Istro-Romanian language

Istro-Romanian language

local name=Rumêri-kuvinta
fam4=Romance languages
fam5=Eastern Romance

Map of Istro-Romanian, made by the Romanian linguist Sextil Puşcariu in 1926.

Istro-Romanian is an Eastern Romance language, or a dialect of the Romanian language [ [ Romanian language - Britannica Online Encyclopedia] ] . Of all the Romanian languages/dialects that are spoken outside of present-day Romania, it is the closest linguistically to the official language of the country of Romania, Daco-Romanian. Istro-Romanian is today spoken in a few villages and hamlets in the peninsula of Istria, on the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, in what is now Croatia. Formerly it was spoken in a substantially broader part of northeastern Istria surrounding the Ciceria (now Ćićarija) mountain range (ancient "Mons Carusadius)" all the way up to Trieste. Its remaining speakers call themselves "Vlahi" (a name given to them by Slavs), "Rumeni", "Rumêri" or "Rumâri", as well as "Ćići" and "Ćiribiri" (this last being a nickname that was used disparagingly for the Istro-Romanian language, not its speakers).

The Istro-Romanians today are split into two groups: the "Ćići" around Žejane (denoting the people on the north side of Mt. Ucka) and the "Vlahi" around Šušnjevica (denoting the people on the south side of Mt. Ucka (Monte Maggiore). However, despite distinctions and interjection of words from other languages which varies from village to village, their language is otherwise linguistically identical.

The number of Istro-Romanian speakers is very loosely estimated to be less than 1000, the "smallest ethnic group in Europe" and listed among languages that are "seriously endangered" in the UNESCO " [ Red Book of Endangered Languages] ". Due to its very small number of speakers living in about eight minor hamlets and two considerable villages notably Žejane and Šušnjevica, there is no public education or news media in their native Istro-Romanian language. Its speakers are not even recognized as an official minority in Croatia - perhaps a double-edged testimony to the fact that the greater number of Istro-Romanian speakers were forced to leave Istria and nearby cities and towns after World War II when the Paris Peace Treaty with Italy that signed on February 10, 1947 took Istria away from Italy (which had gained Istria after World War I) and awarded it to Yugoslavia, the parent country to present-day Croatia and Slovenia who split Istria in two parts amongst themselves, while Italy retained the small portion near Trieste.

Recent history

The number of Istro-Romanian speakers has reduced due to their assimilation into the respective nationalism of Istria's changing rulers: in the 1921 Italian census, under Italy, there were 1,644 declared Istro-Romanian speakers in the area and in 1926 Romanian scholar Sextil Puşcariu estimated their number to be closer to 3,000. In the 1991 census of Yugoslavia, only 811 Romanians were registered, and in the 2001 Croatian census only 137 inhabitants of the region declared Romanian as their mother tongue. Studies in Istria in 1998 (?) by the Croatian linguist A. Kovačec revealed only 170 active speakers (but these presumably are only in the original villages where the language was spoken, excluding those who left for larger towns of Istria who still speak it), most of them being bilingual (or trilingual) except for 27 children.

In 1922, the Italian regime of Benito Mussolini declared the village of Susnieviza - which they renamed to Valdarsa after the Arsa Valley ("valle d'Arsa") region (it has since reverted to the pre-Italian name but written in Croatian as Šušnjevica) - to be the seat for the Istro-Romanians, with a designated school in the Istro-Romanian language. This was achieved through the efforts of Andrea Glavina (whose name is believed to have been Italianized from Glavich), one of the town's native sons who had been university educated in Romania. The town of Sušnjevica (with adjacent villages) reached a population of 3,000 in 1942 [this figure needs a formal citation] , but its language then was already a hybrid of Romanian/Italian/Slavic. The population of Sušnjevica alone was subsequently reduced to 200 [source of this date is unknown, citation needed] and returned to its name prior to Italian rule after World War I.

On the other hand, the major northern village Žejane and nearby hamlets at the Slovenian border is less italianized and more Slavicized. Many villages in the area have names that are of Romanian origin such as "Jeian", "Buzet" ("lips"), "Katun" ("hamlet"), "Gradinje" ("garden"), "Letaj", "Sucodru" ("under a forest"), "Costirceanu" (a Romanian name). Some of these names are official (recognized by Croatia as their only names), while others are used only by Istro-Romanian speakers (ex. Nova Vas|Noselo).

The actual fate of the Istro-Rumanian language is very uncertain, because in Istria only about 350 people partly understand it; its active bilingual speakers are less than 200 (that is, who openly admit they speak it, the actual number may be greater), and less than 30 children know it now. So far its speakers were mostly passive and suspicious toward external 'support' that often included recent political interests instead of real help, This was true under Italy and Yugoslavia and from all indication it remains true today. Without an urgent, effective and active international support, the unique Istro-Romanian language will probably become extinct in the next generation or two. Istro-Romanian is considered an endangered language.


However, the similar words "zgoda" (happening) and "prigoda" (business) are widespread in Serbo-Croatian, and may be also Slavic loanwords; also above Istro-Romanian "mľelu" is similar to Chakavian "mjelić" (lamb) of some Adriatic islanders. Lomi is most probably a Slavic loanword coming from "lomiti" in Serbo-Croatian meaning to break.



There is no local literary tradition; however, Andrea Glavina, an Istro-Romanian who was educated in Romania, wrote in 1905 "Calendaru lu rumeri din Istrie" ("The Calendar of the Romanians of Istria"). In this book he wrote many folkloristic tales of his people. A series of actual Istro-Romanian tales and original folk songs recently is noted also by A. Kovačec (1998).

When Andrea Glavina created the first Istro-Rumanian school in Valdarsa (where he was the first mayor) in 1922, he composed the following "Imnul Istro-romanilor" (it was partly influenced by recent Romanian language):

ee also

* Istria
* Istro-Romanians
* Istro-Romanian grammar

External links

* [ Istro-Romanian Community Worldwide, a site created by the Istro-Romanian people]
* [ Decebal]
* [ UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages - entry for Istro-Romanian]
* [ Ethnologue report for Istro-Romanian]
* [ The IstroRomanians in Croatia]


* Wolfgang Dahmen: "Istrorumänisch. Lexicon der Romanistische Linguistik. III", Tübingen, 1989, pp. 448-460
* Nerina Feresini: "Il Comune istro-romeno di Valdarsa". Edizioni Italo Svevo. Trieste: 1996
* August Kovačec: Istrorumunjsko-hrvatski rječnik s gramatikom i tekstovima "(Glosar Istroroman-Croat cu gramatica si texte)". Verba moritura vol. I, 378 p. Mediteran, Pula 1998
* Josif Popovici: "Dialectele romîne din Istria", Halle, 1909
* Pavao Tekavčić: "Due voci romene in un dialetto serbo-croato dell'Isola di Veglia" (Krk). Studia Romanica 7: 35-38, Zagreb 1959

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