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Serbo-Croatian

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Captain Haddock
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 Message 1 of 96
12 January 2007 at 2:11am | IP Logged 
Just a brief mention of something I read on sci.lang. The linguist Peter T. Daniels (whose credits include coining the term "abiguda" for syllabaries like Devanagari) put the linguistic segregation of Serbo-Croatian to rest, saying:

"There's no difference between Serbian and Croatian except the alphabets they're written with."

And in regards to the dialectical variations that do exist:

"Dialectal variation within Serbocroatian does not coincide with the national/scriptal boundary between Serbia and Croatia. Serbian has the same isoglosses within it that Croatian does."

Of course, what controversy exists is generally limited to the Serbs and Croatians themselves, and I suspect it's just a smokescreen for other issues.

I await the tempest-in-a-teacup that may follow this post. :)
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Frisco
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 Message 2 of 96
12 January 2007 at 2:28am | IP Logged 
I've seen some examples (don't have them handy) that show some significant (grammatical as well as lexical) differences between the two. I would say they have as much of a case for being separate languages as the Scandinavian languages do (which is to say not very much, but whatever floats their boat).
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Captain Haddock
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 Message 3 of 96
12 January 2007 at 3:08am | IP Logged 
Yes, but the point is: "Serbian has the same isoglosses within it that Croatian does."

In other words, you can point to a way a Croatian says a particular thing, and say "aha, that's Croatian", except that there will be parts of Serbia where they say it the same way — and vice versa. So the labels turn out to be useless. Instead, linguists sometimes name the dialects after their distinguishing features (e.g. the Štokavian dialect, which is spoken in parts of all four Serbo-Croatian countries).

In other words, according to Mr. Daniels, who knows much more on the topic than I do, there are dialectical variations of Serbo-Croatian, but they don't line up with the political map or the political notion of Serbian vs. Croatian. The only difference between "Serbian" and "Croatian" is the script.

Edited by Captain Haddock on 12 January 2007 at 3:09am

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winters
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 Message 4 of 96
12 January 2007 at 7:47am | IP Logged 
Captain Haddock wrote:
The only difference between "Serbian" and "Croatian" is the script.

Hardly.
I was brought up in ethnically mixed family and, living in Croatia, Croatian was my main language/variant, but at home we often spoke Serbian, and I learnt both scripts at the same time.

Most of my friends who spoke only Croatian language/variant understood perfectly Serbian, but were still not able to write a composition in it (even assuming they were familiar with the Cyrillic script), and reading books in Serbian was still "uncongenial" to them and somehow 'innatural' (which certainly would not have been the case if the language was identical), despite the fact they could understand them. There are numerous little tricks and differences in lexis and sometimes even grammar.

I feel the difference when I change the language.
When I speak to my friend in Croatian and then my mother calls me on and addresses me in Serbian, I feel that I have changed the language/variant.
When I write the diary, I always write in Cyrillic, regardless of the language, but I know whether I write it in Serbian or Croatian. Even if I am writing it in (i)jekavian form of Serbian, I know that it is Serbian, not Croatian; some of my constructions and lexical items will be different.

Granted, if you know one, you can understand the other, but you will not feel perfectly natural with it or be able to write a thesis in it because of those significant nuances.

Finally, in my own opinion, it would be the most correct to say that Serbian and Croatian are dialects, or two variants, of Štokavian.

Edited by winters on 12 January 2007 at 7:49am

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Chung
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 Message 5 of 96
12 January 2007 at 8:30am | IP Logged 
If the Croatian and Serbian intellectuals in the 18th and 19th centuries had been even more idealistic and had the gift of foresight, I think that they would have settled for a term that implied nothing national. Namely, instead of "Croatian" or "Serbian" or "Serbo-Croatian", they should have called it "Štokavski". But I guess that saying "I speak Štokavski" doesn't ring the same bell as saying "I speak Croatian/Serbian".

It's true that the isoglossary boundaries fit poorly with the national boundaries primarily because of migrations during the Renaissance and Age of Enlightenment.

See this map on the website of Prof. Robert Greenberg of the University of North Carolina.

Before the migrations, the isoglossary boundaries were relatively less messy.

Captain, there is something to your suspicion that the matter of language differentiation is a smokescreen for other problems. You probably remember previous arguments on this forum about it. :-P

I recently got a hold of the new textbook Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian: A Grammar with Sociolinguistic Commentary" by Ronelle Alexander which I recommend for foreign learners of BCS. The message from her book was that the only way to resolve the maddening problem of Bosnian = Croatian = Serbian and Bosnian <> Croatian <> Serbian was to think of the languages as communicative and symbolic tools (for lack of a better word). On one hand, you CANNOT distinguish standard Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian using linguistic characteristics of morphology, phonology or orthography to the point of calling them separate languages since the differences have virtually no effect on communication (apart from the fact that many Bosnians and Croats do not use Cyrillic.). On the other hand, you CAN distinguish standard Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian as separate languages if you accentuate the symoblic value of those languages as markers of national (and political) affiliation and give less attention to their communicative value.

Edited by Chung on 12 January 2007 at 8:45am

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Captain Haddock
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 Message 6 of 96
12 January 2007 at 10:10am | IP Logged 
winters wrote:
Finally, in my own opinion, it would be the most correct to say that Serbian and Croatian are dialects, or two variants, of Štokavian.


Perhaps I don't see the full picture, but that doesn't make sense to me. Even most the sub-dialects (or "pronunciation variants") of Shtovakian can be found spoken in both countries, and in Bosnia. If you speak the Ijekavian version of Shtovakian, are you speaking Serbian or Croatian? Well, both, it seems. And if you speak Kajkavian instead of Shtovakian, again, you could be Serb or Croatian according to the dialect maps.

Quote:
Even if I am writing it in (i)jekavian form of Serbian, I know that it is Serbian, not Croatian;


Again, it appears this dialect is spoken in at least three of the Balkan countries. How does that make it Serbian, except in some vague political sense?

I fully expect our Balkan friends to claim Serbian and Croatian are distinct for reasons that are no doubt complicated, but to the linguist and the language learner, the language itself is what we're interested in; and as far as that goes, Serbo-Croation is one language, written with two scripts.

Case closed for me, unless someone digs up a reliable dialect map whose dialects all neatly coincide with the political borders. :) Anyway, I thought it was interesting to know that in contrast to the political issues that usually cloud discussion of the language.

Edit: thinking a little more, maybe the controversy is a problem of mis-translation. The term Serbo-Croatian is simply not politically charged in English, but someone from a Serbian or Croatian background who learns English might try bringing that misconception with them into English-language discussions.

Edited by Captain Haddock on 12 January 2007 at 10:17am

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Chung
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 Message 7 of 96
12 January 2007 at 11:05am | IP Logged 
I think what winters meant is that MODERN STANDARD Croatian and MODERN STANDARD Serbian are two variants of Štokavski.

This is now true as they are distinguishable from each other.

What happened was that both standard languages originated from a form of Štokavsko-ijekavski (to be precise) that was used in eastern Herzegovina and far southeastern Croatia. Initially, both modern standard Croatian and modern standard Serbian began as Štokavsko-IJEkavski. However, modern standard Serbian later evolved to Štokavsko-ekavski to conform with the Štokavsko-ekavski dialect used around northern Serbia (near Belgrade). Modern Standard Croatian still retains the Štokavsko-ijekavski characteristic.

Of course, Štokavski or some form of it is used in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. As you can see on that map, it's a mess. To take the example further, let's break down the combinations per the map:

Cakavsko-ekavski: Croatia (around Istria)
Cakavsko-ijekavski: Croatia (in the west)
Cakavsko-ikavski: Croatia (in Dalmatia)

Kajkavsko-ekavski: Croatia (northwestern region)
Kajkavsko-ijekavski: Croatia (northwestern region)

Štokavsko-ekavski: Croatia (northeastern region), Serbia (northern region - and now base for standard Serbian)
Štokavsko-ijekavski: Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia (southwestern region) (Base for standard Bosnian and Croatian. Original base for standard Serbian) (N.B. Before the civil war of the 1990s, there were Serbs who lived in a western region of Croatia called "Lika". While these people identified themselves as Serbs and had migrated to Lika several centuries earlier, their language was naturally closer to that used by their Croatian neighbours than that used by their educated compatriots in Belgrade who used standard Serbian. Indeed, the situation isn't as cut-and-dried and some make it to be.)

Štokavsko-ikavski: Bosnia, Croatia (northeastern region), Serbia (northwestern region)

I'm not including other dialects such as "Torlak", "scakavian" or "kajkavsko-ijekavsko-ekavski" since it makes things messier but doesn't take away from the problem about the mismatch between any Štokavski dialect and ethnic affiliation.

Of course, there are people who can use different variants/dialects quite easily, thus making it even tougher to make the link between linguistic and national identification.

From the linguistic journals and textbooks that I have read, I have noted that most foreign linguists treat BCS as one language with different variants since they analyze the language as a linguistic concept and DON'T want to overstep their boundaries and make extralinguistic judgements. When I read books and journals that were written by Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian linguists and authors, some of them made more of the extralinguistic aspects of the language and willingly overstepped their boundaries to make non-linguistic judgements.

As language students outside the Balkans, there was another practical problem in the revulsion towards Serbo-Croatian. Many foreign univerisites had departments for Serbo-Croatian with informal allowances for professors and students to focus on whichever region or culture as necessary or desired. However, with the insistence in the 1990s that anything "Serbo-Croatian" was obsolete and offensive, many foreign universities ran into funding problems in maintaining three departments of Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian instead of one for Serbo-Croatian. Moreover, in the interest of intellectual development, many professors felt that the new arrangement was selling the students short. They felt that students who now wanted to focus on Serbian studies for example but were open-minded to seeing how Bosnians, Croats and Serbs related to each other over the centuries had their interaction with Bosnian or Croatian classmates limited because of the new and rigid separation of the faculty's departments and lectures. Checking some foreign universities' websites, I find that some of them effectively keep one department (probably because of financial reasons as well as realizing that it'd be foolish to study each people's culture and history in isolation of the others) but to placate those who emphasize separation, the universities have renamed the departments as "Department of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian Studies" or something similar.

You're right in that it's a political matter and has less to do with rather dry linguistic concepts such as morphology, syntax and orthography. This is as I had read earlier in Alexander's book when she distinguished the identification of a language either as a tool for communication or a a tool for national association/symbolism.

You're also right that the word "Serbo-Croatian" is a convenient term for English-speakers when discussing the language. We just don't see the worth in equating it to a political statement and kicking up a fuss when linking Croatian and Serbian since they are very similar. I think that it's related to the idea that many of us English-speakers are emphasizing the communicative aspect of the language rather than the symbolic aspect (using Alexander's approach).

Native speakers from Australia to Canada or from the US to India don't get their panties in a knot over the word "English" since they see the value in being able to communicate with each other while still respecting that each of them is a citizen of a different country. Few non-Britons make a close association with Britain even though the majority of speakers of English use some variant of the language. It seems even a little wasteful and baffling to some English-speakers that Bosnians, Croats and Serbs could get unhinged on hearing the word "Serbo-Croatian". :-P

Edited by Chung on 12 January 2007 at 12:20pm

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winters
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 Message 8 of 96
13 January 2007 at 7:22am | IP Logged 
Captain Haddock wrote:
If you speak the Ijekavian version of Shtovakian, are you speaking Serbian or Croatian? Well, both, it seems.

No.
This is what most people fail to realise: the difference between (i)jekavian/ekavian is not the only difference between Serbian and Croatian.
Differences are also found in the lexis, as well as in some constructions. Here are, for example, some sentences taken from the book I have recently been reading in Serbian, "translated" into Croatian:

Serbian: Za njih ne postoji vreme, ne postoji istorija, ne postoji stremljenje niti onaj neobični idol razvitka i napretka, u koji vlasnici kuće očajnički veruju (...) Šta je to što čoveka može da učini srećnim? (...) Čovek valja da pronikne u taj deo svoje sopstvene ličnosti (...) Zapovest ljubavi, nije važno da li je propoveda Hrist ili Gete, svet je pogrešno protumačio! (...) Znam, rećićeš, da se iz ovakvog psihičnog stanja, tokom godina, može da postigne nešto veliko. Uspeh? Ne znam više da li i njega želim? (...) Ovog bednog, smrznutog zimskog dana osećam u sebi talas besa, koji me celu, deo po deo, obuzima. Više ni sama sebe ne mogu da podnesem. (...) Vasiono, zvezde, Meseče, osvetlite mi i ove noći put. Ne uspevam sama da ga nađem, njime krenem. (...)

Croatian: Za njih ne postoji vrijeme, ne postoji povijest, ne postoji stremljenje niti onaj neobičan idol razvoja i napretka, u koji vlasnici kuće očajnički vjeruju (...) Što je to što može čovjeka učiniti sretnim? (...) Čovjek treba/mora proniknuti u taj dio svoje vlastite ličnosti. (...) Zapovijed ljubavi, nije važno propovijeda li je Krist ili Goethe, svijet je pogrešno protumačio! (...) Znam, reći ćeš, da se iz ovakvog psihičnog stanja, tijekom godina, može postići nešto veliko. Uspjeh? Ne znam više želim li i njega. (...) Ovog bijednog, smrznutog zimskog dana osjećam u sebi val bijesa, koji me cijelu, dio po dio, obuzima. Više ni sama sebe ne mogu podnijeti. (...) Svemire, zvijezde, Mjeseče, osvijetlite mi i ove noći put. Ne uspijevam ga sama naći, krenuti njime.

And about other lexical differences, I could speak you for ages (duvati/puhati, hartija/papir, posmatrati/promatrati, čas/sat, odbrana/obrana, toplota/toplina, bogoslovija/teologija, otadžbina/domovina, prihvatati/prihvaćati, beznadežno/beznadno, to name just few I can think of at the moment).

Grammar is partially different, as you could notice from examples, which also changes syntax partially.
The point is - by speaking one, you understand the other one, but you do not neccessarily know to actively use it.


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