Italian is the official language of the Republic of San Marino. However, up until a few decades ago, San Marino people used to speak an additional dialect in their daily life, irrespective of their social status. Following the major economic, social and cultural changes of the post war period, the Italian language was used by all groups of society.
Nowadays, Italian and dialect coexist. Younger generations are increasingly using Italian, while a smaller group of elderly people still use dialect as their only language. Local dialect can be considered as the second language of San Marino people, with its autonomous and regular linguistic system from a phonetic, morphosyntactic and lexical point of view. Even if there are no ad hoc laws for its protection, dialect is still a valuable source of historical traditions and true popular expression.
In 1998, the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was translated into 250 national and local languages, including the San Marino dialect. San Marino traditional folk heritage encompasses a lively popular literature and dialect songs. Moreover, numerous amateur theatre companies use dialect in their plays (see chapter 6.4). Radio programmes of the State broadcasting company San Marino RTV include a transmission in dialect which rediscovers ancient popular sayings and poems, entitled “Rime e ricordi d’infanzia” (Rhymes and memories of childhood). To bring young generations closer to the dialect, “TG Ragazzi” has dedicated a special section to popular sayings. The professions of past generations, now disappearing, have characterised the weekly TV show entitled “E’Mount” (transl. “The Mount”), produced in dialect, hosted by Checco Guidi, a San Marino dialect poet.
The University of the Third Age “Il Sorriso” (The Smile) (free association promoting the knowledge and recovery of the San Marino community and historical roots, opened to everyone, but especially attended by the elderly) has enhanced the importance of local traditions on many occasions. The cultural stays addressed to the children of emigrants organise meetings aimed at rediscovering San Marino dialect roots. Finally, the Popular Library of Serravalle promotes cultural events focused on the traditions of San Marino and of the near Romagna region.
In addition to these events, other sporadic initiatives have involved the schools of the territory, which, during main festivities, have staged performances in dialect with the aim of rediscovering old San Marino traditions. However, these are not ongoing events and are not part of any official government debate. Nevertheless, people are aware that the progressive disappearance of the dialect, now only protected by a few people, spoken only by the elderly and nearly not understood by young people, leads to an impoverishment of popular culture, which represents the roots of the San Marino people. Therefore, the threat of the disappearance of the San Marino dialect is always present; this gap is bridged, only partially, by the sensitivity of the banking Foundations, which periodically sponsor publications in dialect.
In 2010, the Ministry of Culture, under the aegis of the San Marino National Commission for UNESCO, organised the first “Poetry Competition”, divided up into three sections, among which was one dedicated to San Marino dialect. This confirms the considerable attention paid to the recovery of the country’s traditions and roots.
The dialect laboratory “T’arturnarè ma la grepia…”, created in 2012 and conducted by dialect poet Checco Guidi, is aimed at elementary school pupils and junior high school students. By explaining popular sayings and proverbs, dialect is passed on to younger generations as heritage of the history and identity of the people of San Marino, its traditions, original and unique experience and wisdom. This initiative also aims at acting as a bridge between generations in modern and globalised families, where dialect tends to disappear.
Also the volume “Cumè chi i dis?”, published in 2013, is in dialect. Deeply rooted in the popular tradition, it collects most of San Marino surnames-nicknames that have characterised the history of the Republic, while telling the personal stories of their protagonists.
On 6 April 2014 a group of citizens submitted an Istanza d’Arengo (popular petition) requesting the launch of school activities designed to safeguard and enhance San Marino dialect, as well as the introduction of regulatory measures to support initiatives regarding dialect. The aim was to limit, at least partly, the progressive loss of values linked in particular to the most authentic folk traditions of the historical and civic memory of San Marino people. The petition for the preservation of San Marino identity was rejected by the Parliament in July 2014.