Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

Diatopic Patterning of Croatian Varieties in the Adriatic Region

Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

Diatopic Patterning of Croatian Varieties in the Adriatic Region

Article excerpt

Abstract: The calculation of aggregate linguistic distances can compensate for some of the drawbacks inherent to the isogloss bundling method used in traditional dialectology to identify dialect areas. Synchronic aggregate analysis can also point out differences with respect to a diachronically based classification of dialects. In this study the Levenshtein algorithm is applied for the first time to obtain an aggregate analysis of the linguistic distances among 88 diatopic varieties of Croatian spoken along the Eastern Adriatic coast and in the Italian province of Molise. We also measured lexical differences among these varieties, which are traditionally grouped into Cakavian, Stokavian, and transitional Cakavian-Stokavian varieties. The lexical and pronunciation distances are subsequently projected onto multidimensional cartographic representations. Both kinds of analyses confirm that linguistic discontinuity is characteristic of the whole region, and that discontinuities are more pronounced in the northern Adriatic area than in the south. We also show that the geographic lines are in many cases the most decisive factor contributing to linguistic cohesion, and that the internal heterogeneity within Cakavian is often greater than the differences between Cakavian and Stokavian varieties. This holds both for pronunciation and lexicon.

1. Introduction

One of the most popular methods applied in traditional geolinguistics (dialectology) is the method of isoglosses, in which areas characterized by different realizations of a single feature are separated by a line--an isogloss. Bundles of such lines were traditionally considered the most important criterion for the division of geolinguistic space into linguistic areas. Despite the tendency to rely on the application of this method in traditional dialectology, even there it has long been recognized that isoglosses do not determine dialectal areas unambiguously because they rarely coincide completely. The isogloss method needs additional assumptions to account for transitional zones and/or dialect continua, even though these are widely recognized to be as common as tightly knit and readily definable linguistic areas (Chambers and Trudgill 1998: 97).

Brozovic, who is aware of the problem, argues that in the case of Croatian, because of specific features of the dialectological make-up of this language, the use of traditional isogloss methodology is nevertheless sometimes justified: "In our linguistic territory we often find the kind of clear-cut dialectal boundaries that older dialectologists could only dream of; these boundaries occur with intense, clear, and dense bundles of isoglosses, whereas it has long been clear to dialectologists that such 'ideal' dialectal boundaries are not a common occurrence in language" (1970: 9). (1) It is our opinion, however, that the division of the Croatian language area into dialect groups is still problematic. This is because although clear-cut dialectal boundaries might be found often in Croatia, they are by no means the rule, as Brozovic (1970) suggests later on in the paper and as our analysis will show. An additional problem relevant to Croatian is that migrations have led to geographic splits in formerly uniform areas, which makes the selection of features for isoglosses and the resulting partitioning of varieties into dialect areas absolutely crucial, and it is naturally not always clear which isoglosses are older or more important in genetic terms. These problems often result in a lack of agreement among dialectologists regarding the boundaries of single dialects and even groups of dialects and their coverage, which was an additional incentive to analyze them in a way that would not prioritize only certain structural features in the process of dialectal mapping.

It was not until the 1970s that Seguy, the main author of Atlas linguistique de la Gascogne, laid the foundations of dialectometry and succeeded in overcoming some of the problems inherent to the method of isoglosses. …

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