The Latinization of the Celtic Valle d’Aosta probably occurred in Antiquity, starting from the Rhone Valley. With the annexation of the region to the Frankish kingdom in 575, the linguistic influence of the north of ancient Gaul increased.
In the north-western Alpine area that had previously belonged to the Frankish kingdom of Burgundy (Valle d’Aosta, Savoy, French-speaking Switzerland, Dauphiné, Lyonnais), a system of coordinated bilingualism gradually established itself in the following centuries, with French as the language of relations and the different languages, called “Franco-Provençal”, born from the Latin spoken locally.
In the Aosta Valley, French was used as a written language, together with Latin, from the 14th century and became the only official language in 1561. The French-Franco-Provençal bilingualism remained unchanged until the nineteenth century, when, following the creation of the Kingdom of Italy (1861), in which the Aosta Valley was to be inserted, the use of the Italian language was introduced.
The consequent cultural conflicts resulted in linguistic claims, which were welded, after the First World War, with political claims deriving from a long tradition of political particularism.
The fascist regime prohibited the use of French and proceeded to a forced Italianization, also relying on a massive immigration of Italian-speaking workers, which was matched by an equally massive emigration of French-speaking Valdostani. The establishment, after World War II, of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta led to the recognition of the linguistic rights of the indigenous population and the formalization of an official bilingualism based on the parity of French and Italian languages.
Valle d’Aosta is a member of the main organizations of the Francophonie. In particular, he enjoys the status of observer at the “Sommet des Pays Francophones”, an institution that brings together the heads of state and government of the French-speaking countries.
The special statute of autonomy also recognizes the rights of the German-speaking Walser minority, which settled since the 13th century in the municipalities of Issime, Gressoney-Saint-Jean and Gressoney-La Trinité.