Harman Patil

Vienna Literary Agreement

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Vienna Literary Agreement

The Vienna Literary Agreement (Serbo-Croatian Latin: Bečki književni dogovor, Cyrillic: Бечки књижевни договор) was the result of a meeting held in March 1850, when writers from Croatia, Serbia and one from Slovenia met to discuss the extent to which their literatures could be conjoined and united, and to standardize the Serbo-Croatian language.


Historical context

The first half of 19th century proved to be a turning point in Illyrian language conceptions. By that time, Illyrians held individual debates with their opponents, and Zagreb, as the center of Croatian cultural and literary life, served as a stronghold for their implementation and propagation. However, by that time some of the Illyrians came to realize the infeasibility of the Illyrian conceptions of language and literary unification of all South Slavs, realizing that the only real option left would be the creation of common literary language for Croats and Serbs, which have in common both Štokavian dialect and Ijekavian accent.

The agreement

In March 1850 the meeting was organized and was attended by self-taught Serbian linguist and folklorist Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, his close follower Đuro Daničić, the most eminent Slavist of the period - Slovenian Franc Miklošič, and Croatians were represented by Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, Dimitrije Demeter, Ivan Mažuranić, Vinko Pacel, and Stjepan Pejaković.

General guidelines for the conceived development of the common literary language for Croats and Serbs were agreed on, which were in accordance with basic Karadžić's language and orthographic premises, and that partly corresponded to those fundamental Croatian Neoštokavian pre-Illyrian literary language which Illyrian language conception suppressed at the expense of South-Slavic commonness.

The signees agreed in five points:

  1. They decided not to mix existing dialects creating new one, and that they should, following German and Italian role-model, pick one of the peoples' dialects and select it as literary in which all books shall be written.
  2. They unanimously accepted that the "southern dialect" should be selected for the common literary dialect for all Serbs and Croats, and they all decided to write ije where that dialect had disyllabic reflex of long jat, and write je, e or i where the reflex is monosyllabic (i.e. whether Ijekavian, Ekavian, or Ikavian accent). In order to know precisely where the aforementioned dialect has two syllables and where only one, Vuk Karadžić was asked to write "general rules for the southern dialect" (opća pravila za južno narječje) on that issue which he did.
  3. They agreed that Serbian and Montenegrin writers should write h (/x/) everywhere it belongs etymologically, as the Croatian writers do and some in southern regions speak.
  4. They all agreed that the genitive plurals of nouns and adjectives should not have h at the end because it doesn't belong there by etymology, because it is not necessary as a distinction towards other cases in the paradigm and because lots of writers don't write it at all.
  5. It was agreed that before syllabic /r/ one should not write neither a or e as some Croatian writers do, but only r, such as in the word prst ('finger'), because that's the way people speak and most other writers write.

During the second half of the 19th century these conclusions were called in the public as "declaration" (objava) or "statement" (izjava). The title Vienna Literary Agreement dates from the 20th century.

Implications and influence

The Vienna Literary Agreement was variously interpreted and referred to throughout the history of Croats, Slovenes, and Serbs. During the history of the Yugoslavias, especially the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the official doctrine was that the agreement set firm grounds for the final codification of Croatian language and Serbian language that soon followed. With the advent of national standard languages; Bosnian language, Croatian language and Serbian language in the 1990s, criticism emerged on the relevance of the agreement.

For example, according to Malić (1997, p. 30), the event had no critical influence for the Croatian cultural milieu, but has "managed to indicate developmental tendencies that in the formation of Croatian literary language which won by the end of the century". Malić argues that it was only during the 20th century, in the framework of "unitarist language conceptions and language policy", that the meeting has been given critical influence for the formation of common Croatian literary language and Serbian literary language.

Since the agreement was not officially organized, no one was bound by it, and thus it was not initially accepted by either the Croatian or the Serbian press. Croatia still had a very lively Illyrian conception of language, and the conservative Serbian cultural milieu was not ready to accept Karadžić's views of folk language being literary. It was only in 1868 that his reform was accepted in Serbia, and not to a complete extent (Ekavian accent was accepted as standard, rather than Ijekavian), and urban colloquial speech was silently given great influence to form standard language.


Vienna Literary Agreement Wikipedia

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