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Documentation of the Vlashki/Zheyanski language (‘ruo’)

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Landing page image for the collection ” Vlashki/Zheyanski Language (‘RUO’)”. Click on image to access collection.

Language Istro-Romanian
Depositor Zvjezdana Vrzić
Affiliation University of Rijeka, New York University
Location Croatia
Collection ID 0543
Grant ID 1160696
Funding Body National Science Foundation
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

The collection includes most of the audio/video, descriptive and community-oriented material in two dialects of the Vlashki/Zheyanski language that was collected and/or produced between 2007 and 2017. Most of the audio/video recordings consist of narratives, guided conversations and procedural discourse depicting elements of local lifestyle and history. The annotated audio/video corpus represents speech of a wide range of speakers living in Croatia, but also a variety of descriptive, academic and community-oriented materials.

The collection was put together by Zvjezdana Vrzić, Ph.D., linguist/researcher, with her community and other collaborators, in the scope of the project Documentation of the Vlashki/Zheyanski language (‘ruo’), John V. Singler, Principal Investigator and Zvjezdana Vrzić, Co-Principal Investigator, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Documenting Endangered Languages program, award #1160696; the project Preservation of the Vlashki and Zheyanski Language, Zvjezdana Vrzić, Project Director, funded by Croatian Ministry of Culture, Istrian Region, Primorko-goranska Region, Matulji County and Kršan County; and the pilot-project Text Collection and Digital Archiving of Istro-Romanian, Zvjezdana Vrzić, Principal Investigator, funded by the Endangered Language Fund.

The photograph above on top shows a family from Žejane examining and discussing old photographs from Žejane, collected for the project from different speakers during oral history/life story interviews.


Group represented

The audio/video recordings represent the speech of fluent and active speakers of the Vlashki/Zheyanski language. They speak either the Vlashki or the Zheyanski dialect as it was spoken in communities in Croatia at the beginning of the 21st century. All speakers are adults and over 40 years of age, but the majority of them are elderly. Also included are two videos of performed speech by children, a play in Vlashki and a music video in Zheyanski.


Language information

Vlashki/Zheyanski (ISO 639-3: ruo) is a severely endangered Eastern Romance language, also known under the technical name ‘Istro-Romanian’. As of 2018, it is still spoken in six native villages on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia as well as in several countries abroad. Speakers in Šušnjevica and surrounding villages call their language Vlashki, while those in Žejane, a village further north of Šušnjevica, call it Zheyanski. There is also a significant number of immigrant speakers of the language in the United States and in Australia, as well as in various Western European countries. Today, there remain only some 120 fluent and active speakers of the language in the native villages in Istria. Perhaps three times as many speakers live outside of the villages in nearby towns and cities in Croatia. The total estimated number of speakers may be close to a thousand when speakers living outside of Croatia are added to those living in Croatia. The majority of speakers in Croatia and elsewhere are middle-aged or elderly and inter-generational transmission of the language within families has been largely interrupted and Vlashki/Zheyanski has been replaced in use by Croatian or English.

Vlashki/Zheyanski presents an interesting case of language change under the influence of language contact. It carries marks of contact with dialectal Croatian, and, to a much lesser degree, with other contact languages, such as Italian, on all levels of linguistic structure, from the lexicon and phonology to syntax and morphology.


Special characteristics

The deposit contains data from the two dialects of the language, Vlashki and Zheyanski, as indicated in the metadata. It also includes many community-oriented products that have been developed concurrently with and/or as part of the documentation project. The oral history interview collection provides rich ethnographic and historical information related to the period between the late 1930s and the 1940s and the late 20th century. The collection is associated with the community-oriented language website at, in existence since 2010, which could not be made part of the collection at this point, but is active and can be consulted online.


Collection contents

The collection consists of the following:

  1. 1. Audio/video recordings: The main bulk of the deposit is a collection of around fifty-five hours of oral history/life story interviews with forty-four fluent and active speakers of the Vlashki and the Zheyanski dialects of the language. Most speakers lived in Croatia at the time of their interview and the majority of them resided in their native villages. Photographs of most interviewees are included. In addition to the audio/video recordings of forty-four oral history interviews, this corpus also includes more than twenty video clips with subtitles produced for the benefit of the communities and general audience. The video clips contain procedural discourse and narratives by some of the same speakers. The recordings are almost equally distributed between the two dialects and were collected between 2007 and 2014. All but two of the forty-four interviews are accompanied by orthographic transcriptions and Croatian translations; thirteen also have English translations. The recordings are almost equally distributed between the two dialects and were collected between 2007 and 2014. Additional similar recordings from Croatia and New York City were also collected and are currently being processed and will be added to the collection at a later point. Many excerpts of the interviews (with transcriptions and translations) and all video clips (with transcriptions and translations) can be listened to or viewed at, the language website in existence since 2010.
  2. 2. Fieldworks Explorer project: The FLEx project contains a Vlashki/Zheyanski-Croatian-English dictionary with example sentences as well as transcriptions and translations of forty-two oral history interviews. Thirteen of these have English translations; all have Croatian translations. The texts are partially morpho-syntactically annotated. The dictionary contains the converted corpus-based dictionary put together and published by August Kovačec (Istrorumunjsko-hrvatski rječnik s gramatikom i tekstovima, Pula: Znanstvena udruga Mediteran, 1998), which has been expanded with new entries based on this linguistic corpus. All entries are marked according to the author/linguistic corpus and regional information. The work on the dictionary and the morpho-syntactic annotation of the texts is ongoing. The electronic version of Kovačec’s Istro-Romanian-Croatian dictionary can be searched on the language website at An XML file of this dictionary is also part of this corpus.
  3. 3. Community-oriented publications: The corpus also includes copies of eight publications intended for the benefit of and use by the communities: language learning programs for adults and children in book, picture book, audio or video formats; annotated village area tourist maps; and an old photograph exhibition catalogue with extensive ethnographic/historical captions of the photographs. All materials were conceived and/or produced by the depositor and/or her collaborators as indicated in the corpus metadata. These materials can also be viewed on the language website at
  4. Academic and additional descriptive materials: The corpus also includes several academic publications/articles on linguistic and sociolinguistic issues related to the linguistic community published by the depositor and her collaborators. Several language descriptive materials from the language website conceived for a general audience are included as well: list of family names and nicknames, a pronunciation table with examples, and a table comparing different orthographies used by various researchers in the past and the present, and a text about the singing group Žejanski kntaduri.


Other information

The project was funded by the following funding bodies:

  1. National Science Foundation
  2. Ministry of Culture of Croatia, Istria Region, Primorsko-goranska region, Matulji County, Kršan County


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Vrzić, Zvjezdana. 2018. Documentation of the Vlashki/Zheyanski Language (‘ruo’). Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Zvjezdana Vrzić, Ph.D., as the researcher. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name. Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on different contributors is available in the metadata. Users should also acknowledge the National Science Foundation as the funder of the project along with the other funders indicated above.

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