Dalmatian is an extinct Romance language formerly spoken along the Dalmatian coast of Croatia and as far south as Kotor in Montenegro.
The Dalmatian speakers lived in towns on the sea-shore (Zadar, Trogir, Split and Dubrovnik), each of these cities having a local dialect and also on the islands of Krk, Cres and Rab.
Note that the term "Dalmatian" today is often used to refer to the Čakavian-ikavian Croatian dialect spoken in Dalmatia, which includes many words picked up from Italian and even some from German. This dialect and the original Dalmatian language are not related, though, and should not be confused.
Almost every city developed its own dialect; however, most disappeared before they were recorded, so the only information we have on them are some words borrowed into Croatian.
The most important dialects we have information on are:
Vegliot — a northern dialect, spoken on the island of Veglia (Krk)
Ragusan — a southern dialect, spoken at Ragusa (Dubrovnik)
- the dialect spoken in Zara (Zadar)
The first two (being the Northern and the Southern dialects) are the best known and it appears they were separated for over 500 years.
Ragusan is the Southern dialect and it is derived from the Italian name of Dubrovnik, Ragusa. We know about it from two letters of 1325 and 1397 (and other medieval texts), but they show a language influenced heavily by Venetian, and not pure Dalmatian. Several words surviving are pen (bread), teta (father), chesa (house) and fachir (to do), which were quoted by an Italian, Fillipo Diversi, the head of school of Dubrovnik in the 1430s.
The Ragusan Republic had at one time an important fleet, but its influence decreased. We know that the language was in trouble in the face of Slavic expansion, as the Ragusan Senate decided that all debates had to be done in lingua veteri ragusea (ancient Ragusan language) and the use of the lingua sclava (Slavonic - Croatian) was forbidden. However, in the 16th century, it fell out of use and became extinct.
Vegliot is the Northern dialect and it is derived from the Italian name of Krk, Veglia, an island off the Istria peninsula.
The last speaker of any Dalmatian dialect was Tuone Udaina (in Italian: Antonio Udina), and he was killed by a landmine on June 10, 1898. His language was studied by an Italian scholar, Matteo Giulio Bartoli who visited him in 1897 and wrote down thousands of words, stories, accounts of his life, which were published in a book, with Italian translation, which provides much information on the vocabulary, phonology and grammar of the language. He wrote them in Italian and published a translation in German (Das Dalmatische) in 1906. However, the Italian language manuscripts were lost, and the work was not retranslated into the Italian until 2001.
The Romans occupied the territory of Illyria between 229 BC and 155. The traders and the authorities spoke Latin and the inhabitants abandoned their language for Latin (in fact, the "Vulgar Latin"). It is noteworthy that there were several Roman Emperors of Illyrian origin: Aurelian, Diocletian and Constantine I.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Illyria continued to speak Latin and the language evoluated relatively independent from other Romance languages, progressing toward a regional variant and finally to a distinct language.
The earliest reference on the language dates from the 10th century and it is estimated that about 50,000 people spoke it at that time.
Other languages influenced the Dalmatian, but without erasing its Latin roots (superstrates): the Slavs, then the Venetians. Several cities of the regions have Italian names.
The oldest preserved documents written in Dalmatian are some 13th century inventories, in the Ragusan dialect. A letter of the 14th century from Zadar shows strong Venetian influence, which was also the cause of its extinction soon after.
Once thought to be a language that bridged the gap between the Romanian language and Italian, Dalmatian was actually more closely related to Western Romance languages than to Italian, and it was only distantly related to the nearby Romanian dialects, such as the nearly extinct Istro-Romanian, also spoken in nearby Istria, Croatia.
Some of its features are quite archaic; for example, Dalmatian is one of the two Romance languages (the other one is Sardinian) that did not palatalise /k/ and /g/ before /e/ and /i/: Latin cenare > Vegliot: kenur (to dine).
Some of its words have been preserved as borrowings in South Slavic languages, such as Serbo-Croatian, and also a few in Albanian.
Similarities to Romanian
Among the similarities with Romanian, there are some consonant shifts that can be found among the Romance languages only in Dalmatian and Romanian:
- "ct" → "pt" : octo > Vegliot: guapto; Romanian: opt (eight)
- "gn" → "mn" : cognatus > Vegliot: komnut; Romanian: cumnat (brother-in-law)
- "x" → "ps": coxa > Vegliot: Kopsa; Romanian coapsa (thigh)
Also, the future is formed with the verb "to want" (just as in Romanian and other languages of the Balkan language union).
Similarities to Western Romance languages
(to be written)
It is interesting to note that Dalmatian kept the Latin words related to urban life which were lost in Romanian. The Dalmatians retained an active urban society in their city states, whereas the Romanians were driven into small mountain settlements during the Great Migrations of the Dark Ages.
Also, unlike Romanian, Dalmatian did not keep any substrate words of Thracian or Illyrian origin, as the speakers were initially colonists, not a Romanized population.
Major influences on the language were the Rhaeto-Romance languages, then Venetian as Venezia's commercial influence grew. Croatian, which was spoken outside the cities since the Slavs migrated, gained importance in the cities by the 16th century, and it eventually completely replaced Dalmatian as a day-to-day language.
An analytization trend can be observed in Dalmatian: Nouns and adjectives began losing their gender and number inflictions, the noun declination disappeared completely and the verb conjugations began to follow the same path, however, the verb kept genders (masculine and feminine) and numbers.
The definite article is used as a preposition, unlike Balkan-Romance languages (like Romanian) which have it postponed to the noun.
Language sample: Lord's Prayer
Here's the Lord's prayer in Portuguese, Dalmatian, Italian, Istro-Romanian and Romanian:
|Pai nosso, que estás no Céu,
||Tuota nuester, che te sante intel sil,
||Padre nostro, che sei nei cieli,
||Ciace nostru car le şti en cer,
||Tatăl nostru care eşti în ceruri,
|seja santificado o teu nome.
||sait santificuot el naun to.
||sia santificato il tuo nome.
||neca se sveta nomelu teu.
||sfiinţească-Se numele Tău.
|Venha o teu reino.
||Vigna el raigno to.
||Venga il tuo regno.
||Neca venire craliestvo to.
||Vie Împărăţia Ta.
|Seja feita a tua vontade, assim na Terra como no Céu.
||Sait fuot la voluntuot toa, coisa in sil, coisa in tiara.
||Sia fatta la tua volont?, come in cielo cos? in terra.
||Neca fie volia ta, cum en cer, aşa şi pre pemint.
||Facă-se voia Ta, precum în cer, aşa şi pe pământ.
|Dá-nos hoje o pão nosso de cada dia.
||Duote costa dai el pun nuester cotidiun.
||Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano
||Pera nostre saca zi de nam astez.
||Pâinea noastră cea de toate zilele dă-ne-o nouă astăzi.
|E perdoa as nossas ofensas
||E remetiaj le nuestre debete,
||E rimetti a noi i nostri debiti,
||Odproste nam dutzan,
||Şi ne iartă nouă păcatele noastre,
|assim como nós perdoamos aos nossos ofensores.
||coisa nojiltri remetiaime a i nuestri debetuar.
||come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori.
||ca şi noi odprostim a lu nostri dutznici.
||precum şi noi iertăm greşiţilor noştri.
|E não nos leves à tentação,
||E naun ne menur in tentatiaun,
||E non ci indurre in tentazione,
||Neca nu na tu vezi en napastovanie,
||Şi nu ne duce pe noi în ispită,
|mas livra-nos do Mal.
||miu deleberiajne dal mal.
||ma liberaci dal male.
||neca na zbăveşte de zvaca slabe.
||ci ne mântuieşte de cel rău.
- Bartoli, Matteo Giulio, Das Dalmatische (2 vols), Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna, 1906
- Bartoli, Matteo Giulio, Il Dalmatico, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Italy, 2000 (translation from the German original)