Repost from the old site.
Forgive me a bit while I trip off into obscure Romance linguistics here for a bit, but I’m really getting off on this little journey.
Here is the website for La Quotidiana, an online and printed daily newspaper in the Romansch language. This is the closest Romance language of all to Latin itself.
Below are a couple of websites entirely in the Ladin language. Ladin is spoken in northeastern Italy, in the Eastern Alps. The specific range is called the Dolomites. Ladin is a weird-looking language. At first you think it’s French, then…no, it can’t be. Wait, it’s Italian, no, not quite. You keep thinking Romanian, but that’s wrong too. The one thing that keeps hitting you is that it looks so much like Classic Latin.
Noeles.net is said to be the only online Ladin newspaper. Ladins da Friul is even better. It’s also entirely in Ladin, but it has lots of really cool photos.
The people in this region are isolated in small mountain valleys, wear strange but fascinating traditional garb including wide-rimmed hats, have sloped roofs on the buildings with Swiss clocks on the outside, and seem to be very, very deeply Catholic.
The people have interesting features and look more Germanic or Slavic than anything else. Lots of blond and red hair and blue and green eyes. There seems to be a deep tradition of scholarly endeavors and a general serious, even ponderous nature. These are not the happy go lucky Italians of the South.
Traditional racial science classed the Europeans in this area as “Dinarics.” A gallery of Dinarics is here. It’s from a horrible proto-Nazi book by Hans F.K. Gunther, but the photos are pretty interesting.
Employment seems to be mostly tourism now, but it looks as if some small farming, especially wine grapes, logging and handicrafts such as woodcarving still employ some folks. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of place one gets rich, but you get the feeling that people in the Dolomites really don’t care about getting rich. That’s a good set of values! Modern, sophisticated White people who don’t give a damn about getting rich.
Persistence of small languages in Europe is associated with isolation, rural areas, poor economics, “backwardness,” deep religious values and regular churchgoing, and employment in traditional industries. In these isolated regions, speakers of small languages continue to marry their own kind – they don’t breed with outsiders too much.
You also get the impression that many folks here spend their whole lives in one small village. I recall an anecdote where a writer was in a small Scottish village and an old-timer informed that he was moving for the first time in his life. “Oh?” asked the writer. “Where?” He was moving across the street.
Ladin has 30,000 speakers and Romansch has 35,000. These are cultured, intelligent, educated Europeans, yet they are still speaking small languages that don’t have a lot of use in our multicultural world.
I wonder what it must feel like to speak one of these small languages? There is probably not a lot to read in your small language. But in the case of Romansch and Ladin, probably almost all speakers also speak Italian and/or German at least, so if they want to do a lot of reading, there’s tons of German and Italian stuff out there.
These small languages are often called “the language of the hearth and home.” They are spoken with family and friends, in small towns and villages, on the street and in shops. In some rural or more isolated areas, they are spoken at work. But in the wider world, a larger language is used.
In modern times, the fate of the language lies with the younger generation. If they see the small language as having little value in our modern world, they will fail to use it or even learn it and will eventually lose the tongue.
There are also problems with immigrants moving into the area who are not interested in learning some small language. Due to poor economics, a lot of speakers of small languages emigrate out of their home region to big cities. Eventually, many of them lose their native language.
Media for small tongues is a constant problem, and it’s one reason I’m a socialist. These languages usually need some sort of funding by the state as the wonderful market just can’t see any profit in a radio or TV station broadcasting in some small tongue. So the state typically funds newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, etc.
Advertising is another problem. You can put up signs in your small language and try to sell to speakers, but outsiders won’t be able to read them. So bilingual signage is often used.
Education is always a sticky issue. With the larger minority tongues, there are often lessons in the language available through various grades of school. With the bigger ones, you can also opt to use the minority tongue as a language of instruction, as long as you take courses in the national language every year. Shortages of quality schoolbooks and other learning materials are typical problems, along with teachers fluent in the language.
Recent decades have seen revivals throughout Europe in most of the small tongues.
Here are a couple of websites in the much larger Friulian language, with 800,000 speakers. It’s close to Ladin and Romansch. Lenghe.net looks quite thorough. The Radio Onde site is also pretty nice.
Friulian looks like it is getting quite a web presence, probably due to the high number of speakers. Radio and TV stations and printed press costs money, but websites are a lot cheaper.
Maybe the web is going to be savior of a lot of small tongues.