Language planning for the smallest language minority in Italy
The Cimbrians of Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige
After an introduction to the Cimbrian language (a Bavarian variety that has maintained many characteristics of early Middle High German) and a brief overview of the sociolinguistic situation (attitudes in particular) in the area regarded as ‘ethnically’ Cimbrian, this article looks at the language planning that has been carried out in the Cimbrian area (particularly in the areas of graphization, mass-media and education) and at the institutions devoted to it. It is evident that not enough planning has been done. There are various reasons for this, such as the low ethnic and linguistic consciousness of the speakers (particularly in the Veneto region) and the lack of both adequate funding and of a policy that takes economic development seriously into account. Considering the size of the speaking community, its socio-economic situation, the invasive presence of Italian and the lack of resources, the chances for the survival of Cimbrian are not high, particularly in the Veneto region. However, language planning is worth attempting anyway, not only to preserve Italy’s (and the world’s) rich diversity, but particularly for the cultural, social and economic benefits that reversing language shift always entails.
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