The EU recognises over 60 regional (minority) languages and there are up to 40 million speakers of these languages across the EU. Regional (minority) languages are therefore a key element of multilingualism in Europe. Even though research on bi- and multilingualism is expanding, it doesn’t necessarily consider multilingualism involving indigenous minority languages.

Our main objectives:

  • to increase the general understanding of what multilingualism with regional minority languages actually means, from a linguistic, cognitive and social perspective.
  • to explore strategies which can be used to successfully maintain regional bi- and multilingualism as well as the effects of such strategies.

From the linguistic perspective, researchers aim to first complement the current research by adding to the description analysis of grammatical diversity of the various regional languages in Europe. They also aim to investigate the possible effects multilingualism has on grammatical changes. In other words, by collecting, describing and analysing grammatical differences across regional languages and dialects, researchers aim to understand the fine-grained nature of linguistic diversity in Europe.

From a cognitive point of view, researchers are interested in the effects of language and cognition in various contexts of regional multilingualism. Experimental studies are being set up to investigate the interaction between bilingual knowledge involving a minority language and other cognitive functions. These experiments will focus on two communities, which have until now not been systematically studied: English-Gaelic and Italian-Sardinian.

Finally, given the aforementioned difficult position of regional minority languages, researchers plan to explore strategies which can be used to successfully maintain regional bi- and multilingualism as well as the effects of such strategies. This broader perspective will allow the researchers to compare and evaluate national and regional language policies across Europe. Researchers will investigate the effect that certain educational policies have on minority languages such as Basque, Frisian, Gaelic and Breton, Italian in Croatia. Sociolinguistic variables will also be taken on board, such as (social) context and the age of exposure to the minority language.

Regional (minority) languages studied in AThEME:

Dutch dialects and Frisian, Basque dialects, Scottish Gaelic, Sardinian, Germanic and Romance varieties in contact in Trentino-South Tyrol and neighbouring areas (Cimbrian, Ladin, Mòcheno, Trentino, Tyrolean), Gallo, the Fiuman dialect, and Primorska Slovenian dialects.


Our research team consists of researchers from 11 institutions across 7 EU countries.
Meet our team leaders:


European Policy Brief (Mar 2018)

AThEME has published a first European Policy Brief on Regional Minority Languages. Based on AThEME research findings dealing with regional minority languages, this document is intended to present policy-relevant findings to (European)…

Minority languages in language contact situations: three case studies on language change (Nov 2016)

This article is a direct collaboration between three AThEME partners (the University of Verona, the French National Centre for Scientific Research CNRS-IKER and Utrecht University). It consists of three case studies based on three geographic…

State of the Art Report on Grammatical Diversity of Regional Languages (May 2015)

In this report the AThEME partners working on research theme 'Regional Languages' have provided an overview of grammatical diversity in the minority languages and dialects they are investigating. The report offers an overview of language variation…



The eighth issue of the AThEME e-newsletter gives a wealth of information about what our researchers and dissemination partners have been up to these last couple of months. As always, the newsletter includes updates on research, dissemination…

Latest research: Evidence for an advantage of bilingualism in dyslexia

This study, developed by the University of Verona (Italy), in collaboration with the University of Trento (Italy) and the Xiamen University (China), sheds light on the relationship between bilingualism and developmental dyslexia by comparing…

Latest research: Children's early bilingualism and musical training

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