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Cimbrian language

The Cimbrian parlance of Luserna

by Fiorenzo Nicolussi Castellan

The adjective that identifies the language spoken in Luserna does not come from the homonymous people defeated by the Roman legions in 101 B.C. at Campi Raudi, allegedly near the town of Vercelli, but from an ancient German dialect.

The Cimbrian language, indeed, is similar to Middle High German, with influences of ancient German in the Bavarian version. This language was brought to the Luserna/Lusérn plateau around the year 1000 by Bavarian colonists who, across many migration flows, abandoned their lands in search of new territories to colonize.

The first document that can be related to these migration flows dates back to 1055, and lists the names of families (with their towns of origin) that during periods of famine left their villages to move to the lands owned by the convent of S. Maria in Organo in Verona.

The period of maximum expansion of the Cimbrian language dates back to the early 1700s; at that time, Cimbrian was spoken by about 20,000 people living across a broad area to the south-east of Trento, included between the Adige and Brenta rivers. Since then, a slow, inexorable decline begun, almost leading to the extinction of the idiom.

Of the vast territory where Cimbrian was once spoken, only the small village of Luserna is today the last standing bastion; the orographic isolation of this area, the political vicissitudes and the pride of its inhabitants have allowed preserving this archaic language, which, according to experts, is still spoken to day as it was in the past.

Professor Tyroller points out how a language is the mirror of a community; Cimbrian, in fact, is distinguished by a great lexical wealth in very specific fields, such as the semantic areas associated with wood and its workmanship, as well as with fieldwork and atmospheric weather.