Croatian language

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Croatian (hrvatski)

Spoken in

CroatiaCroatia Croatia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Vojvodina ( Serbia ), Boka Kotorska ( Montenegro ), Baranya ( Hungary ), Burgenland ( Austria )
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina 
speaker approx. 7 million (including 4 million in Croatia)
Official status
Official language in CroatiaCroatia Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina Montenegro (regional) Hungary (regional) Austria (regional) Serbia (regional) European Union
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina 
European UnionEuropean Union 
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3

hrv, hbs (macro language Croatian-Bosnian-Serbian)

The Croatian language (Croatian hrvatski jezik ) is a standard variety from the South Slavic branch of the Slavic languages and, like Bosnian and Serbian, is based on a štokavian dialect.

Individual sciences that deal in particular with the Croatian language are Croatian Studies (occasionally also Serbo-Croatian Studies ) and Slavic Studies . When Croatia joined the EU on July 1, 2013, the Croatian language became the 24th official language of the European Union .

In terms of grammatical criteria, vocabulary and pronunciation, the Croatian language is so similar to Serbian and Bosnian that Croatian speakers can easily communicate with speakers of Bosnian and Serbian (see also: Differences between the standard Serbo-Croatian varieties ).

Spread and dialects

Spread of the dialects

The standard Croatian language is based on the Neoštokavian dialect , but also includes influences from the Kajkavian and čakavian dialects. Croatian is written with the Latin alphabet supplemented by the letters Ć and Đ and a few letters with Hatschek .

Since the standard language differences between Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro are smaller than between Germany and Austria and the mutual intelligibility between the Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin standard varieties is higher than between the standard varieties of English , French , German or Spanish , Many Slavists and sociolinguists, especially outside of the former Yugoslavia, argue that these could be seen as varieties of a common pluricentric language known as Serbo-Croatian .

The Burgenland- Croatian (whose standard variety is predominantly based on Cakavian ) and Moliseslavic (which goes back to an štokavian dialect that was brought to Italy centuries ago and was subsequently strongly influenced by the surrounding Italian varieties) differ significantly from standard Croatian , which is why they are not considered varieties of Croatian can be viewed.

Croatian is believed to be spoken by around 7 million people. In the 2001 census, 4,265,081 people (96.12% of the population) in Croatia said Croatian as their mother tongue . In addition, there are native speakers in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Vojvodina , among Croatian immigrants from Yugoslavia in Slovenia and in the Croatian diaspora, especially in Central Europe ( Germany , Austria , Switzerland ), Italy , North America ( United States , Canada ) , South America (including Argentina , Chile , Bolivia ) as well as Australia and New Zealand .

It is the official language of Croatia , one (of the three) official languages ​​in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one of the six official minority languages ​​in Vojvodina in Serbia .

The dialects of Croatian are divided into three major groups, which are named after the respective form of the question word what (ča, kaj, što) :

Štokavian is also spoken by the Bosniaks and the majority of Serbs and forms the basis of the Croatian as well as the standard Bosnian and Serbian languages.

Alphabet and pronunciation

Alphabet and orthography

The language is written with the Latin alphabet with some special characters (by adding diacritical marks ). The Croatian alphabet has 30 letters:

A. B. C. Č Ć D. Đ E.
F. G H I. J K L. LJ M.
N NJ O P (Q) R. S. Š T
U V (W) (X) (Y) Z Ž
Lower case
a b c č ć d đ e
f G H i j k l lj m
n nj O p (q) r s š t
u v (w) (x) (y) z ž

The letters q, w, x and y only appear in proper names of foreign language origin and sometimes in non-integrated foreign words. If necessary, they are sorted into the alphabet as shown above. 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 designate two separate sounds and therefore two letters (must be treated as such. B. izvanjezični 'non-verbally, extralinguistisch' where between izvan- 'outside' and -jezični ' linguistically 'there is a morphemic fugue ).

Letter HTML
Č & # 268;
č & # 269;
Ć & # 262;
ć & # 263;
Đ & # 272;
đ & # 273;
Š & # 352;
š & # 353;
Ž & # 381;
ž & # 382;

The spelling of Croatian is basically phonematic, that is, each phoneme is represented by exactly one of the graphemes of the alphabet. Regular assimilations in the interior of a word are also rendered spelling in most cases, but there are exceptions. New words of foreign origin are generally adapted to the Croatian orthography when they are borrowed into Croatian by being phonetically transcribed with those Croatian graphemes that most closely match the pronunciation in the source language, e.g. B. English Design > Croatian dizajn . However, new loanwords from languages ​​with Latin script sometimes appear in the original spelling. Foreign-language proper names from languages ​​with Latin script are reproduced in Croatian - as in most European languages ​​with Latin script - in the original spelling, unless - as is often the case with known geographical names - a separate Croatian name form exists; Foreign-language proper names from languages ​​that use other than the Latin script, on the other hand, are transcribed in the form already described. In the case of surnames of foreign origin that are borne by Croatian namesake, and also of some recently borrowed first names of foreign origin, the spelling varies between the original spelling and a phonetically determined adaptation, whereby the respective individual spelling of the individual is normatively decisive, e.g. B. Jennifer, but sometimes also Dženifer .

The special characters can be represented with entities (be careful not to confuse the Đ with the Icelandic Ð ).

Segmental phonemes

Letter Phonetic spelling description example
a / ⁠ a ⁠ / unrounded open front tongue vowel , like German a
  • akademija "Academy"
b / ⁠ b ⁠ / voiced bilabial plosive , like German b
  • broj "number"
c / ⁠ ts ⁠ / voiceless affricates , always / ts /, like German tz; z in cat; sugar
  • cipela "shoe"
č / ⁠ ⁠ / unvoiced affricates as dt. lish in mud, tschüs; the tongue is pressed against the roof of the mouth
  • čempres "cypress"
ć / / voiceless affricates , theoretically similar to tch in bun or tj in tja; the tongue is pressed towards the front of the mouth; However, for a large part of the speaker with č / ⁠ ⁠ / collapsed to a phoneme
  • kraljević "prince"
d / ⁠ d ⁠ / Voiced alveolar plosive , like German d
  • daska "board"
/ ⁠ ⁠ / voiced affricates, voiced equivalent of č as in English j in john
  • džep "bag"
đ / / voiced affricates, very soft dj; However, for a large part of the speaker with dž / ⁠ ⁠ / collapsed to a phoneme
  • đak "student"
e / ⁠ ɛ ⁠ / unrounded half-open front tongue vowel , (compared to German) always open e
  • meso "meat"
f / ⁠ f ⁠ / voiceless labiodental fricative , like German f
  • fonetika "Phonetik"
G / ⁠ ɡ ⁠ / voiced velar plosive , like German g
  • degree "city"
H / ⁠ x ⁠ / voiceless velar fricative , very weak friction, like German ch in ach , is always pronounced
  • himna "hymn"
  • Hrvatska "Croatia"
i / ⁠ i ⁠ / unrounded closed front tongue vowel , like German i
  • igla "needle"
j / ⁠ j ⁠ / Voiced palatal approximant , like German j in Jagd
  • jastreb "hawk"
k / ⁠ k ⁠ / voiceless velar plosive , less aspirated than in German
  • koza "goat"
l / ⁠ l ⁠ / Voiced lateral alveolar approximant , more dull ( velar ) than in German
  • magla "fog"
lj / ⁠ ʎ ⁠ / voiced lateral palatal approximant , fused into one sound, like the Italian gli in figlio
  • kralj "king"
m / ⁠ m ⁠ / voiced bilabial nasal , like German m
  • molitva "prayer"
n / ⁠ n ⁠ / voiced alveolar nasal , like German n
  • novine "newspaper"
nj / ⁠ ɲ ⁠ / voiced palatal nasal , like French or Italian gn in Champagne or Bologna; span. ñ in señor
  • conj "horse"
O / ⁠ ɔ ⁠ / Rounded half-open back vowel , always open (compared to German), like o in German Bob, boxes, ton
  • konoba "wine tavern "
p / ⁠ p ⁠ / voiceless bilabial plosive , less aspirated than in German
  • diploma "diploma"
r / ⁠ r ⁠ / , / r / Voiced alveolar vibrant , tongue tip-r (with more beats than the southern German tongue-r), can also form a syllable as a vowel ( syllable ) R and be long or short, accented or unstressed.
  • mornar "sailor"
  • mrkva "carrot"
s / ⁠ s ⁠ / voiceless alveolar fricative , like German ss in class
  • sol "salt"
š / ⁠ ʃ ⁠ / voiceless postalveolar fricative , like German sch in school
  • šibica "matchstick"
t / ⁠ t ⁠ / voiceless alveolar plosive , less aspirated than in German
  • šator "tent"
u / ⁠ u ⁠ / rounded closed back vowel , like German u
  • kruna "crown"
v / ⁠ ʋ ⁠ / voiced labiodental fricative , like German w in wild, never voiceless like [⁠ f ⁠]
  • voda "water"
z / ⁠ z ⁠ / Voiced alveolar fricative , as in Germany s in Rose, z in English zero
  • zakon "law"
ž / ⁠ ʒ ⁠ / voiced postalveolar fricative , like French j in Journal, toujours
  • žarulja "light bulb"
ije / / Diphthong ; long double sound ie
  • brijeg "hill"

Please note:

  • ck = c + k (not like Ha ck e, but like him zk atholic)
  • sh = s + h (not like sh oe in English, but like bit ssch en)
  • sp = s + p (not like sp eziell but as Ra sp el)
  • st = s + t (not as St unde but as Wur st )
  • eu = e + u (not as Eu ropa but as Mus eu m)

Syllabic R.

Due to the potential syllabic character of the "R" in Croatian, words can also be formed without any vowels. Examples of this would be: “ Krk ” / kr̩k / (a Croatian island), “prst” / pr̩st / (German “finger”) or “krš” / kr̩ʃ / (German “Karst”). In scripture, the syllabic and the non-syllabic R are usually not distinguished.

The diphthong / /

The diphthong / /, which etymologically goes back to the so-called “long jat ”, is represented orthographically by the trigraph ije . Prosodically, this diphthong corresponds to a long vowel. Its pronunciation fluctuates between a diphthong [ ] stressed equally on both components , a formation of unsyllabic i with a long e [ jɛː ] and two-syllable [ ijɛ ]. Since the first of the pronunciations mentioned cannot be traced back to the other standard Croatian phonemes and, in addition, the fluctuation in pronunciation does not occur in other cases that phonematically clearly contain / jɛː / or / ijɛ /, this diphthong becomes partial in today's Croatian linguistics classified as an independent phoneme.

In contrast to the digraphs dž, lj and nj, the ije is not part of the Croatian alphabet. The string ije can also stand for the phoneme sequences / ij ɛ / or / ij ɛː / - in these cases it is not monosyllabic, i.e. H. as a diphthong, but always pronounced two syllables. Example: pijem mlijeko / pijɛm mliɛkɔ / (I drink milk) (the first word is always two-syllable)

Word Accent

Croatian has a melodic word accent ( English pitch accent ) and is therefore one of the tonal languages . This means that the pitch of the stressed syllable and the pitch of the word play a role, and also add to the meaning of a word. In the standard language, a rising and falling tone are distinguished.

In addition to the pitch, the length of the syllable kernel is also a phonological feature. The combination of the two features, tone and length , results in four different types of stressed syllables in standard Croatian, which are designated in linguistic works with four different diacritics, which is why ( imprecise) is spoken of "four different accents".

The place of accent in Croatian is not generally defined (unlike, for example, in Czech , where the first syllable of a word is always accented, or the penultimate syllable in Polish ). The following diacritics are used in Slavic and Croatian linguistic literature to identify the accent and the type of accent in writing (using the example of the vowel a ):

Croatian spelling Phonetic spelling description example
a [a] unstressed short vowel
  • daljìna (width)
- [aː] unstressed long vowel
  • dȍbrā (good f )
  • polijétānje (departure)
à [ǎ] short-rising accent
  • dalmàtīnskī (Dalmatian)
  • kàzalīšte (theater)
á [ǎː] long-rising accent
  • budaláština (mischief)
  • objelodániti (uncover)
  • sámo (alone)
ȁ [â] short-falling accent
  • sȁmo (only)
  • slȁma (straw)
  • drȁga (small sinkhole )
ȃ [âː] long-falling accent
  • grȃd (city)
  • drȃgā (dear f )

Note: Since / / also represents a syllabic sound in Croatian , the word accent can also fall on this sound. This allows the accented characters given above to be written not only on the vowels, but also on the letter r .

The word accent in the different dialects of Croatian is sometimes very different from the accent system of the standard language. This also leads to regional differences in the implementation of the standard language.


From a typological point of view, Croatian, like most other Slavic languages, is an inflected language with clear analytical elements. Together with the štokavian standard varieties, it occupies an intermediate position between the northern Slavic languages ​​( West Slavic , East Slavic and Slovene ) on the one hand, in which the inflectional character of the primitive Slavic is well preserved in the area of ​​nominal inflection, while verbal inflection is greatly reduced in favor of analytical constructions and the East-South Slavic languages ​​( Bulgarian and Macedonian ), on the other hand, in which the verbal inflection of Ur-Slavic has largely been retained, while the nominal inflection has been reduced in favor of analytical structures. In Croatian, the categories of both nominal inflection and verbal inflection of Ur-Slavic have been preserved to a large extent, but the system of forms has been greatly simplified by the dismantling of inflection classes and the collapse of forms, and some of the inherited categories are only used to a limited extent and compete with them newer analytical constructions.

Nominal inflection

The nominal parts of speech ( nouns , adjectives , determinants and pronouns ) inflect in Croatian according to number , case and gender . Case and number are independent grammatical categories, gender is inherent in nouns. Attributes match (apart from certain exceptions) in case, number and gender with their relational word. In some of the adjectives there are also remains of a flexion according to definiteness .


Croatian distinguishes between two numbers , singular and plural . There is also a special form of counting for masculine, which only comes after the number words 2, 3 and 4 and the word oba (both) . For nouns - but not for adjectives and determinants - this formally corresponds to the genitive singular and etymologically goes back to the dual .


Croatian distinguishes between seven cases (case) : nominative , genitive , dative , accusative , locative , instrumental and the vocative (with a narrower, syntactic definition of the term, of course, it does not belong to the case) .

Nominative, accusative, dative, genitive and instrumental are used by themselves to express parts of sentences, whereby as in other Slavic (and generally in Indo-European) languages, the nominative is the case of the subject , the accusative that of the direct object and the dative that of the indirect object is. Genitive, dative, accusative and instrumental also come after prepositions , the locative comes exclusively after prepositions. Many prepositions of the place rule two different cases, to indicate a fixed position in space depending on the preposition the locative or the instrumental, to indicate a movement towards a goal the accusative. The genitive is also used as an attribute in the possessive or generally associative meaning, but in this use it competes with possessive and relational adjectives derived from the nouns.


Croatian distinguishes three genera : masculine , feminine and neuter .

Rection of numerals

With simple counting ( cardinal numbers ) the following applies to the expression to be counted:

  • After 1, the nominative singular is in the nominative, in the remaining cases the numeral and the expression of the counted congruence.
  • After 2, 3, 4 the nominative / accusative plural is used in the nominative and accusative case for feminine and neuter, while masculine has a special form of counting on -a, which corresponds to the genitive singular for nouns, but not for adjectives and determinants. In the oblique case, these numerals can be declined optionally and then congruent with the expression of the number in the respective case of the plural, but mostly the form of the nominative / accusative is retained unchanged.
  • The genitive plural follows after 5 and larger non-composite numbers. These numbers are indeclinable.
  • In the case of compound numerals from 21, the expression of the count is based on the last number.


middle Ages

Bašćanska ploča ( Tablet of Baška ), found on the island of Krk (Croatia)

A Croatian written language began to develop in the 9th century parallel to the Old Church Slavonic language, in which the liturgy was held, initially on the basis of Čakavian .

One of the most important written documents from this period is the Baška tablet from around the year 1100. This inscribed stone slab, discovered in the Romanesque St. Lucija chapel near the town of Baška on the island of Krk , bears a Glagolitic inscription. The foundation of the chapel is described by the Croatian King Dmitar Zvonimir . The medieval Croatian texts are written in three different scripts: from the end of the 9th century in the Glagoliza , from the 12th century in the Bosančica (a form of Cyrilliza that used to be common in parts of Croatia and Bosnia ) and from the middle of the 14th century. Century in the Latin script . From the 16th century the Latin script became more and more popular. The oldest documents in Croatian are in the čakavian dialect, e.g. E.g. the Istarski Razvod (Istrian Code) from 1275 and the Vinodolski zakonik (Vinodol Code), which was written in 1288.

The first book written entirely in the štokavian dialect is the Vatikanski hrvatski molitvenik (Vatican Croatian prayer book), which was written in Dubrovnik around 1400.

The Croatian-Glagolitic Missal Misal kneza Novaka was printed in 1483 and is therefore the first ever printed South Slavic book.

The development of high-level language in the Renaissance and Baroque

During the Renaissance , documents were written in local dialects in cities such as Split , Dubrovnik and Zadar . Faust Vrančić made the first approaches to the formation of a high-level language in his dictionary Dictionarium quinque nobilissimarum Europae linguarum - Latinae, Italicae, Germanicae, Dalmati [c] ae et Ungaricae in 1595. Bartol Kašić created the first work to unify grammar : Institutionum linguae illyricae lib duo in 1604.

The Jesuit Bartol Kašić translated the Bible into the Croatian language (in the štokavian-Ijekavian dialect) in 1622–1636 . The works of Kašić had a particularly great influence on the development of the standard Croatian language.

The most important literary representatives of the Baroque era are Ivan Gundulić (1589–1638), Ivan Bunić and Junij Palmotić (1607–1657), who wrote their works in the Ijekavian-štokavian dialect used in Dubrovnik. The basics of their language, like Kašić's language, are comparable to today's standard Croatian language .

Standardization in the 19th century

The Illyrian Movement

Vlaho Bukovac : Portrait of the Croatian Renaissance (period of Illyrism). Curtain in the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb.

After an independent written Kajkavic language had developed in northern Croatia around Zagreb from the 17th century to the 1830s , it has been under the leadership of Ljudevit Gaj (1809–1872) in the 1830s and 1840s since the time of the Illyrian movement (Illyrism) Here too, Štokavian forms the basis of the written language . At the same time, Gaj laid the foundations for today's Croatian orthography .

In his brochure Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskog pravopisanja poleg mudroljubneh, narodneh i prigospodarneh temelov i zrokov ("Brief basis of Croatian-Slavic spelling on philosophical, national and economic foundations"), Gaj suggested (initially in Kajkavian) as in the Czech language to use the letters č, ž, š, ľ, and ň as well as ǧ, so that there is a separate letter for each sound; at the transition to Štokavian, ď, ě (for the Jat reflexes) and the ć adopted from Polish were added. Č, ž, š, ć as well as ě were accepted, but this could not be fully established and later fell out of use; for the other sounds, the digraphs lj (instead of ľ), nj (instead of ň), dj or gj (both instead of ď; today đ) and dž (instead of ǧ) were introduced. These characters replaced the letter combinations previously used in Croatia, some of which were based on the Hungarian and some on the Italian spelling.

The Illyrists strove to use Štokavian as the basis for a uniform written language, if possible for all southern Slavs (initially including the Slovenes and Bulgarians ), whom they referred to as Illyrian following a tradition that had existed since the Renaissance . Gaj and the Illyrian movement encountered little resistance in the Kajkavian-speaking Zagreb when “choosing” the štokavian dialect as the standard language, because according to the linguistic opinion prevailing at the time, this merely meant a continuation of the linguistic tradition from Dubrovnik and Slavonia . On the issue of Jat reflex, the štokavischen varieties differ in each other, many Illyristen did not want to commit to a single debate, but for a single grapheme ė allow different pronunciations. In general, however - especially based on the example of the traditional written language of Dubrovnik - the Ijekavian pronunciation was preferred and sometimes also reproduced directly in the script, with ie being written for it.

Ljudevit Gaj , arguably the most important representative of Illyrism, had published a newspaper since 1835 and, above all, the weekly literary supplement Danica (Morgenstern) , both of which appeared under changing titles. In 1836 Gaj went from Kajkavic in the region around Zagreb to Štokavian. In 1842, the most important Croatian cultural association Matica ilirska (later Matica hrvatska ) was founded.

In the revolution of 1848, the Štokavian-Ijekavian in the form coined by the Illyrists was used for the first time as the official language of the de facto autonomous Croatia-Slavonia. This did not last long, of course, since German became the official language of the entire Austro-Hungarian monarchy under neo-absolutism at the beginning of the 1850s.

The Vienna Agreement

At the same time that the Illyrian movement began to establish Štokavian as the general literary and official language in Croatia, Vuk Karadžić and his followers tried to replace Church Slavonic as a written language with the štokavian vernacular among the Serbs . Karadžić mainly used the štokavian-Ijekavian dialect, which is known today as "East Herzegovinian", as it is spoken in eastern Herzegovina , in northern Montenegro and in southwest Serbia , where he himself came from, and which is closely related to the dialect of Dubrovnik, which in Croatia was seen as a role model, is related. Under these circumstances, Croatian and Serbian linguists began working together in the middle of the 19th century to standardize a common written language based on the štokavian dialect.

The first formal step towards a common codification of the written language was the so-called Vienna Agreement of March 28, 1850. At a meeting of seven Serbian and Croatian linguists and writers arranged by the Slovenian linguist Franc Miklošič ( Vuk Karadžić , his colleague Đuro Daničić the Croatian Illyrists Ivan Mažuranić , Dimitrija Demeter , Stjepan Pejaković , Ivan Kukuljević and Vinko Pacel ) signed all eight participants who to cooperate in the operated by the Austro-Hungarian government normalizing the juridical -politischen terminology in the languages of the Habsburg Empire in Vienna were staying, a position paper , in which they committed themselves to the goal “that a people must have a literature” (“da jedan narod treba jednu književnost da ima”). They suggested that Štokavian-Ijekavic should be the basis of the common written language of the Serbs and Croats and that the orthographies in Latin and Cyrillic should be adapted so that one could transliterate directly from one into the other, and made suggestions to unify some of the questions of standardization that have so far been solved differently in Croatia and Serbia. These were mainly of a morphological and orthographic nature: for example, the plural genitive of most nouns should end in -a , the h should be written wherever it is etymologically present (e.g. historija 'history' instead of istorija ), and the syllabic r should be written without an accompanying vowel (e.g. prst 'finger' instead of pàrst or similar). The agreement did not deal with the standardization of vocabulary. The juridical-political terminology was published in one volume for Slovenian, Croatian and Serbian, but often with different equivalents, which was partly due to the fact that opponents of Karadžić's language reform also contributed to the Serbian version, the words of Slavic-Serbian origin Recordings.

The Vienna Agreement was an informal declaration of intent that was initially not followed by any further steps. In fact, the “Agreement” initially had no immediate consequences. All Croatian and Serbian participants had previously used Štokavian-Ijekavian, which had been used as the official language in Croatia since the revolution of 1848 . In the Kingdom of Serbia and Vojvodina, however, Ijekavian was never officially introduced, as Karadžić and Daničić were ultimately able to establish themselves there with their ideas of a written language based on the vernacular, but the local štokavian-Ekavian dialect was retained as the basis. Most of the orthographic and morphological recommendations of the agreement eventually became the official norm in Serbia in the late 1860s and in Croatia in the early 1890s.

As evidence of the alleged fruitlessness of the “Vienna Agreement”, it is often cited today that no name is mentioned in the “Agreement” for the common language sought. In Croatia at that time the terms Illyrian (ilirski) and Croatian (horvatski, hrvatski) were common, in the Serbian area, however, Serbian (serbski, srpski) . However, the lack of the name in the agreement should not be overestimated, because the signatories Dimitrija Demeter and Božidar Petranović use in their forewords to the "German-Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian Separate Edition" of the juridical-political terminology, in which the " Vienna Agreement ”, the expressions hrvatsko-srbsko narječje (“ Croatian-Serbian dialect ”), jugoslavenski jezik (“ Yugoslav language ”) and even срб-рватски народъ (srb-rvatski narod) (“ serbo- rvatski narod) (Croatian people ”). In the Reich Law and Government sheet of the Empire of Austria in 1849, the "Serbian illirische (both croatian) language with Latin letters" and the "Serbian illirische language with Serbian Civil font" were listed as Common languages.

Second half of the 19th century

The official spelling of Štokavian in Croatia, initially in Illyrian tradition mostly as Illyrian, since the beginning of the 1860s a. a. As Croatian or Serbian language , from the 1840s to the 1880s it was mainly based on the norms codified by the Illyrist grammarians in the 1840s, which differed in some points from those advocated by Karadžić and Daničić: The orthography was oriented partly due to morphological, not to phonological criteria (this is how the voice tone assimilation was not reproduced in the script), and the Ijekavian jat reflex was initially written as ě, later as ie or je, but not as ije / je . In the field of morphology, deviating inflectional endings were used in the plural of nouns, which only occur in a few varieties of Štokavic, but are common in Kajkavic and are closer to the reconstructed ancient Slavonic forms. However, there was never a generally accepted agreement on the details of this standardization; rather, different schools in Croatia that referred to the Illyrist tradition faced each other on most issues.

Especially under the influence of Đuro Daničić, who was appointed to the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb, the school of the so-called " Croatian Vukovians " (hrvatski vukovci) developed in parallel , which has a strict phonological orthography and an orientation of morphology to the forms of the spoken Štokavian as it was realized in the works of Karadžić and Daničić.

In 1867 the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts, founded in Zagreb, began to publish a multi-volume “Dictionary of the Croatian or Serbian Language” (Rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskog jezika), in the sense of a South Slavic rapprochement, which the academy founders Franjo Rački , Josip Juraj Strossmayer and Vatroslav Jagić was represented. The academy's secretary, the Serbian philologist and Slavist Đuro Daničić , was appointed head of the project .

The school of the "Croatian Vukovians", whose most important representatives were the grammarian Tomislav Maretić and the lexicographer Ivan Broz , was able to establish itself towards the end of the 19th century.

As a result of these convergent normalization processes, towards the end of the 19th century there was a largely uniform morphological norm for the Serbian and / or Croatian language and a standardization of the orthographic norms of the Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic alphabets, so that they can be directly transliterated into one another since then .

When expanding the vocabulary , however, there was no systematic collaboration. The dictionary of the Yugoslav Academy (similar to the German dictionary of the Brothers Grimm) primarily collected the entirety of the literary and vernacular vocabulary, not modern technical vocabulary, and was not completed until well into the 20th century due to its large scope. This led to the fact that the differences between the written form of Štokavian used by the Croats and that used by the Serbs increased due to different approaches to the formation of neologisms and the adoption of foreign words during this period.

Development of Croatian at the time of the Yugoslav state

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918–1941) designated its official language in both constitutions (from 1921 and 1931) as srpskohrvatskoslovenački jezik 'Serbocroatoslovenian language'. Laws , regulations and state ordinances were published mostly in the Serbian variant of Serbo-Croatian .

According to some Croatian linguists, the Croatian linguistic tradition has been interrupted in all public and state areas ( administration , education , military ).

In the Independent State of Croatia , which existed during the Second World War , the etymological spelling developed by a commission was legally enacted in 1941 , by means of which a stronger distinction between Croatian and Serbian was to be achieved. Franjo Cipra and Adolf Bratoljub Klaić published Hrvatski pravopis (Croatian spelling) in 1944 , a dictionary with this spelling.

At the beginning of the second, socialist Yugoslavia, equality for all South Slavic languages ​​was introduced. The equality of the Croatian, Slovene, Macedonian and Serbian languages ​​was enshrined in law.

In public life e.g. B. in the railway, post office, state administration, Tanjug (former Yugoslav press agency) and parts of the press , however, Serbisms predominated within Serbo-Croatian: Croatian words such as B. povijest (Serbian istorija, German 'history'), zemljopis ( Serbian geografija, German 'geography'), tisuća (Serbian hiljada, German 'thousand'), siječanj (Serbian january ) etc. gradually disappeared from the administration.

In the (non-binding) Novi Sad Agreement of 1954 it was decided that the Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin and Bosnian languages ​​were to be regarded as a pluricentric language. Two pronunciation options were recognized, the Ijekavian and the Ekavian pronunciation, and the use of different scripts was permitted, the Latin as well as the Cyrillic script. Because of the greater linguistic differences, this standardization did not include the Slovene and Macedonian languages, which are also widespread in Yugoslavia .

This agreement was the result of a meeting called by the editors of the Matica srpska yearbook to conclude the survey on the Serbo-Croatian language and spelling, and was published jointly by Matica srpska and Matica hrvatska .

In the spring of 1967 the resistance of some intellectuals, writers (including Miroslav Krleža , Radoslav Katičić ) and cultural organizations against what they felt was the degradation of the Croatian language within Croatia increased. This movement has been labeled "nationalist" by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

After the “ Croatian Spring ” in 1974, Croatian was introduced as a subject in schools in Croatia.

Development since independence in 1991

After the declaration of independence in 1991, Croatian was finally recognized as a separate language in Croatia. The term Serbo-Croatian is officially referred to in Croatia as a relic of imposed linguistic unification efforts. In Croatia, the distance to Serbian is not only emphasized in terms of vocabulary, but cultural and historical differences between the individual languages ​​are also pointed out. So was u. a. a larger number of words ( archaisms ) from the period before 1918 were reintroduced into official and normative language. Croatian linguists point out that the natural development of the Croatian language during the times of communism often suffered from dubious language agreements and that this affected the richness of the original vocabulary. There are also efforts to simplify grammar and remove ambiguities.

On April 14, 2005, the Croatian Ministry of Science, Education and Sport founded the “Council for the Standardization of the Croatian Standard Language(Vijeće za normu hrvatskoga standardnog jezika) . Radoslav Katičić was appointed chairman . In 2012 the Ministry abolished the council for inactivity.

At the beginning of 2017, a two-day working meeting with experts from Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina took place in Zagreb, at which the text of the declaration on the common language of Croats, Montenegrins, Serbs and Bosniaks was drawn up. The declaration text received more than ten thousand signatures. It says that in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro a common polycentric standard language is used, which consists of several standard varieties, such as German , English or Spanish .


The basic vocabulary of standard Croatian, like that of the Croatian dialects, consists predominantly of hereditary words of common Slavic origin. At the dialectal level there are clear differences in the hereditary vocabulary between the štokavian , čakavian and kajkavian varieties, but overall the similarities predominate. The basic vocabulary of standard Croatian is largely of štokavian origin.

The loan vocabulary of the Croatian dialects differs greatly from region to region: in the coastal area there are many borrowings from Dalmatian and Italian , in the northern interior from Hungarian and German , in all former Ottoman areas from Turkish .

The advanced vocabulary of standard Croatian is the result of a continuous effort to reproduce new (technical) terms of foreign language, especially of Latin origin, using Slavonic. This began in the Middle Ages in Croatian Church Slavonic, continued in the early modern period in the regional written languages ​​and their lexicographies and found an official codification in the works of standard Croatian lexicography of the 19th century, which were largely based on the Czech model. A large part of the neologisms that have been coined over the centuries may have disappeared again or from the beginning never got beyond the works of their authors, but another part has become an integral part of the standard Croatian language.

As a result, in today's standard Croatian there are often duplicates of internationalisms and native neologisms, mostly loan translations , whereby the neologisms are mostly preferred at least on the written language and official level, e.g. B. međunarodno instead of internacionalno (international), parallel računalo ("calculating machine") and kompjuter .

The tendency of standard Croatian towards lexical purism is evident not only in the formation of neologisms instead of loanwords, but also in the preservation of hereditary words that have disappeared elsewhere. For example, Standard Croatian predominantly uses the Slavic month names in their štokavic form and in this respect agrees with Czech, Polish and Ukrainian , which also use Slavic month names, which vary from language to language, while the other standard South Slavic languages ​​as well as the majority of European languages ​​predominantly or exclusively use the names of the months of Latin origin.


In the Croatian vocabulary, borrowings occur mainly from the following languages:

  • From the German : Zemlja bread / / rolls, wake - pekar - Baker, Slager - Schlager, popular songs, šminker - Schminker, person that values the appearance, haubica - howitzer ceh - the bill, roughly - grave, Logor - bearings , šupa - shed, cigla - brick, gruntovnica - land registry, vece - German pronunciation of the toilet, kofer / kufer - suitcase,
    • Especially from the common history with Austria, words were borrowed from Austrian German : šparet / šporet - Sparherd (stove; formerly wood and coal-fired kitchen stove), karfiol - cauliflower (cauliflower), krumpir - basic pear (potato), paradajz - paradeiser ( Tomato), sekirati - sekkieren (torment), krampus - Krampus (Knecht Ruprecht), pusa - kiss , pušl - tuft.
    • In the vernacular, there are still many words as forcimer - anteroom, cajger - pointer šravenciger / šarafciger - screwdriver Šnajder - Schneider, kurcšlus - short circuit, miščafl - (wortwörtl manure shovel.) Sweeping garnish: small broom with shovel, Špajza - pantry, flaša - bottle Gmajna - what the community heard cušpajz - stew / side dish, aftekat uncovering / set the table, escajg - Esszeug / utensils, štrinfle - Stockings, vešmašina - washing machine, štoplciger - corkscrew, pegla -Iron, Gemist - wine spritzer, vaśpek - wash basin or špalir, šparati and švercer .

There are also loan translations from the German language. Although its components are Croatian, the internal language form is taken literally from German: kolodvor - station, istovremeno - simultaneously, redoslijed - sequence.

The German language was widespread not only in the country, where the Danube Swabian influence had left its mark, but also and above all in the Zagreb middle class. Hauptmanov puršek klopfa tepihe u haustoru was spoken and understood in what was then Zagreb. The writer Miroslav Krleža, well-known beyond the Croatian borders, was one of the most prominent representatives of the Croatian middle class who used this mixed language, even though he wanted to make the bourgeoisie ridiculous. In his novel Povratak Filipa Latinovicza, Zagreb 1947, he wrote e.g. E.g. on page 54: Krenuli su do Löwingera po vreču cementa i to plehnati škaf , or on page 59: u bijelom šlafreklu ('in a white dressing gown ').

  • From Latin : lekcija - lesson, konzum - consumption, kvaliteta - quality
  • From Italian : pjaca - market, piazza, semafor - traffic light, balun - balloon, marenda - brunch, late breakfast, džir - tour
  • From Hungarian : palačinke - pancake (pancake), tumač - interpreter, cipela - shoe, šator - tent, lopta - ball (see influences from Hungarian )
  • From the Turkic languages : patlidžan - eggplant, aubergine, papuča - slipper, "pendžer" - window, jastuk - pillow, raja - crowd, juriš - attack, badava - free, dućan - shop, đon - sole
  • From French : lavabo - sink, nobl - noble, frižider - refrigerator, plaža - beach, dosje - nudes, volan - steering wheel, trotoar - sidewalk, kamion - truck, Sida - French pronunciation of AIDS , avion - airplane, klošar - homeless person , plafon - wall ceiling
  • The youngest layer of loanwords are the internationally widespread Anglicisms that appear in standard Croatian as well as in most other European languages. These are orthographically and orthoepically adapted to Croatian, but otherwise retain their original form: kompjuter (< Computer ), link, sajt (< Site ), hotel, dizajn (< Design ), seks (< Sex ), šuze (< shoes ), frend (< friend ), filing (< feeling ) ...

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

”Sva ljudska bića rađaju se slobodna i jednaka u dostojanstvu i pravima. Ona su obdarena razumom i sviješću i trebaju jedno prema drugome postupati u duhu bratstva .. ”

(All human beings 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.)


Grammars and textbooks

  • Višnja Barac-Kostrenčić: Učimo hrvatski . Školska knjiga, Zagreb 1999, ISBN 953-0-40011-X .
  • Snježana Kordić : Croatian-Serbian . An advanced textbook with grammar. 2nd Edition. Buske , Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-87548-382-0 , p. 196 .
  • Barbara Kunzmann-Müller: Grammar Handbook of Croatian including Serbian . Lang, Frankfurt a. M. / Berlin / Bern / Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-631-39687-2 .
  • Nataša Lukić and Sascha Kern: Verb tables Croatian: All verbs with left can . PONS GmbH, Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3125615977 .

Individual grammatical questions

  • Leopold Auburger: Verb morphology of the Croatian standard language . Julius Groos Verlag, Heidelberg 1988, ISBN 3-87276-610-4 .
  • Snježana Kordić : pronouns in the antecedent and restrictivity / non-restrictivity of relative clauses in Croatian-Serbian and German . In: Adam Evgen'evič Suprun, Helmut Jachnow (ed.): Slavic-Germanic language parallels . Slavjano-germanskie jazykovye paralleli (=  Sovmestnyj issledovatel'skij sbornik slavistov universitetov v Minske i Bochume ). Belorusskij gosudarstvennyj universitet, Minsk 1996, p. 163–189 ( online [PDF; 2.4 MB ; accessed on November 18, 2012]).

History of Standard Language and Sociolinguistics

  • Snježana Kordić : Modern national names and texts from past centuries . In: Journal of Balkanology . tape 46 , no. 1 , 2010, ISSN  0044-2356 , p. 35-43 ( online [accessed July 9, 2012]).
  • Snježana Kordić: Language and Nationalism (=  Rotulus Universitas ). Durieux, Zagreb 2010, ISBN 978-953-188-311-5 , p. 430 , doi : 10.2139 / ssrn.3467646 (Serbo-Croatian, [PDF; 1.6 MB ; accessed on February 3, 2011] Original title: Jezik i nacionalizam .).
  • Robert D. Greenberg: Language and Identity in the Balkans: Serbo-Croatian and its Disintegration. Oxford et al. a. 2004, ISBN 0-19-925815-5 .
  • Daniel Blum: Language and Politics . Language policy and language nationalism in the Republic of India and socialist Yugoslavia (1945–1991) (=  contributions to research on South Asia . Volume 192 ). Ergon, Würzburg 2002, ISBN 3-89913-253-X , p. 200 .
  • Mario Grčević: About the Croatian language changes in the 1990s between information, disinformation and language politics . Mannheim August 14, 2001 ( [PDF]).
  • Milan Moguš : The History of the Croatian Literary Language . Translated by Nicole Emmerich with the assistance of Mario Grčević. Globus, Zagreb 2001, ISBN 953-167-125-7 .
  • Dubravko Škiljan: From Croato-Serbian to Croatian: Croatian linguistic identity. In: Multilingua 19, 2000, pp. 3-20.
  • Leopold Auburger : The Croatian Language and Serbo-Croatism . Hess, Ulm 1999, ISBN 3-87336-009-8 .
  • Miloš Okuka: One language - many heirs: language policy as an instrument of nationalization in ex-Yugoslavia. Klagenfurt 1998, ISBN 3-85129-249-9 .
  • Mario Grčević: The Origin of the Croatian Literary Language . Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-412-16196-9 .
  • Radoslav Katičić: Undoing a “Unified Language”: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian. In: Michael Clyne (Ed.): Undoing and Redoing Corpus Planning. Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-11-012855-1 , pp. 165-191.
  • Hans-Dieter Pohl: Serbo-Croatian - Review and Outlook . In: Ingeborg Ohnheiser (Ed.): Interrelationships between Slavic languages, literatures and cultures in the past and present . Files from the conference on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Institute for Slavic Studies at the University of Innsbruck (=  Innsbruck contributions to cultural studies, Slavica aenipontana . Volume 4 ). Non Lieu, Innsbruck 1996, OCLC 243829127 , p. 205-219 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Croatian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Croatian language  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files



Dictionaries and miscellaneous

Individual evidence

  1. ^ UNHCR - Ethnic Hungarian Minorities in Central and Eastern Europe
  2. 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. (...) There is no doubt of the near 100% mutual intelligibility of (standard) Croatian and (standard) Serbian, as is obvious from the ability of all groups to enjoy each others' films, TV and sports broadcasts, newspapers, rock lyrics etc. "
  3. 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. "
  4. Heinz-Dieter Pohl : Serbo-Croatian - Review and Outlook . In: Ingeborg Ohnheiser (Ed.): Interrelationships between Slavic languages, literatures and cultures in the past and present . Files from the conference on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Institute for Slavic Studies at the University of Innsbruck (=  Innsbruck contributions to cultural studies, Slavica aenipontana . Volume 4 ). Non Lieu, Innsbruck 1996, OCLC 243829127 , p. 219 .
  5. ^ Paul-Louis Thomas: Le serbo-croate (bosniaque, croate, monténégrin, serb): de l'étude d'une langue à l'identité des langues . In: Revue des études slaves . tape 74 , no. 2-3 , 2003, ISSN  0080-2557 , OCLC 754204160 , ZDB -ID 208723-6 , ÖNB AC07247877 , p. 325 ( [accessed April 27, 2019]): "The intercomprehension between these standards exceeds that between the standard variants of English, French, German, or Spanish."
  6. ^ Snježana Kordić : National varieties of the Serbo-Croatian language . In: Biljana Golubović, Jochen Raecke (Hrsg.): Bosnian - Croatian - Serbian as foreign languages ​​at the universities of the world (=  The world of the Slaves, anthologies - Sborniki . Volume 31 ). Sagner, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-86688-032-0 , pp. 93–102 ( PDF file; 1.3 MB [accessed April 3, 2013]).
  7. Daniel Bunčić: The (re) nationalization of the 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 .
  8. ^ Aldo Zanelli: An analysis of the metaphors in the Croatian linguistic journal Jezik from 1991 to 1997 (=  Studies on Slavic Studies . Volume 41 ). Dr. Kovač, Hamburg 2018, ISBN 978-3-8300-9773-0 , DNB 114213069X , p. 20–21 : "It can rightly be assumed that it is still a pluricentric language, since the language structure has not changed significantly after 1990 either."
  9. ^ Bernhard Gröschel : Serbo-Croatian between linguistics and politics . With a bibliography on the post-Yugoslav language dispute (=  Lincom Studies in Slavic Linguistics . Volume 34 ). Lincom Europa, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-929075-79-3 , p. 451 .
  10. Snježana Kordić : Genitive / accusative syncretism in Croatian-Serbian relative pronouns . In: Journal for Slavic Studies . tape 40 , no. 2 , 1995, ISSN  0044-3506 , pp. 202–213 ( PDF file; 1.3 MB [accessed August 6, 2010]).
  11. The Danica appeared in 1835, first as Danicza Horvatzka, Slavonzka y Dalmatinzka, then with a different spelling than Danica Horvatska, Slavonska i Dalmatinska, from 1836 to 1844 as Danica Ilirska, from 1844 to 1848 for a ban of the name Illyrian by the Hungarian government (see. George Thomas, The impact of the Illyrian movement on the Croatian lexicon. Munich 1988, p. 17, 166) again as Danica Horvatska, Slavonska i Dalmatinska and again in 1849 as Danica Ilirska (cf. reprint Zagreb 1972). The actual newspaper initially appeared as Novine Horvatzke (Croatian newspaper) and later, among other things, as Ilirske Narodne Novine (Illyrian people's newspaper) .
  12. See also Robert D. Greenberg: Language and identity in the Balkans. Serbo-Croatian and its disintegration . Oxford et al. a. 2004, p. 27; and the review by Daniel Bunčić in: Zeitschrift für Slavische Philologie 64.1 (2005/2006), pp. 229–235, here 232.
  13. Legal-political terminology for the Slavic languages ​​of Austria. From the Commission for Slavic juridical-political terminology. German-Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian separate edition. Vienna 1853, pp. III, IV and XI. (The “Vienna Agreement” is printed on pp. V – VIII.)
  14. RGBl. 1849, introduction p. VI
  15. Enciklopedija Jugoslavije , 1st edition, vol. 1, p. 32.
  16. Wolf Dietrich Behschnitt, Nationalism among Serbs and Croats 1830-1914, 1976, ISBN 3-486-49831-2 , p. 278; Ksenija Cvetković-Sander, Language Policy and National Identity in Socialist Yugoslavia (1945–1991), 2011, ISBN 978-3-447-06275-6 , p. 86; Leopold Auburger, The Croatian Language and Serbo-Croatism, 1999, ISBN 3-87336-009-8 , p. 216; Miloš Okuka , One Language - Many Heirs. Language policy as an instrument of nationalization in the former Yugoslavia, 1998, ISBN 3-85129-249-9 , p. 74; Robert D. Greenberg, Language and Identity in the Balkans. Serbo-Croatian and Its Disintegration, 2004, ISBN 0-19-925815-5 , p. 46.
  17. Stiven Tripunovski: Unity against your will? Language in the South Slavic area . In: Heiner Grunert and Florian Kührer-Wielach (eds.): Borders in the river (=  Slavistic contributions . Volume 434 ). Regensburg Schnell et Steiner, Regensburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-7917-2940-4 , OCLC 1011631323 , p. 30–31 ( [accessed April 27, 2019]).
  18. ^ Snježana Kordić : The current language censorship in Croatia . In: Bernhard Symanzik, Gerhard Birkfellner, Alfred Sproede (eds.): Language - Literature - Politics . Eastern Europe in Transition (=  Studies in Slavic Studies . Volume 10 ). Publishing house Dr. Kovač , Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-8300-1215-2 , p. 259–272 ( PDF file; 1.1 MB [accessed May 2, 2012]). ; Snježana Kordić : Language and Nationalism in Croatia . In: Bernhard Symanzik (Ed.): Studia Philologica Slavica . Festschrift for Gerhard Birkfellner on the occasion of his 65th birthday, dedicated by friends, colleagues and students: Part I (=  Münster texts on Slavic Studies . Volume 4 ). Lit Verlag , Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9891-1 , p. 337–348 ( PDF file; 1.2 MB [accessed January 8, 2013]).
  19. ^ Snježana Kordić : Germanisms in the spoken language of Osijek today . In: Marin Andrijašević, Yvonne Vrhovac (eds.): Prožimanje kultura i jezika . Hrvatsko društvo za primijenjenu lingvistiku, Zagreb 1991, OCLC 443222199 , p. 89–97 ( PDF file; 0.8 MB [accessed on December 21, 2010] Serbo-Croatian: Germanizmi u osječkom govoru danas .).