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Endangered Languages
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Indo-European Language Tree: Two Istrian Branches

We Istrians - who are part of the living fabric of the past, the present and/or the future of Istria - share one primary thing in common: a love for our ancestral roots, although we sometimes feel and/or demonstrate it in distinctly different ways and with varying degrees of intensity. Like it or not, this common thread may not be so much a part and parcel of "divine providence" but more of our inheritence as living beings, a characteristic known as the "homing instinct".

While most of us continue searching for lost relatives, friends, and neigbors that we knew in the "old country", many of us are also seeking to trace and reconcile with our lost heritage and languages. For the new readers, we offer a brief lesson in Istrian linguistics. For all others, this is a "refresher" course derived exclusively from the following sources of information about the linguistic heritage of the world:

  • Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 14th Edition -
  • UNESCO Red Book of Endangered Languages: Europe (1993) -

Background information 

Languages were originally divided into five categories; a sixth, potentially endangered languages, was added later:  

  1. extinct languages other than ancient ones; 
  2. nearly extinct languages with maximally tens of speakers, all elderly;
  3. seriously endangered languages with a more substantial number of speakers but practically without children among them;
  4. endangered languages with some children speakers at least in part of their range but decreasingly so;
  5. potentially endangered languages with a large number of children speakers but without an official or prestigious status;
  6. not endangered languages with safe transmission of language to new generations. 

Concentrating solely on the languages of Istria, it is quite clear from the statistics generally available that the standard Croatian, Italian and Slovenian languages are in no danger of extinction. So, we focus our attention almost exclusively on the endangered languages of Istria. These languages are all under the Indo-European languages classification and fall into two categories (out of a total of 449, as published May 2005): Italic and Slavic.

The following tree shows only the two branches that are relevant to Istria, and also excludes sub-branches that do not relate in some way to Istria.


  • ITALIC (48)
    • Latino-Faliscan (1), in Vatican State
    • Romance (47)
      • Eastern (4)
        • Aromanian, in Greece
        • Istro-Romanian / Istrorumeno, in Istria (Note 1)
          • Cici dialect (with variants)
          • Vlahi dialect (with variants)
          • Krk / Veglia dialect
        • Megleno-Romanian, in Greece
        • Romanian / Daco-Romanian, in Romania
      • Italo-Western (32)
        • Italo-Dalmatian (5)
          • Istriot / Istrioto (Note 1)
            • Rovignese
            • Dignanese
            • (other variations?)
          • Italian (33)
          • Judeo-Italian
          • Napoletano-Calabrese
          • Sicilian
        • Western (27)
          • Gallo-Iberian (26)
            • Gallo-Romance (14)
              • Gallo-Italian (5)
                • Emiliano-Romagnolo
                • Ligurian
                • Lombard
                • Piemontese
                • Venetian (Note 1)
                  • Bisiacco
                  • Istrian / Istro-Venetian / Istroveneto
                    • (various regional variations -Polesan, Albonese, Parenzan, etc.) (Note 1)
                  • Trentino
                  • Triestino
                  • Venetian proper
  • SLAVIC (18)
    • East (4)
    • South (7)
      • Eastern (3)
      • Western (4)
        • Bosnian
        • Croatian, in Istria: (Note 1)
          • Chakavian / Čakavski (It: Ciacavo)
          • Cakavian / Labinjanski / Cakavski
          • Kaykavian / Kajkavski
          • Liburnian
          • Stokavian / Shtokavski (Ijekavski)
          • (other regional variations?)
        • Serbian
        • Slovene (Note 1)
          • Savrin[o] / Šavrinsko Narečje (Note 2)
          • (other regional variations?)


  1. The Ethnologue has not identified the subcategories (dialects) shown above in red font, but does mention some of them on their details of individual countries. For informational purposes only, we include reformatted versions of such pages for Croatia, Italy and Slovenia. See our Introduction and the full Ethnologue Family Tree [at] for more information and links.
  2. We have not yet established whether Šavrinsko Narečje / Savrino is considered to be a separate language or a dialect of Slovenian.

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This page is compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Tuesday, September 09, 2003; Last Updated: Friday, December 14, 2012
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