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Language & Identity in the Balkans. Ch 3 Serbian: Isn’t my language your language?. 3.0 Introduction. 1992 Montenegro + Serbia = Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) -- unstable and not internationally recognized

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Language & Identity in the Balkans

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Language & Identity in the Balkans

Ch 3

Serbian: Isn’t my language your language?


3.0 Introduction

  • 1992 Montenegro + Serbia = Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) -- unstable and not internationally recognized

  • 2003 FRY > Serbia & Montenegro (loose federation to last 3 years) with Serbian as official language

  • Montenegrin and Montenegrin Serbian are breaking away from Serbian

  • Much emotional debate over status of language


3.1 One language, two variants

  • FRY constitution sanctioned Western & Eastern variants of Serbian, with both scripts and both ekavian and ijekavian pronunciations

  • Attempted reincarnation of a unified language is source of tension between Serbs & Montenegrins


3.1.1 The two alphabets

  • Both Serbs and Montenegrins use Cyrillic, but minorities (Albanians, Bosniacs, Croats, Slovaks, Hungarians, Roma) use Latin

  • Cyrillic is seen as a marker of Serb identity

  • FRY constitution allows both, but gives preference to Cyrillic in Serbia, equality of scripts in Montenegro (where use of Latin is hoped to build ties to western nations and minorities)


3.1.2 The two pronunciations

  • FRY constitutions:

    • Serbia had no reference to pronunciation, suggesting a preference for Belgrade-Novi Sad ekavian, promoted by Serbian linguists

    • Montenegro stated preference for “Serbian in its ijekavian pronunciation”; anxiety over Serbia’s failure to sanction ijekavian


3.2 The factions in Serbian linguistic circles

  • Status-quo: Serbian is naturally evolving as Eastern ekavian variant of former Serbo-Croatian (dialectologist Pavle Ivic, supporter of language union)

  • Neo-Vukovite: return to pure principles of vernacular, want to acknowledge ijekavian

  • Orthodox: extreme nationalism, “Orthodox Serbian” language & orthography, claims that all štokavian speakers are Serbs, return to etymological orthography


3.3 Orthographic chaos: 1993-4

  • An orthographic manual is a contentious item because it is prescriptive about language use, which can have political implications

  • 1993-4 two rival manuals appeared (both published in Cyrillic, but both supported 2 scripts and pronunciations):

    • Matica srpska: approved by major scholars

    • Neo-Vukovite: suggested single graphemes for lj, nj in Latin, arbitrary use of comma, and voicing dissimilation in foreign words (nokdaun ‘knockdown’)


3.3 Orthographic chaos, cont’d.

  • Publication of two competing manuals launched “war for Serbian language”, along with confusion and crisis

    • Protests were staged

    • Supporters of the Neo-Vukovite pravopis waged a revolution against the establishment linguists

    • 1997 Gov’t of Republic of Serbia declared Matica srpska pravopis official, Neo-Vukovite pravopis removed from Serbian bookstores, but Montenegro unofficially preferred the latter


3.4 The battle between the ekavian and ijekavian dialects

  • Within Serbia

    • Ekavian (Eastern) -- urban & sophisticated, associated with Serbia’s main cultural centers

    • Ijekavian (Southern) -- rural & backwards, but preferred by Vuk and also the language of some Serbian classics

    • Proposal to use a single grapheme for both -e- and -ije- that could be pronounced differently, to eliminate need for expensive parallel publications, but pronunciation of jat’ is not the sole distinguisher between the two dialects


3.5 The triumph of the academies

  • 1997 Committee for the Standardization of the Serbian Language breaks a tradition of avoidance of academies and official codifications

  • Members representing all parts of federation, but president was Pavle Ivic and status-quo linguists predominated

  • Serves as decision-making body for the future of Serbian language, could resolve future controversies


3.6 Conclusions

  • New Serbian language has developed from Eastern variant of Serbo-Croatian, but did not undergo significant changes in 1990s

  • This Serbian could be threatened by Republika Srpska or Montenegro which accuse status-quo linguists of favoring ekavian

  • Neo-Vukovite and nationalist Orthodox Serb movements remain active


3.6 Conclusions, cont’d.

  • Late 1990s attempt to unify Serbian language despite challenges:

    • Serbs are dispersed over Balkans, no longer reside in a single state

    • Serbian continues to have two standard pronunciations

  • Predictions: More emotional debates and controversies, but little linguistic change


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