Vlashki/Zheyanski, a severely endangered Balkan Romance language, is spoken in six mountain villages in the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. Speakers in the southern villages call their language Vlashki, while those in a village further north call it Zheyanski. At a point when Vlashki/Zheyanski appears to be no more than a few decades away from losing most of its fluent speakers, this project seeks to achieve a comprehensive documentation of the language by creating an annotated digital linguistic corpus of audio and video recordings and older written texts and a bidirectional trilingual dictionary (Vlashki/Zheyanski, Croatian, and English), as well as a description of the syntax of the language, and a study of the macro- and micro-sociolinguistic forces that have affected its current endangerment.

The envisioned corpus is noteworthy for including audio and video data not only from the home villages in Croatia, but also from the largest community of Vlashki/Zheyanski speakers outside Croatia, that in New York City, as well as data from the 1920s and 1930s. Hence, it will provide insight into variation in the language, from the 1920s and 1930s until today, and in two homeland communities and one diaspora community.

Documentation of this severely endangered language will be achieved while simultaneously educating speakers of the language as to the value of the language and the pressing need for its documentation. Project materials -- the dictionary, a selection of audio and video materials, the syntactic and sociolinguistic studies, the complete translated written texts from the 1920s and 1930s -- will be accessible to community members. In some cases, availability will be achieved via the existing language website (www.vlaski-zejanski.com). The community-centered orientation of the project builds on and reinforces ongoing work with community members.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Colleen M. Fitzgerald
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New York University
New York
United States
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