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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

Language commodification and local sustainability: Molise Croatian as cultural heritage

  • Ivana Škevin Rajko and Lucija Šimičić


After 500 years of uninterrupted intergenerational language transmission three Croatian-speaking villages situated in the region of Molise in Southern Italy are nowadays undergoing a rapid change. Roads and traffic connection to larger urban centers, the exposure to increased out-migration of local speakers and in-migration of non-local population, a growing rate of exogamy, the influence of media and dismal demographic trends leading to school closings are only some of the challenges encountered by Molise Croatian speakers. The research is based on an ethnographic fieldwork which comprises interviews and participant observation. Additionally we rely on the analysis of online sources to better understand the position and the role of Molise Croatian as an endangered minority language. We argue that in contexts marked by negative demographic trends and language shift, the preservation of a community and its specific local identity is of prior importance to its members regardless of the level of identification with their heritage language. While an interest in maintaining the traditional language may seem to ebb, its (discursive) transformation from symbolic and cultural capital into economic capital may be employed as a key source in enhancing destabilized local economy and promoting overall local sustainability in the long run.


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