Abstract and Keywords
This introductory chapter discusses the goals and methodology of the book. The study addresses specific controversies surrounding the codifications of the four successor languages to Serbo-Croatian: Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian, and Bosnian. The analysis is based on close readings of the recently published works on each of the successor languages. The types of consulted works can be categorized as instruments of codification; articles and monographs by linguists from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia discussing specific linguistic concerns; blueprints for the new successor languages, or reinterpreting the years of the unified language; and articles from the popular press on language issues. The chapter also explains language as a marker of ethnic identity and language in the context of Balkan nationalism. Furthermore, the chapter expounds on Serbo-Croatian as a dying tongue.
To this very day ethnicity strikes many Westerners as being peculiarly related to “all those crazy little people and languages out there”, to the unwashed (and unwanted) of the world, to phenomena that are really not fully civilized and that are more trouble than they are worth.
(Fishman 1989 : 14–15)
It must have been only my third day in Yugoslavia, when my Croat friends took me to Zagreb's Mirogoj Cemetery. I had arrived in Yugoslavia to complete dissertation research. My topic was in theoretical Slavic linguistics on Serbo‐Croatian appellative forms, which essentially included forms of address, commands, and prohibitions. I came armed with my charts of verb classes, imperative endings in dozens of dialects, and the rough draft of a questionnaire. I planned to travel to each republic, and was going to seek out dusty hand‐written records of dialect forms. However, on that day in September 1989, I was still the tourist taking in the sights. I was amazed when my friends asked me if I wanted to see the grave of Ljudevit Gaj. I felt the kind of excitement the wide‐eyed student might experience when going on a field trip to a place they had only read about. When we reached the grave, my friends knelt down, genuinely moved. With visible emotion, they explained that Gaj, who had sought the unity of all Southern Slavs in the nineteenth century, embodied for them a lost dream of ethnic harmony, and of pan‐Slavic cooperation. In retrospect, their feeling of loss preceded the events that were to occur only a few years later: as if they knew that Yugoslavism no longer had a chance. In that conversation, they told me that Serb–Croat relations would never recover from the upsurge of nationalism in the late 1980s. I had studied about Gaj primarily for his role in bringing about the unity of the Serbo‐Croatian language. Was I to understand my friends' mournful comments as an indication that Serbo‐Croatian was also no longer possible?
Six months later I was back in Zagreb at the Institute for Language to disseminate my questionnaire on Croatian appellative forms. I had painstakingly (p. 2 ) produced two versions of the questionnaire—one in the Eastern (Belgrade) variant of Serbo‐Croatian, and one in the Western (Zagreb) variant. I did my best to adjust my speech from Belgrade to Zagreb mode. However, in a slip of the tongue, I innocently mentioned something about my plans for July. Much to my embarrassment, my interlocutors chastised me for using the Serbian form jul ‘July’, rather than the Croatian form srpanj. To add insult to injury, one of the Institute's staff then took me aside and made me repeat after her all the proper Croatian forms for all twelve months. I knew that language was a sensitive issue, but did not realize the emotional and ideological baggage each word carried. Most Croats had simply praised my excellent “Croatian,” even though I could have sworn that I had been speaking with a Belgrade accent. When I received the questionnaires from the various Croatian linguists, who graciously agreed to provide data from their native dialects, I was pleased at the level of cooperation. Only one or two questionnaires were returned blank, with a terse note to the effect that they could not answer my questions, since I was primarily interested in phenomena occurring only in Serbian.
Later that month, I attended a reception at the Belgian Embassy in Belgrade. One distinguished guest, having discovered that I am a budding linguist, came up to me, and asked if I would answer a question which had long troubled him. I braced myself for yet another potentially embarrassing moment, but was relieved to hear that he simply wanted to know if I thought that Serbo‐Croatian was one language or two. It was 1990, and the answer seemed obvious to me—officially the language was still united, and mutual intelligibility among its speakers was still possible. It was true that two literary languages had the potential to emerge, but it was too early to determine if this split had really occurred. This answer could not have made my questioner happier; having listened intently to my explanations, he became animated, and thanked me profusely for bringing closure to an issue that had been tormenting him for years. My theory about the basic unity of the language had been confirmed some weeks earlier, when I joined dialectologists from all over Yugoslavia at a weekend working session in the Serbian town of Arandjelovac. Perhaps I was naïve, but it seemed that the Croat dialectologists had cordial relations with their Serb counterparts, and that they were all cooperating on the joint project of producing the Common Slavic Linguistic Atlas.
When I returned to the region after the cataclysmic events of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia‐Herzegovina, the language situation had changed radically. Having landed at Sarajevo Airport in June 1998, I struck up a conversation with one of the airport's land crew. Her first comment was that she was impressed with my skills in the Bosnian language. Frankly, I had had no idea that I was even capable of speaking Bosnian, since during my previous visit to Sarajevo in 1990, I had openly admitted to speaking Serbo‐Croatian. Relaxing at a café the next day, I was told by a Bosnian Croat colleague from Sarajevo University that he felt that the officials at the university were forcing the Bosnian language on everyone. He felt uncomfortable (p. 3 ) speaking it. The friends I stayed with were a Serb and Bosniac couple. She was not afraid to tell me that even though she speaks the Bosnian language, she completely rejects the initiatives of the Bosniac language planners, who in her view are insisting that everyone unnaturally adopt the speech characteristics of her grandmother from a small village. The next morning I crossed the inter‐entity boundary in order to catch the bus to Belgrade. In Bosnian Serb territory, I spoke the same language I had used the day before, only now I was treated as a Serb. When the Yugoslav border guards singled me out for extra questioning upon my entry to Serbia, the bus driver told them to let me through, because he considered me to be one of theirs. While it still seemed as though Bosnian and Serbian were variants of one language, it was not at all clear how many years were needed before a foreigner would truly encounter difficulties in switching from one language to the other.
When I visited Montenegro that same summer, I gingerly asked my linguist colleagues whether or not they took seriously the moves to split off a Montenegrin language from the Republic's prevailing Serbian language in its ijekavian pronunciation. They retorted that supporters of a separate Montenegrin language were extremist Montenegrin nationalists, and that nobody in the community of linguists took them seriously. One colleague, a dialectologist, went so far as to say that it is impossible to identify a single linguistic form that would identify all Montenegrins. “If there were such forms,” he chuckled, “they could be counted on one or two fingers.” Since then, however, the advocates for a Montenegrin language have remained vocal, and with Montenegro's secession from the joint Serbian‐Montenegrin state in 2006, a separate Montenegrin language gained official acceptance within an independent Montenegro in 2007.
In recent years the nightmarish events surrounding the collapse of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have attracted much attention. Scholars have attempted to come to grips with such questions as the causes of ethnic conflict, the role of the international community, the nature of nationalism at the end of the twentieth century in Europe, and the painful process of recovery and healing of the former Yugoslav republics. The many monographs which resulted from studies of Yugoslavia's demise and the resulting armed conflicts in the 1990s were approached by scholars of military, historical, economic, anthropological, and political science disciplines. Scholars appealing to English‐speaking audiences have largely neglected the significance of the disintegration of the Serbo‐Croatian language in 1991. This work fills an important gap in Balkan studies, as it constitutes the first comprehensive study devoted to the intersection of language, nationalism, and identity politics in the former Yugoslavia. It provides an analysis of the linguistic processes that took place between 1800 and the present. The language rifts in ex‐Yugoslavia have long been both a symptom of ethnic animosity, and a cause for perpetuating and further inflaming ethnic tensions. This study addresses specific controversies surrounding the codifications of the four successor languages to Serbo‐Croatian: Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian, and Bosnian. It also shows the close link between the national image, personal and group identity, and the spoken word.
(p. 4 ) 1.1 Goals and methodology
Since the break‐up of the Serbo‐Croatian language in 1991, several monographs on this subject have appeared in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia. Often these works, given the ethnic affiliations of their authors, are subjective and at times lack the scholarly rigor required in the study of linguistics. Thus, Brborić ( 2001 ) presents a collection of newspaper columns and documents with a distinctly Serbo‐centric point of view regarding the proliferation of new languages in ex‐Yugoslavia, while Kačić (1997) attempts to correct all historical delusions and distortions purportedly employed to explain the relationship between Croatian and Serbian. Bugarski ( 1995 and 1997 ) has focused much of his attention on language developments affecting the new Serbian standard in the context of the wars in ex‐Yugoslavia and the social crisis in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Writing in German, Okuka, in a 1998 monograph, One Language, Many Heirs, 1 provides much valuable information on the nineteenth‐century language politics, but focuses primarily on the language situation in Bosnia‐Herzegovina. Experts from outside the former Yugoslavia have largely treated individual successor languages, with few attempts to incorporate data from the entire Serbo‐Croatian speech territory. Thus, Langston ( 1999 ) has treated recent developments in Croatian, Greenberg ( 2000 ) focused on Serbian, and both Ford ( 2001 ) and Magner and Marić (2002) have written on Bosnian.
Many of the leading scholars on the language issue in the former Yugoslavia participated in two conferences organized by Celia Hawkesworth and Ranko Bugarski at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London. The first conference took place in 1989 on the eve of Yugoslavia's demise, and the papers appeared in Hawkesworth and Bugarski (1992). This volume includes papers given by some of the key linguists from ex‐Yugoslavia, including Pavle Ivić, Dubravko Škiljan, Radoslav Katičić, and Damir Kalogjera. These individuals were joined by leading non‐Yugoslav scholars on this subject, including Kenneth Naylor and George Thomas. Their contributions are valuable in that they represent the final comprehensive view on the state of the joint Serbo‐Croatian language. Within a few years of the conference, Ivić and Katičić became major actors in the dismantling of the unified language. The second conference in London took place in September 2000, and included papers on Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin language planning, presented by specialists from the United States, Europe, and the former Yugoslavia. Most of the presenters discussing language policy and language planning at the conference focused on a specific successor language; the volume with this second conference's papers (see Hawkesworth and Bugarski 2004) is a useful companion to the current monograph.”
(p. 5 ) The current contribution provides a comprehensive analysis of the history of the joint literary language ( Chapter 2 ), followed by detailed discussions of each of the four successor languages to Serbo‐Croatian: Serbian ( Chapter 3 ), Montenegrin ( Chapter 4 ), Croatian ( Chapter 5 ), and Bosnian ( Chapter 6 ). The concluding chapter demonstrates that language planners for each of the four successor languages have faced similar obstacles in the race to standardize new languages without social upheavals. It further establishes that many of the language controversies from the past continue to destabilize the language standardization processes.
The analysis in this monograph is based on close readings of the recently published works on each of the successor languages. The types of works consulted can be divided into the following categories: (1) instruments of codification; (2) articles and monographs by linguists from Bosnia‐Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia discussing specific linguistic concerns; (3) blueprints for the new successor languages, or reinterpreting the years of the unified language; and (4) articles from the popular press on language issues.
The instruments of codification include the many dictionaries, orthographic manuals, grammars, and handbooks of the new successor languages published since 1991. Each publication of an instrument of codification has political, rather than linguistic, significance. As Chapter 2 demonstrates, Vuk Karadžić's 1818 Serbian dictionary caused heated debates among members of the Serbian elites, and the effort to codify a new Serbian standard was described in epic terms, as one man's valiant war to bring literacy to his people. 2 Several grammars, orthographic manuals, and dictionaries were so politically explosive that they were destroyed upon printing (cf. Moskovljević 1966, Babić et al. 1972, and Težak and Babić 1996). The controversial nature of language handbooks (grammars, orthographic manuals, dictionaries, and language pedagogy materials) continued in the 1990s for all the Yugoslav successor states. Competing orthographic manuals appeared in 1993–4 in Serbia (cf. 3.3 ), and in 2000–1 in Croatia (cf. 5.3 ). Nikčević's 1997 orthographic manual (1997b) reads more like a treatise on the rights of the Montenegrins to a language and an identity, rather than a manual to teach correct spelling.
The articles and monographs consulted in the discussions below admittedly represent only a fraction of the vast literature published on the language issue. My approach has been thematic; rather than attempt to cover all facets of language change and the differentiation of the successor languages, I have sought articles that inform readers about the main controversies surrounding the new successor languages. In particular, I have focused on orthographic controversies, debates on literary dialects, disagreements on vocabulary, and issues related to the constitutional status of the successor languages. Many of the source materials are still largely unavailable in Western libraries, including the Montenegrin (p. 6 ) journals Riječ, SPONE, Vaspitanje i obrazovanje, and the Croatian Serb journal Znamen. 3 The number of conferences and congresses held in the Yugoslav successor states since 1991 has been staggering, and the articles consulted include conference papers delivered at such venues as the First Croatian Slavic Congress in Pula (1995), the Symposium on the Bosnian Language in Bihać (1998), a conference on the status of the Serbian language in Croatia held in Petrinja just months before it fell to Croat forces in Operation Storm (1995), and a conference on the two official pronunciations of Serbian held in Montenegro (1994).
Finally, the popular press in the Yugoslav successor states has provided many valuable sources for gauging the wider implications of specific developments in the emergence of the four successor languages. Many publications have regular columns on correct language usage, or on contemporary linguistic debates. Some of the Croatian language columns have been reprinted in collections by Matica hrvatska (cf. Kuljiš 1994), while others are available on the Internet from Vjesnik, Globus, and Slobodna Dalmacija. Similarly, the Internet has been a valuable tool for uncovering articles from the Bosnian daily Dani, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts to the Western Balkans, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and the Montenegrin weekly Monitor. The clippings from Serbian newspapers were taken between 1991 and 1996 from Politika and Naša borba. 4
Through a synthesis of these primary source materials, I highlight the main trends in the processes of language birth and re‐birth within the former Serbo‐Croatian speech territory. I address the means by which language planners attempt to differentiate among the various languages, and suggest that their decisions have at times been undermined by some of their own ethnic kin, who have objected when overly prescriptive norms were proposed. My goal is to document the political motivations and social forces that have brought about the unprecedented linguistic transformations in the former Yugoslavia. How have these transformations affected nearly twenty million citizens, who once spoke a unified language? These sociolinguistic issues are best understood in the context of the broader scholarship on the relationship between language and ethnicity (1.2) language and nationalism (1.3).
1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity
When describing the disintegration of Yugoslavia, scholars frequently define matters in terms of ethnicity and ethnic conflict. The wars in ex‐Yugoslavia were (p. 7 ) linked to the breakdown of ethnic relations, and international organizations have been toiling to diminish ethnic tensions, and bring about ethnic reconciliation. As Fishman (1989: 9) suggested, “many discussions of ethnicity begin with the struggle to define ‘it’.” He proceeded to include in ethnicity
[b]oth the sense and the expression of “collective, intergenerational cultural continuity,” i.e. the sensing and expressing of links to “one's own kind (one's own people),” to collectivities that not only purportedly have historical depth but, more crucially, share putative ancestral origins and, therefore, the gifts and responsibilities, rights and obligations deriving therefrom.
This linkage between “ethnic group” and “one's own people” is crucial for an understanding of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. As Map 1 reveals, the republican or administrative boundaries have never corresponded with the ethnic ones. Moreover, the ethnic terms have been fluid. In this 1992 map, adapted from the CIA's website, the Bosniacs were still defined as “Muslims.” Not only have members of a given group switched their ethnic allegiances over time (e.g., Serbs becoming Croats or vice versa), but the preferred ethnic labels also have changed. For instance, a Slav of the Muslim faith born in the Serbian Sandžak around 1930 would have almost certainly switched his ethnic identity three times in the course of his life. In his youth, he probably would have self‐identified as a Serb, in Tito's Yugoslavia as a Muslim, and after 1992 as a Bosniac.
(p. 8 ) Edwards (1985: 6) suggests that a definition of ethnicity must take into consideration both subjective and objective considerations. In his view, the objective aspect includes “immutable” factors such as language, race, geography, religion, and ancestry. The subjective aspect implies that ethnic belonging is voluntary, mutable, and a reflection of belief, rather than based on tangible facts. 5 His overall definition of ethnicity joins these objective and subjective considerations with other factors to create the following comprehensive definition of ethnic identity:
Allegiance to a group—large or small, socially dominant or subordinate—with which one has ancestral links. There is no necessity for a continuation, over generations, of the same socialisation or cultural patterns, but some sense of a group boundary must persist. This can be sustained by shared objective characteristics (language, religion, etc.), or by more subjective contributions to a sense of “groupness”, or by some combination of both. Symbolic or subjective attachments must relate, at however distant a remove, to an observably real past. 6
The two flaws in this definition in relation to ethnic identity in the former Yugoslavia are that (1) language has proven to be neither an objective factor, nor an immutable one, and (2) religion and ancestry have been insufficient in determining group identity. While the Croats are overwhelmingly Catholic, the Serbs and Montenegrins predominantly Orthodox Christians, and the Bosniacs exclusively Muslim, large majorities of each ethnic group speak mutually intelligible dialects, blurring their religious and ancestry marking. In Naylor's terminology (1992: 83), language in the Balkans has functioned as a “flag,” with which each people has asserted its independence and sovereignty. Thus, one of the first tangible manifestations of a Macedonian identity was the decision to establish a literary Macedonian language at the second meeting of the Anti‐Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Macedonia in 1944. 7 In a parallel fashion, the first instruments for the codification of a new Bosnian language (Isaković 1995 and Halilović 1996) were written while war was raging in Bosnia‐Herzegovina, and the future of the Bosnian state was still unclear. At approximately the same time, the Bosnian Serb leadership attempted to force its subjects to abandon their native dialect in favor of the Serbian spoken in Belgrade. In this manner, they hoped to achieve a “Greater Serbia” linguistically, even as their project to create a “Greater Serbia” politically was unrealized.
These examples reveal that the language component of ethnic identity in ex‐Yugoslavia cannot be interpreted in terms of an “objective attachment.” As shown below, the former Yugoslavia's rival ethnic groups have rarely been able to agree what to name their language(s). Such a problem does not exist for the Welsh speakers in Wales, or the Russian speakers in Latvia. Rather, the Bosniacs, Croats, (p. 9 ) Montenegrins, and Serbs have long disagreed on fundamentals: do they speak a single language or multiple languages, which dialects should be official, and which alphabets and writing systems best suit their needs? In the 1990s, members of the four ethnic groups had to choose which successor languages they felt an allegiance to. Some former and current citizens of the former Yugoslavia still subscribe to the notion that they are speakers of Serbo‐Croatian, while Serbs who lived through the siege of Sarajevo may reject their own “ethnic” Serbian language and claim they speak Bosnian. In Montenegro, those individuals supporting an independent Montenegro assert that they speak Montenegrin, while pro‐Serbian, self‐identified Montenegrins say they speak Serbian. These language choices are subjective and politically motivated, and have little relation to whether or not the four ethnic groups truly have four separate languages or varieties of a single language. The purpose of this monograph is to make some sense from this chaotic multilingual and multi‐dialectal situation.
1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism
Having endured centuries under foreign domination, the Balkan peoples began embarking on their respective national revivals in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Edwards (1985: 24ff.) suggested, the linguistic nationalism espoused by Herder toward the end of the eighteenth century was “enthusiastically received” in Eastern Europe. At the root of this brand of nationalism was the Herderian belief that a nation's existence was inconceivable without its own language. Hence, in the Austro‐Hungarian Empire the Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs became wholeheartedly engaged in establishing literary languages in the context of other national and linguistic revivals. This principle that a “people” (“narod”) needs its own language and literature is underscored in the very opening of the Literary Agreement signed by Serb and Croat intellectuals in 1850 that established a joint literary language:
We the undersigned—well aware that one people must have one literature, and seeing with sadness how our literature is splintered, not only in its writing system, but also in its spelling, have met to discuss how it might be possible to understand each other and to unite in our literature. 8
The signatories of this Agreement shared the conviction that the Central Southern Slavs of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Islamic faiths were at that time “one people” worthy of a single language. Later, however, in the two unified Yugoslav states (p. 10 ) (1918–41 and 1945–91), these same Central Southern Slavs were recognized as two, three, or four separate peoples who still were supposed to speak a single language. 9 These states violated a basic rule that seemed to pervade the psyche of Slavic peoples, whereby any group with national pretensions was somehow incomplete without its own language. This principle was applied with a vengeance in the post‐1991 formation of the Yugoslav successor states, the boundaries of which had been set in 1945 by the communist authorities, as shown in Map 2.
(p. 11 ) Under Tito's Socialist regime, all forms of nationalism, including linguistic nationalism, were suppressed. While the Macedonians and Slovenes were given the rights to their own republics and their own languages, the other constituent peoples/nations used the Serbo‐Croatian language, which also served as the language of wider communication among the diverse ethnic groups within Yugoslavia's borders. 10 Thus, Serbo‐Croatian was the language of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), and of Yugoslav diplomatic missions in foreign countries. However, Socialist Yugoslavia had violated a fundamental rule; it had denied the right of each people to its own language. This denial sparked linguistic nationalism initially in Croatia (1967), and later in Serbia (1986). A poignant example can be seen in the stance of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts as expressed in the 1986 “Memorandum”:
Over the past two decades, the principle of unity has become weakened and overshadowed by the principle of national autonomy, which in practice has turned into the sovereignty of the federal units (the republics, which as a rule are not ethnically homogeneous). The flaws which from the very beginning were present in this model have become increasingly evident. Not all the national groups were equal: the Serbian nation, for instance, was not given the right to have its own state. The large sections of the Serbian people who live in other republics, unlike the national minorities, do not have the right to use their own language and script; they do not have the right to set up their own political or cultural organizations or to foster the common cultural traditions of their nation together with their co‐nationals. The unremitting persecution and expulsion of Serbs from Kosovo is a drastic example showing that those principles which protect the autonomy of a minority (the ethnic Albanians) are not applied to a minority within a minority (the Serbs, Montenegrins, Turks, and Roms in Kosovo). 11
The authors of this document believed that the largest of the ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, the Serbs, were deprived of their language and script outside the borders of Serbia proper and Vojvodina, i.e., Croatia, Bosnia‐Herzegovina, and Kosovo. They felt threatened in Croatia because the Croats had openly called the language “Croatian” since the 1960s, and “Serbian” was not taught in schools. The authorities in Bosnia‐Herzegovina enforced a variant of the unified language which Serbs did not feel was their own. It is possible that this Serbian complaint was about the supremacy of the Latin alphabet over the Cyrillic one. If so, then Belgraders themselves were contributing to the marginalization of the Cyrillic script in Serbia, since they used both alphabets interchangeably. The nationalist overtones of the statement in the (p. 12 ) “Memorandum” are clear: by “denying” the Serbs the right to their language and script, the other Yugoslav ethnic groups (Muslim Slavs, Croats, Albanians) were trying either to assimilate or to discriminate against their Serb minorities. The Memorandum represented a rallying call for all Serbs to come to the protection of their threatened ethnic kin. In Fishman's terms, language was being used by the elites as a convenient means for mobilizing the population. In this logic, not only were the other peoples chipping away at Serb identity through the denial of inalienable language rights, but they were also solidifying their own languages or dialects in the process. Thus, later, the authors of the Memorandum alleged that pan‐Albanian language planning was a part of the Kosovo Albanian strategy to create a greater Albanian state, whereby:
At a suitable moment the autonomous region [of Kosovo] acquired the status of an autonomous province, and then the status of a “constituent part of the Federation,” with greater prerogatives than the remaining sections of the Republic, to which it only de jure belongs. Thus the preparations for the next step, in the form of the Albanianization of Kosovo and Metohija, were carried out in full legality. Similarly, unification of the literary language, the national name, flag, and school textbooks, following instructions from Tirana, was carried out quite openly, and the frontier between the two state territories was completely open.
The unification of the literary language refers to the 1968 decision of the Kosovo Albanians to abandon their native Gheg dialect in favor of the Tosk standard used in Albania. 12 The Serbs considered the moves to unify the Albanian language as a manifestation of the ultimate goal of the Kosovo Albanians: secession and a design for a greater Albanian state. 13
When nationalist rhetoric gave way to ethnic strife after 1991, language continued to constitute a litmus test measuring a given group's faithfulness to its nation and ethnic identity. Thus,
[i]n the 1990s Croats, whose variant of Serbo‐Croatian had been quite similar to the Serbian variant save for the alphabets (Latin letters for the Croats, Cyrillic and Latin letters for the Serbs) and slight differences in vocabulary and syntax, initiated a campaign of language purification, purging forms deemed to be “Serbian” and replacing them with old Croatian forms or crafting new ones from “pure” Croatian roots. 14
Simultaneously, the Serbs in Croatia, who had voted to secede from Croatia and in 1991–2 captured nearly one‐third of Croatian territory, insisted upon the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in their enclaves. Glenny observed that,
According to moderate Knin Serbs I met in 1990, only about 5 percent of the local Serbs used the Cyrillic script, the rest not only spoke the Croatian variant, they used the Latin (p. 13 ) script. Eighteen months later, on my return, I witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a Knin Serb attempting to write the address of his relations in Belgrade in Cyrillic—he could not do it. Half‐way through the address, he gave up and wrote it in Latin. 15
In such an atmosphere, linguistic nationalism impinges upon one of the basic functions of language, i.e., language as a means of inter‐personal communication. Furthermore, language planners are charged with the task of setting up new barriers to communication, rather than to the facilitation of mutual intelligibility.
The emergence of four successor languages to Serbo‐Croatian since 1991 suggests that language birth in the Balkans came as a direct result of the explosive nationalist policies in Croatia, Bosnia‐Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. However, prior to the surge of the overt and often extreme nationalist ideologies, the unity of the Serbo‐Croatian language had been threatened. Balkan nationalism alone did not cause its eventual demise; as seen in the next section, the process of “language death” of the unified language had begun much earlier. Such processes are well documented in the sociolinguistic literature.
1.4 Serbo‐Croatian: A dying tongue?
The demise of the Serbo‐Croatian language does not seem to fall within the conventional definitions of language death put forth in the linguistic literature. This language has not disappeared due to the death of its final speaker, nor has it been overwhelmed by a stronger neighboring language through a process known as “language shift.” Universities in some countries still offer “Serbo‐Croat” or “Serbo‐Croatian” language courses, or have renamed these courses “Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian,” and many ex‐Yugoslavs living outside the Balkans still refer to their native language as “Serbo‐Croat.” Perhaps the Serbo‐Croatian language is still in the throes of language death, and at some time in the twenty‐first century it will be relegated to the realm of other extinct languages such as Cornish. Or, perhaps it really never existed as a living language, since it always had such a variety of urban and rural dialects.
The process leading to the demise of the unified Serbo‐Croatian language can be understood in terms of what Kloss ( 1978 ) called the distinction between languages developing through either Abstand or Ausbau processes. The former refers to languages, such as English and German, that drifted apart “naturally,” while the latter encompasses languages, such as Hindi and Urdu, which separated through the active intervention of language planners, linguists, and policy makers. Such intensive language interventions are frequently a result of a national consciousness awakening. The late eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries were characterized by national revivals within multi‐ethnic (p. 14 ) states, such as the Austro‐Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The use of the Czech vernacular had declined precipitously before Joseph Dobrovský helped resuscitate the Czech language in the 1810s and 1820s. Similarly, in Ljubljana and Zagreb the Slavic vernaculars gave way to the Empire's more powerful languages—German and Hungarian. As Auty (1958) has demonstrated, individuals played a crucial role in the linguistic revivals among the Slavs of the Austro‐Hungarian Empire, especially for the Slovaks, Slovenes, and Croats. It is at this time that Czech and Slovene re‐emerge, and the Slovak literary language took shape for the first time as distinct from Czech. Similarly, in the territories of the Ottoman Empire, two standard languages formed in the Eastern South Slavic dialect area: Bulgarian and Macedonian. While the dialects in these regions drifted apart through the Abstand process, the rival literary norms are examples of Ausbau relationships.
Another example of the Ausbau phenomenon is that of the Scandinavian languages, which are mutually intelligible, but were separated after the establishment of independent modern nation‐states in the region. 16 Relying on this Scandinavian model, the Linguistics Society of America agreed with the Oakland Unified School District's decision to recognize African American Vernacular English (Ebonics) as a language separate from standard English. The Society's 1997 Resolution on this matter concluded that
[t]he distinction between “languages” and “dialects” is usually made more on social and political grounds than on purely linguistic ones. For example, different varieties of Chinese are popularly regarded as “dialects,” though their speakers cannot understand each other, but speakers of Swedish and Norwegian, which are regarded as separate “languages,” generally understand each other.
In a similar vein, the category of “mutual intelligibility” has had no bearing on the debate regarding the status of Serbo‐Croatian as a single language or as three or four languages. What is clear is that as of 1991–2 Serbo‐Croatian officially ceased to exist in the Yugoslav successor states. All sides agreed that the unified language was to be jettisoned and probably never again to be resurrected. The successor languages—Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin—had been in various kinds of Ausbau relationships during Tito's Yugoslavia, but ultimately the demise of the territorial borders contributed to “nominal language death,” which Kloss ( 1984 ) defined as a phenomenon caused by the splitting of a language or the intentional downgrading of a standard language to the status of a dialect. 17
(p. 15 ) In the territory of the former Yugoslavia, however, no such splitting could be achieved in a precise manner, since the splitting occurred along ethnic lines, rather than geographic or political boundaries. Moreover, the split has not taken place in either an orderly or a planned manner. The Serbs and the Croats still do not accept the new name of the Bosnian language, while the Serbs and some Montenegrins categorically deny the existence of a separate Montenegrin language. Even a two‐way split of Serbo‐Croatian into its two constituent parts—Serbian and Croatian—would not have been an easy task, since many of the Serbs living in Croatia, whose dialect is similar to that on which the standard Croatian is based, have rejected all of the post‐1991 Croatian language reforms intended to maximally differentiate Croatian from Serbian. Simultaneously, the Bosniacs could accept neither Croatian nor Serbian since such an acceptance would have signaled the Bosniac assimilation into either the Croatian or Serbian ethnic spheres.
The following advertisement for an instructor of Bosnian illustrates the degree of confusion the demise of Serbo‐Croatian has caused outside observers:
We are seeking to identify a “Bosniac” Instructor for an interesting assignment with a federal government agency (in this context, “Bosniac” refers to the heavily colloquialized form of Serbo‐Croatian used by residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has been described as “Serbian with more than the usual amount of Turkish words and expressions thrown in”)舁.舁.舁. . The instructor will preferably be a native‐speaker of Bosnian from the villages or surrounding areas, who has spent considerable time in‐country recently and is very familiar with current usage and the current cultural/political climate, educated and able to impart his/her knowledge and experience to a class of adult language students. 18
Such an announcement reinforces perceptions outside ex‐Yugoslavia that while the emergence of Serbian and Croatian may be legitimate, the Bosnian language is truly a montage consisting of disparate colloquial elements, village speech, and Turkish loanwords. Is it a variant of Serbo‐Croatian or of Serbian? Do all residents of Bosnia‐Herzegovina use this “heavily colloquialized” form of the language?
While this job vacancy announcement raises questions which will be answered in the following chapters, it also reflects the desire of the employer to train its students in a politically correct manner. It is unlikely that so much care would be given to find a teacher of Swiss German for the student planning to conduct business in Switzerland. Thus, while the American company has little understanding of the language situation in Bosnia‐Herzegovina, it does comprehend to what degree language is politicized in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, as shown in this study, the very discipline of linguistics had been highly politicized in the Balkans, well before the break‐up of Yugoslavia. Furthermore, while in the West the linguist is often tucked away in the academic ivory tower, in ex‐Yugoslavia linguists have been major actors on the political stage. It is no wonder, then, that language politics has been such a prolific pastime in that region.
(1) The translation of the title is my own. Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this work are my own.
(3) I was able to acquire many of these works in research trips to ex‐Yugoslavia in 1997, 1998, and 2001.
(4) I wish to thank Milan Petrović, who greatly assisted me in the gathering of some 20 clippings from the Belgrade press during those years.
(6) Edwards (1985: 10).
(7) This decision pre‐dated by 23 years the establishment of a separate Macedonian Orthodox Church, and by 47 years the creation of an independent Macedonian state.
(9) Serbs and Croats were recognized as peoples forming the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in 1918. Serbs, Croats, and Montenegrins were proclaimed three of the five constituent peoples/nations forming Tito's Yugoslavia, while the Muslim Slavs were recognized as an additional Yugoslav constituent people/nation by 1971.
(10) The English terms “people” and “nation” are both rendered as narod in the former Serbo‐Croatian language. This term permeated political discourse in Tito's Yugoslavia, where references would repeatedly be made to the “nations and nationalities” of the country. In this work I will use “people/nation” in this context.
(11) The Memorandum was published in 1995 together with a long section addressing “answers to criticisms.” This 142‐page text is available in English at http: //members.aol.com/sipany/memorandum.html.
(12) The unity of the Albanian language was officially declared at a Congress in Tirana in 1972.
(14) Magner and Marić (2002: 56).
(17) Kloss defined two other types of language death: (1) language death without language shift, i.e., the last speaker of a language dies, and the language becomes extinct; and (2) language death through language shift, whereby speakers of a language abandon their original tongue in favor of a second language.
(18) I received the announcement by e‐mail on 31 March 2003 from MultiLingual Solutions, Inc.