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Listen to the language here (Milanese variety).
The Unesco Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger states that Lombard is a cluster of essentially homogeneous varieties, however, an accepted standard does not exist. It is disqualified from accessing higher domains and is exclusively used on an informal level.
Traditional orthography is based on French and therefore gives the reader a blurred first impression of Lombard phonology. Recently, a more phonetic orthography has evolved in Ticino and Valtellina - the Lombard regions along the common borders of Switerland and Italy - which is strongly influenced by German ortography, identifiable through the usage of umlaut marks ö and ü.
The main institiution to research the Lombard variety is the CDE or Centro di dialettologia e di etnografia located in Bellinzona, Switzerland. In 2004, the CDE released a dictionary containing five volumes which cover all the Lombard varieties spoken in the Swiss areas. Lombard is furthermore used in television and radio broadcast in the area around Bellinzona. Italy does not have a comparable institution, which is why there is significantly less data on Lombard as spoken in Italy2).
Projects such as In_Lombard promote the collection of data on Lombard and its standardization by creating a linguistic observatory online.
The online encylopedia Orbis Latinus states that Lombard is spoken in the Italian region of Lombardy, the Novara province in Piedmont and in Switzerland (Canton Ticino and parts of Graubünden/Grigioni).
The preceding map shows the two main Lombard dialect clusters, Eastern and Western Lombard.
Western Lombard includes: Milanese, Lodigian, Comask, Ticinese, Varesotto, Novarese, Pavese, Vogherese, Lomellinese, Bosin (Ligurian-Lombard), Cremonese, Valtellinese and other minor varieties.
Eastern Lombard includes: Bergamask, Brescian, Cremask, Mantuan, Tirolian (Tyrolean) Lombard and other minor varieties.
The Unesco Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger states a number of 3,500,000 speakers based on various sources.
In Italy most of Lombard speakers are from the older generations. Younger generations use Italian due to media influences and school3).
There is no evidence of the usage of Lombard in formal education in neither Switzerland nor Italy.
Even though Italy signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) in 2000, it has not ratified it.
Italy defines minority langauges legally by a national law, N. 482/99, which protects twelve languages: Catalan, Occitan, Albanian, German, Greek, Slovene, Croatian, French, Francoprovençal, Friulian, Ladin and Sardinian 4). The Italian government considers Lombard a dialect of Standard Italian despite evidence of very limited mutual intelligibilty5).
In October 2016, Lombard received regional recognition within the region of Lombardia with Legge Regionale, oct 2016, n5., the Politiche regionali in materia culturale - Riordino normativo. There, broad measurements are taken for the promotion and safeguarding of the Lombard language, such as:
According to a case study on Western Lombard, language planning - including the use of Western Lombard in education - is carried out by a number of uncoordinated initiatives by private bodies and institutions, which are centred around the Milanese variety6). The most prominent one is the Circolo Filologico Milanese, which offers courses of 25 lessons on the grammar, luterature, translations, converstaions, proverbs and visits to artistic cultural places 7). .
Bilingual education in Lombard and Italian has only been present in full-time education in a few experimental trials, with the focus on the Milanese variety. In higher education, Lombard is virtually absent8).
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