Monday, 21 November 2022

Exploring Croatian - A Brief History of the Istro-Venetian Language

November the 21st, 2022 - Delving further into the intricacies of the Croatian language, and veering away from standard Croatian as we know it today, let's look at another lesser spoken tongue - Istro-Venetian language.

We've looked into the main three dialects that make up modern standard Croatian as we know it today - Shtokavian, Chakavian and Kajkavian (as well as Northwestern Kajkavian), as well as some old and almost forgotten Dalmatian words, the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan), and some dialects and languages which are so sparsely spoken today that they barely exist anymore. These include the Istriot language from parts of the Istrian peninsula, and of course Zaratin, once widely spoken in the Zadar area. All this clearly tells us that the Croatian language goes far beyond what most people know it as, and it has a history that is as varied as it is deep.

So, what about the mysterious Istro-Venetian language? The name might give it away, especially if you're familiar with the somewhat complicated history between Italy, Venice and the Istrian peninsula. This language which is often also called the Istrovenetic language, is heavily influenced by Venetian.

Istro-Venetian shares a common basic lexicon and language structure as other languages within the wider ''family'', but what makes the Istro-Venetian language interesting is that it is not only the most widespread (by far) of the so-called Istro-Romanic idioms still spoken today, but that it also occurs on both sides of the modern Croatian-Slovenian border. Both of these languages (the Croatian and the neighbouring Slovenian ''version'') ​​are classified within the wider Venetian dialectal diasystem despite having a few slight differences.

If you know anything about the formerly mighty Venice and its constant expansion and extensive trade networks (you'll know a lot about this if you've ever studied the former Dubrovnik Republic), you'll know that it took not only its culture and style of architecture with it, but its language too. This was to the detriment of both Romance and Slavic languages which once reigned strong in the areas in which Venetian influence took hold. The saga is no different for the Istro-Venetian language, and its history begins with the arrival and expansion of Venetian rule across the what is the modern day Croatian Istrian peninsula.

With the ever-strengthening presence of all things Venetian across much of the Croatian coast, particularly down in Dalmatia, the Istro-Venetian language took hold and prevailed very well across urban areas, and the Republic of Venice contributed to this consolidation when it controlled most of the Istrian peninsula after around 1420.

Today, the Istro-Venetian language is primarily preserved among bilingual native Istrians, most of whom are older individuals who number approximately 25,000-30,000 people. Unlike Zaratin, which you'd be extremely unlikely to hear used at all anymore and which nosedived after the Second World War, these 30,000 people do continue to use Istro-Venetian in addition to their mother tongue.

The initial linguistic ''venetisation'' of Istria took place between the 10th and the 15th centuries, and Venetian was the official language of the administration, which is logical given the ruling body at the time. The rest of the phases rolled out with the process coming to a natural end with the end of Venetian rule in Istria in the 1800s. Despite the end of an era having occurred as far as Venice was concerned, Istrian languages (of which there are several, including Istriot) prevailed. For some lesser spoken dialects and subdialects, the passage of time unfortunately sealed their demise, but for some, such as the Istro-Venetian language, that wasn't the case.

As stated, by the 1800s, the clock had started ticking for the once mighty Venice and it weakened as a state and a ruling body in both political and economic power and influence, and a natural consequence of that came in the form of culture and language, too.

As time passed, one important linguistic period was the one which was marked by the contact of Trieste (Italy), which had gained in power and influence as a free port following Venice's weakening, and the existing Istro-Venetian language, Croatian and Slovenian languages ​​spoken across Istria came into much deeper contact as a result. The economic expansion of that time created an extremely abundant flow of goods, people and information throughout Istria, and communication was largely dialectal. Owing to that, a relatively large part of the former Romance language continuum was restored across a lot of Western Istria. Due to the bilingualism of the original speakers of Croatian and neighbouring Slovenian, the number of speakers of what had then come to be the Istro-Venetian language gradually increased.

While nowhere near as well known as some other dialects, subdialects and languages (as some linguists and other experts argue many of them to be), the Istro-Venetian language has had a lot of efforts put into preserving it for generations of Istrians yet to come. Since back in 2012, the Festival of the Istro-Venetian Dialect (Festival dell'Istroveneto), an international cultural manifestation dedicated to the protection, evaluation and promotion of the Istrovenetic dialect, has been held in the picturesque Istrian town of Buje.

Buje is of course the ideal location for such a festival, being located in the western part of the Istrian peninsula, where the Istro-Venetian language has arguably remained the strongest, and because this hilltop town is known as the sentinel of Istria. Buje was part of the Venetian Republic from 1358 until 1797, with a high number of people identifying as Italian still living there to this very day.

For more on the Croatian language, dialects and subdialects, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Zagorje, Međimurje, Samobor and More - The Northwestern Kajkavian Dialect

November the 2nd, 2022 - Iva Lukezic, an expert in the Croatian language and in dialects, states that what's known as the Zagorje-Međimurje dialect or the Northwestern Kajkavian dialect is one of the main dialects of the wider Kajkavian dialect. This manner of speaking is primarily characterised by the preservation of what's known as ''basic Kajkavian accentuation''.

We've looked into enough dialects and subdialects of the Croatian language to realise there's much more to the language spoken in this country than what's now known as standard Croatian. From the Dubrovnik subdialect with its Florentine and Venetian roots, and learning about Kajkavian and Chakavian, to old Dalmatian which is sadly dying with the last generations to speak it, the regional way of speaking across Croatia is extremely varied for such a small country.

Did you know that in some cases it gets a bit more complicated than the three ''main ways'' of speaking (Kajkavian, Chakavian and Shtokavian)? There of course regionalities and variations within each of those, too, and let's not even get started on the words only spoken on certain islands. Let's take a look at the Northwestern Kajkavian dialect, which encompasses several areas of modern Croatian territory.

It is spoken in the border areas of Croatia from Slovenia and Hungary (around Kotoriba below Nagykanizsa and in Prekodravlje) all the way to the City of Zagreb. The Northwestern Kajkavian dialect can be divided into several sub-dialects; spoken in Samobor, Međimurje, Varaždin-Ludbreš, Bednjan-Zagorje and Gornjosutlan. There are some linguists and other experts in the Croatian language and in dialects who consider each of the ways of speaking in the aforementioned locations to be dialects in their own right, and not merely subdialects.

Veering off to be even more specific for a second, it's worth mentioning that the local Bednja(n) dialect is considered to actually be the oldest form of the Kajkavian proto-dialect. 

The Bednjan dialect is spoken by the inhabitants of the municipality of Bednja, which, in addition to Bednja itself, encompasses the areas of Pleš, Šaša, Vrbno, Trakošćan (which you'll likely know of thanks to its stunning castle), Benkovec, Rinkovec, Prebukovje, and so on. The Bednjan dialect isn't completely isolated, and most of its main features are also found in certain neighbouring areas like Lepoglava, Kamenica, and especially in Jesenje.

In scientific circles, Bednja speech is unfairly neglected, which makes it all the more important to mention the professor and dialectologist Josip Jedvaj, born in Šaša, who published the most precise and comprehensive study on the Bednjan speech so far in the Croatian Dialectological Collection, which is considered one of the best descriptions of one of the organic forms of speech of this part of the country. The people of the municipality of Bednja named a district school in Vrbno and a street in Bednja after him as a thank you for his efforts to preserve the Bednja language and not let it be lost to the often cruel hands of time, as has been the case for many words spoken in old Dalmatian.

Given the fact that the Northwestern Kajkavian dialect encompasses a fair few places, some (if not most) of which will have variations in their own locally spoken words, we'll look at some more standard words used in this dialect, some of which are still used, and some of which might well be being forgotten in areas like Međimurje and beyond. Some can still be heard in Zagreb, even. I'll provide their standard Croatian and English translations.

Astal - table/stol

Bajka - a thick winter coat/deblji zimski kaput

Cafuta - a prostitute/prostitutka (kurva)

De - where/gdje

Eroplan - plane/avion

Fajna - good looking or pretty/lijepa, fina ili zgodna

Gda - when/kad(a)

Harijada - when something is busy, unorganised or overcrowded/guzva, nered ili cirkus

Jagar - hunter/lovac

Kalamper (kalampir) - potato/krumpir

Laboda - ball/lopta

Marelo - umbrella/kisobran

Nemorut - someone who is useless, lazy or good for nothing/beskoristan ili lijen

Ober - above/iznad

Palamuditi - to talk shit or say stupid things/pricati gluposti

Raca - duck/patka

Senje or senji - dreams/snovi

Tolvaj - thief/lopov

Untik dosta - more than enough/vise nego dovoljno

Venodjati - to have sex or make love/voditi ljubav

Zajtrak (sometimes zajtrek or zojtrak) - breakfast/dorucak

 

For more on the Croatian language, from learning how to swear in Croatian to learning about the various dialects, subdialects and history of the language, make sure to keep up with our language articles in our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Kajkavian Dialect and Tradition to Be Promoted on 5–11 Sept in Krapina

ZAGREB, 1 Sept, 2021 - The Week of the Kajkavian Culture will be held in the northern city of Krapina from 5 to 11 September.

The events that promote the Kajkavian dialect and heritage are organised by the authorities of Krapina and Krapina-Zagorje County, and Mayor Zoran Gregurović said at a news conference on Wednesday that the Week of the Kajkavian Culture "is the most significant event in the Kajkavian-speaking area."

The climax of the Week of the Kajkavian Culture is a three-day festival of songs in the local dialect, which will end on 10 September.

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