Vulnerable Languages and Linguistic Varieties in Serbia

Vulnerable Languages and Linguistic Varieties in Serbia is a research project supported by the Science Fund of the Republic of Serbia within the frame of the IDEAS Program, the biggest research program of the Science Fund so far. The public call for the IDEAS Program closed on October 7, 2020. A total of 917 project proposals were submitted, out of which 105 received financial support. 

Over the past decades, it has become obvious that many languages spoken around the world are threatened with extinction. As linguistic diversity is essential to human existence, researchers started focusing on language documentation, maintenance and revitalization, raising awareness of the need to safeguard the linguistic heritage, and creating databases of endangered languages. When it comes to Serbia, these databases differ widely in terms of assessing language endangerment, and often give insufficient or inaccurate data on the varieties spoken here. Our Project’s ambition is to create a precise tool for assessing the degree of language endangerment and vulnerability, and to apply it to a statistically significant sample of speakers in Serbia. The tool will be applied to the following linguistic varieties, carefully chosen based on the international assessment, as well as our own field research: Aromanian, Banat Bulgarian, Vojvodina Rusyn (Ruthenian), Judezmo (Ladino), Romani (Vlax and Balkan varieties), Megleno-Romanian, Vlach and Bayash Romanian. The result will be an accurate assessment of the vulnerability of the linguistic varieties in Serbia, which could be used as a solid reference in the future for any sociolinguistic research. The absolute novelty of the research proposal is that, in parallel with the application of the carefully conceived sociolinguistic questionnaire, it will also document and archive speech samples of vulnerable linguistic varieties, over three generations of speakers. Based on the collected data, a database, a graded scale of vitality and an interactive map will be created that would provide insight into the vulnerability of specific varieties in the studied communities. Furthermore, it will help build support for language communities, NGOs and the government in their efforts to maintain and revitalize these languages, and may serve as a reliable tool for vulnerability assessment in language communities worldwide.

The specific aims of the project are:

  1. Creating a sociolinguistic questionnaire for the assessment of endangerment/vulnerability of linguistic varieties in Serbia.
  2. Applying the questionnaire in the envisaged communities.
  3. Creating a graded scale of endangerment of particular varieties.
  4. Documenting the linguistic varieties over three generation of speakers and archiving the collected material.
  5. Generating an interactive map that contains data on the level of endangerment and available speech samples for each variety.

The collected material will be stored in the Digital Archive of the Institute for Balkan Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Digital Archive of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, as well as in international repositories.

Funding for the project is provided through the Budget of the Republic of Serbia, and the World Bank project – the Serbia Accelerating Innovation and Entrepreneurship Project (SAIGE). The project will last 36 months, from January 2022 until December 2024.