Sauris di sotto with the church of Saint Oswald in the community Sauris, region Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy.


The German minority language of Sauris (Germ. Zahre) is called de zahrar sproche ‘the language of Sauris’ by the speech community. Sauris is located in the historical cultural landscape of Friuli and belongs to the province of Udine in the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Sauris is situated at an altitude of about 1300 metres above the Tagliamento valley. According to the available sources, the land was settled in the 13th century by people from East Tyrol or Carinthia. These settlers, who spoke a Middle High German variety belonging to the South Bavarian dialects, initially lived very isolated from the surrounding communities and populations; it was not until the 16th century that contact with neighboring villages, where Romance varieties were spoken, intensified due to the cult of St. Osvald.

Nowadays, Sauris has around 400 inhabitants, of which ca. 200 speak and use the Sauris language. The inhabitants of Sauris have been predominantly trilingual since the 19th century. Apart from their German minority language, they also acquire the northern Italian colloquial language through the schooling system and additionally they have a variety of Friulian (Carnic Friulian) to their disposal. The written language is Italian, but due to the recently developed written form, the Sauris language is now also sporadically used in writing (e.g. Whatsapp messages).

Contact with written German exists only in a few cases via German as a foreign language courses. In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the preservation of Saurano: language courses are available to those interested in learning the language and at the elementary school level optional classes are being offered. This is also due to the State law no. 482 from 1999, which deals with the protection of historical language minorities, which resulted in the recognition of Friulian, Slovenian and German as historical language minorities in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

Further reading

  • Baum, Wilhelm (1983): Deutsche Sprachinseln in Friaul. Klagenfurt: Carinthia.
  • Denison, Norman (1994): Diachrone und synchrone Aspekte der Mundart der deutschen Sprachinsel Zahre. In Maria Hornung (ed.): Die deutschen Sprachinseln in den Südalpen. Mundarten und Volkstum. Hildesheim/Zürich/New York: Olms, 223-236.
  • Denison, Norman & Hans Grassegger (2007): Zahrer Wörterbuch. Vocabolario saurano. Udine: Amaro.
  • Geyer, Ingeborg (2018): Wortschatzentwicklung in den Sprachinseln Sappada/Pladen, Sauris/Zahre und Timau/Tischelwang im historischen Friaul. Germanistische Linguistik 239-240, 325–343.
  • Protto, Lucia (2004): Zahre-Sauris. Deutschsprachige Gemeinschaft in der Provinz Udine. In Karin, Heller, Luis Thomas Prader & Christian Prezzi (eds.): Lebendige Sprachinseln. Beiträge aus den historischen deutschen Minderheiten in Italien. Lusérn, 255-289.
  • Wurzer, Bernhard (1973): Die deutschen Sprachinseln in Oberitalien. Bozen-Bolzano: Athesia.

Additional online resource

Website of the Saurano community