Variations: Traditional Dialects #2



In this chapter, we cover more traditional dialects; here we pay attention to the western and coastal parts of Croatia.

Dialects from Dalmatia were quite present in public at least since 1960’s. There was the Split music festival, and at the same time when ‘Kajkavian’ Mejaši was made, a series about a small Dalmatian town, Naše malo misto Our Small Town – with 14 one-hour episodes – was made, broadcast on TV, and became very popular.

Many songs in the Split festival were in a mix of the modern Split city dialect and some traditional dialect of the surrounding coast and islands; such dialects are commonly known as ‘Čakavian’. It basically depended on the person who wrote the lyrics.

One such song was performed in 1975. Composer Zdenko Runjić, looked for songs for the festival and ordered some lyrics from writer Tomislav Zuppa. He didn't liked it first, but he quickly composed the tune; at first, he thought it could be a klapa song, but Oliver Dragojević, who was still not well-known, asked if he could perform it, and performed it at the festival. The song failed: the song got the eight place from votes.

However, the song slowly gained popularity; over the next decades, it was performed many times, and it was eventually recognized as the greatest song ever performed at the Split festival. The song – Galeb i ja – is today recognized as one of the greatest Croatian songs ever. The song starts with:

Lipo mi je, lipo mi je I feel good, I feel good
Na lažini suvoj ležat To lie on dry seagrass
Na osami blizu mora At a secluded spot by the sea
Nad pučinom tebe gledat To watch you over the open sea
A... moj galebe Ah, my seagull

A bit later, there are lines:

Povrh svega nimat straja Above all, to have no fear
Pa prkosit svakoj buri And to defy every wind
I neveri, ča sve vaja And the storm that . . .

The last line contains the tell-tale word for whatča – which gave name to the whole ‘Čakavian’ group of dialects.

A different writer could write a less understandable lyrics – less understandable to outsiders, that is. For example, Jakša Fiamengo (whose origins are from the island of Vis) wrote these lines (again performed by Oliver Dragojević in 1982):

Niz skaline s puno dice Down the stairs with a lot of children
[ča se penju do fortice] [That climb to the fortress]
    karoca gre     The cart goes
di gariful lipo cvate Where carnations bloom nicely
i kroz dane [ča se zlate] Through days [that shine]
    gre, karoca gre     It goes, the cart goes

There was also a music festival in the western regions of Croatia, around Rijeka and the nearby peninisula of Istria, called Melodies of Istria and Kvarner, but it was not really popular in other regions, and most people from other parts of Croatia seldom heard anything in dialects spoken there.

Then, a decade later, something unxpected and literally unheard happened.

Sometimes in 1993, a young, good-looking guy working on a local radio in Pula, met Livio Morosin, a rocker and songwriter from a nearby village of Vodnjan. Soon they published a song on a cassette tape, by a local record publisher, and it reached radio waves. It contains these lines:

Magari noć je pred vrati
magari ninega ni
ja bin triba spati
a još mi se ne spi
i niki vitar u glavi
pensan kadi si ti

For most people in Croatia, it sounded unlike anything they ever heard before. Stress was a bit weird, words weren’t completely understandable. And it was great.

What does the first line mean, if anything? Well, magari is an Italian word meaning even. Note that standard Croatian has a very similar word: makar; both words have the same origin – Greek μακάρι – but the standard word came via Romanian, and the word in this song via Italian...

The phrase ninega ni corresponds to the standard nikog(a) nema° nobody’s there. The first word is a genitive of some form, but note it has the -a which is optional in cities and standard Croatian. However, that -a is mandatory in many dialects – and it’s, of course, the older form: some dialects gradually dropped that -a, or made it optional, while others didn’t.

The form ni is the same as in Kajkavian (i.e. it corresponds to the standard nije): negative existentials in this dialect don’t use the form nema° in the present tense, but ni°, so all tenses of negative existentials use the verb biti (je² +).

So we can now understand these lines, we note again the verb spati (spi) sleep, and the mediopassive construction with dative, and then we hit the last line. The verb pensati obviously comes from Italian pensare, i.e. think, but the rest?

The word kadi means where in that dialect. How come?

A thousand years ago, the word for where was kədě in today Croatia (these symbols were explained in the previous chapter). Most dialects latter dropped ə in that word (because it was unstressed). However, it seems most 'Čakavian' dialects have kept that vowel, and it produced kadě. The vowel ě then developed in many ways we covered earlier; in central and northern Dalmatia it turned to i - which produced "Ikavian" dialects - and in the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Ottoman Empire conquered large parts of Dalmatia, many people fled to Istria, especially to the southern and western parts, bringing their "Ikavian" dialect, which they speak to this day.

The singer was Alen Vitasović; he immediately became really popular, and his casette had more than one hit.

A couple of years later, another singer became popular, who was even harder to understand; these are lines from one of his songs:

I kade god san ja pasal
ko [da duh moj je ostal]
i sad on va kamare se skriva

That singer was from Opatija, where another dialect is spoken, even more different from the standard.

Also: translation of Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince to the dialect of the Rijeka region; more precisely, to the dialect of the village of Studena, near the Slovene border (because the translator was from there). Also: some original books, including picture books for children, many songs and some shows on local TV stations.

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5 Easy Croatian: Variations: Traditional Dialects #2 N A D G L  24  I V UNDER CONSTRUCTION! PLEASE BE PATIENT :) In this chapter, we cover more traditional dialects; here we pay ...

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