Cellese is a variety of Francoprovençal spoken in the village of Celle di San Vito in Southern Italy. The language originated in the 14th century when Francoprovençal speakers from southern France settled in the area. There are now less than one hundred speakers living in Celle di San Vito and only a few hundred speakers left in the world.
How endangered is Cellese? Most of the remaining speakers of Cellese are elderly, with few fluent younger speakers left to pass on the language to future generations, making Cellese highly endangered. This pattern of decline is also observed in most of the remaining varieties of Francoprovençal.
Cellese is very similar to the dialect Faetar spoken in the village of Faeto near Celle di San Vito. Naomi Nagy at the University of Toronto has done extensive research on Faetar. You can learn more about this dialect and her work here.
Brantford, Ontario was one of the major points of migration in North America for people from Celle di San Vito and Faeto. Today there are several dozen speakers of these dialects in the Brantford area, including first generation immigrants and their Canadian-born children to whom they have passed on the language.
In the first video below, Cellese speaker Arcangelo Martino discusses the language, his immigration to Canada and his views on Cellese’s survival. Mr. Martino is a devoted scholar of the language and has written an overview of the grammar and vocabulary in his book Reliquie franco-provenzali nella parlata di Celle di San Vito (Foggia). In the second video, four Cellese speakers who immigrated to Brantford, Ontario from Celle discuss their initial journeys to Canada as children. To view subtitles in Cellese and English, click the subtitles icon in the bottom right corner of the video screen.