A couple of years ago we visited the Italian region of Calabria and Salento in Italy. We were looking for an endangered language called Griko dialect which is spoken in this part of Italy. There are two different hypothesis that explains of the origins of this variety of Greek. According to some researchers, Griko comes from Greek colonisation of Southern Italy and Sicily in the 8th century BC. The other hypothesis states that Griko’s origin lies in Medieval Greek.
Anyway, it’s just amazing that in XXI century Europe, there are still remainings of Ancient or Medieval Greek civilization in the south of Italy. And that their language is still spoken by some people who, in some cases, are very proud of their cultural heritage and identity.
As it happens with most places in the world with several endangered or minorized languages that share the same territory, older people are able to speak it but don’t pass on this treasure to the younger generations; as a result, young people only speak the language almost always used by the economic and political ellites. Fortunately, there are also some young people who refuse to lose this treasure and decide to learn it, speak it, and promote it. Ultimately, they are working in favour of cultural biodiversity.
When we first got there, it was difficult for us to distinguish between Griko dialect and another kind of Italian varieties, called by locals as “dialects”. We had the opportunity of eventually hearing native speakers both in Calabria and Salento.
Here is a video that illustrates the current Griko situation