Serbo-Croatian language

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( srpskohrvatski jezik , српскохрватски језик)

Spoken in

Serbia , Montenegro , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia , Kosovo
speaker approx. 17–22 million (total number of speakers of all standard varieties usually counted as Serbo-Croatian and dialects covered by them)
Official status
Official language in Yugoslavia Socialist Federal RepublicYugoslavia Yugoslavia (until 1990/1992) Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1998) Bosnian , Croatian , Serbian and Montenegrin are official languages ​​in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Language codes
ISO 639 -1

sh (obsolete) ; instead now bs (Bosnian) , hr (Croatian) , sr (Serbian)

ISO 639 -2

only separately bos (Bosnian) , hrv (Croatian) , srp (Serbian)

ISO 639-3

hbs (macro language)

Approximate extent of the Serbo-Croatian language

Serbo-Croatian or Croatian -Serbian (Serbo-Croatian srpskohrvatski or hrvatskosrpski or Cyrillic српскохрватски or хрватскосрпски ) is a pluricentric language from the South Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages . It is based in all of its standard varieties on the štokavian dialect group . Your language area includes today's Croatia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Montenegro and Serbia . In linguistics, the term Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian ( B / K / S for short ) is also used as an alternative .

The term Serbo-Croatian was first mentioned in 1824 by Jacob Grimm in the foreword of his translation of the Little Serbian Grammar by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić . A few years later, in 1836, this expression was used again in a letter by the philologist Jernej Kopitar . Serbo-Croatian had been the official common standard language of Serbs , Croats , Bosniaks and Montenegrins since the second half of the 19th century . This development was encouraged by the Austro-Hungarian authorities , but also partially rejected by the Croats. In 1907, Bosnia became the first Balkan country to officially introduce the “Serbian-Croatian language” ( srpsko-hrvatski jezik ) as an official title in schools and public institutions. In all of Yugoslavia this name was only introduced in 1954 after the Novi Sad Agreement . After the break-up of Yugoslavia , Serbo-Croatian was still the official language of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995 , before the relevant language standards developed apart for politically motivated reasons, as in the other successor states, which was achieved through the consistent use of the independent terms Croatian , Serbian , Bosnian and Montenegrin was underlined.

The status of the standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian as independent languages ​​is linguistically unsustainable. Rather, it is a question of realizations of a macro language that differ slightly from one another and thus de facto the same language system. The situation of the Serbo-Croatian language in sociolinguistics roughly corresponded to the situation of the English ( English , American and Canadian variants) and German ( German , Austrian and Swiss variants).

Definition and glottonyms

Despite the current linguistic assessment of the problem, the term Serbo-Croatian is rarely used, especially in Croatia and Serbia. Corresponding to the variable use of the language term , the internationally established glossonym has become a contested expression today. According to some linguists, it is a comprehensive term for Bosnian , Croatian , Montenegrin and Serbian . It is controversial whether Serbo-Croatian is a language or a language subfamily. The written language varieties of Serbo-Croatian are all based on forms of the štokavian dialect and agree in most of the grammar and vocabulary , but differ in other parts of the vocabulary, in many details of the linguistic norm and in the use of different alphabets (in Croatian and Bosnian das Latin , in Serbian mainly the Cyrillic alphabet).

Whether it is a matter of varieties of a single language or four closely related independent languages ​​is a matter of dispute both in linguistics (especially at chairs within the countries concerned) and among some speakers themselves. For example, the differences between standard Serbian and standard Croatian are much smaller than the differences between several Croatian dialects.

The alternative designation Middle South Slavic or Central South Slavic was coined by Dalibor Brozović in 1992 to replace the term “Serbo-Croatian”, which was “compromised by an agonizing past”. So far, however, it has mainly been used by himself, while linguistics sometimes uses the abbreviation B / K / S for Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian .


Traditional written language varieties

The history of the South Slavic peoples, and consequently also the South Slavic languages , ran for centuries in the field of literature and language development due to the fact that the majority of Serbs belonged to the Ottoman Empire and the majority of Croats belonged to the Habsburg Empire for over 500 years .

Both the Croats and the Serbs developed written language varieties on the basis of the štokavian dialect, but no uniform, cross-national norm. At the same time, written forms of Kajkavic and Čakavic existed among the Croats , while Church Slavonic was used as the written language among the Serbs until the early modern period . In the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russian form of Church Slavonic prevailed among the Serbs due to the Russian influence on the Orthodox Slavic peoples of the Ottoman Empire, in addition to which a Serbian-Russian-Church Slavonic mixed language appeared for secular texts, known as Slavs -Serbian ( slavenosrpski , also slavjanoserbski ) is called.

Standardization in the 19th century

In the first half of the 19th century, the Illyrian movement in Habsburg Croatia pursued the goal of developing a uniform written language based on Štokavian, if possible for all southern Slavs (initially including the Slovenes and Bulgarians ), but at least for all Croatians. Ljudevit Gaj , probably the most important representative of Illyrism, went from Kajkavic in the region around Zagreb to Štokavian-Ijekavic in his magazine Danica ( Morgenstern ) in 1836 . The traditional written language of Dubrovnik served as a model . In the field of orthography, the Illyrists oriented themselves on the Latin alphabet of Czech . The letters with special characters č, š, ž, ě and the ć taken from Polish took the place of various previously used, regionally different digraphs .

At the same time, the Serbs Vuk Karadžić and his followers endeavored to replace Church Slavonic as a written language with the štokavian vernacular. From 1813 on, Vuk Karadžić wrote numerous works on and in the Serbian vernacular - a grammar, a dictionary, collections of folk songs and a translation of the Bible . The aim of the reform should be a written language based on the spoken vernacular, the orthography of which should exclusively follow the pronunciation (according to his motto: Piši kao što govoriš write as you speak! ). Through a radical reform of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, he achieved that since then each phoneme corresponds to exactly one letter. Karadžić mainly used the štokavian-Ijekavian dialect, known today as "East Herzegovinian", as spoken in eastern Herzegovina, northern Montenegro and southwestern Serbia, where he himself came from.

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 joint codification of the written language was the so-called Vienna Agreement of March 28, 1850, which was signed by a number of Serbian and Croatian linguists (including Vuk Karadžić, his colleague Đuro Daničić and the Croatian Illyrist Ivan Mažuranić ) as well as from respected Slovene Slavicists Franc Miklošič , who were staying in Vienna to work on the standardization of legal terminology in the languages ​​of the Habsburg Empire operated by the Austro-Hungarian government. The signatories of the agreement committed themselves to the goal “that a people must have a literature” (“da jedan narod treba jednu književnost da ima”). They suggested that Štokavian-Ijekavian should be the basis of the common written language, and made suggestions for the unification of some questions of standardization that had hitherto been solved differently in Croatia and Serbia. These were mainly of a morphological and orthographical 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 legal terminology was published in separate columns for Croatian and Serbian, which was partly due to the fact that opponents of Karadžić's language reform were also involved in the Serbian version, who included words of Slavic Serbian origin. The Vienna Agreement was an informal declaration of intent that was initially not followed by any further steps. 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.

In the Kingdom of Serbia, in the 1860s, the supporters of the language reform Vuk Karadžić 'prevailed against the supporters of a more Slavic-Serbian-oriented written language. The orthography was based on the strictly phonological reformed Cyrilliza, the basis of the standard grammar was the grammar of the Serbian language, which was written by Đuro Daničić in accordance with Karadžić's ideas and the "Vienna Agreement". Regarding the reflex of the etymological Jat in the written language, however, the followers Karadžić 'and Daničić' could not prevail in the Kingdom of Serbia and in Vojvodina. The use of Ijekavic was adopted here by only a limited number of people, the majority staying with Ekavic in accordance with most of the dialects spoken in these areas. Ijekavian was able to establish itself as a written language in Montenegro and among the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Croatian military border, where Ijekavian dialects are also spoken.

In Croatia, the official spelling of Štokavian, which was initially referred to in Illyrian tradition as Illyrian and from the beginning of the 1860s as Croatian or Serbian , from the 1840s to the 1880s was mainly based on that of the 1840s Illyristic grammarians codified norms that differed in some respects from those advocated by Karadžić 'and Daničić': The orthography was partly based on morphological, not on phonological criteria (this is how vocal tone assimilation was not reproduced in writing), 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 "Croatian Vuk followers" developed parallel to this, demanding strict phonological orthography and an orientation of morphology to the forms of spoken Štokavian as it was realized in the works of Karadžić and Daničić. This school, whose most important representatives were the grammarian Tomislav Maretić and the lexicographer Ivan Broz , was able to establish itself at 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 .

In the expansion of the vocabulary , however, there was no systematic cooperation, so that the differences between the written language used by the Croatians and that used by the Serbs due to different approaches to the formation of neologisms and the adoption of foreign words in this period still partially exist enlarged.

Since the linguistics of the time generally regarded the morphology and the basic vocabulary inherited from older forms of language as decisive for the classification of languages, the view prevailed in Slavic studies of the time that the written language largely in these areas Corresponding languages ​​of the Serbs and Croats are to be regarded as a single language, for which the term Serbo-Croatian was initially naturalized , especially in foreign Slavic studies . August Leskien's grammar of the Serbo-Croatian language (Heidelberg 1914) made the term popular in German-speaking countries.

Linguistic development in the 20th century

After the founding of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia ) as the common state of these South Slavic peoples, the official language was initially called "Serbo-Croato , in accordance with the official ideology that Serbs , Croats and Slovenes are one people. Slovenian ”. However, since the Slovene written language differed significantly from that of the Serbs and Croats in all areas and was also generally regarded as an independent language by the Slavic studies of the time, Slovene was de facto still used as the official language within the Slovene settlement area, which was also favored by that the settlement area of ​​the Slovenes is geographically relatively clearly distinguishable from that of the other South Slavic peoples. In the rest of the country, however, Serbo-Croatian was declared the uniform official language, whereby the differences between the written language varieties were not taken into account. Since the capital of the new state was Belgrade and its institutions were largely ruled by the politicians, officials and military of the previous Kingdom of Serbia , this led in practice to the fact that the Serbian variety of the written language was used as the official language, while the In the field of vocabulary, different forms of the written language variety used in Croatia up to that point were officially regarded as non-standard regionalisms. This in turn led to the increasing demand on the Croatian side to recognize Croatian as an independent language in order to end the discrimination against Croatian expressions. After the formation of the autonomous “Banovina Croatia” in 1939, the Croatian variant of the language was officially used in its territory.

During the Second World War, the fascist so-called “ Independent State of Croatia ” ( Nezavisna Država Hrvatska , NDH, 1941–1945) tried to push through a radical departure from the existing linguistic norm. The Croatian State Language Office ( Hrvatski državni ured za jezik ) tried to ban all (actual or alleged) Serbisms and foreign words from the language and to replace them with partly older and traditional, partly newly formed "real Croatian" words (e.g. telegraph through the new brzojav , literally “Schnellmeld”, or waggon restaurant through kola za blagovanje , literally “wagon for dining”). At the same time, ignoring the opposition of leading Croatian linguists, a spelling reform was decreed, through which the spelling reform implemented by the Croatian Vuk supporters at the end of the 19th century should be reversed. The new norm should - like the orthography of the “Zagreb School” in the 19th century - be based in part on morphonological rather than strictly on phonological criteria, since the phonological orthography is supposedly specifically “Serbian”.

Were in communist Yugoslavia in the early years after 1945, as in the journalism of just as partisans during the Second World War , the Serbian and Croatian as two separate languages recognized so that the Yugoslav state at this time four official languages recognized (Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian and Macedonian ). In the following years, however, the official political line changed again.

In 1954, the Novi Sad Agreement stipulated that the language of Serbs , Croats and Montenegrins was the same, namely Serbo-Croatian and Croatian-Serbian (the Bosniaks and South Slav Muslims were implicitly included but not separately mentioned, as they were not recognized as an independent nation at the time were). Only the difference in pronunciation between "Ijekavisch" and "Ekavisch" and the use of the two different alphabets should remain. Serbian was then usually referred to as the "eastern variant", and Croatian as the "western variant" of Serbo-Croatian. Slovene and Macedonian, on the other hand, retained their recognition as languages ​​in their own right, and at regional level the languages ​​of non-Slavic minorities such as Hungarian and Albanian were also recognized as official languages.

This regulation met with increasing opposition in Croatia in the 1960s. In 1967 well-known Croatian linguists, writers and politicians signed the declaration on the name and status of the Croatian written language ( Deklaracija o nazivu i položaju hrvatskog književnog jezika ), in which they demanded the right that a people should be allowed to name their language after themselves if this language is identical with the language of another people. Tito's central government reacted to this declaration with repression, which in the end probably reinforced the Croatian resistance, which ultimately led to the “ Croatian Spring ”. Then in 1974 "Croatian" was reintroduced as the designation of the subject in schools in Croatia, and each republic could name its own regional variety of the language in its constitution. However, “Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian” (now officially mostly called in combination) remained in use as the designation for the entire language and the official language at federal level.

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia , Bosnian , Croatian and Serbian have been officially recognized as languages ​​in their own right, while the status of the Montenegrin language is still controversial. In Croatia in particular, linguistic peculiarities that had been frowned upon, suppressed or forgotten since 1918 are used again. The grammatical system and the basic vocabulary of the three languages ​​are still largely identical, but the language maintenance that is no longer taking place together should contribute to a future further development. The language abbreviation sh (according to ISO 639 ) has been obsolete since February 18, 2000.

Serbo-Croatian as a subject

Many of the universities that have a Slavonic department also offer Serbo-Croatian in addition to other Slavic languages. Sometimes the designation B / K / S (for Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian ) or Croatian / Serbian is used, i.e. a language for which there are several designations is assumed.

Serbo-Croatian is offered as an independent subject at the following German universities (as of 2012): Hamburg , Göttingen , Gießen , Mainz , Heidelberg , Munich , Regensburg , Halle , Jena and Leipzig . As part of a general degree in Slavic Studies, the language can be learned at the following universities: Bochum , Trier , Saarbrücken , Freiburg , Tübingen , Bamberg , HU Berlin and Cologne .

In Austria, Serbo-Croatian or B / K / S can be studied in Vienna and Graz , as well as in Innsbruck and Klagenfurt as part of general Slavic studies.


The South Slavic dialects spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia , Montenegro and Serbia are part of a dialect continuum that, in addition to Serbo-Croatian, also includes Slovenian , Macedonian and Bulgarian . They can be divided into four dialect groups that are not congruent with the national territories. According to the respective form of the question word, three of the dialect groups are what? named, which is itself only one of numerous phonological and morphological features on which this classification is based.

The Štokavische (after the question word for "what?" Što or šta ) is all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro as well as in most of Serbia and Croatia spoken. The KAJKAVIAN ( kajkavski ; interrogative kaj "what?") Is in the northern Croatia ( Karlovac , Zagreb , Koprivnica spread and vicinity). In addition to the emblematic word kaj , it has a large number of morphological and lexical similarities with neighboring Slovenian . The Čakavische ( čakavski ; interrogative mostly Ca "what?") Is spoken in the northern and central part of the Croatian coast, which is larger contiguous čakavische areas on the mainland just to Rijeka and Istria there, while further south most of the islands ( up to and including Lastovo ) and is limited to some of the coastal towns. The dialects of southeastern Serbia, which form a transition from Štokavian to Macedonian and Bulgarian , are known as Torlak . Since the question word “what?” Is što - just like in Štokavian, Macedonian and Bulgarian - the Torlak dialects are often added to the štokavian. Since the actual basis of the division into different dialect groups is not a single word, but a whole series of phonological, morphological and syntactic features, Torlak with its morphological-syntactic peculiarities is to be regarded as a separate dialect group.

Spread of Ijekavian, Ekavic and ikavic pronunciation (borders of 2006)

The Štokavian can in turn be divided into several subgroups. The most noticeable difference concerns the different renditions of the ancient Slavonic sound * ě (called "Jat"). After playing this sound as ije (. Eg Proto-Slavic * světъ > svijet "world" or * květъ > cvijet "flower"), e ( svet, cvet ) or i ( svit, Cvit ) the štokavischen dialects in ijekavische ( ijekavica ) ekavische ( ekavica ) and ikavische ( ikavica ) distinguished. Ijekavian dialects are spoken in parts of Croatia, most of Bosnia-Herzegovina, all of Montenegro, and in the border areas of western Serbia. Ekavian dialects are spoken in most of Serbia. Ikavic dialects occur in parts of Dalmatia , southern Istria , western Herzegovina, and parts of western Bosnia and southern Slavonia .

The written language of all four nationalities is based on Štokavian . The Croats, Bosniaks and Montenegrins only use Ijekavian, the Serbs in Serbia mainly Ekavian, while the Bosnian Serbs mostly use Ijekavian. There are also some less common phonetic differences in the vocabulary of Slavic origin. There are also differences in the use of foreign words: Serbian falsifikovati vs. Croatian falsificirati ; sb. okean vs. kr. ocean ; sb. hemija vs. kr. kemija . In general, foreign words are used more sparingly in Croatian than in Serbian, while Bosnian contains many turzisms . There are a large number of regionalisms, but their area of ​​distribution often does not follow national borders. The differences in basic vocabulary , on the other hand, are smaller than, for example, between many German dialects .

Standard varieties

Serbo-Croatian is not understood as a centralized unified language, but as a pluricentric language that does not know a single standard form (such as Italian , Polish or Finnish ), but has several standard varieties (such as most languages ​​spoken by several nations , e . B. standard German with the varieties of Swiss standard German , Austrian German and Germany German , English with the varieties of British English , American English , Australian English , Scottish English , etc .; French with France French , Belgian French , Swiss French , Quebec French , etc.). In deviation from the German linguistic terminology, Serbo-Croatian studies such a standard variety as a variant (Serbo-Croatian varijanta ).

At all times, the varieties of Serbo-Croatian differed and differ not only in the difference between Ijekavian and Ekavian pronunciation and the use of the two alphabets, but above all in the vocabulary (cf.Differences between the Serbo-Croatian standard varieties; the statement that two varieties written in Ijekavian and Latin in equal measure does not mean that they are identical.)

Regional varieties of Serbo-Croatian 1954–1974

The Novi Sad Agreement, concluded in 1954, distinguished two "variants", two official "pronunciations" (Serbo-Croatian izgovor ) and two alphabets, which were distributed as follows:

  • the western variant ( zapadna varijanta ), which only appeared in the Ijekavian pronunciation and Latin script (used in the sub-republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina);
  • the eastern variant ( istočna varijanta ), which appeared in two pronunciations, both of which could be written in both Cyrillic and Latin:
    • in Ekavian pronunciation (in the Republic of Serbia),
    • in Ijekavian pronunciation (in the sub-republics of Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina).

In the 1950s and 1960s, however, there was also an unofficial effort to reduce the differences between the varieties, perhaps with the aim of ultimately obtaining a "Yugoslav" standard language with a single standard, which was called a "compromise" on the eastern variety based, but would only be written in Latin. From the Croatian point of view this is seen as evidence of the continued Serbian hegemony , from the Serbian point of view it is seen as a “democratic” necessity, since the speakers of the Eastern variety were clearly in the majority compared to those of the Western with around 10 to 5 million.

Regional varieties of Serbo-Croatian 1974–1991

When in 1974, after the " Croatian Spring ", new constitutions of the federal state and the sub-republics were passed, the sub-republics could each define a regional standard language expression (Serbo-Croatian književnojezički izraz ). The overall language was now officially called “Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian” (Serbo-Croatian srpskohrvatski ili hrvatskosrpski jezik ). Now there were four different varieties, of which only two were still considered official "variants". The other two could be compared with the varieties of the German language in Luxembourg , East Belgium , Liechtenstein and South Tyrol, described by Ulrich Ammon (1995) as “half centers” (compared to the “full centers” in Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland). In total, the following varieties have now been recognized:

  • the Croatian-Serbian variant of the Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language ( hrvatskosrpska varijanta srpskohrvatskoga ili hrvatskosrpskoga jezika ), sometimes also as the Croatian standard language ( hrvatski književni jezik ), but never referred to as the Croatian language ( part of the Latin script): Croatian language ( hrvatski jezik )
  • the Serbo-Croatian variant of the Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language ( srpskohrvatska varijanta srpskohrvatskoga ili hrvatskosrpskoga jezika ; official language of the Republic of Serbia): mostly Ekavian (more rarely also Ijekavian), in Cyrillic or Latin script;
  • the Montenegrin standard expression of the Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language ( crnogorski književnojezički izraz srpskohrvatskoga ili hrvatskosrpskoga jezika ; official language of the Republic of Montenegro): Ijekavian, in Cyrillic or Latin script;
  • the Bosnian-Herzegovinian standard expression of the Serbo-Croatian or Croatian-Serbian language ( bosansko-hercegovački književnojezički izraz srpskohrvatskoga ili hrvatskosrpskoga jezika ; official language of the sub-republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and used by all population groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Latin, Ijekavian and written there: Latin)

National varieties of Serbo-Croatian since 1991

Croatian-Serbian road sign in Dalj in Eastern Croatia

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, the standard varieties were no longer tied to the former republics, but primarily to the nationality of the speakers. (However, there are differences of opinion about this. For example, it is unclear or perhaps also individually different whether Serbs living in Croatia speak Serbian or Croatian, and Bosnian is used by some as a common idiom of all inhabitants of Bosnia, while others are used as the idiom of Muslim-Bosnian nationality.) This led to a qualitative change from regional standard varieties within Yugoslavia to national varieties in the full sense :

  • the Croatian national variety (spoken by Croats mainly in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, official language of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina): written in Ijekavian and Latin;
  • the Bosnian national variety (spoken by Bosniaks mainly in Bosnia, official language of Bosnia-Herzegovina): Ijekavian, written in Latin;
  • the Serbian national variety, which exists in at least three state standard varieties (similar to the German national variety of the German until 1990 in two state varieties, namely that of the FRG and that of the GDR ):
    • the variety of Serbia (official language of Serbia, also propagated as the official language by Serbian nationalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1993 and 1998): mostly written in Ekavian, increasingly Cyrillic, but also in Latin;
    • the variety Bosnia-Herzegovina (official language of Bosnia-Herzegovina): written Ijekavian, Latin or Cyrillic;
    • the variety of Montenegro (official language of Montenegro): written in Ijekavian, Latin or Cyrillic.

This “nationalization” of the varieties, combined with their complete codification in their own dictionaries and grammars, is perceived by most speakers as a development towards fully-fledged, independent standard languages. However, it should be remembered that - regardless of the political evaluation of this process - the differences between the individual varieties are still smaller than e.g. B. those between the Austrian and the domestic German variety of German and the mutual intelligibility between the Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin standard variety is higher than between the standard varieties of English , French , German or Spanish .

After the conference series as part of an international project, which took place in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, experts from the four countries wrote the declaration on the common language in 2017 . More than 200 intellectuals and cultural workers, including well-known writers, linguists, journalists, actors, historians and other scholars from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, who signed the language document before publication, give the declaration special weight. After it was published, thousands of people took the opportunity to sign the declaration online. The declaration states that in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro a common polycentric standard language is used, which consists of several standard varieties, as in the cases of German, English or Spanish.

Political status

The discussion about the status of Serbo-Croatian is heavily ideological. While speakers of the varieties Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian can communicate very well, the existence of a common language is often negated. There are basically two different points of view.

Perspective 1
Serbo-Croatian as a pluricentric language

Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian are not individual languages, but rather varieties of a language (similar to Austrian and German German, or British and American English). The written Serbian and Croatian languages, for example, differ less from one another than Bavarian and Standard German . In some cases, the dialectal differences within Croatia are greater than those between the standard language of Croatia and that of the other two Serbo-Croatian-speaking countries (see dialects ).

The aversion to Serbo-Croatian is mainly due to the historical development in the former Yugoslavia and the ideologization of Serbo-Croatian there. Hence, politics and most speakers viewed belonging to a common language with neighbors in the former Yugoslavia primarily as an admission of belonging to a common culture or people. For the same motivation, linguists from the affected countries also looked for identity-creating features of their respective variety (see ideologized linguistics ). The disintegration of Yugoslavia into individual states led to the regional variants of the Serbo-Croatian language being elevated to the status of a separate official language bearing the national name in their respective speaking countries .

Nevertheless, it makes no sense for a non-native speaker to learn Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian one after the other, just as one does not need interpreters and translators between these “languages”.

The Croatian linguist Snježana Kordić explains that Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin are standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian, which continues to exist as a polycentric language, just as German, English, French and Spanish are spoken in different countries by different nations in different variants .

Perspective 2
The uniform Serbo-Croatian language as a myth

The “Serbo-Croatian language” is a political construct that never existed as a standard language . In accordance with the ideology that Serbs and Croats are a single Serbo-Croat or Yugoslav people, the language has been defined as "Serbo-Croat", which was an expression of panserbism or Yugoslav unitarianism. Due to their historical development and standardization, the Croatian and Serbian languages ​​should be regarded as individual languages and only developed in parallel for a few decades (at the time of Yugoslavia) (and sometimes under duress).

The fact that the three standard languages ​​Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian have developed from New Štokavian is not to be given too much importance. In linguistics there are numerous examples of similar but recognized different standard languages, such as B.

(However, Hindi and Urdu as well as Romanian and Moldavian are also considered by many linguists to be varieties of a language, and the standard Macedonian and Norwegian languages ​​are based on different dialects than Bulgarian and Danish, respectively.)

In this perspective, the differences between the Croatian and the Serbian standard language are emphasized, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Alphabet : Latin vs. Cyrillic
  2. Orthography : mainly adaptation of foreign names (e.g. Serbian Nju Jork , Њу Јорк, vs. Croatian mostly New York ) and spelling of certain future tense forms (e.g. Serbian radiću , радићу, vs. Croatian radit ću “ich wird work")
  3. Phonetics : different accentuation of individual words
  4. Grammar : various differences, etc. a. Avoidance of the infinitive in Serbian (e.g. želim da radim , literally "I want me to work" vs. Croatian želim raditi "I want to work")
  5. Morphology : many different detailed regulations that were previously mostly a matter of stylistics were
  6. Vocabulary and semantics : differences in a range of words

To speak only of an eastern and western variant of the same language is politically desirable in this context. With the end of Yugoslavia came the end of the Serbo-Croatian language.

Ideologized linguistics

Different ethno-political terms for the language

The opinions of linguists in the successor states of Yugoslavia about origins and relationships within the language differ depending on the country of origin:

  • The mainstream Serbian linguists still considered Serbo-Croatian as a language with two varieties. In addition, the majority of Serbian linguists believe that Serbo-Croatian is fundamentally based on the Serbian language. A minority, on the other hand, is of the opinion that Serbo-Croatian existed, but has now broken down into individual languages. Another minority takes the position that such a language never existed and that the Serbo-Croatian language is only the Croatian variant of Serbian (since, according to Vuk Karadžić ', all speakers of Štokavian Serbs and only speakers of Cakavian are real Croats).
  • The majority of Croatian linguists are convinced that a unified Serbo-Croatian language never existed and that there existed two individual languages ​​instead, which have undergone phases of convergence several times in the course of history. They are also convinced that no resolution has taken place, since a Serbo-Croatian standard language never existed. A minority of Croatian linguists also deny that the standard Croatian language is mainly based on the štokavian dialect. Yet another minority holds that the Serbian language is an offshoot of Croatian, since it is a subset of the Croatian dialect system when viewed as a dialectal system. (In Croatia there are štokavian, kajkavian and čakavian dialects, in Serbia there are only štokavian, with the exception of Torlak.)
  • The majority of Bosnian linguists consider Serbo-Croatian to be a still existing language based on the Bosnian national language, since Vuk Karadžić used the štokavian-Ijekavian dialects of eastern Herzegovina as a basis for his standard language. A minority even goes so far as to claim that Croats and Serbs have historically mastered their language in order to use it as a means to achieve their political and cultural goals.

On the part of Croatian linguists and politicians, there were massive attempts, especially in the 1990s, to implement their point of view in the Slavonic studies of foreign universities. However, these attempts have largely failed: While individual scholars such as Reinhard Lauer advocate independent Croatian studies , the majority of Slavists outside of the Slavic-speaking area stick to the research and teaching subject Serbo-Croatian .

See also


  • Leopold Auburger : The Croatian Language and Serbo-Croatism. Hess, Ulm 1999, ISBN 3-87336-009-8 .
  • 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 .
  • Dalibor Brozović: Serbo-Croatian as a pluricentric language. In: Michael Clyne (Ed.): Pluricentric Languages: Differing Norms in Different Nations. Berlin / New York 1992, ISBN 3-11-012855-1 , pp. 347-380.
  • Daniel Bunčić: The (re-) nationalization of Serbo-Croatian standards. In: Sebastian Kempgen, Karl Gutschmidt, Ulrike Jekutsch, Ludger Udolph (ed.): German contributions to the 14th International Slavist Congress, Ohrid 2008. Munich 2008 (= Peter Rehder, Igor Smirnov (ed.): Die Welt der Slaven, anthologies / Sborniki, Volume 32). ISBN 978-3-86688-007-8 , pp. 89-102.
  • Robert D. Greenberg: Language and Identity in the Balkans: Serbo-Croatian and its Disintegration. Oxford et al. a. 2004, ISBN 0-19-925815-5 .
  • 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 .
  • Bernhard Gröschel : Post-Yugoslav Official Language Regulations - Sociolinguistic Arguments Against the Uniformity of Serbo-Croatian? In: Srpski jezik . tape 8 , no. 1–2 , 2003, ISSN  0354-9259 , pp. 135-196 ( ).
  • 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 .
  • Pavle Ivić: The Serbo-Croatian dialects. Your structure and development. Volume 1: General and the štokavian dialect group. 1958 (no further volumes published).
  • Miro Kačić: Croatian and Serbian: errors and falsifications. In: Collaboration with Ljiljana Šarić. Translated by Wiebke Wittschen, Ljiljana Šarić. Zagreb 1997, ISBN 953-6602-01-6 .
  • 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, OCLC 699514676 , p. 95-106 ( [accessed October 7, 2013]).
  • Snježana Kordić : The relative clause in Serbo-Croatian (=  Lincom Studies in Slavic Linguistics . Volume 10 ). Lincom Europa, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-89586-573-7 , p. 330 ( table of contents ).
  • Snježana Kordić : Words in the border area of ​​lexicon and grammar in Serbo-Croatian (=  Lincom Studies in Slavic Linguistics . Volume 18 ). Lincom Europa, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-89586-954-6 , p. 280 .
  • Snježana Kordić : Language and Nationalism (=  Rotulus Universitas ). Durieux, Zagreb 2010, ISBN 978-953-188-311-5 , p. 430 (Serbo-Croatian, [PDF; 1.6 MB ; accessed on April 2, 2011] Original title: Jezik i nacionalizam .).
  • Miloš Okuka : One language - many heirs: language policy as an instrument of nationalization in ex-Yugoslavia. Klagenfurt 1998, ISBN 3-85129-249-9 .
  • 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 ). tape 4 . Non Lieu, Innsbruck 1996, OCLC 243829127 , p. 205-219 .
  • Branko Tošović (Ed.): The differences between Bosnian / Bosniak, Croatian and Serbian . LIT, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-8258-0144-1 (3 volumes).
  • The general transferable theory chapters in: Ulrich Ammon: The German language in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: The problem of national varieties are recommended for comparison, especially for German-speaking readers . de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1995, ISBN 3-11-014753-X .

Web links

Wiktionary: Serbo-Croatian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Notes and individual references


  1. Other terms used are Croatian or Serbian ( hrvatski ili srpski ) and Serbian or Croatian ( srpski ili hrvatski ), Croatian-Serbian ( hrvatsko-srpski ) or Serbian-Croatian ( srpsko-hrvatski ).

Individual evidence

  1. a b Ustav RBiH.pdf. Fondacija Centar za javno pravo, March 14, 1993, accessed on March 29, 2017 : "U Republici Bosni i Hercegovini u službenoj upotrebi je srpskohrvatski odnosno hrvatskosrpski jezik ijekavskog izgovora."
  2. a b 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. 93 .
  3. 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."
  4. ^ Wuk's Stephanowitsch little Serbian grammar, translated into German and with a preface by Jacob Grimm. In addition to remarks on the latest conception of long heroic songs… G. Reimer, Leipzig and Berlin 1824, p. XX.
  5. ^ Nina Janich , Albrecht Greule : Language cultures in Europe. An international manual. Narr, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 3-8233-5873-1 , p. 264.
  6. Nedad Memić: "These words are already common practice." On the internationalization of the Bosnian vocabulary after the Austro-Hungarian occupation. In: Clemens Ruthner, Tamara Scheer (ed.): Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria-Hungary 1878–1918: Approaching a colony. Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, Tübingen 2018, pp. 359–372, here p. 363; Alojz Ivanšević: Separated by the “common language”. Language as a political issue in Croatian-Serbian relations and conflicts before the emergence of Yugoslavia. In: Wolfgang Müller, Michael Portmann, Marija Wakounig (eds.): Nation, nationalities and nationalism in Eastern Europe: Festschrift for Arnold Suppan on his 65th birthday. LIT Verlag, Vienna 2010, pp. 307–330, here p. 328.
  7. ^ 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 ( PDF file; 1.3 MB [accessed August 2, 2010]).
  8. ^ 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. 148, 344, 349 .
  9. 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, OCLC 699514676 , p. 103 ( online [accessed June 17, 2013]).
  10. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages ​​of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex .: SIL International. ISBN 978-1-55671-216-6 ., Poglavlje Serbo-Croatian: A macrolanguage of Serbia (ISO 639-3: hbs)
  11. 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."
  12. ^ Nina Janich, Albrecht Greule (ed.): Language cultures in Europe. An international manual. Gunter Narr Verlag, Tübingen 2002, p. 261.
  13. Snježana Kordić : Pros and Cons: 'Serbo-Croatian' today . In: Marion Krause, Christian Sappok (Ed.): Slavistische Linguistik 2002 . Papers of the XXVIII. Konstanzer Slavist working meeting, Bochum 10.9.-12.9.2002 (=  Slavist contributions ). tape 434 . Sagner, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-87690-885-X , p. 102, 122 ( PDF file; 4.2 MB [accessed February 5, 2012]).
  14. See Dalibor Brozović, “Serbo-Croatian as a pluricentric language”, in: Pluricentric languages. Differing norms in different nations. Ed. Michael Clyne. Berlin, New York 1992, pp. 347-380; and also the other, "Lingvistički nazivi na srednjojužnoslavenskom području", in: Jezik i democizacija / Language and democratization , Sarajevo 2001, pp. 25–32.
  15. Dalibor Brozović, “Aktuellna kolebanja hrvatske jezične norme u slavenskome i europskom svjetlu”, in: Croatica 45/46 (1997), pp. 17–33, p. 19.
  16. Snježana Kordić : Modern national names and texts from past centuries . In: Journal of Balkanology . tape 46 , no. 1 , 2010, ISSN  0044-2356 , p. 40 ( online [accessed April 5, 2013]).
  17. ISO 639-2 / RA Change Notice, Library of Congress, last updated November 7, 2008
  18. ^ Snježana Kordić : Serbo-Croatian (=  Languages ​​of the World / Materials . Volume 148 ). Lincom Europa, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-89586-161-8 , p. 3 ( Table of Contents ( Memento from August 27, 2012 on WebCite )).
  19. ^ Snježana Kordić : Pluricentric languages, extension languages, spaced languages ​​and Serbo-Croatian . In: Journal of Balkanology . tape 45 , no. 2 , 2009, ISSN  0044-2356 , p. 212-214 ( online [accessed December 3, 2012]).
  20. 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 ). tape 4 . Non Lieu, Innsbruck 1996, OCLC 243829127 , p. 219 .
  21. ^ 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."
  22. Manuel Bahrer: Serbo-Croatian / Croatian-Serbian: new declaration on common language . In: Kosmo (magazine) . Vienna March 28, 2017 ( [accessed April 28, 2019]). (Archived on WebCite ( Memento from May 26, 2017 on WebCite ))
  23. Stiven Tripunovski: Unity against your will? Language in the South Slavic area . In: Heiner Grunert and Florian Kührer-Wielach (eds.): Borders in the river (=  Slavic contributions ). tape 434 . Regensburg Schnell et Steiner, Regensburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-7917-2940-4 , OCLC 1011631323 , p. 30–31 ( [accessed April 28, 2019]).
  24. Trudgill, Peter: Time to Make Four to One . In: The New European . November 30, 2017 ( [accessed on April 28, 2019] English: Time to make four into one .).
  25. 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. "
  26. Ulrich Obst: Review of the book S. Kordić 'Jezik i nacionalizam' . In: Journal of Balkanology . tape 49 , no. 1 , 2013, ISSN  0044-2356 , ZDB -ID 201058-6 , p. 139-147 ( [accessed on 28 April 2019]).
  27. ^ Norbert Mappes-Niediek : The Serbo-Croatian language: No fool's discount . In: Frankfurter Rundschau . January 17, 2011, ISSN  0940-6980 , p. 31 ( ). (Archived on WebCite ( Memento of July 5, 2012 on WebCite ))
  28. People who make peace. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . December 29, 2010, p. 2, ISSN  0174-4917 ( )
  29. ^ Bernhard Gröschel : Serbo-Croatian between linguistics and politics. Lincom Europa, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-929075-79-3 , pp. 364-367.