Dolomite Ladin

The Ladin Dolomite Language

Those who have had the opportunity to visit some of the Dolomites’ towns have noticed that locals speak Dolomite Ladin, a dialect that is often incomprehensible. They may have also noticed that this language can be very different even between two relatively nearby towns.

Since I was a child, I have learned to express myself in “anpezan,” and even today, I speak this language with my family and some friends. It should be immediately noted that this is not a dialect, but rather a real language.

I am referring to the Rhaeto-Romance language group, a group of neo-Latin languages united by close affinities and spoken by over 92,000 people in the central-eastern part of the Alpine arc. The recognized languages that are part of it are Romansh, Ladino, and Friulian; together these three languages constitute the entire group.

It seems that Ladino derives from the idioms spoken by the populations of Noricum (a historical region, therefore a Roman province, corresponding to today’s central Austria) who took refuge in the valleys of the eastern Alps starting from the 5th century, fleeing from the invasions of the Rugi, Avars, and Slavs.

See the list of 92 Italian municipalities officially recognized as Ladino-speaking.

In this context, we will focus on the Dolomite Ladino, spoken by about 92,000 people in the eastern part of the Alpine arc, in the so-called Ladino-Dolomite linguistic island. But first, if you are curious, would you like to listen to a reading in Ampezzo Ladino?

Territorial Division of Dolomite Ladin

Ladino cadorino, spoken in Cadore:

  • Ampezzano, spoken in Cortina d’Ampezzo (Anpezo) and similar to Ladino Cadorino.
  • Comeliano, spoken in Comelico; is one of the most conservative Eastern dialects.
  • Cadorino, spoken throughout Cadore from Cortina to Canal del Piave, with more or less noticeable Venetian influences.

Ladino atesino, spoken in South Tyrol:

  • Badioto-Marebbano, spoken in Val Badia and Val Marebbe (formerly also in Val di Luson and the lower Val Badia) (9,229 inhabitants), with 95% of the population as native speakers.
  • Fodom or Ladino of Alta Val Cordevole or Livinallese, is spoken in the municipalities of Livinallongo del Col di Lana and Colle Santa Lucia by about 1,800 people, with approximately 80-90% of the population as native speakers.
  • Gardenese, is spoken in Val Gardena (Gherdëina) (8,148 inhabitants), with 80-90% of the population as native speakers.
  • Fassano (Fascian), spoken in Val di Fassa with variations in Moena and Canazei, with a total of 8,620 inhabitants, of which 60-75% are native Ladino speakers.
  • Rocchesano, spoken in the Municipality of Rocca Pietore, on the border with Val di Fassa (1,500 inhabitants).

Ladino is spoken in Veneto:

  • Agordino, spoken in Alto and Basso Agordino, presents more or less strong Venetian influences.
  • Zoldano, spoken in the Zoldo Valley (3,500 inhabitants), presents Venetian influences as well as correspondences with Vajontino.

Western Area

In the western area (transitioning to Lombard-Eastern), we find:
Novese, formerly widespread on the Alpe di Siusi and the left-Isarco area up to Nova Levante/Welschnofen, where it definitively went extinct in the 17th century; it survives in Bulla, Roncadizza, Sureghes.
Noneso-Solandro, spoken in the Val di Non with variations in the different areas of the valley and the adjacent lower Val di Sole. At the last linguistic census in 2001, more than 7000 residents in the Val di Non and Val di Sole declared themselves Ladin. It is uncertain whether Noneso is a Ladin dialect or a separate language.
Vajontino, an isolated former transitional dialect with Friulian, spoken in the area of Erto, Cimolais, and Vajont in Friuli (2000 inhabitants), is more often considered a variant of Friulian.

In the Province of Bolzano (Bulsan), it is officially recognized as a language under Article 102 of the Autonomy Statute on the enhancement of cultural initiatives and activities, and the Ladin minority is protected by various norms concerning, among other things, teaching in public schools and the ability to use Ladin in oral and written communication with public administration offices, excluding the armed forces and police.

In fact, in the Ladin areas of South Tyrol, Ladin is a language of instruction along with German and Italian in schools.

According to the resolution of the Provincial Government, no. 210 of January 27, 2003 (Use of the Ladino language by public authorities and in legislative acts) “the Ladino variants officially recognized in the province of Bolzano are the unified Ladino of Val Badia and that of Val Gardena”.

Recently, in the Province of Belluno, thanks to legislation on historical linguistic minorities (law 482/1999), the communities of Cadore, Comelico, Agordino, upper Cordevole Valley, and Val di Zoldo have also been recognized as Ladino-speaking. The Istituto Ladin de la Dolomites (Cultural Institute of the Historical Ladino Communities of the Belluno Dolomites) is active, with headquarters in Borca di Cadore and linguistic offices in Agordo, Canale d’Agordo, Calalzo di Cadore, Vigo di Cadore, Santo Stefano di Cadore, and Forno di Zoldo.

Below is an example of Dolomite Ladino in different variants.

The fox was hungry again. Just then, she saw a crow that had a piece of cheese in its beak. “That’s what I’d like,” thought the fox, and called out to the crow: “How beautiful you are! If you sing as well as you look, you are certainly the most beautiful of all the birds.”
La volpe era nuovamente affamata. In quel mentre vide un corvo, che aveva nel becco un pezzo di formaggio. “Quello sì mi piacerebbe” pensa la volpe, e chiama il corvo: “Quanto sei bello! Se canti bene come ti presenti, sicuramente sei il più bello di tutti gli uccelli.”
Ladin de Ampezo (Anpezan)
Ra volpe r’èa danoo infamentada. Cenoné ra vede un cròo, che ‘l aéa inze ‘l bèco un tòco de forméi. “Chel sì che el me piajaràe”, ra s’à pensà ra volpe, e r’à ciamà el croo: “Cé un bel che te sos! Se te ciantes polito cemodo che te se vede, de seguro te sos el pì bel de dute i uziéi!”
Ladin dla Val Badia (Badiot)
La olp ê indô n iade afamada. Te chël vëighera n corf che tignî n tòch de ciajó te so bech. “Chël me savess bun”, s’àra ponsè, y à cherdè le corf: “Tan bel che t’es! Sce to ciantè é tan bel co to ciarè fora, spo este dessigü tö le plü bel vicel de düc.”
Ladin de Gherdëina (Gherdëina)
La bolp fova inò n iede arfameda. Te chëla vëijela n corf che tën n tòch de ciajuel te si bech. “Chël me savëssa bon”, se ala mpensà y à cherdà l corf: “Ce bel che te ies! Sce te ciantes tan bel coche te cëles ora, pona ies dessegur tu l plu bel ucel de duc.”
Ladin de Fascia (Fascian)
La bolp era endò famèda. Te chela la veit n corf con n toch de formai tel bech. “Chel, vé, me saessa bon”, la se peissa e la ge disc al corf: “Che bel che t’es! Se tie ciantèr l’é scì bel che tia parbuda dapò t’es de segur tu l più bel anter duc i ucìe.”
Ladin Nones (Nones)
La bolp l’era de nuèu famada. Nte chela la vet en grol con en toć de formai tel beć. “Chel, vè, el me saverues bon”, la mpensa entra de ela, e la ge dis al grol: “Che bel che es! Si l to ciantar l’è nzì bel come che vardes fuera, de segur es el pu bel di tut i aucièi!”
Ladin de Fodom (Fodom)
La volp l’eva ndavò afamada. Nte chëla la veiga n còrf che l se tegniva n tòch de formai ntel bech. “Chël l me savëssa ben bon”, la s’à pensé ntra de dëla, e l’à clamé l còrf: “Cotánt bel che t’es! Se tuo cianté l é bel coche ti te ciale fòra, nlouta t’es segur ti l plu bel de duc cánc i uciei!”
Cortina d'Ampezzo. Parade in Ladin costume.
Cortina d’Ampezzo. Parade in Ladin costume.


  • “Pallidi nomi di monti”. An interesting volume that applies the toponymy of the Cortina d’Ampezzo area to hiking. Published by Grafiche Italprint (Treviso), 1994. – Author: Lorenza Russo
  • “Grammatica ampezzana”. Published by Athesiadruck (Bolzano), 2003. – Author: Committee for Grammar Rules of Ampezzo.
  • “Vocabolario italiano-ampezzano”. Published by Athesiadruck (Bolzano), 1997. – Author: Committee for the Vocabulary Rules of Ampezzo.
  • “Vocabolario ampezzano”. Published by Tipografia Piave (Belluno), 1986. – Author: Committee for the Vocabulary Rules of Ampezzo.
  • “Cortina d’Ampezzo nella sua parlata”. The First Ampezzan dictionary was published in Forlì in 1929. – Reprinted by Italprint (Treviso), 1981. – Author: Angelo Majoni.
  • “Grammatica del dialetto ampezzano”. The first grammar of Ampezzan was published in Trento in 1930. Reprinted by Italprint (Treviso), 1987. – Author: Bruno Apollonio.
  • “Pinochio. Ra storia de un buratin de len”. Translation in Ampezzan of Collodi’s masterpiece. Tipografia Print House (Cortina d’Ampezzo), 2008 – Author: Ernesto Majoni.
  • “Quadro della letteratura ladina d’Ampezzo”. Anthology of texts of poetry, prose, and theater in Ampezzan. Tipografia Ghedina Cortina d’Ampezzo (1996) – Authors: Giuseppe Munarini and Ernesto Majoni.
  • “Monti boschi e pascoli ampezzani nei nomi originali”. Interesting collection of place names in the Ampezzo Valley. Tamari Edizioni (Bologna), 1983 – Authors: Illuminato de Zanna and Camillo Berti.
  • “Cemodo che se dis par anpezan” 8 booklets, full of sayings, idiomatic phrases, and Ampezzan proverbs collected and commented on. Tipografia Print House (Cortina d’Ampezzo), 1989-1994. Author: Agostino Girardi.

External links:
Ladin Language on Wikipedia.