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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 l.jpg

Language & Identity in the Balkans

Ch 3

Serbian: Isn’t my language your language?


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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


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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


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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)


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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


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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


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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’)


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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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