Italy conjures images of crumbling ruins, soaring cathedrals and sweeping vistas lined with olive trees, followed by scenes of large families gathered around tables ladened with pasta and wine. The Italian language flows through this landscape, but for many it is not their first language, the language of their home and family.
Latin, the language of the Romans, has changed and evolved over the past 2000 years, sometimes so drastically that modern iterations such as French hardly resemble their antecedent. But in some corners of Italy and neighbouring countries, the language of the Patricians seems but a recent memory.
Over 20 indigenous minority language groups exist throughout Italy today. Their diverse cultures and traditions should enrich our understanding of this classic landscape.
The Church among Ibero-Romance Speakers
Italy can lay claim to a distinct Christian heritage, perhaps more than any other country in the world. Here lies the seat of the Catholic Church in the Vatican City in Rome, the very heart of Christendom on earth. From here the Pope, cardinals and the office of the church have provided spiritual direction and reigned – sometimes quite literally – over myriad nations, colonies and territories. The Church's presence in Italy is unavoidable.
Over 80% of Italy’s population profess to be Christian, most through the Roman Catholic Church, but as in much of Europe there are fewer practicing adherents. Evangelicals remain few in number; Operation World reports 632,714 Evangelicals, or roughly 1% of the population.
Evangelical churches often encounter strong opposition in rural environments, which often corresponds to where indignenous minority language groups are found. Churches that gather through the medium of these languages in Italy are rare, if they exist at all. Even the Catholic Church held mass in Latin until the 1960s.
Linguistic family tree
The Italo-Romance branch of the Romance languages contain several sub-groups. The North branch includes:
The South branch includes:
The East branch includes:
The Rhaetian branch includes:
And the West-Insular branch includes:
Where they're spoken
Most of these groups are found in modern-day Italy, especially in outlying or remote provinces far from the capital in Rome. Friulian, Ladin and Sardinian are officially recognised as minority languages.
Other notable countries where Italo-Romance languages are spoken include France, namely the island of Corsica, where Corsican is spoken, and Switzerland, where Rhaeto-Romansch is spoken in the canton of Graubünden. Other countries where Italo-Romance languages are spoken include:
Created with images by Gellinger - "venice canale grande gondolier" • Paul Gilmore - "A magnificent morning at an Italian lake." • Vidar Nordli-Mathisen - "Playing" • mauro paillex - "wintertime" • valtercirillo - "door time closed" • Simeon Muller - "Cemetery During The Day" • Kai Pilger - "untitled image" • James Coleman - "Rosary" • glcphoto - "torino churches piemonte" • Ryan James Christopher - "Colorful Amalfi" • sferrario1968 - "italy northern italy central and northern italy" Statistics on Evangelicalism are provided by Operation World's demographic information on Italy.