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From Serbocroatian to Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian... maybe back?
Thread poster: Fabio Descalzi

Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 23:10
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
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Oct 19, 2007

Good morning, Balkans!

Today I was reading another thread in this forum, which deals with languages closely related to each other. And I happened to notice something interesting, concerning some European languages spoken in the Western Balkans.
When I was born in the Sixties, there was a country named Yugoslavia. Its main language was Serbocroat.
An anecdote: there was even a folkloric dance group in Uruguay, named "Naša Domovina" ("Our Country", I was told) - they meant to be "a Yugoslav folk dance group", actually made up of children and grandchildren of Croat, Slovene, Montenegrin and other immigrants from those regions.

Story played its part, and these days we see a constellation of countries in the Western Balkans.
And this has shown its own linguistic version: we see a Croat language written in Latin script, a Serbian language written mainly in Cyrillic script, and yet a third language, Bosnian.

If we visit www.Ethnologue.org, the three languages are listed separately. No hint to Serbocroat.

Right now, I am seeing an article at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlargement_of_the_European_Union#Candidate_countries
Of former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is already part of the EU (and clearly has its very own language). Croatia is a "candidate country". Other ex-Yugoslav countries are "potential candidate countries so far".

This is mainly about "history still to happen and to be written". But nevertheless, there are trends that could be broadly outlined.

The title of the topic is "From Serbocroatian to Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian... maybe back?" meaning... whatever will happen one day, if the three languages are to be spoken, written and translated in a supra-national organization like the EU?

What would be better: promote diversity or integration? Or both at the same time?

Of course this topic is not meant to discuss geopolitical matters past and present, not even future ones... but linguistic ones indeed.

[Edited at 2007-10-19 13:46]


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danilei
Local time: 21:10
French to English
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BCS Oct 19, 2007

The Hague Tribunal refers to BCS (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) as a single language.

However, in my work for them, they switch between Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, as well as ikavski, etc.

"Nasa domovina" means "our homeland."


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:10
Member (2006)
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Funny, Oct 19, 2007

"Nasa domovina" means "our homeland."


In my native language, Belarusian, “damavina” means “coffin”.

Sorry for off-topic


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lenakline
Local time: 03:10
English to Slovenian
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linguistic diversity Oct 19, 2007

It is true that SBC languages are very alike - they understand each other perfectly- but there are some differences. Serbian language has a lot of words that have its origin in turkish language. They use their own writing Cyrillic. Croatian uses non of that. Bosnian language is closer to Serbian than to Croatian- they to have words of turkish origin and they also have their own writing but it is archaic and not in use. But these differences are not as big, languageasare almost identical. Macedonian on the other hand is quite different but roots of the words are mostly the same as in SB and are recognizable. Slovenian is also very different and again roots of the words are similar.

[Edited at 2007-10-19 14:51]


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Ivana Kahle  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 03:10
Member (2007)
German to Croatian
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Small is beautiful Oct 19, 2007

whatever will happen one day, if the three languages are to be spoken, written and translated in a supra-national organization like the EU?

We will have our hands full! Good for us, translators!

What would be better: promote diversity or integration?

I vote for diversity, especially in linguistics.
Small languages should not disappear or melt because of "higher interests".
Small is beautiful.


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 23:10
Member (2004)
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TOPIC STARTER
A role model...? Oct 19, 2007

Ivana Kahle wrote:
What would be better: promote diversity or integration?
I vote for diversity, especially in linguistics.
Small languages should not disappear or melt because of "higher interests".
Small is beautiful.

Ivana, your contribution is interesting indeed.
There are other examples of "neglected" languages in the European Union - to name some: Wallon, Letzebuergisch, Breton... (not to name Catalan or Euskera, that are not "official" at EU level, but don't rather deserve being named "neglected").
So... if there are useful, practical channels for achieving the much-wished diversity in the Balkans, then welcome those channels.


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John Farebrother  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
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Political trends Oct 20, 2007

In my experience whether a form of speech is regarded as a language or a dialect is often a matter of opinion, which is heavily influenced by political trends. The language in question is a case in point: previously it was regarded as one language with several dialects, now it is officially several languages (not sure how many). As others have said, English, French, German etc have a wide variety of dialects spoken in various countries, but they retain the overall shared heritage of a language with a common name. In the former Yugoslavia, there are moves to mark out and emphasise regional differences as far as possible.
What will happen in the future will depend again on politics.


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Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:10
Bosnian to French
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B/C/S same roots, common trunk, same big branches, different small branches Oct 20, 2007

As far as I am concerned, the name Serbocroatian/Croatoserbian was an inappropriate name for a language combined of different standards in the region. Let me clarify this.

Logically the title should be from Serbian and Croatian to Serbocroatian, from Serbocroatian to Serbian and Croatian. Yet, along Serbian and Croatian we see appearing the name Bosnian! Is it a fabrication? A new language?

Well, those who had known previous educational system in former Yugoslavia they would certainly say that Bosnian is purely an invention after the burst out of Yugoslavia and its official language Serbocroatian.

Nevertheless, as professional linguists and translators, we should not lose sight of the fact that in Bosnia the term Bosnian language was used -by invaders and by the locals- untill the end of the 19th century, with its own grammar and dictionaries. The last grammar (the 19th century one) of the Bosnian language -before the creation of Yugoslavia- has been kept in a Swedish museum. (How did it get there, I don't know )

Of course, it goes without saying that Serbian and Croatian have existed alongside. Not to mention various Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian dialects existing still today in different regions of the Balkans and which are not considered as standards (ikavski, cakavski, kajkavski, etc.)

Meanwhile, Bosnian survived in Yugoslavia thanks to the poems, songs, art, culture, humor, and simply everyday conversations. Actually it almost disappeared under the imposed grammatical rules and lexical field of Serbocroatian. Luckily, when a language is actively used and alive, it simply does not disappear.

To illustrate it, here is an example. I remeber during the Yugoslavia regime, my grandmother always used the term "lahko" instead of "lako" (meaning easy). At school in former Yugoslavia I was taught "lako". Consequently I always thought that my grandma was making mistakes. However, when I learned Russian and Slavistics in general, I realized that in many Slavic languages the term "lahko" was actually used. For example in Slovenian "lahko", in Russian "lyëhko", etc. I also realized that the Bosnian variant wasn't taken into account and automatically considered as a mistake.

Interestingly, and contrary to what many believe, it seems that Bosnian has been trying to preserve sounds closer to the original (South) Slavic or other languages with its own concept-interpretation.

Another example is the word "'kahva" (n.b. not a Turkish word!) In South Slavic languages we sometimes witness some phenomena of assimilating two sounds into one (orally), such as H+V = F. For example: "hvala" (thanks) becomes (orally) "fala". Likewise, in original Arabic the word "kahwa" in Serbian is "kafa", while in Croatian the sound "h" is ejected giving birth to "kava". Well in Bosnian, we often hear close-to-original pronunciation "kahva" (term unaccepted in official Serboacroatian of former Yugoslavia). Yet, grammatical and lexical rules imposed or not, people use what they have been used to use for centuries. And of course, today, when Serbocroatian ceased to exist, it seems that Bosnian all of sudden appeared out of nowhere.

Indeed, all I said hereabove are minor differences compared to other world languages, nontheless, those differences have their importance, because it gives the words and terms some air to breathe and evolve according to peoples' own concepts of words.
We are probably witnessing in the same time, on the one hand, the further parallel evolution and standardization of respectively Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian and, on the other, globalization of those languages in a different way than former Yugoslav regime tried to implement with the official Serbocroatian.

For the time being they are internationally recognized as independent and separate languages, each of them having their own rules, literature and particularities. As far as I know, some International Organizations put them into the same bag only for Interpretation services, not for diplomatical, political decisions, communications or translations.

As a matter of fact, among other languages-related jobs, I also work as a sworn translator/interpreter for the Belgian Courts, Police and other State organisms. I asked if I could put on my stamp all in one: "Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian to French" and vice versa. The court clearly informed me that I had to have for each official language a different stamp.

To conclude, I'd like to add that if the three standards were brought back together into one, another name should be found, because the term "Serbocroatian" excludes the inner core part (Bosnian) binding together the standards from Serbia and Croatia.

Cheers


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xxxmiro_s  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 03:10
From Serbocroatian to Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian... maybe back? Oct 20, 2007

Maybe back?

Well, Fabio, I agree with John Farebrother: cuando la politica entra a la puerta la ciencia sale por la ventana, don't you think?

Nation building seems to be still underway in the region. We have seen pretty much of it over the last two decades or so, and we can now see it also in Bosnia and Montenegro. A nation should, among other things, have it's own language, some would say.

No one denies the very important symbolic or political function of language. But, still, do the Brazilians feel less Brazilian because they speak Portuguese? Or, are the Austrians less Austrian because they speak German? What about Spanish and English in countries other than Spain and the UK?

I agree with Ivana that translators/reviewers/revisers might benefit from the differentiation of the former different Serbo-Croatian standard variants/idioms. But we should be careful not to step out of the fine line between symbolism and common sense and basic postulates of the linguistic science.

Fostering diversity doesn't necessarily mean we have to cherish differences. Translators are an example of unity in diversity, and when we gather together we usually look for things that unite us. I think this is a time for integration and networking (economic, artistic, etc) rather than a time of disintegration, which is, I firmly believe, far behind us.

I'm not aware of any language planning initiatives nor can I see any firm language policy, which is deplorable, both in Serbia and other ex-Serbo-Croat language countries. There is, however, an effort by the Committee for the Standardization of the Serbian Language, composed of major Serbian academic institutions (from Serbia, Montenegro and Republika Srpska), but it hasn't provided anything of substance to date, not that I know of.

Language professionals are between a rock and a hard place. As the speakers of ex-SH languages live in more than one ex-YU republic in great numbers, I'm afraid the language issue will become a problem if we take the approach of merely giving the languages names after the names of the new-born states, rather than after the name of the people/nation that speaks it.

Espero que la politica salga por la ventana y que la ciencia entre por la puerta dentro de poco .

But going back to diversity, I'm particularly interested in how the European Union copes with the problem of different languages in the EU institutions and the ensuing costs? Are there any plans for introducing "official" languages at the EU level? What do you think about the debate on the possible introduction of the official language in the US?

Miroslav


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Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:10
Bosnian to French
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Four variants for one language Oct 20, 2007

Miroslav Starovlah wrote:

There is, however, an effort by the Committee for the Standardization of the Serbian Language, composed of major Serbian academic institutions (from Serbia, Montenegro and Republika Srpska), but it hasn't provided anything of substance to date, not that I know of.



This is an extremely hard task, especially because of the fact that in each above mentioned region people speak quite differently.

What makes it harder is that a Croat living in Republika Srpska entity near his Serb neighbor will claim to speak Croatian, while a Bosnian will claim to speak Bosnian. Yet they use exactly the same grammar and lexical field. In the Federation entity, the problem is the same actually. Nevertheless, it is obvious that regardless the national or cultural identity and the name we give to a language, we can quite easily recognize who is from where.

What is more, given the fact that Serbia and Croatia have already their respective standards, Bosnian variant of the Serbian/Croatian is not regarded neither by Croatia nor by Serbia as the standards of the respectively Croatian and Serbian languages. On the other hand, Bosnian institutions recognize those standards as Bosnian. Sounds complicated, huh?

Indeed, maybe the solution would be to stop calling the languages based upon national identities and find a common name under which all -Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin speakers, could identify themselves without any national or political connotation. But again, what would be the standard then?

I remember that Serbocroatian didn't really have one standard, but four. Zagreb, Sarajevo, Belgrade and Titograd spoken variants. Remember TV news on national channels in former Yugoslavia?


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Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:10
Bosnian to French
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How about the term "dom"? Oct 20, 2007

esperantisto wrote:

"Nasa domovina" means "our homeland."


In my native language, Belarusian, “damavina” means “coffin”.

Sorry for off-topic


Unlike Russian (maybe Bielorussian too?), in South Slavic languages we read all "o" as "o", never as "a".

How about the term "dom" in Bielorussian (Latin "domus" = home)?


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Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 03:10
Bosnian to French
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Brazilian case Oct 21, 2007

Miroslav Starovlah wrote:

But, still, do the Brazilians feel less Brazilian because they speak Portuguese?


Actually, I've heard debates where there is a question of separating the Brazilian Portuguese from the Iberian Portuguese! Indeed there are some tensions.

Check out these interesting articles :

"According to many Portuguese people 160 million Brazilians speak the language wrongly. Are all Brazilians illiterate? Would they all be bilingual if they had to learn Portuguese? "
http://209.85.129.104/search?q=cache:fpNmiHlw0TEJ:www.brazzil.com/p47sep98.htm%20"Brazilian%20language"%20or%20"Portuguese%20language"&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=17

or

"Will Brazil and Portugal Ever Agree on a Common Language?"
http://209.85.129.104/search?q=cache:Qj5SW7zMTlMJ:www.brazzil.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=9965%20Brazilian%20or%20Portuguese%20language%20debate&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8

or

http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-78349/Brazilian-Portuguese-language


Personnally I feel that each case in the world is different and particular.

In Austria they don't feel less Austrians because they speak German, but it would be also interesting to point out that they live in "Östereich" -> "Eastern Empire" a name which doesn't exclude people from the German community. In the same time it would be a bit strange to name a language "Eastern Empirish", wouldn't it?


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Alan R King
Local time: 03:10
Basque to English
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Planes of reality Oct 21, 2007

Miroslav Starovlah wrote:

No one denies the very important symbolic or political function of language. But, still, do the Brazilians feel less Brazilian because they speak Portuguese? Or, are the Austrians less Austrian because they speak German? What about Spanish and English in countries other than Spain and the UK?



(1) Historically the real languages of Brazil and other states of the Americas are not Portuguese, Spanish, English and French, but rather a long list of American Indian languages. The European languages mentioned are (in historical and linguistic terms) very recent colonial impositions, although mostly these are the only OFFICIALLY recognised (by modern states) and socially predominant languages. In terms of European history (and also in terms of the life-flow of the native American peoples, of course), that only happened "yesterday". I don't believe there is a single European language that was not already well-established in its present heartland territory in Europe before the European colonisation of America started (although there has been some expansion through political imposition within some European states, even leading to the extinction of a few languages in Europe since that time.

In consequence, citing the case of a European language (like Portuguese) in an American context (such as Brazil) in an attempt to throw light on European language politics may result in confusing the real issues. "Do the Brazilians feel less Brazilian because they speak Portuguese?", you ask. Whatever the answer to that question, it can tell us very little indeed about the situation of Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Slovenes and Macedonians! Why? Because the speaking of Portuguese in Brazil has no comparable historical background, and certainly no similar time-depth. At the time when the first Portuguese speakers were arriving in what would one day be Brazil, the Balkan linguistic landscape was probably almost identical to today, give or take some minor population movements and the overlaying of some official languages of new states - which, as in the case of Yugoslavia, have come and gone in the interim period.

2) Next, Miroslav asks: "Are the Austrians less Austrian because they speak German?" Austrians are happy to speak their own language in everyday life, which is quite different from standard German but widely treated as a dialectal variety thereof, and to use standard German as an official language. Why have they not created their own separate official language ("Austrian")? Dunno, perhaps we should ask them. But I imagine it has something to do with the political history of Central Europe. If Austria had been part of a single "German" state and denied independence until 15 years ago, like Croatia and Bosnia, maybe it would have been a different story?

3) Finally, Miroslav asks: "What about Spanish and English in countries other than Spain and the UK?" Unless he is thinking of Ireland, where (Irish) English is spoken side-by-side with the threatened indigenous language, Gaelic (aka Irish), actually as a result of British colonial expansion, I think Miroslav is referring here, in the case of English, to the countries in North America, Africa, Australia and Oceania, and in the case of Spanish, to its use in the Americas. For all such cases, what I said in point 1 about Portuguese in Brazil is applicable, mutatis mutandis.

John Farebrother said: "In my experience whether a form of speech is regarded as a language or a dialect is often a matter of opinion, which is heavily influenced by political trends."

John, I don't think it's your experience, it is everyone's experience and common knowledge (at least for linguists) that languages are generally defined in political, social and cultural terms rather than in linguistic ones, and that since such issues are often fuzzy around the edges, they are indeed "often a matter of opinion". The fact is that when people talk about "languages", this is what they are usually referring to. Why are the Germanic languages of Scandinavia, although mutually very similar, spoken of as distinct languages? Look to politics for the answer. Why are the Romance dialects spoken in Italy, althout very different from each other, commonly just called Italian (or "Italian dialects", at any rate) rather than as distinct languages? Politics. So then, why was there a "language" called Serbocroation at one period in recent history and now three different "languages" in its place? Politics, obviously. Linguists are not scandalised by any of this because we've always known it was so.

Linguists also know that the real "linguistic reality" (arrived at by abstracting away from political biases as much as possible and just looking at the linguistic forms, structures and usages themselves) are on quite another plane and yield a highly divergent world map.

In between these two planes of reality, there is a concept which we might call (not "linguistic" and not "official" but) "perceived languages". And we might say that a language is a language when it is perceived as a language. Whether or not it is perceived as a language depends partly on linguistic reality and partly on politics, and perhaps on further criteria that are neither one nor the other, though everything is inter-related. For example, the fact that two linguistic varieties do or do not have distinct, widely used written forms (whether through the use of different alphabets or different spelling, grammatical or lexical conventions) tends to weigh heavily on the PERCEPTION of such languages as "the same" or "different".

So what's my point? My point is this: languages DO occupy these parallel planes of reality with their different mappings and aspects of identity. It is the way things have always been and always will be, I'm sure, and I think that as language professionals we should be perfectly aware of that and not surprised by such things. If confusion exists it is because of the spread of political lies, blind faith in "official truth", and the influence of both of the above on almost all education systems. According to the official line, ideally every independent state would consist of a single nation and have its own, perfectly discrete "national language" (and only one), and whatever diverges from this ideal in reality is either covered up and denied in the official version, or else treated as a very odd anomaly (rather than as more or less the way things are everywhere). From time to time, official reality is "updated", as has happened in the political map of Europe recently, and then, if you look carefully, you can catch an occasional glimpse of other-dimension phenomena, which are actually nothing but the all-but-universal reality lurking under the surface of the official, but fictional, one-country-one-language veneer.


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John Farebrother  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
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well said Alan Oct 21, 2007

However, as European migrations to the Americas and sub-saharan Africa started less than 50 years after the conquest of Bosnia by the Turks, I don't think you can differentiate them as much as you do. Not to mention the influence of native languages in those areas on the imported European languages.

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Said Kaljanac a.k.a. SARAJ  Identity Verified
Belgium
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Bosnian to French
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I don't see the point Oct 21, 2007

John Farebrother wrote:

However, as European migrations to the Americas and sub-saharan Africa started less than 50 years after the conquest of Bosnia by the Turks, I don't think you can differentiate them as much as you do. Not to mention the influence of native languages in those areas on the imported European languages.



What has this to do with Turks in Bosnia? People don't speak Turkish in Bosnia. By the way Turks didn't invade only Bosnia, but many more countries.


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