Serbo-Croatian is a language

How one language became four

April 8, 2017, 9:58 pm

Old language - new names

Today the term "Serbo-Croatian" is mostly only used in a historical context, although this language is of course not an idiom that suddenly died out. Serbo-Croatian is still used, in spoken and written form - since the wars of the 1990s it has only been named after the newly formed countries. In addition to Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, Montenegrin has recently been added.

In order to be recognized as a language in its own right, new letters have been invented, for example. One of the most famous living authors from the former Yugoslavia is Belgrade-born David Albahari. All of his novels have now been translated into German. David Albahari emigrated to Canada in the 1990s to protest against war and ethno-nationalism and describes Serbo-Croatian as a "lost language" in one of his essays.

How a language is artificially split

From the late 1980s, but especially in the 1990s, linguists, historians and politicians tried to artificially develop the varieties of Serbo-Croatian from one another. The reasons were political in nature - in the wars of the 1990s, it was necessary to distance oneself from the enemies who were now enemies.

Croatia, for example, reactivated a number of archaic terms, also in official parlance. And the use of language in Bosnia-Herzegovina was suddenly shaped by many turmisms that were previously unused there. Commissions for the new standardization of the national language of the successor states were formed.

The Belgrade new edition of the dictionary "German - Serbo-Croatian" published under Tito is exactly the same as the one recently published - except for the title. It is now "German-Serbian" and no longer "German - Serbo-Croatian".

Old, new language

And how does the general population define their old, new language? The answer to this varies, says writer David Albahari. Some, he says, feel that they are multilingual because they are able to speak Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and, more recently, Montenegrin. The others, says David Albahari mischievously, have found a new name for the language that was once and now common. They no longer call it "Serbo-Croatian", but simply "Naš jezik" - our language.