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From the Roman Empire to the today's Italian Republic, Italy is one of the nations that has seen the most drastic changes in its territory. This together with the fact that it lies at the center of Europe and has known successive waves of invasions explains why, apart from standard italian, there are so many minority languages spoken in Italy. German, Slovene and Griko (a variant of Greek), for example are spoken by minority groups in different areas of Italy.
Minority Languages of Italy

by Catherine Marien

For the Regional Languages of Italy, see: Regional languages of Italy

Note: what we will discuss here are the languages that are official national languages in other countries and are spoken by local minorities within Italy, such as, for example, German and Slovene. For the regional languages of Italy and their dialects (that are specific to Italy) we have a separate article, see: regional languages of Italy.

© Photo Liam Heffernan
Actually, the group of languages discussed here can be subdivided into two groups: on the one hand, minority languages that are regional languages in another country (for example, Catalan) and on the other hand, minority languages that are national languages in another country. The main distinction with regional languages of Italy is that the minority languages presented on this page are NOT specific to Italy, but are spoken also elsewhere in other countries or regions, even though they may have developed a local variant within Italy, such as Molise Croatian and Griko.
Minority languages that are the national language of another country or variants thereof:

- German, spoken in the province of South Tyrol in the North of Italy, and in north-eastern Italian regions, previously under  influence of the ancient Austrio-hungarian empire and awarded to Italy after WWI. In total about 300,000 Italians speak German as their first language.

- Slovene is spoken by about 80,000 italians living in the north-eastern region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia near the border with Slovenia.

- Molise Croatian, a diaspora dialect of Croatian, which can be found in the villages of Montemitro, San Felice del Molise, and Acquaviva-Collecroce in the southern Molise region of central-south Italy and counts some 3,500 speakers. They are the descendants of a group of people who migrated from the Balkans in the Middle Ages.

- Arbëreshë Albanian: spoken by 80,000 to 100,000 italians in several pockets in Avellino, Potenza, Taranto, Cosenza, Catanzaro, and Palermo provinces in Southern Italy and in central Sicily, as a result of past migrations.

Italiot Greek (Graecanic, Griko), an endangered language with only 15000-20000 speakers left scattered across Southern Italy, and who are all aged over 50. This is a language quite different from Modern Greek, with traces of Ancient Greek and influenced by the Romance dialects. Considered to be one of the last surviving traces of the region's Greek heritage (Ancient Greek colonists reached Southern Italy and Sicily about 1500 BC, the ancient Magna Graecia), according to others born in VII-IX century AC, according to others descended also from the Greek spoken in.

Minority languages that are the official language of a region in other countries or of a community, not specific to Italy )

- Franco-Provençal (called Patois in France) spoken by about 70,000 people who live in the Aosta Valley region. Dialects: Valle D'aosta (Patoé Valdoten, Valdotain, Valdostano), Faeto (Faetar), Celle San Vito.

- Some 15,000 Catalan speakers reside around the area of Alghero in the north-west corner of Sardinia - believed to be the result of a migration of a large group of Catalans from Barcelona in ages past.

- Corsican: spoken in Maddalena Island, northeast coast of Sardinia.

The arrival of immigrants has generated a plethora of new languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Turkish, Kurdish, Mandarin Chinese, and others. Even today, variations in local accents allow people from one town to distinguish people from a neighboring town, which may be only a few miles away. There is a growing population of Jews and Muslims in Italy, many of whom speak Hebrew and Arabic, respectively.

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Related pages
Italy > Italian art and culture > Languages of Italy > Minority languages of Italy

UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages by by Tapani Salminen
Foundation for endangered languages
Dictionary of Languages by Andrew Dalby
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See also:

Extinct and dead languages of Italy
Regional languages of Italy and their dialects
Italian loanwords in English
Extinct and dead languages of Italy
Regional languages of Italy and their dialects
Italian loanwords in English