A. Sujoldžić: Molise Croatian Idiom, Coll. Antropol. 28 Suppl. 1 (2004) 263-274



able position, this linguistic idiom is still recognisably a štokavian-ikavian dialect with a number of čakavian elements and that it is genetically close to Croatian dialects spoken in Middle Dalmatia.3,4 However, this dialect from the late 15th and early 16th century, in the new circumstances, gradually underwent some evolutionary processes which have resulted in an idiom, considerably different from those of the original language spoken on the other side of the Adriatic sea5. It has undergone considerable contact inducedchanges - under the influence of standard Italian and neighboring dialects of Molise and Abruzzo regions. It was excluded from the Ausbau (standardization and development) process of the Standard Croatian and unlike varieties of Croatian spoken within Croatia was also excluded from the possibility of borrowing from Standard Croatian. The consequences were a considerable reduction of the possible sources of internal growth and reduced opportunity of regeneration by borrowing from both other Croatian varieties and Standard Croatian. Instead, it has depended on the lexicon of the surrounding Italian dialects to satisfy the communicative demands of the speakers with subsequent processes of mixing and code switching as well as gradual functional and domain shrinkage of this variety. Sociolinguistically, it is not considered as a subvariety of an overarching linguistic unit, but as a language by distance (Abstand) with one unrelated roof language - Italian and one related roof language, i.e. Standard Croatian.6, which means that it should be regarded as a language in its own right, due both to its isolation from Standard Croatian and to its minority position.

This unique manifestation of this language situation is also reflected in different emic and etic labels of the idiom. By the members of the speech community it is simply referred to as Na-našo (to speak

in our way) indicating the new collective identity. According to the reports from the beginning of the last century when they were discovered, they were completely unaware of the existence of similar language groups anywhere in the world. By the neighboring groups they are called Schiavone - Škavun or Slavo while officially and by language professionals the idiom has been recently labeled Croato Molisano - Molise Croatian. In spite of a few attempts at creating an own literature, which started already in the 19th century, and continued sporadically until today, Molisian Slavic still must be seen as a spoken language without written norms. It is also included among sen ously endangered languages listed by UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages.



Contact induced changes


The intensity of specific external factors have changed throughout the history with gradually increasing contact between the Slavic population and neighboring communities. So, today we can find evidence of such changes at all levels, in both lexicon and structure of this idiom. They include all possible phenomena observed in contact situations elsewhere, such as: loss of features, addition of features and replacement of features. They are most obvious at the level of lexicon and evidenced by numerous borrowings from both the neighboring dialects (spoken in the regions of Molise, Abbruzzo, Campania and Puglia) and Italian compensating the communicative needs related to modernization of lifestyle and changes in the socio-economic ecologies of speakers. Though it has preserved some archaic Slavic words which disappeared from related Croatian idioms, it also experienced a significant loss of vocabulary related to ancestral traditions and activities that ceased to exist.







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