My wife is Romanian, and we speak Romanian at home as our normal language of conversation. So today I was looking up some information about historical Romanian orthography (possibly the subject of another post), and I was surprised to discover the existence of not one, but four Romanian languages:

Map of Romanian Language Distributions

I was previously dimly aware of the existence of Aromanian (shown in red above), but what most fascinated me were the Istro-Romanians. They’re two tiny dots of yellow over there in Croatia. They are the smallest ethnic group in Europe, numbering less than 1000 speakers, spread among a handful of villages and hamlets. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a website. The website is, in fact, very good, with a reasonable pronunciation guide and a variety of resources.

(No one, however, seems to be able to tell me what the phonetic value of {å} is. Based on circumstantial evidence, I’m guessing that it’s [ɒ], the low rounded back vowel.)

Fascinating stuff, here. The language is clearly close to Romanian: I can just barely make it out, though it’s quite a stretch in some places. I especially like this poem:

Ur populu
pureţ-ăl în veruge
zecepiţ-li gura
şi înca-i liber.

Laieţe-li lucru
scåndu iuva mărânca
påtu iuva dorme,
înca ăi bogåt.

Ur populu,
vise siromah şi servu
când ăli furu limba
cara vut-a în dota dila ţåţi
şi pl’erzut-ăi za vaica.

The last stanza, as best I can guess (seeing as I don’t actually speak this language) is translated:

A people,
Dreams (siromah?) and serves (Serbs?)
When they steal their language
Which they had as a gift from their fathers
And have lost forever

I’m sure that my readership contains plenty of people who actually speak Istro-Romanian and would be happy to correct me.

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