PECOB Portal on Central Eastern
and Balkan Europe
Università di Bologna  
Saturday June 03, 2023
Testata per la stampa

Serbo-Croato-Bosno-Montenegrin? Making order out of chaos

by Srdjan Jovanovic Maldoran

The language spoken in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, once known and studied under the internationally-accepted name of Serbo-Croatian (or Croato-Serbian), has recently become a source of confusion. Various speakers of the language are calling it by various names: the Croats refer to it as Croatian, the Serbs call it Serbian, while some linguists insist on Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian, the name under which the language is presently studied in most universities in the world. A part of the rather diminutive population of Montenegro has started calling it Montenegrin, while a minor part of the same population actually refers to it as the Mother Tongue. Some people in Bosnia and Herzegovina refer to it as Bosnian or even Bosniak (Bosniac). The International Tribunal for the crimes in former Yugoslavia is probably the first to refer to it as to BoCroS or BKS, that is, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian. Some even like to call it Yugoslavian or Novoshtokavian or even South-Slavic. As the literature on the subject is rather unsatisfactory in volume and quality, I felt a more detailed analysis was direly needed.
To make things clear at the very beginning, I am of the opinion that the language should be called as it has been called by linguists during the last century, that is, Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian. The reason of my choice will become clear during the essay. As in most of the cases (in the works of accomplished slavists), the choice made more often between those two variants is Serbo-Croatian, I shall use that designation myself. I would like to begin by presenting the situation in which the language spoken over most of the territory of former Yugoslavia (with the exception of Slovenia and Macedonia, where Slovenian and Macedonian are spoken, respectively) finds itself today and how it is perceived by native speakers and linguists in Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Serbia. Then I shall continue by analyzing those views. Both from a linguistic, culturological and anthropological point of view, the situation at hand is fascinating to the point of disbelief. I implore the reader to approach the subject with an open mind.

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