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Encyclopedia > Istro Romanian language
Map of Istro-Romanian, made by Puşcariu in 1926

Istro-Romanian is a Romance language used in a few villages in the peninsula of Istria, on the upper northern part of the Adriatic Sea, in Croatia. It is spoken by people who call themselves Vlaşi or Rumâni/Rumâri, but are called Ciribiri by the local population and Istrian Vlachs by linguists.

The number of Istro-Romanian speakers is estimated to be only around 500 to 1000, causing the language to be listed as "seriously endangered" in the UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages (http://www.helsinki.fi/~tasalmin/europe_index.html). Due to its very small number of speakers, living in about ten villages, there is no public education or press in Istro-Romanian, and its speakers are not even recognised as a minority in Croatia.

Their number was reduced in the due to assimilation: in the 1921 Italian census there were 1,644 Romanian speakers in the area and in 1926 Romanian scholar Sextil Puşcariu estimated their number to about 3,000

Many villages have Romanian-style names like Jeian, Buzet (lips), Katun (hamlet), Gradinje (garden), Letaj, Sucodru (forest), Costirceanu (a Romanian name). Some of these names are official, while some are used only by Istro-Romanian speakers.



The language resembles Romanian, and traditional Romanian linguists consider it a Romanian dialect, but some other linguistics disagree and claim that the language is closer to the extinct Dalmatian language than to Romanian.

One peculiarity of Istro-Romanian compared with Romanian dialects is the use of rhotacism (with the intervocalic /n/ becoming /r/, for instance "lumina" (meaning "light" in Romanian) becoming "lumira"). This is one of the reasons that some Romanian linguists think that Istro-Romanian evolved from the language spoken in the Maramures area of Transylvania, which has some similar traits.


Some linguists believe that the Istro-Romanians migrated to their present region about 1000 years ago from Transylvania, the other possible origin being from Serbia.

The first historical record of Istro-Romanians dates back to 1329, when Serbian chronicles mention that a Vlach population was living in the area, although there was an earlier mention from the 12th century of a leader in Istria called Radul (that could be a Romanian name).


There is no literary tradition, however, in 1905 was published "Calendaru lu rumeri din Istrie" ("The Calendar of the Romanians of Istria") and also collections of folk tales and poems have been published since.

External links and references

  • UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages - entry for Istro-Romanian (http://www.helsinki.fi/~tasalmin/europe_report.html#IRumanian)
  • Wolfgang Dahmen: Istrorumänisch. Lexicon der Romanistische Linguistik. III. Tübingen 1989. 448-460



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