The Vlah Minority in Macedonia: Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization

The research for this article was aided by a grant for East European Studies from the American Council of Learned Societies with funding from the US Department of State/Research and Training for Eastern Europe and the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union Act of 1983 (Title VIII). All translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

The Vlah Minority in Macedonia:

Language, Identity, Dialectology, and Standardization

As a transnational, non-state-forming minority in Southeastern Europe, the Vlahs represent a unique intersection of discursive issues, e.g. autochthony, history, or numbers as sources of legitimacy, on the one hand, and language, religion, lineage, location, or occupation as sources of identity on the other.1 In discussing the Vlahs, discourses of language endangerment and linguistic human rights intersect with theories of language contact and language shift as well as with questions of politicization, ethnicization, and globalization. Of the Balkan nation-state-forming ethnolinguistic identities, the Albanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Macedonian and Turkish all have, or have had, significant roles to play, but comparisons with non-state-forming identities, especially Romani, are also relevant. Thus, for example, strictly linguistic problems of Aromanian dialectology are reminiscent of those encountered in the classification of Romani dialects: Transhumance and nomadism combined with a number of forced migrations have had, apparently, a similarly complicating effect. Questions of language planning and standardization also have a role in the deployment of dialectology and identity. In this paper, I wish to engage both social scientific and linguistic perspectives on Vlah language and identity in Macedonia by examining transnational issues, issues specific to the Republic of Macedonia, and language planning phenomena manifested at both the global and the local levels.

I shall begin with a definition of ethnonymic terminology. Although the use of the term Vlah in the Balkans entered…

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