Walser German

The Highest Alemannic Walser varieties are spoken in a mountain area which extends across the borders of Italy, Switzerland and Austria. In Italy, Walser varieties are actually spoken in small villages placed in North Eastern Piedmont and South Eastern Aosta Valley, and represent the western border of the Walser Area. Invited to occupy the highest part of the Monte Rosa Valley during the last centuries of Low Middle Ages, the Walser communities were responsible for the foundation of small villages and farms placed on both the Piedmontese and Aostan side of the Mount Rosa (Saracco 2024:236). Walser communities were characterised by a high degree of mobility across the Alpine passes: until the second half of the nineteenth century, the communities kept continuous relationships with the germanophone part of ancestral Wallis. As an effect of this, Walser villages kept their inner monolingualism.

Starting from the unification of Italy, the Walser community of Italy lived a growing isolation from the transalpine areas, and also from the roof language. 

Highly depopulated during the second half of the last century, Walser villages were exposed to growing phenomena of multilingualism and plurilingualism, given by the contact with Italian (as official language of the Italian Government), French (in the Aostan communities) and to Gallo-Romance varieties spoken in Piedmont and Aosta Valley.

Nowadays limited to conversations among familiars and friends, the Alemannic variety had been largely replaced by Italian in the context of public life. However, since they are perceived as an element of identity, Walser dialects and cultural heritage have received a growing attention in the last decades: stimulated by cultural realities as the local Walser Kulturzentrum or the Walser Verein, the communities were involved in the conservation and promotion of both Walser culture and language. The production of written materials (ethno-texts such as collections of receipts, collections of proverbs and wits, dictionaries, collections of tales and legends, etc.) has been also stimulated and promoted by the effects of the law 482/1999 which included the Walser varieties into the number of minority languages of Italy to be protected and preserved (see Antonietti 2010 and PALWAM).

ISO code: 639-3 wae


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