Logotip de la revista Noves SL





Sociolingüística internacional
Summer 2001

The linguistic situation of South Tyrol, by Albert Branchadell and Joan Manrubia

The aim of this presentation is to inform the Catalan sociolinguistic community of the protection of linguistic minorities in South Tyrol. Firstly, we will look at the historical background: South Tyrol is a territory that has been linked to Austria since the fourteenth century and passed into Italian hands after the First World War, when the Treaty of Paris (1946) provided for protective measures for the German-speaking population (and, to a lesser degree, the Ladin-speakers). Secondly, we will discuss the current political situation: the political parties and provincial autonomy. Thirdly, we will describe the current socio-linguistic situation using the census of 1991 and other recent sources. Fourthly, we will introduce the three basic pillars of the aforementioned policy of protection: linguistic separatism at school, bilingualism of the Government and the Justice system, and the "ethnic proportion" of the civil service. Finally, if you wish to find out more, you may consult the bibliography and a number of websites.



1. Brief history of South Tyrol
2. Overview of the political situation
3. Sociolinguistic data
4. Linguistic legislation
5. Bibliography and Websites

1. Brief history of South Tyrol

At the end of the First World War, in accordance with the Treaty of Saint Germain-en-Laye (September 1919), the southern Austrian Tyrol was ceded to Italy. The English and French had promised this part of Tyrol to Italy in 1915 on the premise that the latter entered the war on the side of the Allies. The rest now forms part of a land in the Federal Republic of Austria. Conflicts between the predominantly German-speaking population and Italian centralism were soon to surface.

On 1st December 1919, King Vittorio Emmanuele pledged to guarantee the new province "una scrupolosa salvaguardia delle istituzione locale e dell’amministrazione autonoma". However, on 28th October 1922, the Fascists came to power in Italy and the King was forced to hand over authority to il Duce, Benito Mussolini.

The aim of the Fascists at home was to degermanise South Tyrol. They introduced three measures in order to achieve this: a) political persecution of the German language, b) mass immigration of Italian-speaking citizens and, finally, c) evacuation of the German-speaking population. Thus, the use of the German language was prohibited and punished. In 1925, Italian was declared the official language although, as early as 1923, the German toponomy had been prohibited and replaced by the Italian equivalent. On 20th February 1935, the fascists began their policy of immigration to South Tyrol by setting up heavy industry in Bolzano-Bozen.

The third measure introduced by the Fascists, which was agreed on with Hitler, forced the South Tyrolean to choose between German nationality (which required them to emigrate to the territory of the Third Reich) or Italian nationality (which involved renouncing any measures of German ethnic protection). This measure was called the "Option". A total of 34,237 of South Tyrol’s 246,036 inhabitants opted for Italian nationality, whilst 211,799 opted for German. Of the latter, 75,000 left before the outbreak of war interrupted the process of expatriation.

On 8th September 1943, Italy signed the armistice with the Allies. The birth of the Südtiroler Volkspartei (http://www.svpartei.org) in 1945, and international commitments with Austria (DeGasperi-Gruber Agreement) in 1946, led to the creation of the Statute of Autonomy for the Trentino-Alto Adige region, which included the provinces of Trento and South Tyrol. The DeGasperi-Gruber Agreement was conceived as a form of compensation by the Allies to Austria and the SVP, who were in favour of the re-incorporation of South Tyrol into Austria.

This agreement guaranteed special measures for the South Tyrolean as regards maintaining their economic and cultural characteristics. In addition, it guaranteed education in the German language, equality between the German and Italian languages, recognition of school certificates, the possibility of holding positions in the Civil Service and, most significantly, the granting of autonomy. This agreement was such an integral part of the Allies’ peace treaty with Italy, that the South Tyrolean issue became an international affair.

In the years to follow, Italy did not fulfil all the provisions of the Agreement hence Austria took the South Tyrolean issue to the United Nations General Assembly. The Assembly urged both parts (Austria and Italy) to negotiate for an effective application of the Agreement. As a result of international pressure (and of internal political violence) various commissions and study groups were set up to draft a set of measures to resolve the disagreement (the "Paket"), which included a new Statute of Autonomy that came into force in 1972.

In 1992, Italy and Austria finally declared to the UN that the South Tyrolean issue had been satisfactorily resolved. The recent entry of Austria into the European Union has created many possibilities for collaboration between the two parts of Tyrol.

1 de 4