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Serbo-Croatian language

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Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat or, rarely, Croato-Serbian (in its own language: srpskohrvatski, српскохрватски, sometimes hrvatskosrpski, хрватскосрпски) is a Slavic language of southern Europe, formerly recognized as a single language and nowadays splitted in three, independent standard varieties (claimed as “languages”) which are Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian (and, possibly, Montenegrin).

Serbo-Croatian used to be considered as a single language by the emerging Serbian and Croatian nationalisms of the 19th century and, then, by the former state of Yugoslavia during the 20th century; nevertheless, several, light variations were allowed in the standard variety, especially there was a freedom of choice between two alphabets: the Latin one or the Cyrillic one.

Since the breakup of Yugoslavia, from 1991 on, Serbo-Croatian has been more and more developped under independent, standard varieties, called “languages” and claimed by different ethnic groups, although the discrepancies between such varieties are very light. Speakers of each variety can easily understand each another. According to a sociolinguistic terminology, Serbo-Croatian is the common diasystem; Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian are three Ausbau languages belonging to this diasystem:

  • Croatian is claimed by Croatian people. It is an official language in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is always written in the Latin script.
  • Bosnian is claimed by Bosniak people (also called “Muslims”). It is an official language in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is always written in the Latin script (though the Cyrillic script is theoretically possible).
  • Serbian is claimed by Serbian people. It is an official language in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro. It is written in the Cyrillic or in the Latin script. In Serbia, only the Cyrillic script is official but the use of the Latin script is allowed.
    • Montenegrin is claimed as the official language of Montenegro. In fact, there is no real difference between standard Serbian and what is called the Montenegrin language. There are some intents to create a new, diverging Montenegrin standard variety but such a project has not been implemented yet.

Writing system

It is very easy to switch between the Latin and the Cyrillic scripts thanks to a simple system of correspondence. The alphabetic order is different between the two systems.

  • Cyrillic order (called азбука, azbuka): А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж З И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш
  • Latin order (called abeceda): A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž
Serbo-Croatian Alphabets
Cyrillic letter Cyrillic
letter name
Latin letter Latin
letter name
Pronunciation
(IPA)
Pronunciation
(English
approximate equivalent)
A, a a A, a a [a] a in "father", u in "cut"
Б, б бе B, b be [b] b
В, в ве V, v ve [ʋ] Resembles v.
Г, г ге G, g ge [g] g in "give"
Д, д де D, d de [d] d
Ђ, ђ ђе Đ, đ
(Dj, dj is an unofficial,
foreign transcripcion)
đe [dʑ] dy in "good year"
E, e e E, e e [e] e in "let"
Ж, ж же Ž, ž že [ʒ] s in "pleasure"
З, з зе Z, z ze [z] z
И, и и I, i i [i] i in "link"
J, j је J, j je [j] y in "yet"
К, к ка K, k ka [k] k
Л, л ле L, l le [l] l
Љ, љ ље Lj, lj lje [ʎ] li in "million"
М, м ме M, m me [m] m
Н, н не N, n ne [n] n
Њ, њ ње Nj, nj nje [ɲ] ni in "onion"
O, o o O, o o [o] aw in "saw", o in "song"
П, п пе P, p pe [p] p
Р, p ре R, r re [r] rolled r
C, c се S, s se [s] s
T, т те T, t te [t] t
Ћ, ћ ће Ć, ć će [tɕ] ty in "let you"
У, y у U, u u [u] oo in "look" or "soon"
Ф, ф фе F, f fe [f] f
X, x ха H, h ha [x] Scottish ch in "loch"
Ц, ц це C, c ce [ts] ts
Ч, ч че Č, č če [tʃ] ch in "such"
Џ, џ џе DŽ, dž dže [dʒ] j
Ш, ш ша Š, š ša [ʃ] sh