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



Linguistically, the region belongs to the distinct zone of theIntermediate Meridional dialects that occupy the southern half of the peninsula, including the regions of southern Lazio, Abruzzi, Molise, Campania, Basilicata, and parts of Apulia (Figure 3). The speakers of these various dialects, quite different from Stan­dard Italian are found in a similar situation to that of linguistic minorities such as the Croatian one. Dialects are still their primary spoken idiom, and for most Italians their first contact with the standard language comes in primary school.Though dialect is preferred for lo-cal communication, Standard Italian is used in allost all situations and institutions mediating local relationships with society at-large (e.g. schools, public administration and services and the church) and it is virtually the only written language. With the process of modernization, economic changes and internal migrations, however, the dialects are increasingly losing ground in favor of the written, Standard Italian13.

Due to the same processes, the Molise idiom Na-našo shows today many characteristics of a declining language: bilingualism, a prevalence of older, rural or uneducated native speakers, intense word borrowing from the encroaching langua­ge, a lack of standardization, and a shrinking sphere of language use. Although the local dialect is still transmitted at home to children, as Croatian is not written and has never been systematically taught at school, Italian as language of primary education has replaced it in awide range of areas that require a more formal language. In view of social factors and language use, the recorded data from the beginning of the 20th century indicate predominant use of the Slavic language in the three Croatian villages, with a considerable proportion of Slavic monolinguals in addition to increasing bilinguals (Na-našo/Italian).   Today,   however,   the

weight of each language has changed so that communities demonstrate relatively widespread trilingualism (Na-našo, local Molise dialect, Italian) or bilingualism Na-našo/Italian) though in varying degrees in the three village14. About 65% of the population report Na-našo as their mothertongue, for 10% the first langua­ge is local Molise dialect and for the remaining 26% it is the Italian language.' Among them, about 47% are trilingual, 17% bilingual using Italian and Na-našo, 11% bilingual using Italian and local Mo­lise dialect, while about 25% are monolingual Italians15.

How strongly Na-našo is maintained in each village is proportional to the number of non-Slavic people in the village and the degree of functional interrelations between its inhabitants and the wider society. With increasing Italian speaking pop­ulation in Filić, Italian grows in dominance so that Na-našo shrinks exclusively to the family domain and among older speakers only. Mundimitar on the other hand is the most conservative in language maintenance, with predominance of Slavic bilinguals in all age groups as fluent Na-našo speakers, while Živa Voda Kruč occupies an intermediate position between the two with an increasing number of semi-speakers in younger groups16.

In view of the future of the Molise Cro­atian idiom, speakers1 attitudes are probably of paramount importance. According to Grenoble and Whaley17 a pervasive predictor of the use or the loss of a lan­guage is the prestige attached to it, while the reasons that give prestige to a lan­guage, include government support, large number of speakers, association with rich literary tradition, use in local or national media of communication, use in economically advanced commercial exchanges and use in a widely practiced religion. The informal use of Na-našo, however, does not fit any of these characteristics believed to derive prestige for a language,







Print this pages