The research on linguistic variability in the region has been carried out continuously since the 1980’s within the research program on the population structure of Croatia. The projects concerned with a sociocultural approach to the population structure of the Eastern Adriatic were carried out by Anita Sujoldžić as Principal Investigator from 1996-2006 (supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, under grants nos. 01960102 and 0196002).
So far, the research undertaken on a number of islands in the region shows that spatial distribution and differentiation of dialects and subdialects clearly outlines interrelations between various diachronic and cultural substrata and that the Čakavian dialect, in spite of the expansion of the Štokavian dialect, is still present in the whole area. The results show that Čakavian dialects are not dying out; on the contrary, they hybridise and change through contact with other idioms. This hybridity (or transformation) is not equally distributed; hence there are differences in dialects on different islands as well as within islands – that is between different villages on the same island. These local differences originate in long-term isolation and a high degree of endogamy, especially in rural settlements. Our previous research shows that the majority of these island populations are bilingual (bidialectal) and that the local dialects are seen as markers of various local identities, making clear differences between local populations and new immigrants, tourists or other groups. Our research on the island of Vis e.g., shows that even though young people on the island are influenced more than others by the current process of globalisation and language homogenisation (mostly through schools, media and tourism), they still perceive their local dialects as the main markers of their identity.
Research results by area
The island of Hvar
The current linguistic structure on the island of Hvar is characterized by a mixture of two dialects: Čakavian and Štokavian elements. The Štokavian elements can be divided in two groups. The first group consists of elements which reached the island with the 16th-18th century immigration of the Štokavian population from the mainland. Another focus of interest is the Romance influence and its consequences in urban and rural settings. It has left visible traces in the island’s cultural vocabulary connected with the town of Hvar, public life, religion, shipbuilding, etc., while this influence was less evident in the terminology of agriculture or flora and fauna. The second group of Štokavian elements consists of more recent Štokavian influences. These are a consequence of modern communication and education and of the strong influence of Standard Croatian (basically Štokavian) through the breaking of the island’s former isolation which favoured the conservation of older linguistic traits. The latest influence refers to the linguistic elements potentially brought by refugees and displaced persons permanently settled on the island during the 1990’s and by an increasing number of second home owners.
The island of Vis
Linguistic distances on the Island of Vis coincide with the administrative border dividing the Island into the Vis and Komiža municipalities, although today the division is not as strong as it was half a century ago. Lexically and phonologically, the speech of the town of Vis is most distant from the variety spoken in the villages of Komiža municipality, while it most resembles the speech of Plisko Poje, a village in the municipality of Vis. However, the town of Vis is more distant from its neighboring villages as shown in the dendrogram retrieved on the basis of calculated linguistic distances in core vocabulary words. This is due to its central administrative function, and more intense orientation (regarding bureaucratic matters and traffic connections) towards the mainland and the regional urban center of Split more specifically.
The island of Korčula
In earlier lexicostatistical analysis the whole island (except Račišće) was grouped with other Čakavian varieties (Sujoldžić, 1997), but recent similar analyses prove its transitional position between Čakavian and Štokavian (Šimičić et al., submitted). Although traditional scholarship classifies Korčula as belonging to the Čakavian zone, the varieties spoken there are more similar to Štokavian than is the case otherwise. All quantitative analyses prove its similarity to the varieties spoken on the western part of Pelješac Peninsula.
The fuzzy dendrogram (produced by Gabmap*) represents the grouping of the varieties investigated in the Eastern Adriatic region. The numbers in the dendrogram indicate the probability of certain varieties grouping together. One of the most stable clusters is made up of Čakavian varieties in the Eastern Adriatic, regardless of their geographical positioning in the northern or southern part of Adriatic. These include the speech of Hvar on the island of Hvar, of Sutivan and Milna on the island of Brač, and of geographically more distant Baška on the island of Krk, and Pag on the island of Pag. The two biggest clusters include Southern Čakavian varieties on the islands of Brač, Hvar, and Vis, and another southern, but less stable cluster, that includes the regions of Pelješac, the Makarska Coast, the island of Korčula as well as Štokavian-influenced varieties spoken on Hvar and Brač. Other clusters are significantly smaller but still reflect linguistic similarity between the varieties that constitute them.
* Nerbonne, J., R. Colen, C. Gooskens, P. Kleiweg and T. Leinonen. Gabmap – A Web Application for Dialectology. Dialectologia. Special Issue II (2011): 65-89. (Spec. Iss. Production, Perception and Attitude, ed. by J. Nerbonne, S. Grondelaers, D. Speelman and M.-P. Perea).