This article analyses how the number of speakers of the Friulian language changes over time in the territory where this language is traditionally spoken, that is, the provinces of Udine, Pordenone, and Gorizia, located in the north-east of Italy in the autonomous region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The aim of this research is twofold. First, it illustrates how the number of speakers of Friulian evolved over the past 40 years. To this end, we provide an overview of the findings of empirical studies on the Friulian language from 1977, 1998, and 2014. We complement these findings with population figures, birth and death rates, as well as data on migration and language transmission in order to provide a better understanding of the current situation in the three provinces. Second, these data are used to set up a mathematical language dynamic (or language competition) model. With the help of this empirically informed model, we derive projections for the future of the Friulian language in the three provinces. The results show that the number of Friulian speakers will decrease from 600,000 in 2014 to about 530,000 in 2050 (−11%), and that the number of regular Friulian speakers will decreases from 420,000 to 320,000 (−23%). By 2050, about 30% of the population will speak Friulian regularly and about 50% will speak Friulian regularly or occasionally. Only in the province of Udine will Friulian speakers still be in a clear majority. The analysis suggests that a stronger commitment to language policy protecting and promoting Friulian is needed in order to counteract these trends.
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