|Native to Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and neighboring regions|
Native speakers 8.7 million declared Serbian speakers in the former Yugoslavia (2006)and 0.5–1.5 million abroad
Language family Indo-EuropeanBalto-SlavicSlavicSouth SlavicWesternSerbo-CroatianShtokavianNeo-ShtokavianEastern HerzegovinianSerbian
Writing system Cyrillic (Serbian alphabet)Latin (Gaj's alphabet)Yugoslav Braille
Official language in Serbia Bosnia and Herzegovina Kosovo
Serbian (Serbian Cyrillic: српски, Gaj's Latin: srpski, [sr̩̂pskiː]) is the standardized variety of the Serbo-Croatian language mainly used by Serbs. It is the official language of Serbia and one of the three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, it is a recognized minority language in Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
- Geographic distribution
- Status in Montenegro
- Writing system
- Alphabetic order
- Serbian literature
- Standard dictionaries
- Bilingual dictionaries
- Historical dictionaries
- Etymological dictionaries
- Dialect dictionaries
Standard Serbian is based on the most widespread dialect of Serbo-Croatian, Shtokavian (more specifically on Šumadija-Vojvodina and Eastern Herzegovinian dialects), which is also the basis of Standard Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. The other dialect spoken by Serbs is Torlakian in southeastern Serbia, which is transitional to Macedonian and Bulgarian.
Serbian is practically the only European standard language with complete synchronic digraphia, using both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets; speakers read the two scripts equally well. The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was devised in 1814 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić, who created the alphabet on phonemic principles. The Latin alphabet was designed by Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj in 1830.
Serbian is a standardized variety of Serbo-Croatian, a Slavic language (Indo-European), of the South Slavic subgroup. Other standardized forms of Serbo-Croatian are Bosnian, Croatian, and Montenegrin. It has lower intelligibility with the Eastern South Slavic languages Bulgarian and Macedonian, than with Slovene (Slovene is part of the Western South Slavic subgroup, but there are still significant differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation to the standardized forms of Serbo-Croatian, although it is closer to the Kajkavian and Chakavian dialects of Serbo-Croatian).
Figures of speakers according to countries:
Status in Montenegro
Serbian was the official language of Montenegro until 2007 when the new Constitution of Montenegro replaced the Constitution of 1992. Amid opposition from pro-Serbian parties, the Montenegrin language was made the sole official language of the country, and Serbian was given the status of a recognised minority language along with Bosnian, Albanian, and Croatian.
According to the 2003 census, 63.49% of the population declared their native language as Serbian, compared to 21.96% who declared as Montenegrin, the latter being mainly concentrated in Old Montenegro. The 2011 census show that 42.88% still declare Serbian to be their native language, while Montenegrin is declared by 36.97% of the population.
Standard Serbian language uses both Cyrillic (ћирилица, ćirilica) and Latin script (latinica, латиница).
Although Serbian language authorities have recognized the official status of both scripts in contemporary Standard Serbian for more than half of a century now, due to historical reasons, the Cyrillic script was made the official script of Serbia's administration by the 2006 Constitution. However, the law does not regulate scripts in standard language, or standard language itself by any means, leaving the choice of script as a matter of personal preference and to the free will in all aspects of life (publishing, media, trade and commerce, etc.), except in government paperwork production and in official written communication with state officials, which have to be in Cyrillic. Even in official government documents this constitutional requirement is rarely enforced. Serbian is a rare example of synchronic digraphia, a situation where all literate members of a society have two interchangeable writing systems available to them. Media and publishers typically select one alphabet or another. For example, the public broadcaster, Radio Television of Serbia, predominantly uses the Cyrillic script whereas the privately run broadcasters, like RTV Pink, predominantly use the Latin script.
A survey from 2014 showed that 47% of the Serbian population favors the Latin alphabet whereas 36% favors the Cyrillic one.
The sort order of the ćirilica (ћирилица) alphabet:
The sort order of the latinica (латиница) alphabet:
Serbian verbs are conjugated in four past forms—perfect, aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect—of which the last two have a very limited use (imperfect is still used in some dialects, but the majority of native Serbian speakers consider it archaic), one future tense (also known as the first future tense, as opposed to the second future tense or the future exact, which is considered a tense of the conditional mood by some contemporary linguists), and one present tense. These are the tenses of the indicative mood. Apart from the indicative mood, there is also the imperative mood. The conditional mood has two more tenses: the first conditional (commonly used in conditional clauses, both for possible and impossible conditional clauses) and the second conditional (without use in the spoken language—it should be used for impossible conditional clauses). Serbian has active and passive voice.
As for the non-finite verb forms, Serbian has one infinitive, two adjectival participles (the active and the passive), and two adverbial participles (the present and the past).
Most Serbian words are of native Slavic lexical stock, tracing back to the Proto-Slavic language. There are many loanwords from different languages, reflecting cultural interaction throughout history. Notable loanwords were borrowed from Greek, Latin, Italian, Turkish, Hungarian, Russian, and German.
Serbian literature emerged in the Middle Ages, and included such works as Miroslavljevo jevanđelje (Miroslav's Gospel) in 1192 and Dušanov zakonik (Dušan's Code) in 1349. Little secular medieval literature has been preserved, but what there is shows that it was in accord with its time; for example, Serbian Alexandride, a book about Alexander the Great, and a translation of Tristan and Iseult into Serbian. Although not belonging to the literature proper, the corpus of Serbian literacy in the 14th and 15th centuries contains numerous legal, commercial and administrative texts with marked presence of Serbian vernacular juxtaposed on the matrix of Serbian Church Slavonic.
In the mid-15th century, Serbia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and for the next 400 years there was no opportunity for the creation of secular written literature. However, some of the greatest literary works in Serbian come from this time, in the form of oral literature, the most notable form being Serbian epic poetry. The epic poems were mainly written down in the 19th century, and preserved in oral tradition up to the 1950s, a few centuries or even a millennium longer than by most other "epic folks". Goethe and Jacob Grimm learned Serbian in order to read Serbian epic poetry in the original. By the end of the 18th century, the written literature had become estranged from the spoken language. In the second half of the 18th century, the new language appeared, called Slavonic-Serbian. This artificial idiom superseded the works of poets and historians like Gavrilo Stefanović Venclović, who wrote in essentially modern Serbian in the 1720s. These vernacular compositions have remained cloistered from the general public and received due attention only with the advent of modern literary historians and writers like Milorad Pavić. In the early 19th century, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić promoted the spoken language of the people as a literary norm.
Vuk Karadžić's Srpski rječnik, first published in 1818, is the earliest dictionary of modern literary Serbian. The Rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika (I–XXIII), published by the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts from 1880 to 1976, is the only general historical dictionary of Serbo-Croatian. Its first editor was Đuro Daničić, followed by Pero Budmani and the famous Vukovian Tomislav Maretić. The sources of this dictionary are, especially in the first volumes, mainly Štokavian. There are older, pre-standard dictionaries, such as the 1791 German–Serbian dictionary.
The standard and the only completed etymological dictionary of Serbian is the "Skok", written by the Croatian linguist Petar Skok: Etimologijski rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika ("Etymological Dictionary of Croatian or Serbian"). I-IV. Zagreb 1971–1974.
There is also a new monumental Etimološki rečnik srpskog jezika (Etymological Dictionary of Serbian). So far, two volumes have been published: I (with words on A-), and II (Ba-Bd).
There are specialized etymological dictionaries for German, Italian, Croatian, Turkish, Greek, Hungarian, Russian, English and other loanwords (cf. chapter word origin).