Minority languages and tourism: the example of the Cimbrian community of Luserna / Lusérn (Trento, Italy)


Minority languages and tourism: the example of the Cimbrian community of Luserna / Lusérn (Trento, Italy)


Introduction. According to UNWTO (2018), cultural and heritage tourism is still a major element for international tourism consumption, accounting for approximately 40% of global tourism (Richards, 2018). Recent literature has highlighted some significant, recent changes in cultural tourism. Cultural tourists have an increasing interest in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the population(s) of the place they are visiting (Richards, 2018; UNWTO, 2018). Furthermore, over the past few decades, growing demand for unique cultural experiences in peripheral regions has also been noticed, as well as increasing attention for Indigenous and minority groups  (Pietikäinen & Kelly-Holmes, 2011; Richards, 2018).

Intangible Cultural Heritage is defined as “practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage” (UNESCO, 2003, p.11). The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage includes oral traditions and languages, as one of the domains where Intangible Cultural Heritage is manifested. As a result, there could be also an interest in minority languages. However, minority languages, i.e. languages different from the major, official languages and often spoken by a minor part of the population, are often threatened with extinction (Bradley & Bradley, 2019; Fishman, 1991).

This study is still a work in progress and aims at providing a better understanding of minority languages as an intangible cultural resource. The study will integrate the paradigm of humanistic management into cultural and sustainable tourism, in relation to the management of intangible heritage. 

With humanistic management, the aim is to emphasize and focus on human beings: values like human life, dignity, and ethics (Melé, 2016). Recent research has attempted to integrate the humanistic management paradigm into tourism research, thus recommending a shift in the traditional perspective of tourism management (Della Lucia & Giudici, 2020). The paradigm of humanistic management also includes the principles of sustainability (Della Lucia & Giudici, 2020). According to the sustainable development paradigm, it is fundamental to guarantee that future generations will be able to satisfy their needs, categorized into an economic, social and environmental pillar (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). This also includes one’s intangible cultural heritage which can only be transmitted to future generations when practiced, in this case spoken, on a daily basis. In this vein, sustainable tourism should also aim at maintaining intangible cultural heritage (Kim, Whitford, & Arcodia 2019).

This study especially focuses on the perception of the community and considers the Cimbrian community of Luserna / Lusérn, in North-eastern Italy, near Trento. The Cimbrian language is an Upper German variety spoken in North-eastern Italy and now categorized as definitely endangered by the UNESCO’s Atlas of the World Languages in Danger (Moseley, 2010).

The paper is structured as follows. The following paragraph will provide a brief summary of the literature on minority languages and tourism and will also briefly explain what are the objectives of this study. Then, the case study will be described, as well as the methodology used. After that, preliminary results will be presented. The final section will be dedicated to the conclusions drawn, based on the preliminary results currently available to the author. 

#Cimbrian #cultural tourism #intangible cultural heritage #Luserna / Lusérn #minority language #Sustainable tourism