German Dialects in Italy Part I

By | February 7, 2022

It is necessary to make a clear distinction between the linguistic peninsulas of Alto Adige and Val Canale (Friuli) in which speech continues on this side of the border, the substantial characteristics and tendencies of modern Alpine Bavarian, and the German colonies in which from the moment of the deduction, all vital contact with the German linguistic unit ceased and consequently the dialect gradually fossilized.

South Tyrol . – The proximity to Tyrolean is betrayed in Atesian German not only in the lexicon and morphology (eg, in the preservation of the old pronominal forms  ess ,  enk ,  enker  for  ihr ,  euch ,  euer ) but also in the phonetic form; are, p. eg, phenomena common to the Tyrolean and Tyrolean the aspired  kh  (eg,  dönkht  for  denkt  “think”), the diphthong  òa  for the old  ei  ( khlòada  for  Kleider  “clothes”), the passage of  st  to  scht  (göschter  for  gestern  “yesterday”), the diphthongs   ,  ue  ( liëb  for  lieb  “dear”,  guet  for  gut  “good”), the velar pronunciation of   ( pòh  for  Bach  “stream”) and the reduction of the metaphonized vowel  ä  ad   ( pachl  for  Bächlein  “brook”), the development of   from  au  to the diphthong  òa  ( stòassn  for  stossen “Bump”), etc. The fact remains that a small bundle of isophones passes over the Brenner watershed which dialectically distinguishes Tyrol from Alto Adige; that the Pùstero dialect and that of the central Isarco have particular contacts with the Carinthian, as the Venostan is vice versa set towards the west. The old comital boundaries in Alto Adige correspond to dialectal limits which are now barely visible due to a rapid and recent leveling, but historically important; combine, for example, with the border of the old county of Pusteria that of  iu  passed not to  ui  but to  oi  ( we  “new”;  foir  “fire”, against the more common dialect  nui ,  fuir) and that of  uo  held in  ui  ( schúih  “shoe”,  grúibe  “pit”) against  ue ,  ua  (literary German,  u :  Schuh ,  Grube ). Thus along the old eastern border of the Merano area, in Gargazzon, the eastern limit of the pronunciation  ü  runs in entries such as  geben  “dare”,  Weg  “via”, to which the rest of Alto Adige responds with  göbn ,  wög. In other cases, the Isarco and Pusteria Basins or Upper Venosta form dialectal units that continue across the watershed in East Tyrol or, respectively, West Tyrol, substantially identical tendencies. Dialectal conditions differentiated from the neighboring German languages ​​are also presently manifested in the peripheral dialect of Nova Levante, Nova Ponente and Valdagno; they give the impression of a colonization quite different from the usual one; the inhabitants, according to a tradition that can be documented in the eighteenth century, would be of Swabian origin.

According to elaineqho, German is the dialect of the majority in Alto Adige: in the 1921 census, the figures for which are now much out of date, the Italian percentage, not taking into account the 24,000 foreign Germans then residing in Bolzanino, was 25.4. The bilingual character is accentuated by the fact that not only all young people, but also many adults know and speak Italian; decidedly Italian are the Ladin-Dolomite valleys of Fassa, Gardena, Badia, Marebbe; even after the language of the administration and of the church became German, the area from Bolzano to Salorno always remained mixed-lingual, as immigration currents from Trentino continued to enliven the Italian minorities.

Large sections of South Tyrol yielded to Germanism only in the last few centuries. The lateral valleys of the Dolomite massif, especially those closest to the Italian Gardena (Tires, Funés, Eores), further south Nova Levante and Trodena still retained the old language around 1600; in the upper Venosta, Romansh was the object of persecutions at the beginning of the century. XVII, but survived at some point until the Napoleonic period. A stone’s throw from Merano, in Parcines, Ulrico da Campell found the neo-Latin persistent towards 1570; multiple reports of German and Italian travelers and scholars of the beginning of the century. XVII prove the bilinguality of the whole Atesino section below Bolzano, especially in Salorno, Sello, Caldaro, Appiano. For Bolzano, the declaration of the German Dominican Felix Faber, in 1483, is reliable vulgaris locutio  had been Italian and the city had only recently become entangled; although the municipal administration took precautions from 1488 against the Italian danger, the influx of the Italian workforce and the use of its language as the language of the fairs continued to keep alive the Italian tradition precisely in the lower classes, which so easily escape to direct archival documentation. The superficiality of the intedescamento of a large part of the Bolzanino shines forth from the place and family names of Italian origin and adapted to German phonetics: it is the task of historical grammar to examine the phenomena of adaptation and the previous neo-Latin development in order to obtain data on the approximate period in which the linguistic transition took place.

German Dialects in Italy 1