The term ‘Ladin’ clearly derives from Latin, the language spoken by the ancient Romans, who at the peak of expansion of their Empire even reached the Alpine area (Rhaetian War 15 B.C.).
The Roman language spread unevenly to the central-eastern regions of the Alps – at different times and in different ways – coming into contact with the indigenous peoples whom Roman historians designated with the collective name ‘Reti’.
The Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman soldiers mixed with the languages of the local populations, giving rise to the Ladin language.
Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, from the 6th century A.D., the territory saw Germanic populations from central Europe (Ostrogoth, Franks, Longobards, Burgundians and Bavarii) pass through or settle and they in turn introduced a not insignificant number of elements from their own languages into the local linguistic dynamic.
The different linguistic elements became variously entrenched in the spoken Ladin language and there is still evidence of this in many words in common use today. Today Ladin is spoken, in its different variants, in three areas: the Canton of Graubünden, the ‘Ladin Dolomite’ area and in Friuli – Venezia – Giulia, and is recognised as a minority language in 54 municipalities divided between Trentino and Veneto.
In Val di Fassa, there are three variants of the language: moenat spoken by the inhabitants of Moena, brach in the central area between Soraga and Mazzin and cazet spoken in the upper valley until Penia. Ladin is also used on a daily basis in social situations and institutional documents; it is taught in schools and also receives some recognition in local media thanks to the work of the ‘Majon di Fascen' Ladin Cultural Institute.
In the five valleys, Gardena, Badia, Fassa, Ampezzo and Livinallongo, different geographic variations are spoken, which nonetheless allow (albeit with some difficulty) mutual comprehension between the various speakers.