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Three of European critically endangered languages belong to Croatia

In Europe there are 24 languages right on the brink of extinction, and three of them are from Croatia, The British Telegraph daily has recently reported.

Europe is home to 200 languages in 50 nations, and some of them are facing extinction, The Telegraph has reported quoting a graphic, created by the British portal Go-Euro, which shows how Europe is losing its linguistic diversity.

The 24 most endangered languages are those whose youngest speakers are grandparents who only speak the language partially or infrequently.

Among those 24 tongues, three are from Croatia: Istro-Romanian, with an estimated 300 speakers left, Istriot (400) and Arbanasi (500). They are ranked 13th, 16th and 18th respectively on a list of critically or severely endangered languages, and this ranking is topped by the Livonian language used by some 50 people in Latvia as their second language, while the last person who had Livonian as her mother tongue died last year.

"In Ukraine, there are only six people left who speak the Karaim language. Ume Sami is only spoken by 10 people living near the Scandinavian Mountain Range. Just 574 people still speak Cornish," The Telegraph reported regarding this ranking.

Istro-Romanian, an Eastern Romance language, is spoken in a few villages in the north of the Croatian peninsula of Istria, while Istriot, a Romance language, is spoken in the west of Istria.

Arbanasi, a dialect of Gheg Albanian, is spoken by some 500 inhabitants in the Croatian coastal city of Zadar.

Croatian philologist August Kovačec has in the meantime explained in an interview to Hina that Istro-Romanian is a variety of the Romanian language, but this dialect has not had any contact with Romanians for nearly a century.

Apart from Istro-Romanian speakers in several villages in Istria, there are also people living in New York and some other parts of America and Australia who can speak this language. Their ancestors left Istria in the 1970s due to an economic crisis.

Istriot is used in the south-western corner of the Istrian peninsula, particularly in the towns of Rovinj and Vodnjan, and its roots date back to a period before Venetian rule. Istriot has been rather italianised, according to the Croatian linguist's explanation.

The term Istriot was coined by the 19th century Italian linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli.

The Italian community in Istria has published dictionaries of Istriot dialect variants, Kovačec has told Hina.

"Atlas of the Istro-Romanian Speeches" and "Atlas of Istriot" by philologist Goran Filipi have been published.

Arbanasi, a dialect of Gheg, one of the two major varieties of Albanian which is spoken in north Albania and Kosovo, was the mother tongue of emigrants coming to Zadar throughout the 18th century from a region between Skadar Lake and the Adriatic Sea, Kovačec explains.

November 30, 2014
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