Ladin.

A similar psycho-social process seems to have taken place in Val Badia and Gherdëina in the 1990s. As a hotelier from Corvara in Val Badia explains, in the 1980s everyone was still writing almost everything in Italian – or German for Gherdëina and the lower villages of Val Badia which are closer to predominantly German-speaking Pustertal. Now, he explains, everyone is using Ladin in emails, SMS, on messenger apps like WhatsApp, and people seem to be more aware of correct and pure use of Ladin in these texts. In two separate interviews, two teachers from Val Badia and Gherdëina (GR_04, BA_03) speculated that the foundation of the cultural institutes and the legal officialization of Ladin in Südtirol in 1988 supported the revalorization of Ladin. Ladin could now be used in protocols, administrative documents and so on. And according to a Ladin journalist from Val Badia, these new domains of use also motivated the codification standardization process:

Its [=Ladin] use, of course, led to solutions, to linguistic, orthographic solutions and so on. […] and everything came from the usage. So, no one ever said, you must write like that – the so-called linguist. That’s why the language still exists. If it wasn’t for the newspaper – in my opinion – there would be way less. If at all. You have to imagine what an amount of vocabulary. The university of Bozen now documented everything that had been published in newspapers. (BA_02)79[Original:] “Dadurch, weil es angewandt wurde, kam es klarerweise auch zu den Lösungen, zu den sprachlichen, orthografischen Lösungen und so. (…) und das kam alles so aus dem Gebrauch heraus. Also niemand hat jemals gesagt, ihr müsst so schreiben – der sogenannte Sprachwissenschaftler. Deswegen besteht ja die Sprache auch noch. Hätte es die Zeitung nicht gegeben – von mir aus (gesehen) – wäre es sehr viel weniger. Also wenn überhaupt. Man muss sich auch vorstellen, was das für ein Wortschatz ist. Von der Univesität Bozen wurde jetzt alles dokumentiert, was in Zeitungen (…) veröffentlicht wurde.” (BA_02)

Today, the culture of reading and writing Ladin in Val Badia and Gherdëina is the most elaborated of all Ladin valleys. Preliminary evidence from interviews with lay persons suggests that writing Ladin on WhatsApp, in emails, in Instagram and Facebook posts, protocols of associations and so on is well-established as the preferred language for predominantly Ladin audiences. The 55.7% (Urtijëi) to 66.1% (Sëlva) of good Ladin reading competency from 15 years ago (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 266) are likely to have remained stable or even increased which, of course, needs to be confirmed by large-scale survey data. For Fascia, anecdotal evidence from my interviews also suggests that Ladin is used regularly and with relative ease on Instagram, messenger services like WhatsApp and in emails, especially among the younger generations. In a survey from 2018 in Fascia, Riz found that 89% of participants liked reading in Ladin (Fascian) or liked it and even wanted to do it more often (Riz 2018, 57). The 54-participant-strong survey is part of a master’s thesis that cannot be expected to furnish the same representability as e.g. the Survey Ladins. Nonetheless, it points in the same direction as my interview data.


5.2.2. The Ladin Media Landscape

With a circulation of approximately 4.300 issues (stand 202080 (last accessed on August 20th 2020)), the weekly newspaper La Usc di Ladins (The Voice of Ladins) is arguably (and has been for decades) the most important print medium in the Ladin valleys. The newspaper was founded in 1949 under harsh financial and – most of all – logistic conditions: first issue in 1949 by ‘idealists’ and ‘pioneers’ who managed to make a newspaper under harsh logistical circumstances. From early on, the newspaper contained articles from all Ladin valleys in, consequently, different written varieties of Ladin, which is still the case today: As a local newspaper, the Usc is separated into five ressorts which coincide with the Ladin valleys: Badia, Fascia, Gherdëina, Fodòm, Anpezo. Usually, the articles are written by journalists from the respective valley in the local variety. Only for topics that have a valley-overarching relevance and the title page, the editor in chief often writes these articles in Ladin Dolomitan.

Apart from this peculiarity – which is due to the lack of a widely accepted standard and/or lack of readers’ competency beyond their local variety – the Usc di Ladins is a modern, well-made, optically appealing weekly newspaper with an e-paper version and a well-frequented website (according to the editor in chief around 1.000 online accesses per day). The high degree of journalistic quality is the result of a modernization process between 2000-2014, which also helped the newspaper to become economically profitable (Iaco Rigo, Usc di Ladins). Today the newspaper receives 10% of funding by the Union Generela di Ladins dla Dolomites (UGLD), and public founds based on the article 102 of the Second Statute of Autonomy. The most subscribers of the Usc di Ladins can be found in Badia (ca. 1.600), followed by Gherdëina (ca. 900) and Fascia (ca. 500-600). In Fodòm and Anpezo, around 200 people subscribed to the newspaper (Pescosta 2013, 579; general proportions affirmed by Iaco Rigo in 2019).

Smaller publications on the valley-level are realized by the valley sections of the UGLD, other local associations, and sometimes even by single persons. A relatively important example is the Ladin calendar which usually contains reports and stories of important events of the past year, short stories and poems, and articles about the history of local culture, accompanied with many historical pictures. These calendars are produced with the (mostly unpaid) help of journalists, (amateur) writers and officials, and funded by ads or voluntary funding from local companies, and public funds from the province of Südtirol (based on article 102, 2nd Statute of Autonomy).

Another line of publications is directed towards the younger generation, and especially children up to the beginning of adolescence. These children’s short stories, singing books, and alphabetization books are being created by the cultural institutes (see chapter on the Ladin planning institutes) to support parents with the task of language transmission outside of the classroom. For the parents themselves, that is, the adult generations, literature with an entertaining content is scarce. The number of potential customers is presumably way too small to outweigh the costs of translating popular novels into Ladin – even more so since the novel would have to be translated into at least five different valley standards.

The most important broadcasting media outlet for the Ladin valleys is the daily news program TRaiL (Televijion Rai Ladinia), which offers local news for Val Badia, Gherdëina and Fascia – spoken in the respective valley varieties. For Fodòm and Anpezo, neither an editor’s office nor funding exists and even the inclusion of Fascia – which is not part of Südtirol – sometimes seems to be put into question within RAI Südtirol (BA_06). A weekly predecessor started with a total airtime of 1h/month started in 1988. In 1998 TRaiL was broadcasted for the first time with an airtime between 4-5 minutes per day.81 (last accessed on August 20th 2020)  Due to negotiations within the Italian public broadcaster RAI (radiotelevisione italiana), the South-Tyrolese section of RAI started a process of decentralization which enabled the foundation of a Ladin editor’s office within the Bozen-based public agency (Pescosta 2013, 579-581). Between 1998 and 2020, the amount of previsioned airtime increased from 39 to 100h of Ladin per month. As a result, also the airtime of TRaiL increased to ca. 13-14 minutes per day: a short version of 4-5 min at around 8 pm and a longer version (9 min) at 10 pm.

Next to TRaiL, RaiLadinia also offers the weekly culture program Paladina (10 min), the monthly sport program Sport Ladin (10-15 min), and about three 15-minute-long broadcasts per week with different, sometimes recurring topics like Paisc dla Ladinia vita y storia (lifes and stories from the Ladin valleys), Turism tla Ladinia (tourism), Monumënc d’ert y storia (monuments of art and history), Natura e ambient (nature and environment).

The first radio broadcast in Ladin dates to the year 1946, a regular space of at least six transmissions per week was reached in 195582 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). Today, RAI Südtirol offers between 25 and 45 minutes of daily radio programs in Ladin. The contents are like the television program, including daily news and two culture programs (La copa dal cafè and Dai Crëps dl Sela). Apart from RAI, there are two Ladin radio stations Radio Ghërdeina Dolomites and Radio Studio Record83 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). The former exists since 1979 and broadcasts in Ladin, German and Italian. Radio Studio Record started as an amateur media outlet in the 1980s (Pescosta 2013, 581) and is now undergoing a process of professionalization and modernization, which is financed by the Comun General de Fascia (FA_02). The engagement reflects the general line of modernization that the language planning institute drives forward in the field of language prestige. The aim is to involve the younger generations to a larger degree:

Often people tend to create programs which are always bound to the culture, the identity, the tradition, almost in a nostalgic manner without drawing attention to the modernity of radio. […] modern music in English presented in Ladin for example. Or international news in Ladin. (FA_02)84[Original:] “[…] tante volte si tende a creare dei programmi sempre legati alla cultura, l’identità, la tradizione – quasi (in) un modo nostalgico senza focalizzarsi invece sulla modernità della radio. (…) la musica moderna in inglese presentata in lingua ladina per esempio. O le notizie internazionali in lingua ladina.” (FA_02)

The Comun also supports and finances another project targeted at the Ladin youth of Val de Fascia which is the YouTube-channel TV Ladina85 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) with 587 subscribers (stand 14th of August 2020). Some of the content on TV Ladina is also diffused via TML (La Televisione delle Minoranze Linguistiche) which is a Trentino-financed TV channel that the Ladins of Fascia share with the German historic linguistic minorities of Mochenì and Zimbarn. But as Sabrina Rasom of the Comun General de Fascia explains, the focus is shifting more and more towards online content to involve the Ladin youth of Val de Fascia more strongly. As for Radio Studio Record, this strategy also encouraging younger journalists and producers to create content which is more appealing to their peers of age.


5.2.3. Ladin on Instagram

A – from the language planner’s view – positive development is the vivid use of Ladin on social media86I will concentrate on the platform Instagram here, since it is arguably the most important one now, and since I had been following it actively in the last couple of months.. Almost all the valley sections of the Union Generela di Ladins dla Dolomites have an Instagram account on which they publish content on (approximately) a weekly basis. Their presence on the platform can be called fairly new: All accounts had been created within the last 2 years. And judging from the numbers of subscribers, their presence is appreciated by Ladin Instagram-users: Both the Union Ladins Val Badia87 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) and the Union di Ladins de Gherdëina88 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) have between 500 and 600 subscribers, while the Union de i Ladins de Anpezo89 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) and the Union di Ladins de Fascia90 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) have between 200 and 300 subscribers. All accounts seem to be managed by social media professional who also seem to create content and campaigns aimed at all Ladin speakers. One important example is the #ladiniachallenge, a social media campaign that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Ladin flag in 2020. Users were invited to post a picture that included the colors of the Ladin flag – green, white, blue –, preferably in a creative way. The campaign sparked the participation of many users from all valleys91Some can be seen here, even though most of the pictures appeared in Instagram stories, which can’t be retrieved: (last accessed  on August 20th 2020).

But the use of Ladin on Instagram is not limited to the official accounts of the Union. As a tentative first description, I would say active Instagram users from the valleys usually write in Ladin, English, Italian and (for Gherdëina and Val Badia) German. I did not encounter instances of codemixing within the same sentence, comment, or caption on the accounts of private persons. The use of each language seems to be conditioned by the posted content and its inherent target group. If, for example, some other user from outside of the valleys is responding to a picture of a Ladin user, the Ladin user will probably answer in (a colloquial form of) Italian or German.

/var/www/html/dhlehre/html/wp content/uploads/2020/08/1598345194 Picture 1. Source: Ladinia Malcontënta, IG: Lad.inia (last accessed on August 20th 2020)

Another social media phenomenon that should be mentioned in connection with the way Ladin is used on Instagram are the so-called memes in Ladin (see also the chapter on teaching methods in Val de Fascia). Some of the Union’s accounts use them as well, but there are also successful ‘unofficial’ or private accounts like Ladinia Malcontënta92 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) which diffuse these memes. They often jokingly pick up on local phenomena like a closed mountain passes (see Picture no. 1), some people’s love for speck, annoying groups of tourist bikers in the Dolomites and the ‘correct’ use of Ladin. Picture no. 2, for example, explains the correct use of ‘nce’ and ‘ënghe’ (both approximately meaning ‘too’ or ‘also’).

/var/www/html/dhlehre/html/wp content/uploads/2020/08/1598345209 Picture 2. Union Di Ladins De Gherdeina Union ladins gherd

/var/www/html/dhlehre/html/wp content/uploads/2020/05/1589909916 Mohlzeit ULD Gherdeina


5.2.4. Concluding thoughts on Ladin media

This rather long list of media outlets may create the impression that the Ladin community is quite well-off as far as the availability of entertainment and information in their mother-tongue is concerned.

But this impression is misleading, for several reasons. First, the amount of content is marginal when compared to languages like German or Italian. As an institute official of Micurà de Rü puts it, there might be daily 10 or 20 minutes of Ladin on TV, and maybe six or seven books may be published per year. But at the same time, Ladin speakers could also use the daily 24h of content on various TV channels, platforms, and the cinema. And instead of Ladin, they can read one of the about 30.000 books that are being published annually for Italian alone (GR_01).

Second, Ladin does not always equal Ladin – at least not when it comes to media consumption. In an everyday conversation the inner-linguistic differences between the Ladin valley varieties may be surmountable – in the literal sense. The one directional communication of television and print media, however, seems to impede many speakers’ comprehension up to a degree that the consumption of content presented in other Ladin variants becomes exhausting. From the point of view of the individual consumer, the availability of Ladin media is therefore often limited to those contents produced in his/her valley variety.

The competitive situation with Italian, German and English that language planners find themselves in can be potentially aggravated by another detail. The example from Fodòm showed that especially the older generations that were not alphabetized in school sometimes struggle to read Ladin. Reading Italian, on the other hand, seems more comfortable. Take also a second look on the quantitative data above: In some communities like Urtijëi, many people seem to understand and speak Ladin. When asked, however, what language is the easiest to speak (let alone read), only 54.4% answer with Ladin (Dell’Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c, 254). The others may be able to read Ladin. But it seems as if German or Italian had an advantage here.

The proper alphabetization of speakers, therefore, seems to be the crucial precondition so that the publication efforts of the cultural institutes and associations named above can come to fruition. To end on a high note, the relatively vivid use of Ladin on social media platforms like Instagram can be called a promising development. One of the crucial appeals of Instagram is that users can tell their extended social network about their life in a fairly quick and easy way, by posting pictures, memes, comments, videos, stories etc. As a result, the creation of Ladin content is not limited to media professionals anymore. By clicking through their Instagram-stories or feed, users will probably encounter some Ladin on a daily basis. And most importantly: They can react to these contents by using Ladin immediately.


5.3. Language Planning and Alpine Tourism

As a sociolinguist, the local economy of the Ladin valleys is important to look at for three main reasons. First, the sites of economy are themselves a crucial and distinct part of social life: For a description of societal multilingualism, the sociolinguist should have an idea which languages or varieties are spoken or written in offices, shops, factories, ski-lifts, bars, hotels and so on. Second, the economic situation of some village or valley together with the geographically and infrastructurally shaped mobility of speakers can be expected to be a factor in migration patterns and population growth: A lack of economic perspective may become a danger for a linguistic minority if economic pressure to migrate into a more prosperous, non-Ladin region overrides the emotional and identity-based attachment to the linguistic territory. And third, my data suggests that, under certain conditions, the local economy may have an influence on the prestige of the local variety.

Except for the communities of Fodòm and especially Col which are still experiencing an outflow of people, all Ladin valleys had been growing in the last approximately 40 years (Videsott 2010, 178). Due to the advent of large-scale Alpine tourism – which had already started in the 1920s in Urtijëi and Anpezo, but became a Ladinia-wide economic boom in the 1970s with the creation of Dolomiti Superski – the once pour and predominantly agricultural became a flourishing touristic region (Pescosta 2013, 604).

This touristic boom obviously brought a lot of lucrative jobs and economic perspectives into the valleys. And at first sight this helped to prevent the emigration of many Ladin speakers into non-Ladin territory where they would not have transmitted their language to the next generation. As a Ladin journalist explains, the valleys offer interesting job perspectives in gastronomy and hotel business, that are reconcilable with an international, urban lifestyle in people’s first third or half of their life. And even though there is no Ladin town or city that could have become a cultural and political center, the cultural institutes and schools still offer an acceptable amount of possibilities for academics (BA_02, BA_03). And it even seems that the touristic boom has become a source of pride for some Ladin valleys. Several Ladin and non-Ladin interviewees in Südtirol held that the Ladin people achieved a lot and there even seems to exist the stereotype of the rich Ladin hotel owner among non-Ladins from Südtirol. Paul Videsott (interview) even claims that:

The Ladins have achieved a lot with their industriousness and diligence. And this is also something that reflects on the language: That is, we’re not dumber than the other, but rather the opposite. That is, we can surely keep up with the others. (Paul Videsott)93[Original:] “Die Arbeitsamkeit und der Fleiß usw. der Ladiner mit dem haben sie vieles erreicht. Und das ist auch etwas, das auf die Sprache zurückfällt. Also wir sind nicht dümmer als die andern, sondern ganz im Gegenteil. Also wir können da durchaus mithalten.” (Paul Videsott)

The touristic boom of the 70s and 80s, however, has a second face: it also quickly lead to the influx of real-estate investors which almost transformed some villages into ‘ghost towns’ during the off-season when all of the hotels are closed, and the holiday flats of non-Ladin speakers sit empty. The 1.258 inhabitants of Corvara (Val Badia), for example, are faced with almost six times the number of beds (7.477) available for tourists (Pescosta 2013, 681). In 2005, over one million guests spend a night in Sëlva (Gherdëina) alone, while after the 2nd World War only about 70.000 arrived every year (Forni 2005, 69). The communities of Cianacéi (Fascia), Badia (Val Badia) and Corvara (Val Badia) also reach numbers in that region (Pescosta 2013, 681-683). To accommodate all these guests, the hotels, bed & breakfasts, bars, lifts, and restaurants required many non-Ladin speaking (seasonal) workers, some of which settled.

This significantly stronger presence of non-Ladin speakers in the villages also left its traces on the linguistic behavior and attitudes of the population. A school official from Val Badia speaks of an ‘inferiority complex’: the generation of his parents did not want to openly display their Ladin origin. The younger generations instead even recognize the Ladin-ness of the valleys as an advantage on the Alpine tourism market (BA_01, confirmed by BA_02). A language official from Val de Fascia perceived a similar attitude in her valley. In her view, the first wave of the touristic boom in the 1960s and ‘70s together with the new-found economic success didn’t lead to a valorization of Ladin at all:

Those people who found themselves in the situation to transform their field into hotel buildings, ski lifts,- well into all kinds of touristic buildings, what you see in Val de Fascia [was that they came to] be ashamed of their own language. ‘Because we must be really clean’, in this sense. And [they came to] push it [the language] aside. So, there was a total abandonment of identity. Almost as if it were a thing- not to be ashamed of, but something that’s not needed anymore. (FA_02)94[Original:] “queste che si sono trovate a trasformare i loro campi in strutture alberghiere, in funivie, in struttura appunto generale che offrono al turista, quello che si vede in Val di Fassa, a vergognarsi della propria lingua. ‘Perché dobbiamo essere proprio schietti’ ,questo senso. E ad accantonarla. Quindi c’è stato un abbandono totale dell’identità. Quasi fosse una cosa- non di cui vergognarsi ma una cosa che non serve più.” (FA_02)

The important touristic associations of Alta Badia95 (last accessed on August 20th 2020) and Val Gardena96 (last accessed on August 20th 2020), for example, openly mention the Ladin culture and language in their brochures, on their websites and they even organize events that are supposed to inform tourists about the valleys’ peculiarities (and of certainly to entertain them in the first place). In Alta Badia, which comprises the communities of Corvara, La Val and Badia, the tourist association together with the local hoteliers organize events that try to reenact the rural life of the past, e.g. the noza da paur (peasant wedding)97 (last accessed on August 20th 2020). According to a hotelier from Corvara, these events are highly appreciated by the guests, especially those coming in the summer season. He explains why Ladin has become more and more interesting from a marketing point of view. In his view, the touristic market in Europe has changed towards a higher demand for authenticity and culture:

Skiing is marvelous here. All valleys are connected [by the Dolomiti Superski], 500 km, this is unique. […]. But they also have beautiful slopes in Switzerland and Austria. Ladin, however, is something you will only find here. And if you manage to connect this authenticity with the touristic proposition, it’s perfect, since people have more and more interest in cultural stuff. (BA_04)98[Original:] “Also Skifahren ist hier super prima, die Täler sind alle verbunden, 500km, also ist einzigartig. (…) Aber schöne Pisten haben sie auch in der Schweiz und Österreich. Aber das Ladinische, das findest du nur hier. Und wenn man diese Authentizität mit einem touristischen Angebot verbinden kann, ist natürlich prima, weil die Leute sind immer mehr interessiert an kulturellen Sachen. ” (BA_04)

The way he and other hoteliers in Alta Badia render the touristic experience more authentic also involves the occasional use of Ladin. The salutation and greetings of emails with clients is consciously written in Ladin, and once a week the menu is written in Ladin, accompanied by explanations in other languages. The same ‘sprinkled’ use of Ladin can be found on brochures, programs for cultural activities. Also the linguistic landscape of these touristic villages contains some Ladin here and there: Like many street and info signs in Fascia, Gherdëina and Val Badia, also hotels, holiday apartments and restaurants often carry names that can be recognized as neither Italian nor German by tourists (e.g. Hotel Restaurant Lëch da Sompunt, Hotel La Majun, Residence Cësa Ladina).


A historical study of the linguistic landscape of touristic sites and publications in the valleys would be of great merit, even more since Ladins are not the only language minority that finds itself in a conversion of traditional economies into a predominantly touristic one. As an undeniably big source of social prestige and status, the tourism industry in the valleys should be looked at more closely regarding its use and – most importantly – the way of presenting Ladin language and culture. Both can be seen as being in a reciprocal relationship with the prestige of Ladin among its speakers. The present study can only furnish some hints of an answer to the ‘why Ladin has become to play a bigger role in tourism marketing’.

Interviews with tourist associations in Gherdëina, Val Badia and Fascia confirmed that both Micurá de Rü and the Comun General de Fascia are actively working to convince hotel and holiday apartment owners to include more Ladin into their communication with the tourists. For the Comun General, the involvement of economic actors of the territory, with a focus on touristic operators, is one of its official objectives. To reach this goal, the Comun even provides info material for guests and non-Ladin personnel. For Gherdëina, the main effort in this direction seems to involve networking and public relations with the local hoteliers, restaurants, and tourist associations.

The implementational space of more Ladin in the touristic realm is, however, not unlimited. As a Comun General de Fascia official mentions, despite the active support through brochures and well-crafted info material, the implementation often seems to be hampered by the small amount of time touristic operators have during high-season, and also by the low priority some of them seem to assign to more Ladin. And, almost needless to say, the amount of Ladin is limited by the communicative situation itself: The communication with the customer, who does not speak Ladin, must remain smooth, which confines its use to a mere signaling of some linguistic (and cultural) peculiarity. Nonetheless, Italians and other speakers of Roman languages can be expected to have at least a small amount of inherent bilingualism with Ladin.

And the example of Ladin greetings in email exchanges with hotel guests also reminds us that the medium itself is often enough to identify the communicational intent: even though the guest might be Russian, s/he still will know what comes at the beginning and the end of an email. The fact that touristic operators implement Ladin in different degrees is therefore also likely to be influenced by the operators’ attitudes towards Ladin. In Fodòm and Col, where the economic situation is less favorable then in, for example, Val Badia, hoteliers and restaurant owners seem to have such a little esteem of their language that they hesitate to use it as a marketing tool since tourists might not understand it – notwithstanding the positive examples in their neighboring valleys (FO_03).



6. Conclusion: The Impact of LPP on Language Shift & Maintenance in the Ladin Valleys

6.1. Impact on Competencies: Planned Language Acquisition

Apart from private homes, the classroom is the site where people acquire most of their linguistic competence. That is why school is arguably the most important field of institutionalized language acquisition planning and–for the same reason–a good earmark of the language planners’ sphere of influence.

As the analysis has shown, the legal and financial leeway for teaching Ladin in schools varies strongly according to the Talschaft:

In Val Badia and Gherdëina (both Südtirol), a weekly hour of curricular Ladin was introduced shortly after the 2nd World War together with a school system that followed a principle of parity: Half of the subjects are taught in Italian, the other half in German. Even though in general this school system still prevails today, the de facto role of Ladin increased resulting in the creation of a Ladin School Office in 1975 and the foundation of a program for Ladin schoolteachers at the University of Bozen/Brixen in 1998.

In Val de Fascia (Trentino), Ladin was not taught an obligatory part of the syllabus until the late 1990s. Changes in the law which resulted in the foundation of the Comun General de Fascia and the Ladin School Office OLFED, rendered Ladin a mandatory part of the official curriculum, with at least 3 hours of teaching per week. Within the progretto plurilingue (implemented in 2017/18) students now not only learn to read and write in Ladin. In addition, four hours per week Ladin is the vehicular language to teach other subjects like music, technical studies, or sports. In doing so, the students’ repertoire of Ladin become extended far beyond the family and village realm.

Unlike in Südtirol and Trentino, in Belluno, there is no public funding for the teaching of Ladin. Instead, the Ladin Cultural Institute for the three communities of Fodòm, Col and Anpezo has to bear the costs for teachers as well as teaching materials. Despite these unfavorable conditions, in the last few years the Institute managed to introduce some Ladin at school. During the first eight years of school, students from Fodòm now attend one hour of Ladin per week. Some elementary school classes in Anpezo received some Ladin teaching between 2015 and 2020, a program that has been cancelled in March 2020. The students of Col do not receive instruction in Ladin because they attend school outside of the Ladin communities.

The legal and financial situation does not capture the standing of Ladin in schools to its fullest extent. The de facto effects on students’ competence, language attitudes and actual use of Ladin largely depend on the work of teachers in the classroom as well as the support of these efforts by the parents at home. As the analysis showed, the transmission of proper written competence has been a key factor in the use of Ladin in social domains beyond the family realm: the presence of Ladin in e-mails, protocols, touristic brochures, on Instagram and messaging systems like WhatsApp is owed to the alphabetization efforts in the last decades.

6.2. Dealing with three problems of language prestige

But language competency alone does not guarantee its use. Throughout the analysis, I cited several reports about the low prestige that Ladin had–and still has to a different degree–and how this fact can put a damper on its use in everyday life99Patients may avoid Ladin at the doctor’s office just because it is not considered official enough. Some parents opposed to having more Ladin taught at school because it could diminish their children’s competence in ‘more useful’, ‘more important’ languages like German (Gherdëina in the 1950s, see Fontana 2004), English or Italian (recently in Val de Fascia). Touristic operators may avoid Ladin since they think it would be an obstacle in communicating with their clients.. And as Schiffman convincingly argues, the origins of a language’s prestige should be sought in language teaching as well–be it at school, at home or in the public realm/public space:

When a child ‚learns a language‘ a number of things happen: the child acquires the code, and learns to manipulate it. But the child does not acquire the code by observing the code, but by observing and hearing texts (sentences, discourses) in the language. Embedded in those texts are meanings, values, beliefs, attitudes, myths; some would even say discourses. In other words, language acquisition also involves the acquisition of ideas about language. (Schiffman 1996, 58)

Assessing the impact of language planning should also consider the question as to what degree do the institutional players succeed in conveying a positive view of Ladin, i.e., high prestige of Ladin.

From the planner’s point of view, it is possible to differentiate three ‘prestige problems’ for Ladin:

‘Ladin is not an official language’. In Val Badia, Gherdëina and Val de Fascia, the struggle to obtain official status has been successful for the most part. Ladin has indeed achieved the status of an official language and is being used in local public offices, in political speeches and presentations, on street signs, and in schools. These achievements are due to political activism from within the Ladin communities which resulted in Ladin becoming institutionalized within cultural organizations, museums, local administrations, school offices and associations.

The subsidization of research contributed to many scientific publications on the Ladin language and culture which established its status. The codification and standardization of Ladin in dictionaries (in print, online and in app form) achieved one common goal: they became an important factor towards writing Ladin. And finally, a great part of the work went into the cultivating ‘public relations’ with important figures in the Ladin valley communities. Through appearances in the media and mostly personal contact, officials continually try to open up new areas for Ladin in the minds of parents, employers, politicians, sport coaches, etc.

‘Ladin isn’t useful’. The usefulness of Ladin on the labor market is limited to the Ladin valleys themselves. But even within the valleys, its use in the professional domain is far from being taken for granted. The local economy is a largely touristic one, which inevitably requires smooth communication with millions of tourists every year who, of course, do not speak Ladin. Nonetheless, language planners found a way to increase the potential economic usefulness of Ladin. As an ‘authentic’ travel experience it is becoming more and more important on the touristic market. Ladin has the potential of becoming a ‘unique selling proposition’ in tourism marketing. Through this economic argument, language planners support and try to convince touristic operators to render Ladin more and more visible for tourists.

Utility and actual use, of course, go hand in hand. If a language is not spoken outside of the family, it probably will not be particularly useful. Thanks to sufficient funding, the cultural institutes of Val Badia, Gherdëina and Val de Fascia have been able to subsidize cultural projects that involve the Ladin language, e.g., public events, exhibitions, workshops, and music recordings.

Moreover, language vitalization planners also act as publishing houses and editors’ offices. By increasing the amount of information and entertainment available in Ladin, they directly increase the usefulness the language. And Ladin media creators also seem to be aware of the fact that the quality and appeal of available contents are a key factor in rendering Ladin more ‘official’, too: A look at the websites of the cultural institutes, museums or the Usc di Ladins will reveal top-notch web design and layouts that easily compete with comparable local media in German and Italian.

‘Ladin isn’t cool’. There is evidence that especially adolescents tend to avoid Ladin in group interactions with their peers. For some young speakers, the minority language seems to represent social meanings of ‘rurality’, ‘folklore’, and ‘backwardness’ – which contradicts the ‘urbanism’ and ‘internationalism’ of some currents of local youth culture.

Especially in Val de Fascia, this problem is high on the agenda of language planners. Recently, the Comun General de Fascia started a process of modernization for the Ladin (Fascian) speaking media, with a focus on ‘young’ and ‘international’ content on popular channels (e.g., YouTube). These efforts are paralleled by the Ladin educational office and individual teachers who mix Ladin teaching with social media formats like memes or madlibs.

6.3. The Role of the Individual

In a certain way, languages like German and Italian simply exist. Their mere size makes that inevitable. Their use in all social domains from family to parliament, from kindergarten to the CEO office is undisputed. As should have become clear by now, the case of Ladin is entirely different. Outside of the family and the village, Ladin is constantly competing with Italian, German (and English) which offer the prestige of hundreds of years of literature, cinema & science, and linguistic access to several nation states. How can Ladin even compete with that?

The answer is: through its highly motivated speakers. 

Many of the people I talked to put all their heart into the transmission and promotion of Ladin. Their efforts seem to exceed their 9-to-5 obligations as teachers, institute officials, journalists etc., by far. Their intense engagement as ski instructors, language teachers for adults, tourist guides, musicians, poets, authors and artists naturally involves the use and transmission of Ladin. But also, within their respective jobs, my interlocutors always seemed to be on the lookout for a new space for Ladin. When no appropriate teaching material exists, the Ladin teachers I talked to just created it. When a poster or small publication is supposed to be printed in German and Italian only, a Ladin teacher from Badia just provided the translation and convinced the authorities to print it in Ladin, too.

Through their passionate work in the local societies, these speakers can be called role models: They represent a potentially desirable lifestyle and social position within the local community. And due to their dedication for Ladin, their role model is tied to the use of the minority language. As long as this connection prevails, and as long as the adult generations manage to embody desirable role models for a big enough number of younger speakers, Ladin will exist.

6.4. Limitations of this Study 

The obvious problem of this study is that it tries to cover too much ground. Some 30 interviews together with survey and census data is surely not sufficient to provide a conclusive assessment of the influence of the LPP measures on language maintenance and change. Furthermore, limited time and resources of a master’s thesis forced me to omit many aspects which might have led to more tangible results and hypotheses.

For example, it would have been interesting to deepen the understanding of the discussions on the implementation of the ‘progetto plurilingue’ in Val de Fascia by conducting some interviews with parents from the valley. In addition, these data could have been paired with historic documents on the Schulstreit (‘school dispute’) that took place in Gherdëina in the 1950s.

Moreover, the written use of Ladin warrants a much closer look than I was able to provide here. The assumptions about sometimes lacking competence of written Ladin and its actual use on Instagram, WhatsApp, in diaries, association protocols etc., would need to be proven with concrete data.

By more concrete data I mean including further accounts from speakers and actual linguistic data. The present study is largely based on many speakers’ representations of their sociolinguistic environment. This is indispensable for research on language attitudes and prestige. My results, however, are to be confronted with data on factual linguistic behavior (see Krefeld/Pustka 2010a for a discussion of the difference between representations and realizations of linguistic knowledge).

Of course, I was able to check some general statements by Ladin speakers regarding linguistic behavior in public spaces during my stays in the Ladin villages. Phenomena like code switching, sanctioning of ‘incorrect’ linguistic behavior in group interaction (the bar, the WhatsApp group, the sports club, the classroom etc.) and dealing with different linguistic competence in an interaction require linguistic data from the field.

In general, the present study should rather be read as a collection of hypotheses on language change (evolution?), language maintenance and the role of the LPP in both.

I hope this contribution may stimulate one or another fruitful discussion on the sociolinguistic realities of the Ladin valleys.



  • Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 1983 = Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik (1983): Volkszählung 1981. Die amtliche Bürgerzahl und die Sprachgruppen in Südtirol nach Gemeinde und Bezirk (nach ISTAT-Daten), Bozen, Landesamt für Statistik.
  • Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 2012a = Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik (2012): Volkszählung 2011. Berechnung des Bestands der drei Sprachgruppen in der Autonomen Provinz Bozen, astatinfo Nr. 38, 06/2012, Bozen, Landesamt für Statistik .
  • Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik 2012b = Autonome Provinz Bozen. Landesamt für Statistik (2012): Ausländische Wohnbevölkerung 2011. Vorläufige Ergebnisse., Bozen, Landesamt für Statistik.
  • Baldauf 2006 = Baldauf, Richard B. Jr. (2006): Rearticulating the Case for Micro Language Planning in a Language Ecology Context., in: Current Issues in Language Planning , vol. 7, 2-3, 147-170 (Link).
  • Blommaert 2006 = Blommaert, Jan (2006): Language Ideology., in: Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguistics., Elsevier, 510-522 (Link).
  • Burstein 1991 = Burstein, Paul (1991): Policy Domains: Organization, Culture, and Policy Outcomes., in: Annual Revue of Sociology 17, 327-350 (Link).
  • Canagarjah 2005 = Canagarjah, Suresh (2005): Ethnographic Methods in Language Policy., in: Ricento, Thomas (Ed.), Introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method., Wiley Blackwell, 153-169 (Link).
  • Cooper 1989 = Cooper, Robert L. (1989): Language planning and social change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • Curdt-Christiansen 2009 = Curdt-Christiansen, Xiao Lan (2009): Invisible and visible language planning: ideological factors in the family language policy of Chinese immigrant families in Quebec., in: Language Policy, vol. 8, 351-375 (Link).
  • Dell'Aquila/Iannàccaro 2006c = Dell'Aquila, Vittorio / Iannàccaro, Gabriele (2006): Survey Ladins. Usi linguistici nelle Valli Ladine, Trento, Istitut Cultural «Majon di Fascegn»/Provincia Autonoma di Trento/Centre d’Études Linguistiques pour l’Europe.
  • Eggington 2010 = Eggington, William G. (22010): Unplanned Language Planning., in: Kaplan, Robert B. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Applied Linguistics. (Link).
  • Fiorentini 2014 = Fiorentini, Iliria (2014): “Alla fine l’e nosc esser”. Atteggiamenti nei confronti della trasmissione del ladino in Val di Fassa (TN), in: de Meo, Anna / D'Agostino, Mari / Iannacarò, Gabriele / Spreafico, Lorenzo (Eds.), Varietà dei contesti di apprendimento linguistico, Bologna, AItLA - Associazione Italiana di Linguistica Applicata, 331-345.
  • Fishman 2013 = Fishman, Joshua: Language Maintenance, Language Shift, and Reversing Language Shift, in: Bhatia, Tej K. / Ritchie, William C. (Eds.), The Handbook of Bilingualism and Multilungualism, Blackwell Publishing, 466-494.
  • Fontana 2004 = Fontana, Josef (2004): Der Schulstreit in Gröden und im Gadertal. , in: Geschichtliche Umrisse der ladinischen Schule in Südtirol. Beiträge zum Tag der ladinischen Kultur 2004. , Bozen, Amt für ladinische Kultur und Schule, 25-72.
  • Forni 2005 = Forni, Marco (2005): ): Ladinische Einblicke. Erzählte Vergangenheit, erlebte Gegenwart in den ladinischen Dolomitentälern., San Martin de Tor, Istitut Ladin Micurà de Rü.
  • Haugen 1966b = Haugen, Einar (1966): Dialect, Language, Nation, in: American Anthropologist, vol. 68, 4, 922-935.
  • Hornberger 2006 = Hornberger, Nancy (2006): Frameworks and Models in Language Policy and Planning., in: Ricento, Thomas (Ed.), An Introduction to Language Policy: Theory and Method., Wiley-Blackwell, 24-41 (Link).
  • Hornberger/Hult 2008 = Hornberger, Nancy H. / Hult , Francis M.: Ecological Language Education Policy, in: Spolsky, Bernard / Hult , Francis M. (Eds.), The Handbook of Educational Linguistics, 280-296.
  • Jaffe 1999 = Jaffe, Alexandra (1999): Ideologies in Action: Language Politics in Corsica, Berlin, Mouton deGruyter.
  • Jann/Wegrich 2003 = Jann, Werner / Kai, Wegrich (2003): Phasenmodelle und Politikprozesse: Der Policy-Cycle., in: Schubert, Klaus / Bandelow, Nils C. (Eds.), Lehrbuch der Politikfeldanalyse, München, Oldenburg, 71-104 (Link).
  • Johnson 2009 = Johnson, David Cassels (2009): Ethnography of language policy, vol. Language Policy, 8, 139-159.
  • Kloss 1969 = Kloss, Heinz (1969): Research Possibilities on Group Bilingualism: A report., Quebec, Canada., International Centre for Research on Bilingualism. (Link).
  • Krefeld 2019aq = Krefeld, Thomas (2019): Die ‚emische‘ und die ‚etische‘ Forschungsperspektive, Lehre in den Digital Humanities, Version 5 (Link).
  • Krefeld/Pustka 2010a = Krefeld, Thomas / Pustka, Elissa (2010): Für eine perzeptive Varietätenlinguistik, in: Krefeld, Thomas / Pustka, Elissa (Eds.), Krefeld/Pustka 2010c, 9-28.
  • Labov 1966 = Labov, William (1966): The social stratification of English in New York City, Center for Applied Linguistics.
  • Milroy/Milroy 1985 = Milroy, James / Milroy, Lesley (1985): Linguistic Change, Social Network and Speaker Innovation, in: Journal of Linguistics, vol. 21, 2, 215-246 (Link).
  • Pescosta 2013 = Pescosta, Werner (2013): Geschichte der Dolomitenladiner., San Martin de Tor. , Istitut Ladin Micurà de Rü.
  • Pülzl/Treib 2007 = Pülzl, Helga / Treib, Oliver (2007): Implementing Public Policy., in: Fischer , Frank / Miller , Gerald J. (Eds.), Handbook of Public Policy Analysis, New York, Routledge, 89-107 (Link).
  • Riz 2018 = Riz, Stefano (2018): Ge scrive coche perle: la reazione dei parlanti fassani allanormazione e standardizzazione della lingua. [Tesi di laurea] , Trento, Università degli Studi di Trento.Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia.
  • Schiffman 1996 = Schiffman, Harold F. (1996): Linguistic culture and language policy, London u.a, Routledge (Link).
  • Schiffman 2005 = Schiffman, Harold: Language policy and linguistic culture, in: Ricento, Thomas (Ed.), An Introdcution to Language Policy: Theory and Method., Wiley-Blackwell, 111-125 (Link).
  • Scola Ladina de Fascia 2018 = Scola Ladina de Fascia (2018): Progetto di Istituto 2017-2020. Edizione 2018-2019 (approvazione Collegio Docenti 11.12.2018), Scola Ladina de Fascia.
  • Servizio Statistica della Provincia Autonoma di Trento 2014 = Servizio Statistica della Provincia Autonoma di Trento (2014): Rilevazione sulla consistenza e la dislocazione territorial degli appartenenti alle popolazioni di lingua ladina, mòchena e cimbra (15° Censimento generale della popolazione e delle abitazioni – dati definiti., Trento, Servizio Statistica della Provincia Autonoma di Trento (Link).
  • Trudgill 1974 = Trudgill, Peter (1974): Linguistic Change and Diffusion: Description in Sociolinguistic Dialect Geography, in: Language in Society, vol. 3, 2, 215-246.
  • Verra 2008 = Verra, Roland (2008): Die Entwicklung der drei Schulmodelle in Südtirol seit 1945., XXXII, San Martin de Tor (BZ), Istitut Ladin Micurà de Rü, 223-260.
  • Verra 2016 = Verra, Roland (22016): Ladin. The Ladin language in education in Italy., Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning (Link).
  • Videsott 1997 = Videsott, Paul (1997): Das dolomitenladinische Sprachplanungsprojekt SPELL, in: Ladinia 21, 193–204.
  • Videsott 2010 = Videsott, Paul (2010): "Ladinische Einheit" zwischen Anspruch und Wirklichkeit, in: EJM 2, 177–190 (Link).
  • Vittur 2004 = Vittur, Franz (2004): Die Schule der ladinischen Sprachgruppe von 1940 bis 1950., in: Geschichtliche Umrisse der ladinischen Schule in Südtirol. Beiträge zum Tag der ladinischen Kultur 2004., Bozen, Amt für ladinische Kultur und Schule, 73-84.
  • Woolard 2005 = Woolard, Kathryn A. (2005): Language and Identity Choice in Catalonia: The Interplay of Contrasting Ideologies of Linguistic Authority, in: Workshop on Language Ideology and Change in Multilingual Communities, UC San Diego (Link).
  • Woolard 2007 = Woolard, Kathryn A. (2007): Bystanders and the linguistic construction of identity in face-to-back communication, in: Auer, Peter (Ed.), Style and social identities : alternative approaches to linguistic heterogeneity, Berlin ; New York, Mouton de Gruyter, 187-205.