Bosnian language

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Kosovo Croatia Montenegro North Macedonia Serbia
North MacedoniaNorth Macedonia 
Official status
Official language in Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Kosovo (regional) Montenegro (regional)
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


The Bosnian language (own name bosanski jezik / босански језик) is a standard variety from the South Slavic branch of the Slavic languages and, like Croatian and Serbian, is based on a štokavian dialect.

Bosnian is spoken by around 1.87 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina , where it is one of the three official languages , as the native language of the Bosniaks . It is also spoken by around 168,000 people in Serbia and Montenegro , by around 150,000 emigrants in Western Europe and the USA , and by tens of thousands of resettlers in Turkey . The official scripts of Bosnia and Herzegovina are Cyrillic and Latin . The term "Bosnian" is specified in the ISO-639 standard .

According to both grammatical criteria and vocabulary, the Bosnian language is so similar to the Croatian and Serbian languages ​​that all Bosnian speakers can easily communicate with speakers of Serbian and Croatian (see also: Declaration on the common language ). Because of this, it is politically controversial whether Bosnian is an independent language or a national variety of Serbo-Croatian . Due to the shared history of Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia and Serbia, the view of the independence of the language is always politically colored and is therefore assessed differently depending on the political point of view.


Old Bosnian alphabets: Bosančica (above) and Arebica (below) compared with modern Latinica
Title page of the book of the Franciscan Brother Matija Divković , written in the Bosančica script
School book in Latin and Bosnian from 1827
Bosnian grammar, 1890

In the course of its historical development, Bosnian has also used various other alphabets in addition to Latin and Cyrillic script: Bosančica (a special Cyrillic script that was mainly used in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also in Dalmatia; also called Begovica), Arebica (an extended Arabic script adapted to the Bosnian alphabet) and in some areas also the Glagolitic alphabet . The dialects spoken in Bosnia are linguistically more homogeneous than those in Croatia or Serbia, but for historical reasons it was neglected to standardize the language during the 19th century. The first Bosnian dictionary was a Bosnian- Turkish dictionary by Muhamed Hevaji Uskufi from 1631.

While Uskufi's work remained unique, Croatian dictionaries , for example, were regularly expanded and reissued. The main reasons for this were:

  • The Bosniak elite and many writers preferred Arabic , Turkish or Persian as the literary language.
  • The Bosniak national identity was developed relatively late in comparison to the Croatian or Serbian and did not try to differentiate itself through the language.

The reason for the latter point is probably the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina for a long time belonged alternately to the Occident and then to the Orient . This also explains the origin of the Arabic words that are otherwise rarely found in a Slavic language. Since the Middle Ages were more culturally and intellectually advanced in the Middle Ages than the Occident, it is not surprising that the elite preferred oriental languages ​​- most of them came from that very area.

The codifications of the Bosnian language during the 19th and 20th centuries were mostly developed outside of Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the turn of the century there was the so-called " Bosnian Renaissance ", on which the Bosnian language is based to this day: Above all, terms were standardized that were more similar to the Croatian than the Serbian form, that is, the western-štokavian-ijekavian form was also used Latin script as a rule, but many specifically Bosnian terms were also incorporated. The most important Bosnian authors of this period who contributed to the standardization of the language were Safvet-beg Bašagić, Musa Ćazim Ćatić and Edhem Mulabdić .

Only the term Serbo-Croatian was used during the period of socialist Yugoslavia . Within Serbo-Croatian, however, Serbian predominated, with the Latin script being retained.

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia into different nation states, the forms previously referred to as variants have been recognized as different languages. In Bosnian, the rules from the time before the First World War ("Bosnian Renaissance") were largely restored.

Compared to Serbian and Croatian, Bosnian is distinguished primarily by a slightly higher number of foreign and loan words from Turkish , Arabic and Persian ( Turzisms ). In addition, the emphasis on the letter 'h' is more pronounced than in the other two South Slavic languages.

Differences from other standard varieties


The Bosnian spelling is largely similar to Croatian or Serbian. A frequent occurring difference is in using the future form ( Futur given). While in Serbian the infinitive is merged with the auxiliary word ću , in Bosnian and Croatian these words are written separately, e.g. B.

  • Uradit ću to. (Bosnian / Croatian)
  • Uradiću to. (Montenegrin / Serbian)

Another difference is that foreign-language proper names in Bosnian are reproduced once in the original, unchanged spelling (e.g. New York ), at another time they are transcribed (e.g. Minhen ), while these words in Serbian are always transcribed ( Nju Jork ) and in Croatian are always used in the original ( Munich ).


The Bosnian language (as well as Croatian for the most part) exclusively uses the Ijekavian pronunciation, which is also used in Serbian in addition to the ekavian which is predominant there, e.g. B .:

  • Wind: v j etar (Ijekavian) - vetar (Ekavian)
  • Milk: ml ij eko (Ijekavian) - mleko (Ekavian)
  • want: ht j eti (Ijekavian) - hteti (Ekavian)

In addition, the 'h' is permitted in more combinations, partly as a reflex of an old Slavic velar:

  • easy: la h ko (Bosnian) - lako (Croatian / Serbian)
  • soft: me h ko (Bosnian) - meko (Croatian / Serbian)
  • Coffee: ka h va (Bosnian) - kava (Croatian) - kafa (Serbian)
  • Tobacco: du h an (Bosnian / Croatian) - du v an (Serbian)
  • cooking: ku h ati (Bosnian / Croatian) - ku v ati (Serbian)
  • dry: su h o (Bosnian / Croatian) - su v o (Serbian)

There are some differences in loanwords, for example in derived verbs:

  • organize: organiz irati (Bosnian / Croatian) - organiz ovati (Serbian)
  • realize: realiz irati (Bosnian / Croatian) - realiz ovati (Serbian)

Some words in Bosnian - as well as in Serbian - have a grammatically feminine gender, while in Croatian they are grammatically masculine , e.g. B .:

  • Planet: planet a (Bosnian / Serbian), planet (Croatian)

A number of other morphological differences are difficult to classify systematically. Here are some examples:

  • Period : t a čka (Bosnian / Serbian) - t o čka (Croatian)
  • correct: t a čno (Bosnian / Serbian) - t o čno (Croatian)
  • Student: student (the same in all languages), however
  • Student: student ica (Bosnian / Croatian) - studentkinja (Serbian)
  • Professor (male): profesor (the same in all languages), however
  • Professor (female): profesor ica (Bosnian / Croatian) - profesorka (Serbian)
  • Europe: E v ropa (Bosnian / Serbian) - E u ropa (Croatian), but
  • Euro: e u ro (Bosnian / Croatian) - e v ro (Serbian)


There are some words in Bosnian that are fundamentally different from Croatian or Serbian words, many of them with Turkish or Arabic word origins. On the other hand, there are vocabulary that prefer either the Croatian or the Serbian form. There is no learnable rule in which case the Croatian and in which case the Serbian version should be used. Here are a few more examples:

German Bosnian Croatian Serbian
history historija povijest istorija
Watchmaker sahadžija urar časovničar
table sto proud sto
garden bašča, bašta, vrt vrt Basta
loaf hljeb crude hleb
rice riža riža pirinač
spinach spinach spinach spanać
Carrot / carrot mrkva mrkva šargarepa
Beans grah grah pasulj
Corporation dioničko društvo dioničko društvo akcionarsko društvo
week sedmica, hefta tjedan nedelja
Train voz vlak voz
thousand hiljada tisuća hiljada
music muzika glazba muzika
salt so Sol so
pepper beaver papar beaver
coffee kahva kava kafa
rope konop konop, konopa kanap, kanapa
Cage kafez kavez kavez
window prozor, pendžer prozor, oblok prozor
grandmother nana, nena baka baba
Papa tata, babo, baba tata, ćaća tata
Spain Španija Španjolska Španija
Spanish španski, španjolski španjolski španski

Month names in Bosnian are similar to those in German, whereas Croatian month names are based on old Slavic seasons. According to the regulations, Croatian month names can be used as synonyms, which is rarely done in practice (e.g. daily newspapers use both month names). In Serbian, the month names are largely similar to Bosnian, with three exceptions:

German Bosnian Serbian
June jun i jun
July jul i jul
August a u gust a v gust


In Bosnia and Herzegovina (but also in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro), the accentuation, i.e. the emphasis on words, is very differentiated depending on the region.

The emphasis of the words is therefore not tied to standard languages, be it Bosnian, Croatian or Serbian, but to the different regions.


In Croatian, after modal auxiliary verbs, the infinitive construction is mostly chosen, which in Bosnian and Serbian is often paraphrased as “da” (that). In Bosnian, however, both variants are generally allowed, e.g. B.

  • Bosnian / Serbian: Moram da radim ("I have to work", literally "I have to work")
  • Croatian: Moram raditi ("I have to work")

There are also differences in number words in the Bosnian language:

  • Bosnian (and mainly Croatian): četv e rica muškaraca, Serbian: četv o rica muškaraca (four men)
  • Bosnian (and mainly Croatian): pet e ro djece, Serbian: pet o ro dece (five children)
  • Bosnian (and mainly Croatian): dv ije minut e , Serbian: dv a minut a (two minutes)

Alphabet and pronunciation

The Bosnian alphabet has 30 letters:

a, b, c, č, ć, d, dž, đ, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, lj, m, n, nj, o, p, r, s, š, t, u, v, z, ž.

The letters q, w, x, y only appear in proper names in a foreign language, which is especially noticeable with foreign words (e.g. phoenix = feni ks , not feni x ). The digraphs dž, lj and nj are each treated as a single letter in the alphabetical order. There is only a very small number of words in which these groups of characters denote two separate sounds and must therefore be treated as two letters (e.g. “nadživjeti” - someone survive).

The majority of letters are generally pronounced as in German.

Letter Phonetic spelling description
a / ⁠ a ⁠ / like German a
b / ⁠ b ⁠ / always voiced
c / ⁠ ts ⁠ / always / ts /, like German z
č / ⁠ t͡ʃ ⁠ / ch
ć / t͡ɕ / alveolo-palatal; Pronunciation as in ciao ; often difficult to distinguish from č
d / ⁠ d ⁠ / always voiced
/ d͡ʒ / like in the jungle
đ / d͡ʑ / alveolo-palatal; very soft dj , like in the magy aren
e / ⁠ ɛ ⁠ / (in comparison with the German) always open
f / ⁠ f ⁠ / always voiced f
G / ⁠ ɡ ⁠ / always voiced
H / ⁠ x ⁠ / always back "ah" -H, quite weak friction
i / ⁠ i ⁠ / like German i
j / ⁠ j ⁠ / often pronounced like a short, unstressed i
k / ⁠ k ⁠ / less aspirated than in German
l / ⁠ l ⁠ / duller ( velar ) than in German; German l is often misinterpreted as lj
lj / ⁠ ʎ ⁠ / fused into one sound: palatal lateral approximant
m / ⁠ m ⁠ / like German m
n / ⁠ n ⁠ / like German n
nj / ⁠ ɲ ⁠ / fused into one sound: voiced palatal nasal
O / ⁠ ɔ ⁠ / (in comparison with the German) always open
p / ⁠ p ⁠ / less aspirated than in German
r / ⁠ r ⁠ / rolled tongue-r. Can also form a syllable as a vowel ( syllable ) R and be long or short, stressed or unstressed. Example: / kr̩k / ( Krk )
s / ⁠ s ⁠ / always voiceless like German ß
š / ⁠ ʃ ⁠ / sch
t / ⁠ t ⁠ / less aspirated than in German
u / ⁠ u ⁠ / like German u
v / ⁠ ʋ ⁠ / always voiced like German w
z / ⁠ z ⁠ / voiced s like in salt or soup
ž / ⁠ ʒ ⁠ / voiced sh like the "J" in blinds or journal


From a grammatical point of view, Bosnian has seven cases ( case ): nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, instrumental and locative. The grammar is - with a few exceptions - almost identical to that of Croatian and Serbian.

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

Svi ljudi se rađaju slobodni i jednaki po dostojanstvu i pravima. Oni su obdareni razumom i sviješću i trebaju postupati jedni prema drugima u duhu bratstva.

“All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should meet one another in a spirit of brotherhood. "


The term “Bosnian language” (Bosn. Bosanski jezik ) is partly controversial. Some Serbian or Croatian currents prefer the term "Bosniak language" ( bošnjački jezik ) because, in their opinion, it is not the language of all Bosnians, but only that of the Bosniaks, while the Bosnian Serbs and Croats use their language as "Serbian" or "Croatian". However, such positions often stem from political rather than linguistic arguments.

However, the term "Bosnian" is internationally recognized and is also used in the Dayton Treaty .


  • Daniel Bunčić: The (re-) nationalization of Serbo-Croatian standards . In: Sebastian Kempgen (Hrsg.): German contributions to the 14th International Slavist Congress . Ohrid, 2008 (=  World of Slaves ). Otto Sagner, Munich 2008, OCLC 238795822 , p. 89-102 .
  • Bernhard Gröschel : Bosnian or Bosniak? On the glottonymic, language-political and language-legal fragmentation of Serbo-Croatian. In: Ulrich Hermann Waßner (Ed.): Lingua et linguae . Festschrift for Clemens-Peter Herbermann on his 60th birthday (=  Bochum contributions to semiotics ). nF, 6. Shaker, Aachen 2001, ISBN 978-3-8265-8497-8 , p. 159-188 .
  • Enisa Kafadar: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian - How do you actually speak in Bosnia-Herzegovina? In: Beate Henn-Memmesheimer, Joachim Franz (ed.): The order of the standard and the differentiation of the discourses . Part 1. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 978-3-631-59917-4 , p. 95-106 ( online [accessed February 23, 2013]).
  • Snježana Kordić : National varieties of the Serbo-Croatian language . In: Biljana Golubović, Jochen Raecke (eds.): Bosnian - Croatian - Serbian as foreign languages ​​at the universities of the world (=  The world of the Slavs, anthologies - Sborniki ). tape 31 . Sagner, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-86688-032-0 , pp. 93-102 ( Online [PDF; 1.3 MB ; accessed on August 2, 2010]).
  • Snježana Kordić : Language (s) politics: Enlighten or conceal? In: Saša Gavrić (Ed.): Language (s) politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in German-speaking countries . Anthology for the conference of the same name on March 22, 2011 in Sarajevo. Goethe-Institut Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austrian Embassy, ​​Swiss Embassy, ​​Sarajevo 2011, ISBN 978-9958-19-591-4 , p. 68–75 ( Online [PDF; 1.1 MB ; accessed on January 7, 2012]).
  • Miloš Okuka: One language - many heirs: language policy as an instrument of nationalization in ex-Yugoslavia. Wieser, Klagenfurt 1998, ISBN 3-85129-249-9 .
  • Otto Kronsteiner : Plea for the language name Bosnian. In: The Slavonic Languages Volume 33, Salzburg 1993, I-VII.
  • Dareg A. Zabarah: Bosnian on the way to the standard language. A synchronous and diachronic analysis of the language situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. VDM, Saarbrücken 2008, ISBN 978-3-8364-8141-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. "Bosnia and Herzegovina - Guidelines for the Use of Language and Writing in the Public Service Authority Accessed 08/18/20.
  2. ^ "Languages ​​of Bosnia and Herzegovina Accessed 08/18/20.
  3. ^ "Languages ​​of Bosnia and Herzegovina Accessed 08/18/20.
  4. ^ "Languages ​​of Bosnia and Herzegovina Accessed 08/18/20.
  5. ^ "Languages ​​of Bosnia and Herzegovina Accessed 08/18/20.
  6. John Frederick Bailyn: To what degree are Croatian and Serbian the same language? Evidence from a Translation Study . In: Journal of Slavic Linguistics . tape 18 , no. 2 , 2010, ISSN  1068-2090 , p. 181–219 ( online [PDF; accessed on October 11, 2019]): "An examination of all the major 'levels' of language shows that BCS is clearly a single language with a single grammatical system."
  7. Danko Šipka: Lexical layers of identity: words, meaning, and culture in the Slavic languages . Cambridge University Press, New York 2019, ISBN 978-953-313-086-6 , pp. 166 , doi : 10.1017 / 9781108685795 : "Lexical differences between the ethnic variants are extremely limited, even when compared with those between closely related Slavic languages ​​(such as standard Czech and Slovak, Bulgarian and Macedonian), and grammatical differences are even less pronounced. More importantly, complete understanding between the ethnic variants of the standard language makes translation and second language teaching impossible. "
  8. Emira Mešanović-Meša: Kontrastivna analiza bosanskog, hrvatskog i srpskog jezika. Sarajevo, 2011, p. 15f.