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On the Way of Saving an Endangered Language

New York - The first community meeting of the Istrian Vlashki Language Documentation Project (IVLDP) that took place in the Istria Sports Club in Astoria, NY, last Sunday was a great success. It was attended by an exceptional number of more than 100 Istrian Americans, speakers of Istrian Vlashki or Istro-Romanian, a severely endangered language. Istrian Americans of three generations were there -- grand-parents, parents, and children -- to learn about the ways in which they can help save their language from being forgotten.

The meeting was organized by Zvjezdana Vrzić, Ph.D., a Croatian with Istrain roots, a linguist and an editor, who conceived of the project and is its coordinator and principal investigator, with the help of the Doors Art Foundation. IVLDP is a multi year project with two principal goals - the creation of a modern digital archive of the language and the culture and the engagement of the community in smaller, shorter term projects devoted to the preservation of their language and the culture. The project has received funding from the Endangered Language Fund and is supported by the Department of Linguistics at New York University, from which Ms. Vrzić received a Ph.D.

Valnea Smilović and Edoardo Lelovich, both community members and active participants in the project, addressed the enthusiastic audience in the Vlashki language, sharing their experience and enthusiasm about the project. Words of support were also given by Prof. John Singler, a sociolinguist teaching at the Department of Linguistics at New York University, who is the project faculty sponsor and contributor. Ms. Vrzić presented a PowerPoint presentation, shared clips from recorded interviews, and showed a documentary shot about the language produced by the Discovery Channel, UNESCO and UN Works.

November 14, 2005
© 2005 Croatian Chronicle

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