‚Bëgngnüs te nüsc paîsc y te nostes valades!'
(Welcome to our villages and our valleys!)
A population's unique character finds expression in its language, with its rough and smooth edges reflected in its intonation. It is always a pleasure to listen to an (as yet) unknown language, where the sometimes harsh, sometimes sweet beauty of its acoustic pattern may be perceived. And so it is with the Ladin language, which mirrors the untamed beauty of the Dolomites and expresses the creativity and stamina of the people.
Ladin is the native language of around 30,000 people. It is a school subject and is used in daily life. Guests to the area also find this when they meet Ladin names on the trilingual signs and Ladin inscriptions on buildings and shops right from the start. It is heard in hotels, on Ladin radio and television programmes, while out shopping and on the village square. Printed material is also invariably issued in three languages, Italian, German and Ladin.
Origin and development
Ladin is a Romance language and arose from the merging of the Rhaetic of the indigenous population with the vulgar Latin of mercenaries and merchants. The isolation of the valleys and the location of Ladinien between the Italian and German linguistic areas have always encouraged the development of linguistic variants. More recently, a common advancement of the language has been hindered by inconsistencies in the recognition of Ladin as a language in its own right: the valleys around the Sellastock massif (Gadertal, Gröden, Buchensteintal, Fassatal and Cortina) sprawl across three Italian Provinces – Belluno, Trent and South Tyrol. The Ladin inhabitants of the Province of Bozen – Bolzano are officially recognised as being the third ethnic group and are given active support in safeguarding their culture and language by the Province.
Ladin in the written word
Books in Ladin have existed for a few decades thanks to efforts made to maintain the language, such as the publishing of the first Ladin grammar book in 1833 by Micurà de Rü. His basic concept was to develop language support looking ahead to the future and the promotion of a common written language for all Dolomite Ladin people. Micurà de Rü Ladin Cultural Institute was founded in 1976 with the aim of preserving, further developing and promoting the Ladin language in print and colloquial speech as well as Ladin culture and was named after him, the first fosterer of written Ladin. Thus, this 2000-year-old, neo-Latin language from Roman times was lovingly tended and prevented from disappearing.