Friulian or Friulan (furlan in Friulian) is a language spoken in the historical Friuli region in northeastern Italy confined in the north by Austria and in the east by Slovenia. It developed around 1000 AD from Vulgar Latin spoken in the Aquileia region and conserves for example a final –s in the plural of nouns, cf. cjan (sg.) ‘dog’ vs. cjans ‘dogs’ (pl.): in Italian: cane (sg.) vs. cani (pl.), and it maintains consonant clusters such as cl, gl, bl, pl, fl; compare e.g. clâf  (Latin: clavem; Italian: chiave). Friulian can be divided into three main varieties: western Friulian, central-eastern Friulian and Carnic Friulian, spoken in the north, in Carnia.

Due to its peripheral geographic position, Friulian has always been in contact with other languages and varieties. Friuli-Venezia Giulia, an autonomous region with special statute, recognizes (besides Friulian) also two other historical minority languages as official languages: German (for example in the language islands Sappada/Pladen, Timau/Tischelwang or Sauris/Zahre going back to a medieval variety of Southern Bavarian) and Slovenian spoken in the provinces of Gorizia, Trieste and Udine.

From 2001 onwards the Regional Agency for the Friulian language (ARLeF – in Friulian: Agjenzie Regjonâl pe lenghe furlane) coordinates activities with the aim to protect and promote the Friulian language and its historical and cultural heritage. According to a study published by the ARLeF in collaboration with the University of Udine in 2015, there are ca. 600.000 speakers of Friulian in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region (in 173 municipalities), and there are Friulian speakers in 7 municipalities in the Veneto region. Additionally, many speakers of Friulian have emigrated in the past, especially to Australia, North- and South America and South Africa, resulting in Friulian speech communities outside of Italy.

Friulian has a long tradition as a written language. The first documentation of literary use dates back to the fourteenth century. Later, the poet Ermes di Colloredo (1622 – 1692) created a common literary language based on the central Friulian variety spoken in the area around Udine which as a result acquired the status of literary koiné. Subsequently, this variety was used also by other writers and served as a model for the official spelling adopted in 1996.

ISO-Code 639-2: fur

Further reading

  • Benincà, Paola & Laura Vanelli (2016): Friulian. In Adam Ledgeway & Martin Maiden (eds.): The Oxford Guide to the Romance Languages. Oxford: University Press, pp. 139-153.
  • Frau, Giovanni (1984): I dialetti del Friuli. Udine. Società Filologica Friulano.
  • Heinemann, Sabine & Luca Melchior (eds.) (2015): Manuale di linguistica friulana (=Manuals of Romance Linguistics 3). Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • Marcato, Carla (2001): Friuli Venezia Giulia (=Alberto A. Sobrero [ed.]: Profili linguistici delle regioni). Bari: Laterza.
  • Rizzolatti, Piera (1981): Elementi di linguistica friulana. Udine: Società Filologica Friulano.
  • Turello, Davide (2007): Sprachplanung des Friaulischen: eine Untersuchung der Standardisierungsprozesse. Bamberg: Otto-Friedrich-Universität.

Additional online resources