Sociolinguistic studies are a useful tool to measure and assess the state of a language in a society.
Furthermore, as it is happening to Friulian, they can provide important information to those who are concerned with linguistic policy and planning, offering hints that enable to develop the right type of action on the territory under protection. Since 1977 several studies have been conducted in Friuli on the sociolinguistic state of the Friulian language with the aim of identifying the number of Friulian-speaking people, the contexts where it is used, the opinions and attitude of Friulian-speaking people vis-à-vis the mother tongue. Thus we can depict an accurate picture of the linguistic dynamics of Friulian, which will only be partly dealt with in this work.
The first researches in this area were carried out, at regional or provincial level, by the International Sociology Institute of Gorizia (ISIG), in 1977 and 1986 respectively. Conversely, in 1998, a survey by the department of Economics, Society and Territory of the University of Udine was carried out with the objective of recording the development trends and sociolinguistic dynamics of Friulian in the twenty years after the first research.
Another study was completed in 2003 at the Interdepartmental Research Centre on the Culture and Language of Friuli (CIRF) of the University of Udine: in this case, a new line of studies was pursued, aimed at recording the frequency and scopes of the use of Friulian, the opinions, attitudes and knowledge of specific groups by age, personal details or other social and cultural characteristics. Specifically, this sociolinguistic study concerned a sample of adolescents living in Friuli and aged between 15 and 18.
In 2015, with the collaboration of the University of Udine and under the coordination of Claudio Melchior, Head of the Science Dept., ARLeF presented the complete data on the sociolinguistic survey on the Friulian language carried out in 2014.
Among the most significant data, worthy of notice are the dissemination and understanding of Friulian on the territory concerned by the survey.
At present, 600,000 Friulian-speaking people live in the provinces of Gorizia, Pordenone and Udine. Of these, 420,000 speak it regularly whilst 180,000 only occasionally. This represents over 60% of the population of the three provinces. If we also take account of the inhabitants of the province of Trieste, the Friulian-speaking people account for almost half of the total population of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
Almost all the Friulian population understands Friulian even if they do not speak it: in the provinces of Gorizia and Pordenone, more than 83% of the population understands Friulian. In the province of Udine this percentage exceeds 96%. This means that, overall, more than 90% of the inhabitants of the three provinces considered declare that they understand Friulian.
The Friulian language is spoken in 173 Municipalities of the F-VG Region (122 of the former province of Udine, 15 of the former province of Gorizia and 36 of the former province of Pordenone) and in 3 Municipalities of the Veneto Region.
Here you can see the complete list of Municipalities considered friulianophones.