Shtokavian dialect

Shtokavian dialect
Spoken in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania, Hungary
Native speakers 13 million  (date missing)
Language family
Standard forms
Standard Serbo-Croatian (defunct)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List hrv-sht
Linguasphere 53-AAA-ga to -gf &
53-AAA-gi (-gia to -gii)
Shtokavian subdialects1988.png
Shtokavian subdialects (Pavle Ivić 1988)

Shtokavian or Štokavian (play /ʃtɒˈkɑːviən/; Serbo-Croatian: štokavski ~ штокавски) is the prestige dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language, and the basis of its Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrin standards.[1] It is sometimes called the Shtokavian diasystem or Central South Slavic diasystem when considered with its standard forms.

The Štokavian dialect is spoken in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, major part of Croatia, and in southern part of Austria’s Burgenland. The Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin standard languages are all based on the Eastern Herzegovinian variety of Štokavian. Its name comes from the form for the interrogatory pronoun for "what" which is što/што or šta/шта in the Štokavian dialect. This is in contrast to the Croatian dialects of Kajkavian and Čakavian (kaj and ča also meaning "what").

The primary subdivisions of Štokavian are based on two principles: one is whether the subdialect is Old-Štokavian or Neo-Štokavian, and the different ways the old Slavic phoneme jat has been changed. Generally, modern dialectology recognises seven Štokavian subdialects (there are opinions that one or two subdialects more exist, but this is not universally accepted).


Early history of Štokavian

Serbo-Croatian dialects prior to the 16th-century migrations, with demarcation line between the Western and Eastern Shtokavian

The Proto-Štokavian idiom appeared in the 12th century. In the following century or two, Štokavian was divided into two zones: western, which covered the major part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slavonia in Croatia, and eastern, dominant in easternmost Bosnia and Herzegovina and greater parts of Montenegro and Serbia. Western Štokavian was principally characterized by three-accentual system, while eastern Štokavian was marked by two-accentual system. According to research of historical linguistics, the Old-Štokavian was well established by the mid-15th century. In this period it was still being mixed with Church Slavonic to varying degrees, as geographically transitory to Čakavian and Kajkavian dialects spoken on the territory of today's Croatia, with which it had constituted a natural dialectal continuum.

As can be seen from the image on the right, originally the Štokavian dialect covered a significantly smaller area than it covers today, meaning that the Štokavian speech had spread for the last 5 centuries, overwhelmingly at the expense of Čakavian and Kajkavian idioms. Modern areal distribution of these three dialects as well as their internal stratification (Štokavian and Čakavian in particular) is primarily a result of the migrations resulting from the spread of Ottoman Empire on the Balkans.[2] Migratory waves were particularly strong in the 16th-18th century, bringing about large-scale linguistic and ethnic changes on the Central South Slavic area. (See: Great Serb Migrations).

By far the most numerous, mobile and expansionist migrations were those of Ijekavian Štokavian speakers of eastern Herzegovina, who have flooded most of Western Serbia, many areas of eastern and western Bosnia, large swathes of Croatia (Banovina, Kordun, Lika, parts of Gorski kotar, continental pats of northern Dalmatia, some places north of Kupa, parts of Slavonia, southeastern Baranya etc.).[3] This is the reason why Eastern Herzegovinian dialect is the most spoken Serbo-Croatian dialect today, and why it bears the name that is only descriptive of its area of origin. These migrations also played the pivotal role in the spread of Neo-Štokavian innovations.[4]

Relationship towards neighboring dialects

Shtokavian dialect system (diasystem) is charactarized by a number of characteristic historical sound changes, accentual changes, changes in inflection, morphology and syntax. Some of these isoglosses are not exclusive and have also been shared by neighboring dialects, and some of them have only overwhelmingly but not completely been spread on the whole Štokavian area. The differences between Štokavian and the neighboring Eastern South Slavic dialects of Bulgaria and Macedonia are clear and largely shared with other Western South Slavic dialects, while the differences to the neighboring Western South Slavic dialect of Čakavian and Kajkavian are much more fluid in character, and the mutual influence of various subdialects and idioms play a more prominent role.

The main bundle of isoglosses separates Kajkavian and Slovenian dialects on the one hand from Štokavian and Čakavian on the other. These are:[5]:

  1. long falling accent of newer origin (neocircumflex)
  2. development of the consonant group rj (as opposed to consonant /r/) from former soft /r'/ before a vowel (e.g. morjem, zorja)
  3. reflexes of /o/ or /ọ/ of the old Common Slavic nasal vowel /ǫ/, and not /u/
  4. inflectional morpheme -o (as opposed to -ojo) in the instrumental singular of a-declension

Other characteristics distinguishing Kajkavian from Štokavian, beside the demonstrative/interrogatory pronoun kaj (as opposed to što/šta used in Štokavian), are[6]:

  1. a reflex of old semivowels of /ẹ/ (e.g. dẹn < Common Slavic *dьnь, pẹs < Common Slavic *pьsъ); closed /ẹ/ appearing also as a jat reflex
  2. retention of word-final -l (e.g. došel, as opposed to Štokavian došao)
  3. word-initial u- becoming v- (e.g. vuho, vuzel, vozek)
  4. dephonemicization of affricates /č/ and /ć/ to some form of middle value
  5. genitive plural of masculine nouns has the morpheme -of / -ef
  6. syncretized dative, locative and instrumental plural has the ending -ami
  7. the ending -me in the first-person plural present (e.g. vidime)
  8. affix š in the formation of adjectival comparatives (e.g. debleši, slabeši)
  9. supine
  10. future tense formation in the form of bom/bum došel, došla, došlo

Characteristics distinguishing Čakavian from Štokavian, beside the demonstrative/interrogatory pronoun ča, are[7]:

  1. preservation of polytonic three-acentual system
  2. vocalization of weak jers (e.g. malin/melin < Common Slavic *mъlinъ; cf. Štokavian mlin)
  3. vowel /a/ as opposed to /e/ after palatal consonants /j/, /č/, /ž/ (e.g. Čk. jazik/zajik : Št. jezik, Čk. počati : Št. početi, Čk. žaja : Št. želja)
  4. the appearance of extremely palatal /t'/ or /ć'/ (< earlier /t'/) and /j/ (< earlier /d'/) either in free positions or in groups št', žd'
  5. depalatalization of /n'/ and /l'/
  6. /ž/ instead of /dʒ/ (c.f. Čk. žep : Št. džep)
  7. /č/ > /š/ (c.f. Čk. maška : Št. mačka)
  8. word-initial consonant groups čr-, čri-, čre- (c.f. Čk. črivo/črevo : Št. cr(ij)evo, Čk. črn : Št. crn)
  9. conditional mood with biš in the 2nd-person singular
  10. non-syncretized dative, locative and instrumental plural

General characteristics

General characteristics of Štokavian diasystem are the following[8]:

  1. što or šta as the demonstrative/interrogative pronoun
  2. differentiation between two short (in addition to two or three long) accents, rising and falling, though not in all Štokavian speakers
  3. preservation of unaccented length, but not consistenly across all speeches
  4. /u/ as the reflex of Common Slavic back nasal vowel /ǫ/ as well as the syllabic /l/ (with the exception of central Bosnia where a diphthongal /uo/ is also recorded as a reflex)
  5. initial group of v- + weak semivowel yields u- (e.g. unuk < Common Slavic *vъnukъ)
  6. schwa resulting from the jer merger yields /a/, with the exception of Zeta-South Sandžak dialect
  7. metathesis of vьse to sve
  8. čr- > cr-, with the exception of Slavonian, Molise and Vlachia (Gradišće) dialect
  9. word-final -l changes to /o/ or /a/; the exception is verbal adjective in the Slavonian southwest
  10. d' > /dʑ/ (<đ>) with numerous exceptions
  11. cr > tr in the word trešnja "cherry"; some exceptions in Slavonia, Hungary and Romania
  12. /ć/ and /đ/ from jt, jd (e.g. poći, pođem); exceptions in Slavonian and Eastern Bosnian dialect
  13. so-called "new iotation" of dentals and labials, with many exceptions, especially in Slavonia and Bosnia
  14. general loss of phoneme /x/, with many exceptions
  15. ending in genitive plural of masculine and feminine nouns, with many exceptions
  16. ending -u in locative singular of masculine and neuter nouns (e.g. u gradu, u m(j)estu)
  17. infix -ov- / -ev- in the plural of most monosyllabic masculine nouns, with many exceptions (e.g. in the area between Neretva and Dubrovnik)
  18. syncretism of dative, locative and instrumental plural of nouns, with many exceptions
  19. preservation of ending -og(a) in genitive and accusative singular of masculine and neuter gender if pronominal-adjectival declension (e.g. drugoga), with exceptions on the area of Dubrovnik and Livno
  20. special form with the ending -a for the neuter gender in nominative plural of pronominal-adjectival declension (e.g. ova m(j)esta and no ove m(j)esta)
  21. preservation of aorist, which is however missing in some areas (e.g. around Dubrovnik)
  22. special constructs reflecting old dual for numerals 2-4 (dva, tri, četiri stola)
  23. lots of so-called "Turkisms" (turcizmi) or "Orientalisms", i.e. words borrowed from Ottoman Turkish

As can be seen from the list, many of this isoglosses are missing from particular Štokavian idioms, just as many of them are shared with neihgboring non-Štokavian dialects.

Štokavian dialects

Štokavian dialects

The Štokavian dialect is divided into Old-Shtokavian and Neo-Shtokavian subdialects.

Old Shtokavian

Timok-Prizren (Torlakian)

The most conservative dialects stretch southeast from Timok near the Bulgarian border to Prizren. There is disagreement among linguists whether these dialects belong to the Štokavian area, as there are many other morphological characteristics apart from rendering of što (also, some dialects use kakvo or kvo, typical for Bulgarian) which would place them into a "transitional" group between Štokavian and Eastern South Slavic languages (Bulgarian and Macedonian). The Timok-Prizren group falls to the Balkan linguistic union: declension has all but disappeared, the infinitive has yielded to subjunctives da-constructions, and adjectives are compared exclusively with suffixes. The accent in the dialect group is a stress accent, and it falls on any syllable in the word. The old semi-vowel has been retained throughout. The vocalic l has been retained (vlk = vuk), and some dialects don't distinguish ć/č and đ/dž by preferring the latter, postalveolar variants. Some subdialects preserve l at the end of words (where otherwise it has developed into a short o) – došl, znal, etc. (cf. Kajkavian and Bulgarian); in others, this l has become the syllable ja.

These speeches are dominant in Metohija, around Prizren, Gnjilane and Štrpce especially, in Southern Serbia around Bujanovac, Vranje, Leskovac, Niš, Aleksinac, in the part of Toplica Valley around Prokuplje, in Eastern Serbia around Pirot, Svrljig, Soko Banja, Boljevac, Knjaževac ending up with the area around Zaječar, where the Kosovo-Resava dialect becomes more dominant.


Also called the Archaic Šćakavian dialect, it is spoken by Croats who live in some parts of Slavonia, Bačka, Baranja, Syrmia, in Croatia and Vojvodina, as well as in northern Bosnia. The Slavonian dialect has mixed ikavian and ekavian pronunciation. Ikavian is predominant in the Posavina, Baranja, Bačka, and in the Slavonian sub-dialect enclave of Derventa, while ekavian is predominant in Podravina. There are also enclaves of one of both variants in the main territory of other and vice-versa, as well as mixed ekavian-ikavian and jekavian-ikavian areas. In some villages in Hungary the original yat is preserved. Local variants can widely differ in the degree of neo-shtokavian accent influences. In two villages in Posavina, Siče and Magića Male the l, as in the verb nosil, has been retained in place of the modern nosio. In some villages in the Podravina čr instead of the usual cr is preserved, for example in črn instead of crn. Both forms are usual in Kajkavian but very rare in Shtokavian.


Also called jekavian šćakavian, it has jekavian pronunciation in the vast majority of local forms and it is spoken by the majority of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) living in area that include bigger Bosnian cities Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica, and by most of Croats and Serbs that live in that area. Together with basic jekavian pronunciation, mixed pronunciations exist in Tešanj and Maglaj dete-djeteta (ekavian-jekavian) and around Žepče and Jablanica djete-diteta (jekavian-ikavian). In the central area of the subdialect, the diphthong uo exists in some words instead of the archaic l and more common u like vuok or stuop, instead of the standard modern vuk and stup.

Zeta-South Sandžak

Also known as Old Ijekavian. It is spoken in eastern Montenegro, in Podgorica and Cetinje, around the city of Novi Pazar in eastern Sandžak in Serbia, and in the village of Peroj in Istria. Together with the dominant jekavian pronunciation, mixed pronunciations like djete-deteta (jekavian-ekavian) around Novi Pazar and Bijelo Polje, dite-đeteta (ikavian-jekavian) around Podgorica and dete-đeteta (ekavian-jekavian) in the village of Mrkojevići in southern Montenegro. Mrkovići are also characterised by remainings of čr instead of cr as in the previously mentioned villages in Podravina.

Some vernaculars have a special reflex of ь/ъ in some cases (between a and e) which is very rare in Štokavian and Čakavian vernaculars (sän and dän instead of san and dan). Other special phonetic features include sounds like ʝ in iʝesti instead of izjesti, ç as in śekira instead of sjekira. However these sounds are known also to many in East-Herzegovina like those in Konavle,[9] and are not necessarily "Montenegrin" specificum. There is a loss of the /v/ sound apparent, seen in čo'ek or đa'ola. The loss of distinction between /lj/ and /l/ in some vernaculars is based on Albanian adstrate. Word pļesma is a hypercorrection (instead of pjesma) since many vernaculars know lj>j.

All verbs in infinitive finish with "t" (example: pjevat). These future have also most respective vernaculars of East-Herzegovinian, and actually almost all Serbian and Croatian vernaculars. The group a + o gave a ("ka" instead "kao", reka for rekao), like in other Serbian and Croatian seaside vernaculars. Otherwise, more common is ao>o.

Currently the Montenegrin language is undergoing a standardization process which will be somewhat based on the Zeta subdialect.


Also called Older Ekavian, spoken mostly in western and northeastern Kosovo (Kosovo Valley with Kosovska Mitrovica and also around Peć), in Ibar Valley with Kraljevo, around Kruševac, Trstenik and in Župa, in the part of Toplica Valley (Kuršumlija) in Morava Valley (Jagodina, Ćuprija, Paraćin, Lapovo), in Resava Valley (Svilajnac, Despotovac) and northeastern Serbia (Smederevo, Požarevac, Bor, Majdanpek, Negotin, Velika Plana) with one part of Banat (around Kovin, Bela Crkva and Vršac). This dialect can be also found in parts of Banatska klisura (Clisura Dunării) in Romania, in places where Romanian Serbs live (left bank of the Danube).

Substitution of jat is dominantly ekavian even on the end of datives (žene instead of ženi), in pronouns (teh instead of tih), in comparatives (dobrej instead of dobriji) and in the negative of biti (nesam instead of nisam) and in Smederevo-Vršac speeches ikavian forms can be found (di si instead of gde si?). However, Smederevo-Vršac speeches (spoken in northeastern Šumadija, lwer Great Morava valley and Banat) are considered to be part of a separate dialect, as they represent mixed speeches of Šumadija-Vojvodina and Kosovo-Resava speeches.



Also called Western Ikavian or Younger Ikavian. The majority of its speakers are Croats who live in Lika, Kvarner, Dalmatia, Herzegovina and Bunjevci and Croats of Bačka. The minority speakers of it include Bosniaks in western Bosnia, mostly around the city of Bihać, and also in central Bosnia where Croats and Bosniaks (Travnik, Jajce, Bugojno, Vitez, ..) used to speak this dialect. Exclusively ikavian, Bosnian and Herzegovinian forms use o in verb participle, while those in Dalmatia and Lika use -ija or ia like in vidija/vidia. Local form of Bačka was proposed as the base for the Bunjevac dialect of Bunjevci in Vojvodina.


In earlier centuries, this subdialect was the independent subdialect of Western Shtokavian subdialect. Today it is considered a part of East Herzegovina subdialect. It retained certain unique features that distinguish it from the original East Herzegovina subdialect.


Also known as Younger Ekavian, it is spoken across most of Vojvodina excluding easternmost parts around Vršac, north-western Serbia, around Kragujevac and Valjevo in Šumadija, in Mačva but only around Šabac and Bogatić excluding Loznica and Podrinje, in Belgrade and in eastern Croatia around the town of Vukovar. It is dominately ekavian (ikavian forms are of morphophonological origin). In some parts of Vojvodina the old declination is preserved. Most Vojvodina dialects and some dialects in Šumadija have an open e and o. However the vernaculars of western Serbia, and in past to them connected vernaculars of (old) Belgrade and southwestern Banat (Borča, Pančevo, Bavanište) are close to standard as a vernacular can be. The dialect presents a base for the Serbian Ekavian standard.

Eastern Herzegovinian

Also called Eastern-Herzegovininan-Krajina dialect (Serbo-Croatian: istočnohercegovačko-krajiški), or younger Ijekavian (Serbo-Croatian: mlađi ijekavski). It is the dialectal basis of the standard literary Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, and Montenegrin languages. It encompasses by far the largest area and the number of speakers of all Štokavian dialects.

Micro groups:

The yat reflexes

The Proto-Slavic vowel jat has changed over time and is now being rendered in three different ways or reflexes:

  • In Ekavian (ekavski), jat has morphed into the vowel e
  • in Ikavian (ikavski), the vowel i
  • in Ijekavian or Jekavian (ijekavski or jekavski), ije or je depending on whether the vowel was long or short.

Historically, the yat reflexes had been inscribed in Church Slavic texts before the significant development of Štokavian dialect, reflecting the beginnings of the formative period of the vernacular. In early documents it is still either almost exclusively or predominantly Church Slavic of Serbian or Croatian variant (the technical term is recension). First undoubtedly ekavian "yat reflex" had been inscribed in a document in Serbia ("beše"/it was), dated 1289, ikavian in Bosnia in 1331 ("svidoci"/witnesses), and first ijekavian in Croatia in 1399 ("želijemo"/we wish, a "hyperijekavism"). Partial inscriptions can be found in earlier texts (for instance, ikavian form is written in a few Bosnian documents in the latter half of the 13th century), but philologists generally accept the aforementioned data for yat reflexes. In second half of 20th century, many vernaculars with unsubstituted yat are found.[10] The intrusion of the vernacular into Church Slavic grew in time, to be finally replaced by the vernacular idiom. This process has taken place for Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks independently and without mutual interference until the mid-19th century. Historical linguistics, textual analysis and dialectology have dispelled myths about allegedly "unspoilt" vernacular speech of rural areas: for instance, it is established that Bosniaks have retained phoneme "h" in numerous words (unlike Serbs and Croats), due to elementary religious education based on the Koran, where this phoneme is the carrier of specific semantic value.

Ekavian, sometimes called eastern, is spoken primarily in Serbia, and in some very limited eastern parts of Croatia. Ikavian, sometimes called western, is spoken in western and central Bosnia, western Herzegovina, in Slavonia and the major part of Dalmatia in Croatia. Ijekavian, sometimes called southern, is spoken in many parts of Croatia including southern Dalmatia, most of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro. The following are some generic examples:

English Predecessor Ekavian Ikavian Ijekavian
time vrěme vreme vrime vrijeme
beautiful lěp lep lip lijep
girl děvojka devojka divojka djevojka
true věran veran viran vjeran
to sit sědĕti sedeti (sèdeti) siditi (sìdeti) sjediti
to grow gray hairs sědeti sedeti (sédeti) siditi (sídeti) sijediti
to heat grějati grejati grijati grijati

Long ije is diphthongal among the majority of Ijekavian speakers; some Croatian authors recognize it as the 31st phoneme of Croatian[citation needed]. In Zeta dialect and most of East Herzegovina dialect, it represents two syllables though. Serbian phonologists do not recognize it as separate phoneme (possibly as a heritage that East Herzegoviniana was the native dialect of Vuk Karadžić, the reformer of Serbian language). The distinction can be clearly heard in first verses of national anthems of Croatia and Montenegro—they're sung as "Lije-pa na-ša do-mo-vi-no" and "Oj svi-je-tla maj-ska zo-ro" respectively.

Ethnic affiliation of native speakers of Štokavian dialect

During the 1st half of the 19th century, protagonists of nascent Slavic philology were, as far as South Slavic dialects were concerned, embroiled in frequently bitter polemic about "ethnic affiliation" of native speakers of various dialects. This, from contemporary point of view, rather bizarre obsession was motivated primarily by political and national interests that prompted philologists-turned-ideologues to express their views on the subject. The most prominent contenders in the squabble, with conflicting agenda, were Czech philologist Josef Dobrovský, Slovak Pavel Šafárik, Slovene Jernej Kopitar and Franc Miklošič, Serb Vuk Karadžić and Croatian of Slovak orgin Bogoslav Šulek,Vatroslav Jagić Ante Starčević.

The dispute was primarily concerned with who can, philologically, be labelled as "Slovene", "Croat" and "Serb" with the aim of expanding one's national territory and influence. Born in the climate of romanticism and national awakening, these polemical "battles" led to increased tensions between the aforementioned nations, especially because the Štokavian dialect cannot be split along ethnic lines in an unequivocal manner.

However, contemporary native speakers, after process of national crystallization and identification had been completed, can be roughly identified as predominant speakers of various Štokavian subdialects. Since standard languages propagated through media have strongly influenced and altered the situation in the 19th century, the following attribution must be treated with necessary caution.

The distribution of old-Štokavian speakers along ethnic lines in present times is as follows:

  • Kosovo-Resava (Ekavian) dialect: vastly Serbian
  • Zeta-South Sanjak dialect (Ijekavian): Montenegrin, Bosniak and Serbian.
  • Slavonian dialect (fluctuating "yat": mainly Ikavian, also Ijekavian and Ekavian): vastly Croatian
  • Eastern-Bosnian dialect (Ijekavian): vastly Bosniak and Croatian

Generally, the neo-Štokavian dialect is divided as follows with regard to the ethnicity of its native speakers:

  • Šumadija-Vojvodina dialect (Ekavian): vastly Serbian
  • Dalmatian-Bosnian dialect (Ikavian): vastly Croatian and Bosniak
  • Eastern-Herzegovinian (Ijekavian): Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Bosniak
Group Sub-Dialect Serbian Croatian Bosnian Montenegrin
old-Štokavian Kosovo-Resava x
Zeta-South Sanjak x x x
Slavonian x
Eastern Bosnian x x
neo-Štokavian Šumadija-Vojvodina x
Dalmatian-Bosnian x x
Eastern Herzgovinian x x x x

Earliest texts of Štokavian dialect

Proto-Štokavian, or Church Slavic with ingredients of nascent Štokavian, were recorded in legal documents like the charter of Ban Kulin, regulating the commerce between Bosnia and Dubrovnik in Croatia, dated 1189, and in liturgical texts like Gršković’s and Mihanović’s fragments, ca. 1150, in southern Bosnia or Herzegovina. Experts' opinions are divided with regard to the extent these texts, especially the Kulin ban parchment, contain contemporary Štokavian vernacular. Mainly Štokavian, with ingredients of Church Slavic, are numerous legal and commercial documents from pre-Ottoman Bosnia, Hum, Serbia, Zeta, and southern Dalmatia, especially Dubrovnik. The first comprehensive vernacular Štokavian text is the Vatican Croatian Prayer Book, written in Dubrovnik a decade or two before 1400. In the next two centuries Štokavian vernacular texts had been written mainly in Dubrovnik, other Adriatic cities and islands influenced by Dubrovnik, as well as in Bosnia, by Bosnian Franciscans and Bosniak Muslim vernacular alhamiado literature – the first example being "Chirwat turkisi" or "Croatian song", dated 1589.

Standard languages

Standard languages Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian are all based on Neo-Štokavian dialect.

However, it must be stressed that standard languages, irrespectively of their mutual differences, have been stylised in such manners that parts of the Neo-Štokavian dialect have been retained—for instance, declension—but other features were purposely omitted or altered—for instance, the phoneme "h" was reinstated in standard languages.

The Croatian language has had a long tradition of Štokavian vernacular literacy and literature. It took almost four and half centuries for Štokavian to prevail as the dialectal basis for Croatian standard. In other periods, Čakavian and Kajkavian dialects, as well as hybrid Čakavian–Kajkavian–Štokavian interdialect "contended" for the Croatian national koine – but eventually lost, mainly due to historical and political reasons. By 1650s it was fairly obvious that Štokavian would become the dialectal basis for the Croatian standard, but this process was finally completed in 1850s, when Neo-Štokavian Ijekavian, based mainly on Ragusan (Dubrovnik), Dalmatian, Bosnian, and Slavonian literary heritage became the national standard language.[citation needed]

Serbian language was much faster in standardisation. Although vernacular literature was present in the 18th century, it was Vuk Karadžić who, between 1818 and 1851, made a radical break with the past and established Serbian Neo-Štokavian folklore idiom as the basis of standard Serbian (until then, educated Serbs had been using Serbian Slavic, Russian Slavic and hybrid Russian-Serbian language). Although he wrote in Serbian Ijekavian, the majority of Serbs have adopted Ekavian, which is dominant in Serbia. Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, as well as Montenegrins, use the Ijekavian variant.

The Bosnian language is only currently beginning to take shape. The Bosniak idiom can be seen as a transition between Serbian Ijekavian and Croatian varieties, with some specific traits. After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosniaks affirmed their wish to stylise their own standard language, based on the Neo-Štokavian dialect, but reflecting their characteristics—from phonetics to semantics.

Also, the contemporary situation is unstable with regard to the accentuation, since phoneticians have observed that the 4-accents speech has, in all likelihood, shown to be increasingly unstable, which resulted in proposals that a 3-accents norm be prescribed. This is particularly true for Croatian, where, contrary to all expectations, the influence of Čakavian and Kajkavian dialects on the standard language has been waxing, not waning, in the past 50–70 years.[citation needed]

The Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian standard languages, although all based on the East Herzegovinian subdialect of Neo-Štokavian and mutually intelligible, are recognizably different in their prescribed forms as standard or literary languages. Their structures are grammatically and phonologically almost identical, but have differences in vocabulary and semantics. See Differences between standard Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

Example: Što jest, jest; tako je uv(ij)ek bilo, što će biti, (biće / bit će), a nekako već će biti!

(The first option (in brackets) in the middle of the sentence represents the difference between Ekavian and Ijekavian, whereas the second option in the middle represents the difference between Serbian and Croatian norms, respectively.)

Another example is:

English: Cooking salt is a compound of sodium and chlorine.
Croatian: Kuhinjska sol je spoj natrija i klora.
Serbian: Kuhinjska so je jedinjenje natrijuma i hlora.
Bosnian: Kuhinjska so je spoj natrija i hlora.

See also


  1. ^ Sussex & Cubberly (2006:506) "The core of the modern literary languages, and the major dialect area, is Štokavian (što ‘what’), which covers the rest of the area where B/C/S is spoken."
  2. ^ Okuka (2008:15)
  3. ^ Okuka (2008:16)
  4. ^ Okuka (2008:17)
  5. ^ Cited after Okuka (2008:20–21)
  6. ^ Cited after Okuka (2008:21)
  7. ^ Cited after Okuka (2008:21)
  8. ^ Cited after Lisac (2003:17–18)
  9. ^ Kašić, Govor Konavla, SDZb XLI (1995), 241-396
  10. ^ P. Ivić, Putevi razvoja srpskohrvatskog vokalizma, Voprosy jazykoznanija VII/1 (1958), revised in Iz istorije srpskohrvatske dijalektologije, Niš 1991


  • Lisac, Josip (2003), Hrvatska dijalektologija 1 - Hrvatski dijalekti i govori štokavskog narječja i hrvatski govori torlačkog narječja, Zagreb: Golden marketing - Tehnička knjiga, ISBN 953-212-168-4 
  • Okuka, Miloš (2008), Srpski dijalekti, SDK Prosvjeta, ISBN 978-953-7611-06-4 
  • Sussex, Roland; Cubberly, Paul (2006), The Slavic Languages, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-22315-7 

Further reading

  • Peco, A. (1967). "Uticaj turskog jezika na fonetiku štokavskih govora". Naš jezik, 16, 3. (Serbo-Croatian)

External links

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