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Documenting old Abruzzese

Final Report Summary - ANCABR (Documenting old Abruzzese)

Project context and objectives

This project is enabling the first set of digital texts in old Abruzzese and regional Italian spoken in Abruzzo to be gathered. These will soon be made available to scientific audiences and the public in general by means of a website.

Work performed

The recovery of old manuscripts and prints was completed satisfactorily. The value of such a collection at present appears even more relevant, given that the Abruzzo archives and the libraries' conditions have been seriously worsening during this project. In addition to the chronic lack of funds exposed in the project proposal, we experienced the recent national policy that favours the provinces' abolition, thus drawing provincial libraries near to closure. Local administrators have still not taken into account that Abruzzo has only four provincial libraries and no national libraries like other Italian regions. Fewer and fewer funds are being devoted to personnel replacement and dedicated spaces, with heavy consequences for the public who want to obtain documents. In fact, a large part of the ANCABR archive had to rely on rare or uniquely printed copies, especially because of inaccessible buildings in the L’Aquila area after the earthquake in April 2009, and the collapse in 2005 of the Chieti provincial library building, where the most important collection of books on Abruzzo was.

The documental survey was carried out in the following libraries and archives:
- Biblioteca Provinciale di Teramo;
- Biblioteca Comunale di Vasto;
- Biblioteca Provinciale di Chieti;
- Biblioteca Provinciale di Pescara;
- Biblioteca universitaria di Chieti;
- Archivio di Stato di Chieti;
- Archivio di Stato di Lanciano;
- Archivio Parrocchiale di S. Maria della Valle di Scanno;
- Biblioteca Comunale di Ortona;
- Archivio Storico di Penne;
- Archivio Capitolino di Atri;
- Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli;
- Archivio della Curia Arcivescovile di Chieti;
- Archivio Comunale di Guardiagrele.

New collaborations will start with other private and public institutions, such as the Archivio Capitolare di Atri and Archivio Vescovile di Penne.

Main achievements and results

The collection of gathered texts is made up of paper photocopies which are in the process of being digitalised (jpeg, pdf and word files). At the moment, it includes 21 theatre plays (1896-1946), more than 100 newspaper article (1891-1947), about 63 manuscript letters by semi-literates (c. 1820-1947) plus 177 that have been edited (c. 1913 and 1960-75), about 163 manuscript letters in regional Italian (c. 1786-1947), around 200 edited folk stories from 1894 to 1906 and about 40 from around 1950, several songs and proverbs.

In order to offer a wider panorama of old Abruzzese, we exceeded the estimated period in the research proposal (second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century) by acquiring some texts we considered precious evidence of the vernacular used in Abruzzo since the medieval age: 26 statutes (1440-1614), 4 incunabula plus two manuscripts (15th century), 10 religious plays (14th-15th century), 5 chronicles (14th-15th century). Other material concerning the research indirectly, such as rare studies on Abruzzese, was also collected.

This collection is in the process of being uploaded to the ATAA website (see http://ataa.ullet.net/ for more information), which belongs to Leiden University and is entitled Archivio dei Testi Antichi Abruzzesi (Ancient Abruzzese texts archive). The web-based collection will also offer photos combined with texts. Aiming at offering items that will be valuable for linguistic investigations, around 100 paper texts offering all the language variations (geographical, stylistic, chronological) are in the process of being OCR converted in order to make them searchable.

Potential social impact

As a result of this project, part of the linguistic history of Abruzzo has been rescued. Known vernacular texts can now be integrated with rare ones and the stimulation of new studies on them will offer the opportunity for Abruzzese to be rightly included among other Romance varieties. Besides, this project is not over. Further steps will follow in order to promote a greater awareness of the dialect in its speakers. A decisive contribution will come from the ATAA website, in which a specific section will be developed to advance not only this research and scientific research on Abruzzese among common audiences, but also to upgrade a linguistic awareness against the poor connotation of Abruzzese in the common imagination. In this respect, some of the project's funds will be devoted to creating a web community, with the purposes of maintaining the true language, to spread the scientific culture on it and to gather the remaining privately owned documents. The project will stand out as proof of the relevance of this dialect as a Romance variety and as an exemplary investment meant for the linguistic heritage of Abruzzo. Specifically, this project may contribute to build up a grounded epistemological basis for approaches to language-preservation policies and related actions at local, national and international levels.

In some European countries (e.g. Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands), local administrations and national governments are sensitive to the issue of language preservation, and have created a synergic system for knowledge dissemination, campaigns of awareness and implementation of actions. Italy, by contrast, and the Abruzzo region in particular, has not implemented systematic measures for linguistic preservation, despite the value of its multitude of dialects. Accordingly, this projects aims at a scientific contribution to improve the epistemological grounds on which existing actions and policies for language and dialect preservation are based (e.g. in Scandinavian countries), and to create and implement policies and actions in countries where language and dialects are not valorised enough (e.g. Italy) via the transfer of knowledge and best practices.