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српскохрватски / srpskohrvatski
hrvatskosrpski / хрватскосрпски
hrvatski ili srpski / хрватски или српски
српски или хрватски / srpski ili hrvatski
Spoken in: Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Croatia, Serbia,
Montenegro (under different names) 
Region: Southeastern Europe or the Balkans
Total speakers: Some 17 million speak Serbian, Bosnian, or Croatian
Ranking: approx. 50
Language family: Indo-European
Language codes
ISO 639-1: sh</tt> (deprecated)<tt>
ISO 639-2: </tt>formerly scr, scc
ISO/FDIS 639-3: hbs — Serbo-Croat 
Central South Slavic
languages and dialects
(Central South Slavic diasystem)
Serbian · Croatian · Bosnian · Montenegrin
Shtokavian · Kajkavian · Chakavian · Torlakian
Romano-Serbian · Slavoserbian · Šatrovački
Bunjevac · Molise Croatian · Našinski · Užice speech
Differences between Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian
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Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian (also Croatian or Serbian, Serbian or Croatian) (srpskohrvatski or cрпскохрватски or hrvatskosrpski or hrvatski ili srpski or srpski ili hrvatski), earlier also Serbo-Croat, was an official language of Yugoslavia (along with Slovenian, Macedonian). It was mentioned for the first time by Slovene philologist Jernej Kopitar in a letter from 1836, although it cannot be ruled out that he had become acquainted with the term by reading the Slovak philologist Pavol Jozef Šafárik's manuscript "Slovanské starožitnosti" ( printed 1837.) Officially, the term was used from 1921 - ca.1993 as an umbrella term (Dachsprache) for dialects spoken by Serbs and Croats, as well as Bosniaks and Montenegrins upon their national recognition. In its standardized form, it was based on Štokavian dialect and defined Ekavian and Iyekavian variants called "pronunciations" (unofficially, there were "Eastern" (based on Serbian idiom) and "Western" (based on Croatian idiom) variants. By extension, it also declared Kajkavian and Chakavian as its dialects (while Torlakian dialect was never recognized in official linguistics), but they were never in official use.

With the breakup of Yugoslavia, its languages followed suit and Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and ultimately Montenegrin came to be described as separate languages (Ausbausprachen). Conversely, the term "Serbo-Croatian" went out of use, first from official documents and gradually from linguistic literature. Today, the name Serbo-Croatian is a controversial issue due to history, politics, and the variable meaning of the word language. Many native speakers nowadays find the term politically incorrect or even offensive. Others, however, especially nostalgic speakers originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro, continue using the original language name, as they have studied it at school.

Linguists are divided on questions regarding whether the name is deprecated. It is still used, for lack of a more succinct alternative, to denote the "daughter" languages as a collectivity. An alternative name has emerged in official use abroad — Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian (BHS)

Mutually intelligible forms of it continue to be used under different names and standards in today’s Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and are still reasonably well understood in Macedonia and Slovenia. Whilst all in the latter two countries born before 1982 will be fluent in the language, many younger people will have sufficient command of the language mostly through popular and folk music on sattelite and cable television (or when hosting concerts) from the four countries which create the pivot.


[edit] History of linguistic issues

Throughout the history of the South Slavs, the vernacular, literature, and written language of the regions and ethnicities developed independently and diverged to a point.

From the point of view of genetic linguistics, Serbo-Croatian grew out of Neo-Štokavian dialects.

In the mid 19th century, Serbian (led by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić) and Croatian writers and linguists (represented in Illyrian movement led by Ljudevit Gaj and Đuro Daničić) decided to use the most widespread Štokavian dialect as a basis for their standard languages. Vuk standardized the Serbian Cyrillic script and Gaj and Daničić Croatian Latin script, on the basis of phonemes used in vernacular speech and the principle of purely phonetic spelling.

Some Neo-Štokavian Ekavian speakers at the time considered Ijekavian as Croatian as opposed to the Serbian Ekavian. (Vuk Stefanović-Karadžić: Mala srpska pesnarica, Vienna 1816.) However, many Serbs (around two million) speak Ijekavian, while some Croats (influenced by Kajkavian) speak Ekavian.

In 1850 Serbian and Croatian writers and linguists signed the Vienna agreement, in which they declared the will to create one common language.

Thus a bi-variant language appeared, which the Serbs officially called "Serbo-Croatian" and the Croats "Croatian or Serbian". The variants of a supposedly single language functioned in practice as different standard languages. The common phrase used to describe this situation was that Serbo-Croatian/Croatian or Serbian was a unified but not a unitary language.

With unification of the first Kingdom of Yugoslavia, (Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) the approach of Karadžić and the Illyrians became official. Due to the unitarian politics of king Aleksandar I Karađorđević, as of 1929 the official language of Yugoslavia was called "Yugoslavian" and all ethnic denominations erased.

In the communist-dominated second Yugoslavia, ethnic issues eased to a certain extent, but the language issue was still open. In 1954, a group of Serbian and Croatian linguists and writers, backed up by Matica srpska and Matica hrvatska signed the Novi Sad agreement which in the first article stated that:

The national language of Serbs, Croats and Montenegrins is one language. Thus, the literary language developed on its basis around two principal centers, Belgrade and Zagreb is unified, with two pronunciations, Ijekavian and Ekavian.

The Novi Sad Agreement was the basis of language politics in the second Yugoslavia. However, many Croats felt uneasy with it, as they viewed the "merging" of languages as an attempt at "Serbianisation" of Croatian idiom. Also, many of the constructs typical for Serbian idiom replaced more Croatian-based ones in Bosnia and Herzegovina media and politics and, gradually, vernacular speech. Some viewed it as a proof of Serbian hegemony in SFR Yugoslavia, and others as a natural process of language changes.

After the ethnic tensions in the 1970s and especially after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the ensuing war in the 1990s, most speakers decided to call their language either Serbian, Croatian or Bosnian.

[edit] Present situation

[edit] Contemporary names

Before (1920s) and after (1980s) the formal existence of similar ethnic/national/standard languages, people did and do not call the language Serbo-Croatian. They called and call it using their ethnic/national names:

For more information, see Differences in official languages in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has specified different Universal Decimal Classification (UDC) numbers for Croatian (UDC 862, abbreviation hr) and Serbian (UDC 861, abbreviation sr), while the "cover term" Serbo-Croatian is referenced as the combination of original signs, UDC 861/862, abbreviation sh. Furthermore, the ISO 639 standard specifies Bosnian language with abbreviations bos and bs.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia considers what it calls BCS (Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) to be the first language of all Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian defendants. The indictments, documents and verdicts of the ICTY are not written with a regard to consistent following of grammatical prescriptions — be they Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian.

[edit] Views of the linguists

Opinions of linguists in former Yugoslavia diverge.

[edit] Serbian linguists

  • The majority of mainstream Serbian linguists consider Serbian and Serbo-Croatian to be one language (mainly because of simple renaming of languages). A minority of Serbian linguists are of the opinion that Serbo-Croatian did exist, but has, in the meantime, dissolved. A small minority agree that a "Serbo-Croatian" language has never existed and that this term designates a Croatian variant of the Serbian language. "Hrvati se nisu zadovoljili samo time što su preuzeli srpski književni jezik, nego su, odmah posle Vukove smrti, činom bez presedana u istoriji bilo kog drugog jezika – srpskom nazivu u imenu jezika dodali i hrvatsko ime."/"Croats not only appropriated Serbian literary language, but have, immediately after the death of Vuk Karadžić, in the act unprecedented in the linguistic history, added to the Serbian appellation the Croatian name. ("Slovo o srpskom jeziku"/"Decree on the Serbian language")

[edit] Croatian linguists

  • The majority of Croatian linguists think that there was never anything like a unified Serbo-Croatian language, but two different standard languages that overlapped sometime in the course of history. Also, they claim that the language has never dissolved, since there was no Serbo-Croatian standard language. A minority of Croatian linguists deny that the Croatian standard language is based on the neo-Štokavian dialect. A more detailed discussion, incorporating arguments from the Croatian philology and contemporary linguistics, would be along the following lines:

One still finds many references to Serbo-Croatian, and proponents of Serbo-Croatian who deny the existence of Croatian (as well as Serbian and Bosnian) as a separate standard language. The usual argument generally goes along the following lines:

  • Standard Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian are almost completely mutually intelligible, sharing much vocabulary
  • Typologically and structurally, these languages have virtually the same grammar, i.e. morphology and syntax
  • The Serbo-Croatian language was "created" in the mid 19th century, and all subsequent attempts to dissolve its basic unity have not (yet) succeeded
  • The affirmation of distinct Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian languages is purely politically motivated
  • According to phonology, morphology and syntax, these languages are essentially one language because they are based on the same, Štokavian dialect.

However, these arguments all have flaws:

  • As far as structural similarity or even the identity of basic grammar is concerned, one might add that, apart from the aforementioned Urdu and Hindi cases, Malay and Indonesian are the same with regard to basic grammar, yet they are dutifully listed as different languages in classification manuals. Moreover, the basic grammar (morphology and syntax) is just one part of a theoretical description of a language: other fields (phonetics, phonology, word formation, semantics, pragmatics, stylistics, lexicology, etc.) give different theoretical linguistic descriptions and prescriptions for Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian (just as with Hindi and Urdu).
  • Since the Croatian language as recorded in Držić and Gundulić's works (1500s and 1600s) is virtually the same as the contemporary standard Croatian (understandable archaisms apart), it is evident that the 19th century formal standardization was just the final touch in the process that, as far as the Croatian language is concerned, had lasted more than three centuries. The radical break with the past, characteristic of modern Serbian (whose vernacular was likely not as similar to Croatian as it is today), is a trait completely at variance with Croatian linguistic history. In short, formal standardization processes for Croatian and Serbian had coincided chronologically (and, one could add, ideologically), but they haven't produced a unified standard language. Gundulić did not write in "Serbo-Croatian", nor did August Šenoa. Marko Marulić and Marin Držić wrote in a sophisticated idiom of the Croatian language, some 300/350 years before the "Serbo-Croatian" ideology appeared.

The topic of language with the writers from Dalmatia and Dubrovnik prior to the 19th century is somewhat blurred by the fact they by and large placed more emphasis on whether they were Slavic rather than Italic, given that Dalmatian city-states were then inhabited by those two main groups. There was less notable distinction being made between Croats and Serbs, and this, among other things, has been used as an argument to state that these people's literature is not solely Croatian heritage, thus undermining the argument that modern-day Croatian is based on old Croatian.

However, the major part of intellectuals and writers from Dalmatia who used the štokavian dialect and were of Catholic faith had explicitly expressed Croatian national affiliation, as far as mid 1500s and 1600s, some three hundred years before the Serbo-Croatian ideology had appeared. Their loyalty was first and foremost to the Catholic Christendom, but when they professed ethnic identity, they called it "Slovin" and "Illyrian" (a sort of forerunner of Catholic baroque pan-Slavism) and Croat — these 30-odd writers in the span of ca. 350 years themselves never mentioned Serb ethnic affiliation any time. A Croatian follower of Vuk Karadžić, Ivan Broz, noted that the Serbian affiliation was as foreign as Macedonian and Greek appellation at this time. Vatroslav Jagić pointed out in 1864:

"As I have mentioned in the preface, history knows only two national names in these parts—Croatian and Serbian. As far as Dubrovnik is concerned, the Serbian name was never in use; on the contrary, the Croatian name was frequently used and gladly referred to"
"At the end of the 15th century [in Dubrovnik and Dalmatia], sermons and poems were exquisitely crafted in the Croatian language by those men whose names are widely renowned by deep learning and piety."

(From The History of the Croatian language, Zagreb, 1864.)

[edit] Bosniak linguists

  • The majority of Bosniak linguists consider that the Serbo-Croatian language still exists and that it is based on the Bosnian idiom. A minority of Bosniak linguists think that Croats and Serbs have, historically, "misappropriated" the Bosnian language for their political and cultural agenda.

[edit] Political connotations

Nationalists have rather conflicting views about the language(s). The nationalists among the Croats conflictingly claim either that they speak entirely separate language from Serbs and Bosniaks or that these two peoples have, due to the longer lexicographic tradition among Croats, somehow "borrowed" their standard languages from them; Bosniak nationalists claim that both Croats and Serbs have "appropriated" Bosnian language, since Ljudevit Gaj and Vuk Karadžić preferred neoštokavian-ijekavian dialect, widely spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the basis for language standarization, whereas the nationalists among the Serbs claim either that any divergence in the language is artificial, or claim that the Štokavian dialect is theirs and the Čakavian Croats'— in more extreme formulations Croats have "taken" or "stolen" their language from the Serbs. Proponents of unity among Southern Slavs claim that there is a single language with normal dialectal variations. Moderate ordinary people are confused: sometimes, they express the opinion that languages of Bosniaks, Croats, Montenegrins and Serbs are different, but closely related languages; on other occasions, they say that they are mutually understandable variants of one language.

The term "Serbo-Croatian" (or synonyms) is not in official use in any of the successor countries.

In Serbia, Serbian language is the official one, while Croatian is also official in the province of Vojvodina. A large Bosniak minority is present in the southwest region of Sandžak, but the "official recognition" of Bosnian language is moot—<ref>Official communique, 27 December 2004 Serbian Ministry of Education official site (Serbian)</ref> it is an optional course in 1st and 2nd grade of the elementary school, while it is also in official use in the municipality of Novi Pazar<ref>Opštinski službeni glasnik opštine Novi Pazar, 30 April 2002, page 1</ref>. However, its nomenclature is controversial, as there is incentive that it is referred to as "Bosniak" (bošnjački) rather than "Bosnian" (bosanski) (see Bosnian language for details).

Croatian is the official language of Croatia, while Serbian is official in municipalities with significant Serb population. Bosnian is not official anywhere, and, as in Serbia, there is a tendency to refer to it as "Bosniak" instead.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, all three languages are recorded as official. However, confrontations have on occasion been absurd. The academic Muhamed Filipović in an interview to Slovenian television told of a local court in a Croatian district requesting a paid translator from Bosnian to Croatian before the trial could proceed.

[edit] Dialects

Main article: South Slavic languages

The primary dialects are named after the word for what. Štokavian (Štokavski) uses the word što or šta, Čakavian (čakavski) uses ča; Kajkavian (kajkavski), kaj. However, the Serbo-Croatian standard language as well as contemporary standard languages are based on Shtokavian, and Chakavian and Kajkavian were "adopted" into the classification more for political reasons. Torlakian (torlački) was regarded as an old Shtokavian dialect and not included explicitly, although many scholars now classify it as a separate dialect.

Furthermore, there are three ways of rendering the Proto-Slavic vowel jat. Čakavian mainly uses i, Kajkavian mainly uses e while the Štokavian dialect is broken down into a secondary subdivision based on whether ije, e or i is used. Only ije and e pronounces are standard; Serbo-Croatian and Serbian standards have both variants while Croatian and Bosnian have only Iyekavian (ije) variant.

Each of these primary and secondary dialectical units break down into subdialects and accents by region. In the past, it was not uncommon for individual villages to have some of their own words and phrases. However, throughout the twentieth century the various dialects have been strongly influenced by the Neo-Štokavian standards through mass media and public education, and much of the "local color" has been lost.

There is a basis for considering the three dialects (Kajkavian, Čakavian and Štokavian) as distinct tongues. However, since there are no clear-cut criteria for distinguishing a language from a dialect, and dialects are usually described in reference to standard languages, the notion of a diasystem is frequently used instead of Serbo-Croatian.

[edit] Rendering of yat

The Proto-Slavic vowel yat has changed over time and now has three distinct reflexes:

  • In Ekavian (ekavski), yat has morphed into the vowel e.
  • in Ikavian (ikavski), the vowel i.
  • in Ijekavian or Jekavian (ijekavski or jekavski), the diphthong ije or je, depending on whether the vowel was long or short.

However, when short yat is preceded by r, in most Ijekavian dialects it morphed into re or, occasionally, ri. Also, prefix prě ("trans-, over-") when yat is long passed to pre- in eastern Ijekavian dialects and to prije- in western; in Ikavian, it also evolved into pre- or prije- because of potential ambiguity with pri- ("approach, come close to"). For verbs that had -ět' in their infinitive, the past participle ending -ěl evolved into -io in Ijekavian.

The following are some examples:

English Predecessor Ekavian Ikavian Ijekavian Ijekavian formation
beautiful lěp lep lip lijep long ěije
faith věra vera vira vjera short ěje
time vrěme vreme vrime vrijeme long ěije
times vrěmena vremena vrimena vremena r + short ěre
crossing prělaz prelaz prelaz or
prelaz or
long prěpre or prije
village selo selo selo selo e in root, not ě
need trěbat' trebati tribati trebati r + short ěre
heat grějat' grejati grijati grijati r + short ěri
saw viděl video vidio vidio ělio

[edit] Grammar

Serbo-Croatian is a highly inflected language. Traditional grammars list seven cases for nouns and adjectives: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative, and instrumental, reflecting the original seven cases of Proto-Slavic, and indeed older forms of Serbo-Croatian itself. However, in modern Štokavian the locative has almost merged into dative (the only difference is based on accent in some cases), and the other cases can be shown declining; namely:

  • For all nouns and adjectives, Instr. = Dat. = Loc. (at least orthographically) in the plural: ženama, ženama, ženama; očima, očima, očima; rečima, rečima, rečima.
  • There is a strictly accentual difference between the Gen. sing. and Gen. plural of masculine and neuter nouns, which are otherwise homonyms (seljaka, seljaka) except that on occasion an "a" (which might or might not appear in the singular) is filled between the last letter of the root and the Gen. plural ending (kapitalizma, kapitalizama).
  • The old instrumental ending "ju" of the feminine consonant stems and in some cases the "a" of the genitive plural of certain other sorts of feminine nouns is fast yielding to "i": noći instead of noćju; borbi instead of boraba; and so forth.
  • Almost every number is indeclinable, and numbers after prepositions have not been declined for a long time.

Like most Slavic languages, there are three genders for nouns: masculine, feminine, and neuter, a distinction which is still present even in the plural (unlike Russian). They also have two numbers: singular and plural. However, some consider there to be three numbers (paucal, too), since (as in other Slavic languages) after two (dva, dvije/dve), three (tri) and four (četiri), and all numbers ending in them (e.g., twenty-two, ninety-three, one hundred four) the genitive singular is used, and after all other numbers five (pet) and up, the genitive plural is used. (The number one [jedan] is treated as an adjective.) Adjectives are placed in front of the noun they modify and must agree in both case and number with it.

There are seven tenses for verbs: past, present, future, exact future, aorist, imperfect, and plusquamperfect; and three moods: indicative, imperative, and conditional. However, the latter three tenses are typically only used in writing, and the time sequence of the exact future is more commonly formed through an alternative construction.

In addition, like most Slavic languages, the verb also has one of two aspects: perfective or imperfective. Most verbs come in pairs, with the perfective verb being created out of the imperfective by adding a prefix or making a stem change. This type of aspect is difficult to learn for most foreigners, including native English speakers, because it is both subtle and, at least among Indo-European languages, rare outside the Slavic branch. The imperfective aspect typically indicates that the action is unfinished, in progress, or repetitive; while the perfective aspect typically denotes that the action was completed, instantaneous, or of limited duration. Some tenses (namely, aorist and imperfect) favor a particular aspect. Actually, aspects "compensate" for the relative lack of tenses, because aspect of the verb determines whether the act is completed or in progress in the referred time.

[edit] Writing systems

Through history, this language has been written in a number of writing systems:

The oldest preserved text written completely in the Latin alphabet is "Red i zakon sestara reda Svetog Dominika", from 1345.

Today, it is written in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Serbian and Bosnian use both alphabets, while Croatian uses only the Latin.

The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was revised by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić in the 19th century.

The Croatian Latin alphabet (Gajica) followed suit shortly afterwards, when Ljudevit Gaj defined it as standard Latin with five extra letters that had diacritical marks, apparently borrowing much from Czech, but also from Polish, and inventing the uniquely Croatian digraphs "lj", "nj" and "dž".

In both cases, spelling is nearly phonetic and spellings in the two alphabets generally map to each other one-to-one:

Latin to Cyrillic

A a B b C c Č č Ć ć D d Đ đ E e F f G g H h I i J j K k
А а Б б Ц ц Ч ч Ћ ћ Д д Џ џ Ђ ђ Е е Ф ф Г г Х х И и Ј ј К к
L l Lj lj M m N n Nj nj O o P p R r S s Š š T t U u V v Z z Ž ž
Л л Љ љ М м Н н Њ њ О о П п Р р С с Ш ш Т т У у В в З з Ж ж

Cyrillic to Latin

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Ђ ђ Е е Ж ж З з И и Ј ј К к Л л Љ љ М м
A a B b V v G g D d Đ đ E e Ž ž Z z I i J j K k L l Lj lj M m
Н н Њ њ О о П п Р р С с Т т Ћ ћ У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Џ џ Ш ш
N n Nj nj O o P p R r S s T t Ć ć U u F f H h C c Č Č Š š

Sample collation
Latin Cyrillic
Ina Ина
Injekcija Инјекција
Inverzija Инверзија
Inje Иње

The digraphs Lj, Nj and represent distinct phonemes and are considered to be single letters. In crosswords, they are put into a single square, and in sorting, lj follows lz and nj follows nz, except in a few words where the individual letters are pronounced separately, for instance "nadživ(j)eti" (to outlive), which is composed of the prefix nad- and the verb živ(j)eti. The Cyrillic version avoids the ambiguity by providing a unique single letter for each sound.

Đ used to be commonly written as Dj on typewriters, but that practice led to too many ambiguities. It is also used on car license plates. Today Dj is often used again in place of Đ on the Internet.

[edit] Phonology

[edit] Vowels

The Serbo-Croatian vowel system is simple, with only five vowels. All vowels are monophthongs. The oral vowels are as follows:

Latin script Cyrillic script IPA Description English approximation
a а /a/ open front unrounded father
i и /i/ close front unrounded seek
e е /ɛ/ open-mid front unrounded ten
o о /ɔ/ open-mid back rounded caught (British)
u у /u/ closed back rounded boom

[edit] Consonants

The consonant system is more complicated, and its characteristic features are series of affricate and palatal consonants. As in English, voicedness is phonemic, but aspiration is not.

Latin script Cyrillic script IPA Description English approximation
r р /r/ alveolar trill rolled (vibrating) r as in carramba
v в /ʋ/ labiodental approximant vase
j ј /j/ palatal approximant yes
l л /l/ lateral alveolar approximant lock
lj љ /ʎ/ palatal lateral approximant volume
m м /m/ bilabial nasal man
n н /n/ alveolar nasal not
nj њ /ɲ/ palatal nasal canyon
f ф /f/ voiceless labiodental fricative phase
s с /s/ voiceless alveolar fricative some
z з /z/ voiced alveolar fricative zero
š ш /ʃ/ voiceless postalveolar fricative sheer
ž ж /ʒ/ voiced postalveolar fricative vision
h х /x/ voiceless velar fricative loch
c ц /ʦ/ voiceless alveolar affricate pots
џ /ʤ/ voiced postalveolar affricate dodge
č ч /ʧ/ voiceless postalveolar affricate chair
đ ђ /ʥ/ voiced alveolo-palatal affricate schedule
ć ћ /ʨ/ voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate nature
b б /b/ voiced bilabial plosive abuse
p п /p/ voiceless bilabial plosive top
d д /d/ voiced alveolar plosive dog
t т /t/ voiceless alveolar plosive talk
g г /g/ voiced velar plosive god
k к /k/ voiceless velar plosive duck

In consonant clusters all consonants are either voiced or voiceless. All the consonants are voiced (if the last consonant is normally voiced) or voiceless (if the last consonant is normally voiceless). This rule does not apply to approximants — a consonant cluster may contain voiced approximants and voiceless consonants; as well as to foreign words (Washington would be transcribed as VašinGton/ВашинГтон), personal names and when consonants are not inside of one syllable.

R can be syllabic, playing the role of a vowel in certain words (occasionally, it can even have a long accent). For example, the tongue-twister na vrh brda vrba mrda involves four words with syllabic r. A similar feature exists in Czech, Slovak and Macedonian.

[edit] Stress

Apart from Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian (with Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian) is the only Slavic language with a pitch accent system. This feature is rare in Europe; the few other examples include Swedish, Welsh, the Limbourg dialect of Dutch, and Ancient Greek. Serbo-Croatian has four types of accent; in addition, unstressed syllables may be short or long.

Serbo-Croatian stress system
Stress type Symbol Diacritic English approximation
Short falling ȉ Double Grave sit
Short rising ì Grave sitting
Long falling î Circumflex<ref>Actually used diacritic is an arch or an "upside-down breve" rather than a circumflex; however, the symbol is not present in Unicode tables
Long rising í Acute leaving
Long unstressed ī Macron fifties

<references />

General stress rules in the standard language:

  • 1) Monosyllabic words may have only a falling stress (or no stress at all — enclitics)
  • 2) Falling stress may occur only on the first syllable of polysyllabic words
  • 3) Stress can never occur on the last syllable of polysyllabic words

In practice, these rules are not strictly obeyed; for example, most speakers will pronounce paradajz and asistent instead of standard paradajz and asistent (rule 3). Stress differs across local dialects and even across idiolects; it is the primary distinguishing feature by which a trained ear recognizes the origin of a speaker (even without knowing about underlying stress theory). Luckily, there are not many minimal pairs where an error in accentuation can lead to misunderstanding.

There are no other rules of stress placement, thus the stress of every word must be learned individually; stress diacritics are never indicated outside of linguistic or learning literature. In general, stress leans towards the first syllable. Furthermore, in declension and conjugation, stress shifts are very frequent, both in type and position.

Comparative linguistics nevertheless offers some rules. So if one compares Serbo-Croatian words to the similar Russian words, the stress in Russian will be on the following syllable if the Serbo-Croatian word has rising stress and vice versa.<!—-I mean <<<this<<< sentence.—-> That even holds in comparing the same words in neo-Štokavian and either Čakavian or old Štokavian.

[edit] Orthography

Serbo-Croatian orthography is supposed to be completely phonetic. Thus, every word is allegedly spelled exactly as it is pronounced. In practice, the writing system does not take into account allophones which occur as result of interaction between words:

  • bit će — pronounced biće (and only written separately in Croatian)
  • od toga — pronounced otoga, esp. in rapid speech
  • iz čega — pronounced iščega

Also, there are some exceptions, mostly applied to foreign words and compounds, that favor morphological/etymological over phonetical spelling:

  • postdiplomski (postgraduate) — pronounced pozdiplomski

One systemic exception is that the consonant clusters ds and do not change into ts and (although d tends to be unvoiced in normal speech in such clusters):

  • predstava (show)
  • odštampati (to print)

Only a few words are intentionally "misspelled", mostly in order to resolve ambiguity:

  • šeststo (six hundred) — pronounced šesto (to avoid confusion with "šesto" [sixth])
  • prstni (adj., finger) — pronounced prsni (to avoid confusion with "prsni" [adj., chest])

[edit] Demographics

According to data collected from various census bureaus and administrative agencies the total number of native Serbo-Croatian speakers in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro is about 16 million. Serbian is spoken by about 9 million mostly in Serbia (6.7m), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1.4m) and Montenegro. (0.4m). Croatian is spoken by roughly 4.7 million including by 575,000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian, the youngest member of the Serbo-Croatian family is spoken by 2.2 million including about 220,000 in Serbia and Montenegro. Moreover, 955,000 people speak Serbo-Croatian as a second language in those areas where it is official. In Croatia, 170,000 mostly Italians and Hungarians use it as a second language. In Bosnia and Herzegovina about 25,000 Roma use it as a second language. Serbia and Montenegro, however, has 760,000 second-language speakers of Serbian, including Hungarians in Vojvodina and the 400,000 estimated Roma. It is not known how many Kosovar Albanians are familiar with Serbian. Outside of the Balkans, over 2 million speak it natively mostly in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Sweden and the United States. In addition, the language is reasonably understood in Slovenia and Macedonia, since they were Yugoslav republics. Furthermore, the popularity of singers singing in Bosnian, Croatian, or Serbian, has helped maintain the presence of the language in the Yugoslav successor states, where it is not spoken as a first language.

[edit] Sources

  • Magner, Thomas F.: Zagreb Kajkavian dialect. Pennsylvania State University, 1966
  • Magner, Thomas F.: Introduction to the Croatian and Serbian Language (Revised ed.). Pennsylvania State University, 1991
  • Murray Despalatović, Elinor: Ljudevit Gaj and the Illyrian Movement. Columbia University Press, 1975.
  • Franolić, Branko: A Historical Survey of Literary Croatian, Nouvelles éditions latines, Paris, 1984.
  • Franolić, Branko: Language Policy in Yugoslavia with special reference to Croatian, Paris, Nouvelles Editions Latines 1988
  • Banac, Ivo: Main Trends in the Croatian Language Question, Yale University Press, 1984
  • Ivić, Pavle: Die serbokroatischen Dialekte, the Hague, 1958
  • Rešetar, Milan: Der Schtokawische Dialekt, Berlin, 1908

[edit] Differences to similar languages

Main article: Differences in official languages in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia

[edit] See also

Slavic languages
East Slavic Belarusian | Old East Slavic † | Old Novgorod dialect † | Russian | Rusyn (Carpathians) | Ruthenian † | Ukrainian
West Slavic Czech | Kashubian | Knaanic † | Lower Sorbian | Pannonian Rusyn | Polabian † | Polish | Pomeranian † | Slovak | Slovincian † | Upper Sorbian
South Slavic Banat Bulgarian | Bulgarian | Church Slavic | Macedonian | Old Church Slavonic † | Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Bunjevac, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian) | Slavic (Greece) | Slovenian
Other Proto-Slavic † | Russenorsk † | Slavoserbian † | Slovio

[edit] External links

bs:Srpsko-hrvatski jezik bg:Сърбохърватски език ca:Serbocroat cs:Srbochorvatština da:Serbokroatisk de:Serbokroatische Sprache es:Idioma serbocroata eo:Serbokroata lingvo fr:Serbo-croate ko:세르보크로아티아어 hr:Srpskohrvatski jezik it:Lingua serbo-croata he:סרבו-קרואטית csb:Serbòchòrwacczi jãzëk li:Servokroatisch hu:Szerbhorvát nyelv nl:Servokroatisch ja:セルビア・クロアチア語 no:Serbokroatisk nn:Serbokroatisk språk oc:Sèrbocroat nds:Serbokroaatsch pl:Język serbsko-chorwacki pt:Língua servo-croata ro:Limba sârbocroată ru:Сербохорватский язык sl:Srbohrvaščina sr:Српскохрватски језик sh:Srpskohrvatski jezik fi:Serbokroatia sv:Serbokroatiska zh:塞尔维亚-克罗地亚语


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