Montenegrin language

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(crnogorski, црногорски)

Spoken in

MontenegroMontenegro Montenegro , Serbia , Croatia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Kosovo , Albania
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina 
Official status
Official language in MontenegroMontenegro Montenegro
Recognized minority /
regional language in
SerbiaSerbia Serbia (local)
Language codes
ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3


The Montenegrin language (Montenegrin crnogorski jezik , црногорски језик) is a Serbo-Croat language variety and the official language of Montenegro . Like Bosnian , Croatian and Serbian, it is based on a štokavian dialect. Of the four standard Serbo-Croatian varieties, it is the least developed .

Communication with speakers of the aforementioned standard varieties is problem-free because the differences are minimal (see also: Declaration on the common language ).


In the 2003 census , 62.50 percent of the population in Montenegro stated Serbian and 21.96 percent Montenegrin as their mother tongue , without this information being easily correlated with actual linguistic differences.

Official status

According to the constitution of October 19, 2007, the official language of Montenegro is Montenegrin.

In connection with the country's independence (2006), the Montenegrin government had increasingly tried to avoid the previous language designation “Serbian” in official documents and to replace it with formulations such as “the national language” without, however, so far as the official language as “Montenegrin” Language ”would have been defined.


Montenegrin can be written using both the Cyrillic alphabet and the Latin writing system. This is anchored accordingly in the Constitution of Montenegro.

Alphabet and pronunciation

The Montenegrin alphabet has the same letters as the Serbian, plus two additional graphemes:

  • А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж З З́ И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С С́ Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш
  • а б в г д ђ е ж з з́ и ј к л љ м н њ о п р с с́ т ћ у ф х ц ч џ ш
  • abc č ć d dž efghijkl lj mn nj oprs š ś tuvz ž ź

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.

Cyrillic Latin Phonetic spelling description
а a / ⁠ a ⁠ / like German a
б b / ⁠ b ⁠ / always voiced
ц c / ⁠ ts ⁠ / always / ts /, like German z
ч č / ⁠ ⁠ / ch
ћ ć / / like ch ; Pronunciation as in ciao ; often difficult to distinguish from č
д d / ⁠ d ⁠ / always voiced
џ / ⁠ ⁠ / like in the jungle
ђ đ / / very soft dj , like in the magy aren
е e / ⁠ ɛ ⁠ / (in comparison with the German) always open
ф f / ⁠ f ⁠ / always voiceless f
г G / ⁠ ɡ ⁠ / always voiced
х H / ⁠ x ⁠ / always back "ah" -H, quite weak friction
и i / ⁠ i ⁠ / like German i
ј j / ⁠ j ⁠ / often pronounced like a short, unstressed i
к k / ⁠ k ⁠ / less aspirated than in German
л l / ⁠ l ⁠ / duller ( velar ) than in German; German l is often misinterpreted as lj
љ lj / ⁠ ʎ ⁠ / fused into one sound: palatal lateral approximant
м m / ⁠ m ⁠ / like German m
н n / ⁠ n ⁠ / like German n
њ nj / ⁠ ɲ ⁠ / fused into one sound: voiced palatal nasal
о O / ⁠ ɔ ⁠ / (in comparison with the German) always open
п p / ⁠ p ⁠ / less aspirated than in German
р 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 )
с s / ⁠ s ⁠ / always voiceless like German ß
ш š / ⁠ ʃ ⁠ / sch
с́ ś / sj / easy schj
т t / ⁠ t ⁠ / less aspirated than in German
у u / ⁠ u ⁠ / like German u
в v / ⁠ ʋ ⁠ / always voiced like German w
з z / ⁠ z ⁠ / voiced s like in salt or soup
ж ž / ⁠ ʒ ⁠ / voiced sh like the "J" in blinds or journal
з́ ź / zj /


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

Language example

Universal Declaration of Human Rights , Article 1:

In Latin script: ”Sva ljudska bića rađaju se slobodna i jednaka u dostojanstvu i pravima. Oni su obdarena razumom i sviješću i trebaju jedni prema drugima u duhu bratstva susreti.

In Cyrillic: ”Сва људска бића рађају се слободна и једнака у достојанству и правима. Она су обдарена разумом и свешћу и треба једни према другима у духу братства. ”

(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.)

Positions on the Montenegrin language question

In the discussion about the designation and codification of the language of Montenegro there are currently three different points of view:

Montenegrin as Ijekavian Serbian

The advocates of the position that Montenegrin is an integral part of the Serbian language assume that Serbian is a language with two standard varieties, which differ mainly in the Ijekavian and Ekavian "pronunciation" (although this "pronunciation" also expressed in Scripture). As a result, the language of Montenegro, together with that of the Serbs of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, forms the Ijekavian variety of Serbian and contrasts with the language of Serbia as an Ekavian variety.

Apart from the distinction between Ijekavisch and Ekavisch, the advocates of this direction strive for a codification of Serbian which is as uniform as possible and which should also apply in Montenegro. This point of view that Montenegrin is an integral part of Serbian is held by a large proportion of Montenegrin linguists, both from universities in Montenegro and from Serbia. The current wording of the Montenegrin Constitution agrees with this position, but the practice of the current government does not.

The representatives of this position accuse the representatives of the other two positions of “linguistic separatism”, while they are mainly accused by Montenegrin nationalists of wanting to assimilate the Montenegrins to the Serbs.

Montenegrin as a state-specific / national variety → language

The advocates of the point of view that Montenegrin is a separate state / national variety within the Serbo-Croatian slide system assume that the individual republics of the officially Serbo-Croatian language area had their own republic-specific standard varieties as early as the time of the former Yugoslavia. As a result, Montenegrin is the standard variety of Montenegro, which has the right to equality with those of the other republics (Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian).

This view does not deny the commonalities of these standard varieties and the possibility of viewing them as varieties of a single pluricentric language . However, since the other three standard varieties are currently recognized as independent languages, this must also apply to Montenegrin. At the level of the linguistic structure, representatives of this point of view emphasize that Montenegrin is not completely identical with the Ijekavian variety of Serbian (e.g. in Bosnia), but rather has some lexical and morphological specifics that were also considered Montenegrin in Yugoslav times standard expression of the Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language ( crnogorski književnojezički izraz srpskohrvatskoga ili hrvatskosrpskoga jezika ).

This point of view is taken by some of the linguists working at universities in Montenegro. It also corresponds (as far as can be assessed) to that of the current government of Montenegro.

Representatives of the first position often accuse the representatives of this position of “linguistic separatism”, while representatives of the third position accuse them of adhering to allegedly “Serbized” language norms from Yugoslav times.

Montenegrin as an independent language with a new codification

The point of view that Montenegrin has always been an independent language, the characteristics of which have not been adequately reproduced by the previous codifications, is mainly represented by the Zagreb- trained philologist Vojislav Nikčević, now head of the Institute for the Montenegrin Language in Podgorica .

He has developed his own codification of the Montenegrin language, which differs significantly from the previous written usage in Montenegro. His textbooks and dictionaries of Montenegrin were published by Croatian publishers because the largest Montenegrin publishing houses, such as B. "Obod Cetinje", adhere to the official language norms and language names ( Serbo-Croatian until 1992 , then Serbian ).

The most striking features of Nikčevićs codification are creating the characters <¶>, <Ÿ> and <з> for his opinion specifically Montenegrin sounds [⁠ ɕ ⁠] , [⁠ ʑ ⁠] and [⁠ dz ⁠] as well as the reproduction of the Palatalisierung of t and d before each in the font. He also emphasizes morphological and lexical differences compared to Serbian and the other neighboring languages.

According to Nikčević, the written language practice of the past decades in Montenegro is to be rejected because it reflects a "Serbized" language state that does not adequately take these specifics into account.

But critics argue that the sounds [⁠ ɕ ⁠] , [⁠ ʑ ⁠] and [⁠ dz ⁠] the standard language combinations [ sj ], [ z j ] and [⁠ for ⁠] correspond . In addition, these sound combinations are not limited to the territory of Montenegro, but can also be found in speakers of other štokavian dialects such as Bosniaks and Croats . The spellings śekira 'ax, hatchet', predśednik 'chairman, president' and iźelica 'wolverine' claimed by proponents of this standard of Montenegrin correspond to the standard Ijekavian-Serbian variants sjekira , predsjednik and izjelica . The situation is similar with the palatalized t ( tj ) and d ( dj ), which Nikčević represents as ć and đ . The Montenegrin verb ćerati '[to] drive' would correspond to the Ijekavian-Serbian tjerati or đevojka 'girl' to the Serbian djevojka .

For a long time, Nikčević's language norm was de facto used exclusively by his students. In 2009, however, the additional graphemes <ś> and <ź> were included in the official rules on Montenegrin spelling.

Historical and Political Considerations

The emergence of the Montenegrin language is considered by some historians and Slavists as an expression of the division of the former Yugoslavia. As a result, in Croatia as well as in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina tendencies towards the expansion of the respective standard language and an increased linguistic purism could be observed. This development was based on the idea that every state must have its own standard language. That would also apply to Montenegro.

In contrast, however, many Montenegrins consider themselves Serbs and their language as Serbian, others as Montenegrins with a Serbian language.

Whether the mentioned phonetic and lexical differences to the Serbian standard language justify the designation of Montenegrin as a single language is a political question that was assessed differently in different times. This shows that phonetic, lexical and semantic differences are only suitable to a limited extent as objective criteria for delimiting individual languages and that they can be arbitrarily and systematically designed with instruments of language policy . In addition, the emergence of national languages ​​since the 1990s has increasingly been understood as an expression of the peoples' right to self-determination .

Current developments

In the constitutional draft of Montenegro of April 2, 2007, the Montenegrin language was defined in Article 12 as the official language. A debate ensued in the Serbian-Montenegrin public about the sense and nonsense of the term "Montenegrin language":

  • The Montenegrin parties Srpska lista, SNP, NS and DSS instead demanded the designation “Serbian language with Ijekavian pronunciation”. The "Pokret za promjene" (Movement for Change) party, on the other hand, called for the designation "unit language which the citizens call Serbian, Montenegrin", while the Bošnjačka stranka (Bosniak Party) called for "Montenegrin, Serbian and Bosnian".
  • Belgrade university professor Ranko Bugarski believes that it is difficult to justify renaming the official language from a linguistic point of view because it is Serbian, which has some regional characteristics in Montenegro.
  • The chairman of the Committee for Standardization of the Serbian Language of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ivan Klajn, appealed to selected academics in Montenegro to keep the terms Serbian and Cyrillic.
  • The Novosad philologist and university professor Mato Pižurica describes Montenegrin as a language based on Vuk Karadžić's Neoštokavian language, which is traditionally called Serbian, and proposed that this definition be included in the constitution.
  • Igor Lakić, Dean of the Institute for Foreign Languages ​​in Podgorica, supports the renaming of the official language to Montenegrin, but speaks out against artificial changes and archaicizations, as they are practiced in some neighboring countries and partly in Montenegro.
  • The Norwegian linguist Svein Mønnesland, professor of literature and European languages ​​at the University of Oslo, member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Arts, is a strong advocate for the Montenegrin language. As part of the two-day symposium “The Linguistic Situation in Montenegro - Norms and Standardization” (Podgorica 2007), organized by the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Institute for Eastern European and Oriental Studies at the University of Oslo, Mønnesland called linguists with dissenting ones Positions on "cooperation". It is to be expected that the Montenegrin language will be included in the constitution. In a heated panel discussion with Serbo-Croatians from Europe (guests from Croatia and Bosnia were invited, but stayed away from the symposium), Mønnesland claimed that there was no point in advocating the Serbian language in Montenegro because Montenegrin was a “done deal”. Mønnesland had already co-organized two similar symposiums in Bosnia and Herzegovina that preceded the codification of the so-called Bosnian language. His lecture met with massive criticism:
    • The Norwegian linguist Per Jacobssen took the view that languages ​​would stay the same as long as their structure did not change. Jacobssen concluded from the currently available sources that Montenegrin did not differ significantly from the standard Serbo-Croatian language.
    • The Danish linguist Henning Merck emphasized that from a systemic point of view, Montenegrin is the Serbo-Croatian language because the grammatical structure is the same. From a linguistic genetic point of view, too, it is a language based on Neoštokavian.
    • Snežana Kordić quoted from the book Language, discourse and borders in the Yugoslav successor states by Brigitta Busch and Hellen Kelly Holmes, published in 2004 , and recalled the role of linguistics as a discipline that should act independently of ruling political interests. One of the tasks of linguists could be to draw attention to contradictions inherent in the terms Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian (Aki) language.
    • The linguist Mihailo Šćepanović criticized the "failed Norwegian experiment", which should apparently be transferred to Montenegro. Since the Montenegrin dialect is based on a Serbian-Ijekavian dialect from eastern Herzegovina, its codification on the basis of a non-existent “Montenegrin dialect” is nonsensical and cannot be substantiated with scientific arguments.
    • Rajka Glušica, professor of Serbian language in Nikšić, was the only participant in the symposium to share Mønnesland's position on the indispensability of the Montenegrin official language, but spoke out against artificial changes and archaicizations of the language.

The new constitution came into force on October 19, 2007. The name of the official language is specified as "Montenegrin".

At the beginning of 2008, the government of Montenegro commissioned a thirteen-person commission to standardize the Montenegrin language. As a result, in July 2009 the Commission presented a spelling of Montenegrin that contains the two additional letters ś ("soft s") and ź ("soft z"). This was approved by the Ministry of Education of Montenegro and is thus the standard language in Montenegro. In July 2010, Parliament decided to introduce Montenegrin as a subject instead of Serbian in schools in the country from autumn onwards, based on the spelling presented. At the same time, the results of a representative survey carried out in June 2010 by the Montenegrin cultural institute Matica crnogorska were published, according to which 38.2% of the population of Montenegro said they speak Montenegrin, while 41.6% chose Serbian.


  • Silom crnogorski. Večernje Novosti, February 20, 2007
  • Ime jezika državotvorno pitanje. Beta , April 16, 2007
  • Zasad propalo. NIN 2944, May 31, 2007


  1. Црногорски службени језик у Малом Иђошу , December 7, 2010, accessed on January 27, 2019 (Serbian)
  2. ISO 639-2 Reference Authority
  3. ISO 639-3 Reference Authority
  4. 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. 201 , doi : 10.1017 / 9781108685795 : "the Montenegrin language (one of the four ethnic variants of Serbo-Croatian)"
  5. Constitution of Montenegro, website of the Montenegrin Parliament ( Memento of the original from March 26, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (Montenegrin; PDF file; 167 kB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. Pravopis crnogorskoga jezika i rječnik crnogorskoga jezika. ( Spelling of the Montenegrin language and dictionary of the Montenegrin language. ) Ministry of Education and Science, Podgorica 2009. ( Online ; PDF file; 1.35 MB)
  7. cf. also the Serbian ћ / ђ and the Macedonian ќ / ѓ
  8. Deutsche Welle of January 31, 2008
  9. Montenegrin. Slavic seminar of the University of Zurich  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  10. Montenegrin introduced as the language of instruction. Der Standard, July 29, 2010
  11. Matica CG: Crnogorskim jezikom govori 38.2 odsto građana. Blic Online, July 3, 2010


  • Pravopis crnogorskoga jezika i rječnik crnogorskoga jezika. ( Spelling of the Montenegrin language and dictionary of the Montenegrin language. ) Ministry of Education and Science, Podgorica 2009. ( Online ; PDF file; 1.35 MB)
  • Robert D. Greenberg: Language and Identity in the Balkans: Serbo-Croatian and its Disintegration. Oxford et al. a. 2004. ISBN 0-19-925815-5 .
  • 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 September 7, 2012]).
  • Snježana Kordić : The Montenegrin standard variety of the standard pluricentric language . In: Branislav Ostojić (ed.): Jezička situacija u Crnoj Gori - norma i standardizacija . Radovi sa međunarodnog naučnog skupa, Podgorica May 24-25, 2007. Crnogorska akademija nauka i umjetnosti, Podgorica 2008, ISBN 978-86-7215-207-4 , p. 35–47 ( Online [PDF; 1,2 MB ; accessed on April 3, 2013] Serbo-Croatian: Crnogorska standardna varijanta policentričnog standardnog jezika .).
  • Батрић Јовановић: Расрбљивање Црногораца - Стаљинов и Титов Злочин. Српска Школска Књига, Belgrade 2003. ISBN 86-83565-11-4
  • Егон Фекете, Драго Ђупић, Богдан Терзић: Српски језички саветник. Српска Школска Књига, Belgrade 2005. ISBN 86-83565-23-8

See also

Web links

Commons : Montenegrin language  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files