|Native to Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia (Vojvodina), Montenegro, Romania (Caraș-Severin County), Slovenia, and diaspora|
Native speakers (5.6 million, including other dialects spoken by Croats cited 1991–2006) 1.25 million L2 speakers in Slovenia (2012)
Language family Indo-European Balto-Slavic Slavic South Slavic Western Serbo-Croatian Shtokavian Neo-Shtokavian Eastern Herzegovinian Croatian
Writing system Latin (Gaj's alphabet) Yugoslav Braille
Official language in Croatia Bosnia and Herzegovina Serbia (in Vojvodina) European Union
Croatian /kroʊˈeɪʃən/ (hrvatski [xř̩ʋaːtskiː]) is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croatian language used by Croats, principally in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian province of Vojvodina and other neighboring countries. It is the official and literary standard of Croatia and one of the official languages of the European Union. Croatian is also one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a recognized minority language in Serbia, and neighboring countries.
- Modern language and standardization
- Illyrian period
- Distinguishing features and differences between standards
- Sociopolitical standpoints
- Official status
Standard Croatian is based on the most widespread dialect of Serbo-Croatian, Shtokavian, more specifically on Eastern Herzegovinian, which is also the basis of Standard Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. In the mid-18th century, the first attempts to provide a Croatian literary standard began on the basis of the Neo-Shtokavian dialect that served as a supraregional lingua franca pushing back regional Chakavian, Kajkavian, and Shtokavian vernaculars. The decisive role was played by Croatian Vukovians, who cemented the usage of Ijekavian Neo-Shtokavian as the literary standard in the late 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, in addition to designing a phonological orthography. Croatian is written in Gaj's Latin alphabet.
Besides the Shtokavian dialect on which Standard Croatian is based, Croats also speak Chakavian and Kajkavian. These dialects, and the four national standards, are usually subsumed under the term "Serbo-Croatian" in English, though this term is controversial for native speakers, and paraphrases such as "Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian" are therefore sometimes used instead, especially in diplomatic circles.
Modern language and standardization
In the late medieval period up to the 17th century, the majority of semi-autonomous Croatia was ruled by two domestic dynasties of princes (banovi), the Zrinski and the Frankopan, which were linked by inter-marriage. Toward the 17th century, both of them attempted to unify Croatia both culturally and linguistically, writing in a mixture of all three principal dialects (Chakavian, Kajkavian and Shtokavian), and calling it "Croatian", "Dalmatian", or "Slavonian". It is still used now in parts of Istria, which became a crossroads of various mixtures of Chakavian with Ekavian/Ijekavian/Ikavian dialects.
The most standardized form (Kajkavian–Ikavian) became the cultivated language of administration and intellectuals from the Istrian peninsula along the Croatian coast, across central Croatia up into the northern valleys of the Drava and the Mura. The cultural apex of this 17th century idiom is represented by the editions of "Adrianskoga mora sirena" ("Siren of Adriatic Sea") by Petar Zrinski and "Putni tovaruš" ("Traveling escort") by Katarina Zrinska.
However, this first linguistic renaissance in Croatia was halted by the political execution of Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankopan by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in Vienna in 1671. Subsequently the Croatian elite in the 18th century gradually abandoned this combined Croatian standard.
The Illyrian movement was a 19th-century pan-South Slavic political and cultural movement in Croatia that had the goal to standardize the regionally differentiated and orthographically inconsistent literary languages in Croatia, and finally merge them into a common South Slavic literary language. Specifically, three major groups of dialects were spoken on Croatian territory, and there had been several literary languages over four centuries. The leader of the Illyrian movement Ljudevit Gaj standardized the Latin alphabet in 1830–1850 and worked to bring about a standardized orthography. Although based in Kajkavian-speaking Zagreb, Gaj supported using the more populous Neo-Shtokavian – a version of Shtokavian that eventually became the predominant dialectal basis of both Croatian and Serbian literary language from the 19th century on. Supported by various South Slavic proponents, Neo-Shtokavian was adopted after an Austrian initiative at the Vienna Literary Agreement of 1850, laying the foundation for the unified Serbo-Croatian literary language. The uniform Neo-Shtokavian then became common in the Croatian elite.
In the 1860s, the Zagreb Philological School dominated the Croatian cultural life, drawing upon linguistic and ideological conceptions advocated by the members of the Illyrian movement. While it was dominant over the rival Rijeka Philological School and Zadar Philological Schools, its influence waned with the rise of the Croatian Vukovians (at the end of the 19th century).
Distinguishing features and differences between standards
Croatian is commonly characterized by the Ijekavian pronunciation (see an explanation of yat reflexes), the sole use of the Latin alphabet, and a number of lexical differences in common words that set it apart from standard Serbian. Some differences are absolute, while some appear mainly in the frequency of use.
Croatian, although technically a form of Serbo-Croatian, is sometimes considered a distinct language by itself. Purely linguistic considerations of languages based on mutual intelligibility (abstand languages) are frequently incompatible with sociopolitical conceptions of language so that varieties that are mutually intelligible may be considered separate languages. Differences between various standard forms of Serbo-Croatian are often exaggerated for political reasons. Most Croatian linguists regard Croatian as a separate language that is considered key to national identity. The issue is sensitive in Croatia as the notion of a separate language being the most important characteristic of a nation is widely accepted, stemming from the 19th-century history of Europe. The 1967 Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Literary Language, in which a group of Croatian authors and linguists demanded greater autonomy for the Croatian language, is viewed in Croatia as a linguistic policy milestone that was also a general milestone in national politics.
The terms "Serbo-Croatian" or "Serbo-Croat" are still used as a cover term for all these forms by foreign scholars, even though the speakers themselves largely do not use it. In Croatia, this is often based on the argument that the official language in Yugoslavia, a standardized form of Serbo-Croatian, was "artificial" or a political tool used to combine two distinct people. Within ex-Yugoslavia, the term has largely been replaced by the ethnic terms Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian.
The use of the name "Croatian" for a language names has been historically attested to, though not always distinctively; the Croatian–Hungarian Agreement, for example, designated "Croatian" as one of its official languages, and Croatian became an official EU language upon accession of Croatia to the EU on 1 July 2013. In 2013, the EU started publishing a Croatian language version of its official gazette.
Standard Croatian is the official language of the Republic of Croatia and, along with Standard Bosnian and Standard Serbian, one of three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also official in the regions of Burgenland (Austria), Molise (Italy) and Vojvodina (Serbia). Additionally, it has co-official status alongside Romanian in the communes of Carașova and Lupac, Romania. In these localities, Croats or Krashovani make up the majority of the population, and education, signage and access to public administration and the justice system are provided in Croatian, alongside Romanian.
Croatian is officially used and taught at all the universities in Croatia, and at the University of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There is no regulatory body that determines the proper usage of Croatian. The current standard language is generally laid out in the grammar books and dictionaries used in education, such as the school curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education and the university programmes of the Faculty of Philosophy at the four main universities. In 2013, a Hrvatski pravopis by the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics received an official sole seal of approval from the Ministry of Education.
Attempts are being made to revive Croatian literature in Italy.
The most prominent recent editions describing the Croatian standard language are:
Also notable are the recommendations of Matica hrvatska, the national publisher and promoter of Croatian heritage, and the Lexicographical institute Miroslav Krleža, as well as the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
Numerous representative Croatian linguistic works were published since the independence of Croatia, among them three voluminous monolingual dictionaries of contemporary Croatian.