Jernej Kopitar
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Jernej Kopitar
Jernej Kopitar
Born(1780-08-21)21 August 1780
Died11 August 1844(1844-08-11) (aged 63)
Scientific career
Slavic studies

Jernej Kopitar, also known as Bartholomeus Kopitar[1] (21 August 1780 - 11 August 1844), was a Slovene linguist and philologist working in Vienna. He also worked as the Imperial censor for Slovene literature in Vienna. He is perhaps best known for his role in the Serbian language reform started by Vuk Stefanovi? Karad?i?, where he played a vital role in supporting the reform by using his reputation and influence as a Slavic philologist.

Early life

Kopitar was born in the small Carniolan village of Repnje near Vodice, in what was then the Habsburg Monarchy and is now in Slovenia. After graduating from the lyceum in Ljubljana, he became a private teacher in the house of baron Sigmund Zois, a renowned entrepreneur, scientist and patron of arts. Kopitar later became Zois' personal secretary and librarian. During this period, he became acquainted with the circle of Enlightenment intellectuals that gathered in Zois' mansion, such as the playwright and historian Anton Toma? Linhart, the poet and editor Valentin Vodnik, and philologist Jurij Japelj.

Career as a censor and linguist

In 1808, he moved to Vienna, where he studied law. At the same time, he developed an interest in the comparative analysis of the Slavic languages, to which he would devote all his later life. He became employed as a librarian and later an administrator at the Vienna Court Library. He later become the chief censor for books written in Slavic languages and Modern Greek.

Among European linguists, he was considered a valued scientist and thinker. Particularly important is his correspondence with the Bohemian philologist Josef Dobrovský, his spiritual father, and later with the Serbian philologist Vuk Karad?i?.[2] In 1808, he wrote in German and published the first scientific Slovene grammar, titled Grammatik der Slavischen Sprache in Krain, Kärnten und Steyermark (Grammar of the Slavic language in Carniola, Carinthia, and Styria). In his work Glagolita Clozianus (1836), he published the first critically revised, translated, and annotated version of the Freising Manuscripts, the oldest known work in Slovene and the first work in any Slavic language written in the Latin alphabet. In the same work, he advanced the Pannonian Theory of the development of Common Slavic - a theory that is now in vogue again through modern paleolinguistics studies and archeology.[]

Under the influence of the efforts of a group of contemporary Carinthian Slovene philologists, especially Urban Jarnik and Matija Ahacel, Kopitar sought to educate a new generation of linguists who would develop grammars and textbooks, advocate orthographic reform, and collect folk literature. Due to these efforts, he was given a chair in Slovene[clarification needed] at the Ljubljana Lyceum in 1817.

Language reforms

In the early 1830s, Kopitar became involved in the Slovene Alphabet War (Slovene: Abecedna vojna, or ?rkarska pravda), a debate over orthographic reform. He supported radical reforms of the old Bohori? alphabet, advanced first by Peter Dajnko and then by Franc Serafin Metelko. Kopitar's main opponent in the conflict was the philologist Matija ?op. ?op convinced the renowned Czech scholar Franti?ek ?elakovský to publish a devastating critique on the proposed alphabet reforms, which undermined Kopitar's authority. The issue was resolved with the compromise adoption of Gaj's Latin alphabet. ?op and Kopitar also disagreed on the issue of whether the Slovenes should develop their own national culture. Kopitar favored gradual evolution towards a common literary language for all South Slavic peoples, with Slovene dialects remaining the colloquial language of the peasantry. ?op, on the other hand, insisted on the creation of a high culture in Slovene that would follow contemporary literary trends. One of the main supporters of ?op's project, the poet France Pre?eren, sharply criticized Kopitar's views, which led to frequent confrontations between the two.

Politically, Kopitar was a supporter of Austroslavism, a doctrine aimed at the unity of Slavic peoples within the Austrian Empire. He was also a staunch conservative, and supporter of the Metternich regime, with a paternalistic approach to the peasant culture. On the other side, ?op and Pre?eren emphasized on the cultivation of Slovene as the means for the emergence of a lay Slovene intelligentsia that would foster and develop a specific Slovene identity within the framework of Slavic solidarity. After the Alphabet War in the 1830s, Kopitar's political and cultural influence in his native Slovene Lands diminished significantly. At the same time, however, he gained influence among other South Slavic intelligentsia, especially the Serbian one. He influenced Vuk Stefanovi? Karad?i? in forming a new standard for the Serbian literary language based on common use.

Death and heritage

Gravestone of Jernej Kopitar in Vienna, later moved to the Navje cemetery in Ljubljana.
Gravestone of Jernej Kopitar in Navje memorial park in Ljubljana.


Kopitar died in Vienna on 11 August 1844, reportedly with Karad?i? standing at his deathbed. His gravestone is displayed in the Navje Cemetery in Ljubljana, at the edge of the former St. Christopher's Cemetery. A neighbourhood in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, called Kopitareva Gradina, is named after him.


  1. ^ Mer?e, Majda. "Jernej Kopitar. Grammatik der Slavischen Sprache in Krain, Kärnten und Steyermark". In Aha?i?, Kozma (ed.). Slovenske slovnice in pravopisi: spletie slovenskih slovnic in pravopisov od 1584 do danes. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ Kitin, Marko (2013). "Jernej Kopitar". Ljubljana Municipal Library. Archived from the original on 2016-11-22. Retrieved .


  • Lencek, Rado. To Honor Jernej Kopitar 1780-1980. Papers in Slavic Philology, no. 2. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1982.
  • Merchiers, Ingrid. Cultural nationalism in the South Slav Habsburg lands in the early nineteenth century: the scholarly network of Jernej Kopitar (1780-1844). Munich: Sagner, 2007.

Mario Gr?evi?. Jernej Kopitar as a strategist of Karad?i?'s reform of the literary language/Jernej Kopitar kao strateg Karad?i?eve knji?evnojezi?ne reforme [1]. Filologija 53, 2009.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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