ETHNONYMS: Dolomites, Ladinos

The Ladin are a predominantly Catholic, linguistic minority of northeastern alpine Italy. They live in the high valleys of Alto Adige and the Dolomites and number approximately 30,000. Although most Ladin can speak Standard Italian, they have taken great pride as well in maintaining their own language. Classed as a member of the Rhaeto-Romance Family, Ladin was long thought to be one of three dialects (the other two being Friulian and Romansch), but it now is treated as a language in its own right. The use of the term "Ladino" as an ethnonym for "Ladin" is somewhat confusing, since "Ladino" refers as well to the traditional language of Sephardic Jews, from which Ladin is quite distinct. While there is some inferential evidence suggesting that Ladin may have existed in written form as early as the fourteenth Century, the earliest documents that have been found date only to the 1700s.

The Ladin are a mountain peasantry who have Historically and culturally identified with the German-speaking Populations of the part of South Tirol in which they live. Their economy was based originally on the cultivation of fruits and vegetables and on pastoralism. Today the region's economy centers on mining and quarrying, manufacturing, industry, and tourism. In the area of Alto Adige, viticulture also plays an important role.

Prior to World War I, the portion of the southern Tirol occupied by the Ladin was a part of Austria, but after the Treaty of Versailles it was annexed to Italy. The Ladin resisted Mussolini's policies of linguistic assimilation, and after World War II they secured the right to institute instruction in the Ladin language in the schools of some parts of the region. Since the 1960s there have been a number of efforts to foster a Ladin cultural renaissance and to secure a greater degree of political autonomy for the region.

Although there has been a great deal of scholarly attention paid to the Ladin, particularly with regard to their Language, there are no full-length works available in the English language.


Bezzola, Reto R. (1979). Litteratura dals Rumauntschse e Ladins. Curia: Ligra Ramontscha.

Sabatini, Gianpaolo (1976). I Ladini: Come nato e come si estingue un popolo. Florence: Cipriani.

Sulzer, Giuseppe Giorgio (1985). Dell' origine et della natura dei dialetti comunements chiamanti romanici messia confronto coi dialetti consimili esistenti nel Tirolo. A. Forni, Sala Bolognese.

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