Nones is spoken in Val di Non, a valley north of Trento in the Dolomite mountains in the far north of Italy. Many Nonesi who came to New York in the early 20th century considered themselves “Tyroleans” or “Austrians” more than Italians and remained to some degree separately from other Italian communities.
With some 40,000 speakers in northern Italy, the wider language Ladin, of which Nones is considered a dialect, is classified as Rhaeto-Romance, along with Friulian and Romansch (spoken in Switzerland). Although it is difficult to determine which Ladin dialect subgroups Nones should be belong to (Ampetian, Fassano, Gardenese, Badiotto), it appears to be most closely related to the dialect of the Val di Sol, a neighboring valley, and the two are sometimes grouped together as “Val di Noce.”
Like most minority languages in Italy, Nones is increasingly endangered as more speakers either incorporate features of standard Italian into the language or switch to it altogether. Although officially recognized by the Trentino government since the 1990s and now used to some extent in local signage and schools, the Nones variety remains in a difficult position, with schools and workplaces being primary areas of language contact. A Latin-based orthography has been in use for several centuries, and there is some representation of the language in print and media.
Linguist Carol Genetti, whose family once spoke Nones, reports on the compilation of a digital archive at the Museo di Ronzone, to be called the Archivio delle Fonti Orali dell’Alta Anaunia, which will contain the recorded oral histories and traditions of communities in the upper part of the Val di Non. The Ladin Cultural Institute, housed in the Ladin Museum of Fassa, promotes the standardized Dolmatian Ladin (which does not include Romansh and Friulian).
Ilaria Di Biasi published an important grammar in 2006, Ivana Sandri described the language in a 2003 publication, and Enrico Quaresima’s lexical data goes back to 1964, among other important studies of the language:
Dissertation on Teaching Nones to Children https://arizona.openrepository.com/arizona/handle/10150/279819
Quaresima, Enrico. (1964). Vocabolario anaunico e solandro, raffrontato col trentino. Venice: Istituto per la Collaborazione Culturale.
Sandri, Ivana. (2003). Tratti Ladini nella Parlata della Val di Non. 2003. Trento: La Grafica.
Di Biasi, Ilaria. (2006). Grammatica Noneso-Ladina. Trento: Autonomous Region of Trentino-South Tyrol.
Politzer, Robert L., (1967). Beitrag zur Phonologie der Nonsberger Mundart. Innsbruck: Leopold-Franzens-Universitaet.
Many Italian immigrants to the New York came from the Dolomites, a region wich includes Val di Non, and settled in the neighborhood of Ridgewood, where they established the Club Trentino, and nearby areas in southwestern Queens. However, most speakers raised their children in either standard Italian or English, or both of those languages, although many older speakers remain, primarily from the immigrant generation, and some semi-speakers. ELA’s Languages of Italy Project was launched with a session of Nones speaker Giovanna Flaim, long resident in New York, recalling stories and events from her childhood in Val di Non.
Many Nonesi men in New York worked in construction, including on the Verrazzano Bridge, with some women working in the knitting mills. As described by speaker Giovanna Flaim, many Nonesi families lived initially in what is today Chelsea before forming communities of perhaps a few dozen families each in South Brooklyn, Williamsburg (near North 6th Street and Union Avenue), and later Ridgewood (where Club Trentino continues to this day) and nearby areas in southwestern Queens. However, most speakers raised their children in either standard Italian or English or both of those languages, although older speakers remain, primarily from the immigrant generation, and some semi-speakers.