Cimbrian language
Cimbrian refers to any of several local Upper German
Upper German
Upper German is a family of High German dialects spoken primarily in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Northern Italy.-Family tree:Upper German can be generally classified as Alemannic or Austro-Bavarian...

 varieties spoken in northeastern Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The speakers of the language are known as Zimbern.

Cimbrian is a Germanic language
Germanic languages
The Germanic languages constitute a sub-branch of the Indo-European language family. The common ancestor of all of the languages in this branch is called Proto-Germanic , which was spoken in approximately the mid-1st millennium BC in Iron Age northern Europe...

 related to Bavarian and most probably deriving from a Southern Bavarian dialect. It is also related to the Mócheno language
Mócheno language
Mócheno is an Upper German variety spoken in three towns of the Mocheni Valley , in Trentino, northeastern Italy....

. Its many essential differences in grammar as well as in vocabulary and pronunciation make it practically unintelligible for people speaking Standard German
Standard German
Standard German is the standard variety of the German language used as a written language, in formal contexts, and for communication between different dialect areas...

 or Bavarian, although with a little effort it is relatively easier for a standard German speaker to understand Cimbrian than Mócheno. Bavarian is also spoken in the province of South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

. The impact of the surrounding varieties of Italian on Cimbrian has been very strong.


The earliest record of the movement of Bavarians to Verona dates to ca. 1050 (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Cod. lat. 4547). The settlement continued during the 11th and 12th centuries.

A theory of Lombardic
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 origin of the Zimbern was proposed in 1948 by Bruno Schweizer
Bruno Schweizer
Bruno Schweizer was a German linguist, best known for his work with the Nazi Ahnenerbe division.Schweizer was a personal believer in the theory that a Germanic Langobard stronghold in northeastern Italy gave rise to the Cimbrians, during the Middle Ages before and after its alleged end in 774.On...

 and again in 1974 by Alfonso Bellotto. The debate was again revived in 2004 by Cimbrian linguist Ermenegildo Bidese.
The majority of linguists remains committed to the hypothesis of medieval (11th to 12th century) immigration.

The presence of Germanic-speaking communities in Italy was discovered by the Italian humanists in the 14th century, who associated them with the Cimbri
The Cimbri were a tribe from Northern Europe, who, together with the Teutones and the Ambrones threatened the Roman Republic in the late 2nd century BC. The Cimbri were probably Germanic, though some believe them to be of Celtic origin...

 who arrived in the region in the 2nd century BC, whence the current endonym (Zimbar) has probably been adopted. An alternative hypothesis derives the name from a term for "carpenter", cognate with English timber.


The three major dialects of Cimbrian are spoken in:
  • the Seven Communities
    Seven Communities
    The Seven Communities were a group of municipalities in the Veneto region that spoke the Cimbrian language, a dialect of Upper German, as their native tongue....

     (Siben Komoin), currently only the village of Robàan
  • Luserna
    Luserna is a comune in Trentino in the northern Italian region Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, located about 25 km southeast of Trento...

     (Lusern), in Trentino
  • the Thirteen Communities
    Thirteen Communities
    The Thirteen Communities were a group of municipalities in the Veneto region that spoke the Cimbrian language, a dialect of Upper German, as their native tongue....

     (Dreizehn Komoin), currently only the village of Ljetzan
  • some villages in the Carnic Alps
    Carnic Alps
    The Carnic Alps are a range of the Southern Limestone Alps in East Tyrol, Carinthia, South Tyrol and Friuli . They extend from east to west for about between the Gail River, a tributary of the Drava and the Tagliamento, forming the border between Austria and Italy.They are named after the Roman...

     as Sappada
    Sappada is a comune in the Province of Belluno in the Italian region Veneto, located about 130 km north of Venice and about 60 km northeast of Belluno...

    , Sauris
    Sauris is a comune in the Province of Udine in the Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, located about 120 km northwest of Trieste and about 60 km northwest of Udine...

     and Timau

Cimbrian is in danger of extinction both from standard Italian, which is often used in public, and the neighboring regional Venetian language
Venetian language
Venetian or Venetan is a Romance language spoken as a native language by over two million people, mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where of five million inhabitants almost all can understand it. It is sometimes spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, Venezia...

. It is estimated that about 2,220 people speak Cimbrian.

In Trentino, according to the census of 2001, the first in which data on native languages were recorded, Cimbrian was spoken by a majority in the municipality of Lusérn (267 people, 89,9%). In other municipalities of Trentino
Municipalities of Trentino
The following is a list of municipalities of the autonomous province of Trentino in northern Italy. Trentino is divided into 223 administrative subdivisions . Some municipalities have a second official language such as German and Ladin.- See also :* Municipalities of South Tyrol* Prontuario dei...

615 persons declared themselves members of the Cimbrian linguistic group, a total of 882 in Trentino.


Cimbrian is officially recognised in Trentino by provincial and national law. Starting in the 1990s, various laws and regulations have been passed by the Italian parliament and provincial assembly that put the Cimbrian language and culture under protection. A cultural institute was founded by decree, whose purpose is to safeguard and educate on the language. School curricula were adapted in order to teach in Cimbrian, and street signs are being changed to be bilingual.


Cimbrian German English

Christus ist au gestanden

Von der marter alle,

Daz sollen bier alle froalich sayn

Christus bil unser troast sayn.

Christ ist auferstanden

Von der Marter alle,

Des solln wir alle fröhlich sein,

Christ will unser Trost sein.

Christ is risen

from all tortures,

therefore let us rejoice

Christ shall be our solace

Further reading

  • U. Martello-Martalar: Dizionario della Lingua cimbra. Vicenza 1974. Bd 2. Dal Pozzo, Roana-Vicenza 1985. (in Italian)
  • Ermenegildo Bidese (ed.): Das Zimbrische zwischen Germanisch und Romanisch. Brockmeyer, Bochum 2005. ISBN 3-8196-0670-X
  • Tyroller, Hans: Grammatische Beschreibung des Zimbrischen von Lusern (Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart, 2003). ISBN 3-515-08038-4
  • Bruno Schweizer: Zimbrische Gesamtgrammatik. Vergleichende Darstellung der zimbrischen Dialekte (= Zeitschrift für Dialektologie und Linguistik, Beiheft 132). ed. James R. Dow, Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-515-09053-7.

External links

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