The ethno-linguistic element is the strongest for Friulian identity.
The strongest element, the core of Friulian identity, is undoubtedly the ethno-linguistic one, as it is in a wide and documented manner explained in the Note sulla formazione dell’identità culturale friulana (Remarks on the Formation of Friulian Cultural Identity) published in 1986 by Vittorio Peri in «Studi Goriziani». The author reports that «even though sporadic marks of the existence of the Friulian language can be found in epigraphic and archival documents before the fourteenth century, the subsistence of a geographic region called Friuli and of a language that was here spoken by the ethnic group of Latin descent is documented only since that epoch, that is to say after the formation of a linguistic and cultural self-consciousness of the new, so-called Romance, European languages derived from the Latin». From the hint Dante gave in his De vulgari eloquentia at the Aquilegenses who spoke a language he in rather a disdainful tone showed through the Friulian expression ‘Ce fastu?’ (What do you do?), as well as from the mere description of Friuli written by an anonymous French author of the second half of the fourteenth century (Vat. Pal. Lat. 965, f. 242r), the ethno-linguistic identity of the Friulian province clearly appears as absolutely non-depending on the respective jurisdictions of either the Aquileian patriarch or the count of Gorizia: «Forum Iulii est provincia per se distincta ab aliis provinciis prenominatis (Italiae), quia nec Latinam linguam hic nec Slavicam neque Theotonicam, sed ydiomam proprium habet, nulli Italico ydiomati consimile; plus tamen participat de lingua latina quam de quacumque alia propinqua». From this standpoint for the ethnic group of Latin origins who inhabited the region the unifying element was their Friulian language, since both the German of the lords and the Latin of chancelleries were absolutely irrelevant. «At the crossroads of important currents of economic and intellectual trades», as Giuseppe Francescato writes in the introduction to his Storia, lingua e società in Friuli (‘History, Language, and Society in Friuli’: Udine 1976), «the region could develop its own ‘civilization’ that has in an exemplary manner found its principal expression in the Friulian language with its own strongly marked and historically dated features».