He was born in 1950 in Turni near Delnice, Gorski kotar. After graduating in philosophy and Yugoslav studies at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zadar in 1974, he received a Ph.D. at the same institution in 1986, with a thesis on the Kajkavian dialects of Gorski kotar.
After working as a journalist for four years immediately after graduation, in 1978 he returned to the Faculty of Philosophy in Zadar to work as an assistant. In 1987 he received the title of docent, in 1989 becoming associate professor, and in 1997 receiving regular and finally in 2002 permanent professorship. He teaches or has taught several post-graduate courses on linguistics, and serves as a head of the post-graduate course in linguistics at the University of Zadar. At the same university he was the first head of the Department for Croatian and Slavic Studies. In 2004 he became an associate member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
His chief scientific interest is in dialectology and in the history of the Croatian language. He contributed to several international projects on linguistic geography. He has published approximately a thousand bibliographical units, including several books:
- Fonološki opisi srpskohrvatskih / hrvatskosrpskih, slovenačkih i makedonskih govora obuhvaćenih Opšteslovenskim lingvističkim atlasom, Sarajevo, 1981 (as a contributor)
- Hrvatska drama do narodnog preporoda (co-authored with Slobodan Prosperov Novak), I-II, Split, 1984
- Hrvatski jezik i njegovi proučavatelji, Split, 1994
- Hrvatski dijalekti i jezična povijest, Zagreb, 1996;
- Poezija Dragutina Domjanića; Z mojih bregov Frana Galovića; Ognji i rože Ivana Gorana Kovačića (with Miroslav Šicel and Dunja Detoni-Dujmić), Zagreb, 1996
- Hrvatski govori, filolozi, pisci, Zagreb, 1999
- Dalibor Brozović, dobitnik nagrade "Stjepan Ivšić, Zagreb - Zadar, 2002
- Hrvatska dijalektologija 1. Hrvatski dijalekti i govori štokavskog narječja i hrvatski govori torlačkog narječja, Zagreb, 2003
- Faust Vrančić i drugi, Šibenik, 2004
- Tragom zavičaja. Delnički govor i govor Gornjih Turni u svjetlosti goranskih kajkavskih govora, Split, 2006
- Hrvatska dijalektologija 2 - Čakavsko narječje, Zagreb, 2009
With Dunja Fališevac and Darko Novaković he edited the anthology Hrvatska književna baština (2002–2005). At the University of Zadar he was the initiator and the editor-in-chief of the journal Croatica et Slavica Iadertina. He currently serves as an editor of the magazine Čakavska rič. and also collaborates on the publications of the Miroslav Krleža Lexicographical Institute. He edited reprints of many works of Croatian writers and philologists (Faust Vrančić, Jakov Pletikosa, Stjepan Ivšić, Vinko Nikolić, Zlatko Pochobradsky). In collaboration with sister Terezija Zemljić he published a chronicle of Šibenik's female Franciscans Knjigu od uspomene (Šibenik, 2005).