The Alps have always been an area characterized by both remote and isolated communities and major routes of interchange between cultures. As a consequence of these long-lasting exchanges and influences among different languages and cultures, a unique cultural and linguistic landscape has come to light which is characterized by a homogeneous common ground - the so-called central crest-mountain landscape - and an impressive number of convergent cultural, economic, historical and linguistic phenomena. This is especially true for the southern slope of the area where the Germanic-Romance contacts were particularly close in spite of the rise of nationalism connected with the processes of political unification of the Italian national state and the subsequent conflicts characterizing the last century. The actual situation reflects this history, although the attraction of the lowlands and its spreading the national culture and language has grown consistently - especially thanks to the dramatic impact of the media. Such an effect has almost jeopardized the very survival of the cultural and linguistic richness of the Alpine landscape.
In order to bear witness to this richness - and with the ultimate aim of opposing the process of levelling - the research project AlpiLinK will investigate the structures (phonetics/phonology, morphology, syntax) of all historically German minority languages in Italy and their contact languages, as well as other minorities found in the area. We will collect large-scale data by crowdsourcing methodologies in order to prepare the solid empirical ground for (a) describing the structure of the languages in typological terms, (b) providing a contribution to the theory of language contact that goes beyond evidence from unconnected and hardly verifiable data and (c) publishing an open-access Geographic Information System (GIS) for linguistic analysis, community engagement and promotion of cultural heritage. The feasibility of the project is guaranteed by a similar, already running GIS platform for the Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto area (https://www.vinko.it). In this regard, the aim of this project is based on and expands the results of the previous project VinKo originally founded by the European Union within the 5-year collaborative research project "Advancing the European Multilingual Experience" (AThEME, 2014-2019). Clearly, the expansion also implies a partial remodelling of the original platform which will especially be updated and adapted to integrate the different cultural and linguistic landscapes found in the western and eastern part of the Alps. The community-engagement aspect is consistent with the objectives of Italian law 482/1999 as well as with UNESCO's 2003 convention for safeguarding minority languages and intangible cultural heritage.
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