Identification. The Friuli are speakers of a Rhaeto-Romance language, Friulan, who live in the north of Italy, on the border of Austria and Slovenia.
Location. Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, the autonomous region of Italy in which Friulan speakers live, is bounded on the west by the Dolomite Alps, on the north by the Carnic Alps, on the east by the Julian Alps, and on the south by the Adriatic Sea. This territory, with an area of 7,900 square kilometers, has a total population of in excess of 1,232,000. Of this number, perhaps a little over half are Friulan speakers, most of whom live in the province of Friuli, between the Livenza and Timavo rivers. The environment is favorable to agriculture, with its high, reliable annual rainfall and fertile soils.
Demography. The total number of Friulan speakers today is on the order of 600,000, and most of these live in the province of Friuli. Within that province, Friulan speakers constitute the majority, but they share that territory with speakers of Venetian, Slovene, and German.
Linguistic Affiliation. Friulan is a Rhaeto-Romance Language, related to but distinct from Ladin and Romansh. It was derived from vulgar Latin some time after the fall of the Roman Empire. Its exact relationship to Ladin remains a matter of some linguistic debate. Many scholars have tended to treat Friulan as a Ladin dialect, but scholars today Generally agree that it is a separate language. Friulan displays Significant Germanic and Venetian influences. The earliest evidence of a Friuli written form are books that were written about 1150. Some attempts are currently under way to use Friulan as a literary language. The Friuli use both their own language and Italian in their everyday discourse. In some Friuli parishes, historical factors have resulted in a trilingual situation, the third language being a German dialect. In these areas, the three languages are used diatypically, which is to say that speakers select among their language options according to situational factors: Italian is used for church or school occasions, as the principal written form, and to speak to or in the presence of outsiders; Friulan is used within the Community among acquaintances and friends as a "locally public" language; and German is reserved for use in the home or in private conversation among close friends.