Shtokavian Dialect
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Shtokavian Dialect
?tokavski /
Native toSerbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo[a]
Standard forms
Language codes
Linguasphere53-AAA-ga to -gf &
53-AAA-gi (-gia to -gii)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Area where Shtokavian standard languages are spoken by the majority or plurality of inhabitants (in 2005)

Shtokavian or ?tokavian (; Serbo-Croatian: ?tokavski / , pronounced [?t?:ka?ski:])[1] is the prestige dialect of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian language and the basis of its Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin standards.[2] It is a part of the South Slavic dialect continuum.[3][4] Its name comes from the form for the interrogatory pronoun for "what" in Western Shtokavian, ?to (it is ?ta in Eastern Shtokavian). This is in contrast to Kajkavian and Chakavian (kaj and ?a also meaning "what").

Shtokavian is spoken in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, much of Croatia, as well as the southern part of Austria's Burgenland. The primary subdivisions of Shtokavian are based on two principles: one is whether the subdialect is Old-Shtokavian or Neo-Shtokavian, and different accents according to the way the old Slavic phoneme jat has changed. Modern dialectology generally recognises seven Shtokavian subdialects.

Distribution of Shtokavian subdialects before 20th century

Early history of Shtokavian

Serbo-Croatian dialects prior to the 16th-century migrations, distinguishing Western and Eastern Shtokavian

The Proto-Shtokavian idiom appeared in the 12th century. In the following century or two, Shtokavian was divided into two zones: western, which covered the major part of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slavonia in Croatia, and eastern, dominant in Serbia, easternmost Bosnia and Herzegovina and greater parts of Montenegro. Western Shtokavian was principally characterized by a three-accent system, whereas eastern Shtokavian was marked by a two-accent system. According to research of historical linguistics, Old-Shtokavian was well established by the mid-15th century. In this period it was still mixed with Church Slavonic to varying degrees. According to Ivo Banac in the area of today's Slavonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina(west of Br?ko, Vlasenica and Neretva line) and on the littoral between Bay of Kotor and Cetina medieval Croats spoke old West Shtokavian dialect for which some believe that occurs from the Chakavian while medieval Serbs spoke two dialects, old East Shtokavian and Torlak.[5]

As can be seen from the image on the right, originally the Shtokavian dialect covered a significantly smaller area than it covers today, meaning that the Shtokavian speech has spread for the last five centuries, overwhelmingly at the expense of Chakavian and Kajkavian idioms. Modern areal distribution of these three dialects as well as their internal stratification (Shtokavian and Chakavian in particular) is primarily a result of the migrations resulting from the spread of Ottoman Empire in the Balkans.[6] Migratory waves were particularly strong in the 16th-18th century, bringing about large-scale linguistic and ethnic changes on the Central South Slavic area. (See: Great Serb Migrations).

By far the most numerous, mobile and expansionist migrations were those of Ijekavian-Shtokavian speakers of eastern Herzegovina, who have spread into most of Western Serbia, many areas of eastern and western Bosnia, large swathes of Croatia (Banovina, Kordun, Lika, parts of Gorski kotar, continental parts of northern Dalmatia, some places north of Kupa, parts of Slavonia, southeastern Baranya etc.).[7] This is the reason Eastern Herzegovinian is the most spoken Serbo-Croatian dialect today, and why it bears the name that is only descriptive of its area of origin. These migrations also played the pivotal role in the spread of Neo-Shtokavian innovations.[8]

Shtokavian dialect spoken by Croats has more dialects, there are innovative new Shtokavian dialect ikavian as it is spoken in west Herzegovina, area of Dalmatian Zagora, Lika, parts of Velebit area and in some places of Gorski kotar, Vojvodina, Ba?ka and in neighboring Hungarian areas. New Shtokavian is spoken by Croats in eastern Herzegovina and more recently in the Dubrovnik area and in many places in the former Military Frontier.[9]

Earliest texts of Shtokavian dialect

Proto-Shtokavian, or Church Slavic with ingredients of nascent Shtokavian, were recorded in legal documents like the charter of Ban Kulin, regulating the commerce between Bosnia and Dubrovnik in Croatia, dated 1189, and in liturgical texts like Gr?kovi?'s and Mihanovi?'s fragments, ca. 1150, in southern Bosnia or Herzegovina. Experts' opinions are divided with regard to the extent these texts, especially the Kulin ban parchment, contain contemporary Shtokavian vernacular. Mainly Shtokavian, with ingredients of Church Slavic, are numerous legal and commercial documents from pre-Ottoman Bosnia, Hum, Serbia, Zeta, and southern Dalmatia, especially Dubrovnik. The first comprehensive vernacular Shtokavian text is the Vatican Croatian Prayer Book, written in Dubrovnik a decade or two before 1400. In the next two centuries Shtokavian vernacular texts had been written mainly in Dubrovnik, other Adriatic cities and islands influenced by Dubrovnik, as well as in Bosnia, by Bosnian Franciscans and Bosniak Muslim vernacular alhamiado literature - the first example being "Chirwat turkisi" or "Croatian song", dated 1589.

Relationship towards neighboring dialects

Shtokavian is characterized by a number of characteristic historical sound changes, accentual changes, changes in inflection, morphology and syntax. Some of these isoglosses are not exclusive and have also been shared by neighboring dialects, and some of them have mostly but not completely spread over the whole Shtokavian area. The differences between Shtokavian and the unrelated, neighboring Bulgarian-Macedonian dialects are clear-cut, whereas the differences with the related Serbo-Croatian dialects of Chakavian and Kajkavian are much more fluid, and the mutual influence of various subdialects plays a more prominent role.

The main bundle of isoglosses separates Slovenian and Kajkavian on the one hand from Shtokavian and Chakavian on the other. These are:[10]

  1. long falling accent of newer origin (neocircumflex)
  2. development of the consonant group rj (as opposed to consonant /r/) from former soft /r'/ before a vowel (e.g. morjem, zorja)
  3. reflexes of /o/ or /?/ of the old Common Slavic nasal vowel /?/, and not /u/
  4. inflectional morpheme -o (as opposed to -ojo) in the instrumental singular of a-declension

Other characteristics distinguishing Kajkavian from Shtokavian, beside the demonstrative/interrogatory pronoun kaj (as opposed to ?to/?ta used in Shtokavian), are:[11]

  1. a reflex of old semivowels of /?/ (e.g. d?n < Common Slavic *d?n?, p?s < Common Slavic *p?s?); closed /?/ appearing also as a jat reflex
  2. retention of word-final -l (e.g. do?el, as opposed to Shtokavian do?ao)
  3. word-initial u- becoming v- (e.g. vuho, vuzel, vozek)
  4. dephonemicization of affricates /?/ and /?/ to some form of middle value
  5. genitive plural of masculine nouns has the morpheme -of / -ef
  6. syncretized dative, locative and instrumental plural has the ending -ami
  7. the ending -me in the first-person plural present (e.g. vidime)
  8. affix ? in the formation of adjectival comparatives (e.g. deble?i, slabe?i)
  9. supine
  10. future tense formation in the form of bom/bum do?el, do?la, do?lo

Characteristics distinguishing Chakavian from Shtokavian, beside the demonstrative/interrogatory pronoun ?a, are:[11]

  1. preservation of polytonic three-accent system
  2. vocalization of weak jers in word-initial syllables (e.g. malin/melin < Common Slavic *m?lin?; cf. Shtokavian mlin)
  3. vowel /a/ as opposed to /e/ after palatal consonants /j/, /?/, /?/ (e.g. ?k. jazik/zajik t. jezik, ?k. po?ati t. po?eti, ?k. ?aja t. ?elja)
  4. the appearance of extremely palatal /t'/ or /?'/ (< earlier /t'/) and /j/ (< earlier /d'/) either in free positions or in groups ?t', ?d'
  5. depalatalization of /n'/ and /l'/
  6. /?/ instead of /d?/ (c.f. ?k. ?ep t. d?ep)
  7. /?/ > /?/ before consonants (c.f. ?k. ma?ka t. ma?ka)
  8. word-initial consonant groups ?r-, ?ri-, ?re- (c.f. ?k. ?rivo/?revo t. cr(ij)evo, ?k. ?rn t. crn)
  9. conditional mood with bi? in the 2nd-person singular
  10. non-syncretized dative, locative and instrumental plural

General characteristics

General characteristics of Shtokavian are the following:[12]

  1. ?to or ?ta as the demonstrative/interrogative pronoun
  2. differentiation between two short (in addition to two or three long) accents, rising and falling, though not in all Shtokavian speakers
  3. preservation of unaccented length, but not consistently across all speeches
  4. /u/ as the reflex of Common Slavic back nasal vowel /?/ as well as the syllabic /l/ (with the exception of central Bosnia where a diphthongal /uo/ is also recorded as a reflex)
  5. initial group of v- + weak semivowel yields u- (e.g. unuk < Common Slavic *v?nuk?)
  6. schwa resulting from the jer merger yields /a/, with the exception of the Zeta-Ra?ka dialect
  7. metathesis of v?se to sve
  8. ?r- > cr-, with the exception of Slavonian, Molise and Vlachia (Gradie) dialect
  9. word-final -l changes to /o/ or /a/; the exception is verbal adjective in the Slavonian southwest
  10. d' > /d?/ (⟨?⟩) with numerous exceptions
  11. cr > tr in the word tre?nja "cherry"; some exceptions in Slavonia, Hungary and Romania
  12. /?/ and /?/ from jt, jd (e.g. po?i, po?em); exceptions in Slavonian and Eastern Bosnian dialect
  13. so-called "new iotation" of dentals and labials, with many exceptions, especially in Slavonia and Bosnia
  14. general loss of phoneme /x/, with many exceptions
  15. ending -? in genitive plural of masculine and feminine nouns, with many exceptions
  16. ending -u in locative singular of masculine and neuter nouns (e.g. u gradu, u m(j)estu)
  17. infix -ov- / -ev- in the plural of most monosyllabic masculine nouns, with many exceptions (e.g. in the area between Neretva and Dubrovnik)
  18. syncretism of dative, locative and instrumental plural of nouns, with many exceptions
  19. preservation of ending -og(a) in genitive and accusative singular of masculine and neuter gender if pronominal-adjectival declension (e.g. drugoga), with exceptions on the area of Dubrovnik and Livno
  20. special form with the ending -a for the neuter gender in nominative plural of pronominal-adjectival declension (e.g. ova m(j)esta and no ove m(j)esta)
  21. preservation of aorist, which is however missing in some areas (e.g. around Dubrovnik)
  22. special constructs reflecting old dual for numerals 2-4 (dva, tri, ?etiri stola)
  23. many so-called "Turkisms" (turcizmi) or "Orientalisms", i.e. words borrowed from Ottoman Turkish

As can be seen from the list, many of this isoglosses are missing from particular Shtokavian idioms, just as many of them are shared with neighboring non-Shtokavian dialects.


The Shtokavian dialect is divided into Old-Shtokavian and Neo-Shtokavian subdialects. The primary distinction is the accentuation system: although there are variations, "old" dialects preserve the older accent system, which consists of two types of falling (dynamic) accents, one long and one short, and unstressed syllables, which can be long and short. Both long and short unstressed syllables could precede the stressed syllables. Stress placement is free and mobile in paradigms.

In the process known as "Neo-Shtokavian metatony" or "retraction", length of the old syllables was preserved, but their quality changed. Stress (intensity) on the inner syllables moved to the preceding syllable, but they kept the high pitch. That process produced the "rising" accents characteristic for Neo-Shtokavian, and yielded the modern four-tone system. Stress on the initial syllables remained the same in quality and pitch.

Most speakers of Shtokavian, native or taught, from Serbia and Croatia do not distinguish between short rising and short falling tones.[13] They also pronounce most unstressed long vowels as short, with some exceptions, such as genitive plural endings.[13]

The following notation is used for Shtokavian accents:

Description IPA Traditional Diacritic
unstressed short [e] e -
unstressed long e: ? macron
short rising ? è Grave
long rising ?: é Acute
short falling ê ? Double grave
long falling ê: ? Inverted breve

The following table shows the examples of Neo-Shtokavian retraction:

Old stress New stress Note
IPA Trad. IPA Trad.
kût?a ka kût?a ka No retraction from the first syllable
prâ:vda pr?vda prâ:vda pr?vda No retraction from the first syllable
livâda liv?da l?vada lìvada Retraction from short to short syllable -> short rising
junâ:k jun?k j?na:k jùn?k Retraction from long to short syllable -> short rising + unstressed length
pri:lîka pr?l?ka pr?:lika prílika Retraction from short to long syllable -> long rising
:vî:m v?m :vi:m ?ív?m Retraction from long to long syllable -> long rising + unstressed length

As result of this process, the following set of rules emerged, which are still in effect in all standard variants of Serbo-Croatian:

  • Falling accents may only occur word-initially (otherwise it would have been retracted).
  • Rising accents may occur anywhere except word-finally.
    • thus, monosyllabic words may only have falling accent.
  • Unstressed length may only appear after a stressed syllable.

In practice, influx of foreign words and formation of compound words have loosened these rules, especially in spoken idioms (e.g. parad?jz, asist?nt, poljopr?vreda), but they are maintained in standard language and dictionaries.[14]


Map of Shtokavian dialects

Old-Shtokavian dialects

Timok-Prizren (Torlakian)

The most conservative dialects[how?] stretch southeast from the Timok Valley near the Bulgarian border to Prizren. There is disagreement among linguists whether these dialects belong to the Shtokavian area, because there are many other morphological characteristics apart from rendering of ?to (also, some dialects use kakvo or kvo, typical for Bulgarian), which would place them into a "transitional" group between Shtokavian and Eastern South Slavic languages (Bulgarian and Macedonian). The Timok-Prizren group falls to the Balkan language area: declension has all but disappeared, the infinitive has yielded to subjunctives da-constructions, and adjectives are compared exclusively with prefixes. The accent in the dialect group is a stress accent, and it falls on any syllable in the word. The old semi-vowel[clarification needed] has been retained throughout. The vocalic l has been retained (vlk = vuk), and some dialects don't distinguish ?/? and ?/d? by preferring the latter, postalveolar variants. Some subdialects preserve l at the end of words (where otherwise it has developed into a short o) - do?l, znal, etc. (cf. Kajkavian and Bulgarian); in others, this l has become the syllable ja[].

Torlakian is spoken in Metohija, around Prizren, Gnjilane and ?trpce especially, in Southern Serbia around Bujanovac, Vranje, Leskovac, Ni?, Aleksinac, in the part of Toplica Valley around Prokuplje, in Eastern Serbia around Pirot, Svrljig, Soko Banja, Boljevac, Knja?evac ending up with the area around Zaje?ar, where the Kosovo-Resava dialect becomes more dominant. It has been recorded several exclaves with Torlakian speeches inside Kosovo-Resava dialect area. One is the most prominent and preserved, like village Dublje near Svilajnac, where the majority of settlers came from Torlakian speaking village Veliki Izvor near Zajecar. Few centuries ago, before settlers from Kosovo and Metohija brought Kosovo-Resava speeches to Eastern Serbia (to Bor and Negotin area), Torlakian speech had been overwhelmingly represented in this region.


Also called the Archaic akavian dialect, it is spoken by Croats who live in some parts of Slavonia, Ba?ka, Baranja, Syrmia, in Croatia and Vojvodina, as well as in northern Bosnia. It is divided into two subdialects: southern (Posavian / posavski) and northern (Podravian / podravski). The Slavonian dialect has mixed Ikavian and Ekavian pronunciations. Ikavian accent is predominant in the Posavina, Baranja, Ba?ka, and in the Slavonian subdialect enclave of Derventa, whereas Ekavian accent is predominant in Podravina. There are enclaves of one accent in the territory of the other, as well as mixed Ekavian-Ikavian and Jekavian-Ikavian areas. In some villages in Hungary, the original yat is preserved. Local variants can widely differ in the degree of Neo-Shtokavian influences. In two villages in Posavina, Si?e and Magi?a Male, the l, as in the verb nosil, has been retained in place of the modern nosio. In some villages in the Podravina, ?r is preserved instead of the usual cr, for example in ?rn instead of crn. Both forms are usual in Kajkavian but very rare in Shtokavian.

East Bosnian

Also called Jekavian-akavian, it is a base for the Bosnian language. It has Jekavian pronunciations in the vast majority of local forms and it is spoken by the majority of Bosniaks living in that area, which includes the bigger Bosnian cities Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Zenica, and by most of Croats and Serbs that live in that area (Vare?, Usora, etc.). Together with basic Jekavian pronunciation, mixed pronunciations exist in Te?anj and Maglaj dete-djeteta (Ekavian-Jekavian) and around ?ep?e and Jablanica djete-diteta (Jekavian-ikavian). In the central area of the subdialect, the diphthong uo exists in some words instead of the archaic l and more common u like vuok or stuop, instead of the standard modern vuk and stup.


Also known as ?ekavian-Ijekavian, it is spoken in eastern Montenegro, in Podgorica and Cetinje, around the city of Novi Pazar in eastern Ra?ka in Serbia, and by descendants of Montenegrin settlers in the single village of Peroj in Istria. The majority of its speakers are Serbs and Montenegrins and Muslims from Serbia and Montenegro. Together with the dominant Jekavian pronunciation, mixed pronunciations like djete-deteta (Jekavian-Ekavian) around Novi Pazar and Bijelo Polje, dite-?eteta (Ikavian-Jekavian) around Podgorica and dete-?eteta (Ekavian-Jekavian) in the village of Mrkojevi?i in southern Montenegro. Mrkojevi?i are also characterised by retention of ?r instead of cr as in the previously mentioned villages in Podravina.

Some vernaculars have a very open /?/ or /æ/ as their reflex of ?/?, very rare in other Shtokavian vernaculars (sæn and dæn instead of san and dan).[] Other phonetic features include sounds like ? in i?esti instead of izjesti, ? as in ?ekira instead of sjekira. However these sounds are known also to many in East Herzegovina like those in Konavle,[15] and are not Zeta-Ra?ka specific . There is a loss of the /v/ sound apparent, seen in ?o'ek or ?a'ola. The loss of distinction between /?/ and /l/ in some vernaculars is based on a substratum. Word pljesma is a hypercorrection (instead of pjesma) because many vernaculars have changed lj to j.

All verbs in infinitive finish with "t" (example: pjevat 'sing'). This feature is also present in most vernaculars of East Herzegovinian, and actually almost all Serbian and Croatian vernaculars.

The group a + o gave ? /a:/ (k? instead of kao, rek? for rekao), like in other seaside vernaculars. Elsewhere, more common is ao > ?.


Also called Older Ekavian, is spoken by Serbs, mostly in western and northeastern Kosovo (Kosovo Valley with Kosovska Mitrovica and also around Pe?), in Ibar Valley with Kraljevo, around Kru?evac, Trstenik and in ?upa, in the part of Toplica Valley (Kur?umlija) in the Morava Valley (Jagodina, ?uprija, Para?in, Lapovo), in Resava Valley (Svilajnac, Despotovac) and northeastern Serbia (Smederevo, Po?arevac, Bor, Majdanpek, Negotin, Velika Plana) with one part of Banat (around Kovin, Bela Crkva and Vr?ac). This dialect can be also found in parts of Banatska Klisura (Clisura Dun?rii) in Romania, in places where Romanian Serbs live (left bank of the Danube).

Substitution of jat is predominantly Ekavian accent even on the end of datives (?ene instead of ?eni), in pronouns (teh instead of tih), in comparatives (dobrej instead of dobriji) in the negative of biti (nesam instead of nisam); in Smederevo-Vr?ac dialects, Ikavian forms can be found (di si instead of gde si?). Smederevo-Vr?ac dialect (spoken in northeastern ?umadija, Lower Great Morava Valley and Banat) is sometimes classified as a subdialect of the Kosovo-Resava dialect but is also considered to be a separate dialect as it the represents mixed speech of ?umadija-Vojvodina and Kosovo-Resava dialects.

Neo-Shtokavian dialects


Also called Western Ikavian or Younger Ikavian. The majority of its speakers are Croats who live in Lika, Kvarner, Dalmatia, Herzegovina and Bunjevci and Croats of north Ba?ka around Subotica. The minority speakers of it include Bosniaks in western Bosnia, mostly around the city of Biha?, and also in central Bosnia where Croats and Bosniaks (Travnik, Jajce, Bugojno, Vitez, ..) used to speak this dialect. Exclusively Ikavian accent, Bosnian and Herzegovinian forms use o in verb participle, whereas those in Dalmatia and Lika use -ija or ia like in vidija/vidia. Local form of Ba?ka was proposed as the base for the Bunjevac dialect of Bunjevci in Vojvodina.


Also known as Western (I)jekavian, in earlier centuries, this subdialect was the independent subdialect of Western Shtokavian dialect. It is spoken by Croats who live in some parts of Dubrovnik area. The Dubrovnik dialect has mixed Jekavian and Ikavian pronunciations or mixed Shtokavian and Chakavian vocabulary. Some vocabulary from Dalmatian, older Venetian and modern Italian are also present. It is a base for the Croatian language. The dialect today is considered to be a part of East Herzegovina subdialect because it is similar to it. It retained certain unique features that distinguish it from the original East Herzegovina subdialect.


Also known as Younger Ekavian, is one of the bases for the standard Serbian language. It is spoken by Serbs across most of Vojvodina (excluding easternmost parts around Vr?ac), northern part of western Serbia, around Kragujevac and Valjevo in ?umadija, in Ma?va around ?abac and Bogati?, in Belgrade and in Serb villages in eastern Croatia around the town of Vukovar. In some extent, among Croats in Ilok and partly in Vukovar this dialect can be also found today. It is predominately Ekavian (Ikavian forms are of morphophonological origin). In some parts of Vojvodina the old declension is preserved. Most Vojvodina dialects and some dialects in ?umadija have an open e and o[clarification needed]. However the vernaculars of western Serbia, and in past to them connected vernaculars of (old) Belgrade and southwestern Banat (Bor?a, Pan?evo, Bavani?te) are as close to the standard as a vernacular can be. The dialect presents a base for the Ekavian variant of the Serbian standard language.

Eastern Herzegovinian

Also called Eastern Herzegovinian or Neo-Ijekavian. It encompasses by far the largest area and the number of speakers of all Shtokavian dialects. It is the dialectal basis of the standard literary Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, and Montenegrin languages.

Micro groups:

Yat reflexes

The Proto-Slavic vowel jat (? in Cyrillic or ? in Latin) has changed over time, coming to be pronounced differently in different areas. These different reflexes define three "pronunciations" (izgovori) of Shtokavian:

  • In Ekavian pronunciation (ekavski [?:ka?ski:]),[16] jat has conflated into the vowel e
  • in Ikavian pronunciation (ikavski [?:ka?ski:]),[17] it has conflated into the vowel i
  • in Ijekavian or Jekavian pronunciation (ijekavski [ij?:ka?ski:][18] or jekavski [j?:ka?ski:]),[18] it has come to be pronounced ije or je, depending on whether the vowel was long or short. In standard Croatian, pronunciation is always jekavian: when yat is short then it is [je] (written as je), and when yat is long then it is [je:] (written as ije).

Historically, the yat reflexes had been inscribed in Church Slavic texts before the significant development of Shtokavian dialect, reflecting the beginnings of the formative period of the vernacular. In early documents it is predominantly Church Slavic of the Serbian or Croatian recension (variant). The first undoubted Ekavian reflex (be?e 'it was') is found in a document from Serbia dated 1289; the first Ikavian reflex (svidoci 'witnesses') in Bosnia in 1331; and first (I)jekavian reflex (?elijemo 'we wish', a "hyper-Ijekavism") in Croatia in 1399. Partial attestation can be found in earlier texts (for instance, Ikavian pronunciation is found in a few Bosnian documents from the latter half of the 13th century), but philologists generally accept the aforementioned dates. In the second half of the 20th century, many vernaculars with unsubstituted yat[clarification needed] are found.[19] The intrusion of the vernacular into Church Slavic grew in time, to be finally replaced by the vernacular idiom. This process took place for Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks independently and without mutual interference until the mid-19th century. Historical linguistics, textual analysis and dialectology have dispelled myths about allegedly "unspoilt" vernacular speech of rural areas: for instance, it is established that Bosniaks have retained phoneme "h" in numerous words (unlike Serbs and Croats), due to elementary religious education based on the Quran, where this phoneme is the carrier of specific semantic value.

The Ekavian pronunciation, sometimes called Eastern, is spoken primarily in Serbia, and in small parts of Croatia. The Ikavian pronunciation, sometimes called Western, is spoken in western and central Bosnia, western Herzegovina, some of Slavonia and the major part of Dalmatia in Croatia. The (I)jekavian pronunciation, sometimes called Southern, is spoken in central Croatia, most of Slavonia, southern Dalmatia, most of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, as well as some parts of western Serbia. The following are some generic examples:

English Predecessor Ekavian Ikavian Ijekavian
time vr?me vreme vrime vrijeme
beautiful l?p lep lip lijep
girl d?vojka devojka divojka djevojka
true v?ran veran viran vjeran
to sit s?d?ti sedeti (sèdeti) siditi (sìditi) sjediti
to grow gray hairs s?d?ti sedeti (sédeti) siditi (síditi) sijediti
to heat gr?jati grejati grijati grijati

Long ije is pronounced as a single syllable, [je:], by many Ijekavian speakers. In Zeta dialect and most of East Herzegovina dialect, however, it is pronounced as two syllables, [ije]. The distinction can be clearly heard in first verses of national anthems of Croatia and Montenegro--they're sung as "Lije-pa na-?a do-mo-vi-no" and "Oj svi-je-tla maj-ska zo-ro" respectively.

The Ikavian pronunciation is the only one that is not part of any standard variety of Serbo-Croatian. This has led to a reduction in its use and an increase in the use of Ijekavian in traditionally Ikavian areas since the standardization. For example, most people in Split, Croatia today use both Ikavian and Ijekavian words in everyday speech without a predictable pattern.

Ethnic affiliation of native speakers of Shtokavian dialect

During the first half of the 19th century, protagonists of nascent Slavic philology were, as far as South Slavic dialects were concerned, embroiled in frequently bitter polemic about "ethnic affiliation" of native speakers of various dialects. This, from contemporary point of view, rather bizarre obsession was motivated primarily by political and national interests that prompted philologists-turned-ideologues to express their views on the subject. The most prominent contenders in the squabble, with conflicting agenda, were the Czech philologist Josef Dobrovský, the Slovak Pavel ?afárik, the Slovenes Jernej Kopitar and Franz Miklosich, the Serb Vuk Karad?i?, the Croat of Slovak origin Bogoslav ?ulek, and the Croatians Vatroslav Jagi? and Ante Star?evi?.

The dispute was primarily concerned with who can, philologically, be labelled as "Slovene", "Croat" and "Serb" with the aim of expanding one's national territory and influence. Born in the climate of romanticism and national awakening, these polemical "battles" led to increased tensions between the aforementioned nations, especially because the Shtokavian dialect cannot be split along ethnic lines in an unequivocal manner.

However, contemporary native speakers, after process of national crystallization and identification had been completed, can be roughly identified as predominant speakers of various Shtokavian subdialects. Because standard languages propagated through media have strongly influenced and altered the situation in the 19th century, the following attribution must be treated with necessary caution.

The distribution of Old-Shtokavian speakers along ethnic lines in present times is as follows:

  • Timok-Prizren (Ekavian accent) dialect: Serbian
  • Kosovo-Resava (Ekavian accent) dialect: Serbian
  • Zeta-Ra?ka dialect (Ijekavian accent): Montenegrin, Bosniak and Serbian.
  • Slavonian dialect (fluctuating "yat": mainly Ikavian accent, also Ijekavian and Ekavian): vastly Croatian
  • Eastern-Bosnian dialect (Ijekavian accent): Bosniak and Croatian

Generally, the Neo-Shtokavian dialect is divided as follows with regard to the ethnicity of its native speakers:

  • ?umadija-Vojvodina dialect (Ekavian accent): Serbian
  • Dalmatian-Bosnian dialect (Ikavian accent): Croatian and Bosniak
  • Eastern Herzegovinian (Ijekavian accent): Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Bosniak
Group Sub-Dialect Serbian Croatian Bosnian Montenegrin
Old-Shtokavian Timok-Prizren x
Kosovo-Resava x
Zeta-Ra?ka x x x
Slavonian x
Eastern Bosnian x x
Neo-Shtokavian ?umadija-Vojvodina x
Dalmatian-Bosnian x x
Eastern Herzgovinian x x x x

Standard language

The standard Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian variants of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian standard language are all based on the Neo-Shtokavian dialect.[20][21][22]

However, it must be stressed that standard variants, irrespectively of their mutual differences, have been stylised in such manners that parts of the Neo-Shtokavian dialect have been retained--for instance, declension--but other features were purposely omitted or altered--for instance, the phoneme "h" was reinstated in the standard language.

Croatian has had a long tradition of Shtokavian vernacular literacy and literature. It took almost four and half centuries for Shtokavian to prevail as the dialectal basis for the Croatian standard. In other periods, Chakavian and Kajkavian dialects, as well as hybrid Chakavian-Kajkavian-Shtokavian interdialects "contended" for the Croatian national koine - but eventually lost, mainly due to historical and political reasons. By the 1650s it was fairly obvious that Shtokavian would become the dialectal basis for the Croatian standard, but this process was finally completed in the 1850s, when Neo-Shtokavian Ijekavian, based mainly on Ragusan (Dubrovnik), Dalmatian, Bosnian, and Slavonian literary heritage became the national standard language.[]

Serbian was much faster in standardisation. Although vernacular literature was present in the 18th century, it was Vuk Karad?i? who, between 1818 and 1851, made a radical break with the past and established Serbian Neo-Shtokavian folklore idiom as the basis of standard Serbian (until then, educated Serbs had been using Serbian Slavic, Russian Slavic and hybrid Russian-Serbian language). Although he wrote in Serbian Ijekavian accent, the majority of Serbs have adopted Ekavian accent, which is dominant in Serbia. Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, as well as Montenegrins, use the Ijekavian accent.

Bosnian is only currently beginning to take shape. The Bosniak idiom can be seen as a transition between Serbian Ijekavian and Croatian varieties, with some specific traits. After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosniaks affirmed their wish to stylize their own standard language, based on the Neo-Shtokavian dialect, but reflecting their characteristics--from phonetics to semantics.

Also, the contemporary situation is unstable with regard to the accentuation, because phoneticians have observed that the 4-accents speech has, in all likelihood, shown to be increasingly unstable, which resulted in proposals that a 3-accents norm be prescribed. This is particularly true for Croatian, where, contrary to all expectations, the influence of Chakavian and Kajkavian dialects on the standard language has been waxing, not waning, in the past 50-70 years.[]

The Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian standard variants, although all based on the East Herzegovinian subdialect of Neo-Shtokavian and mutually intelligible, do differ slightly, as is the case with other pluricentric languages (English, Spanish, German and Portuguese, among others), but not to a degree which would justify considering them as different languages.[23][24][25][26] Their structures are grammatically and phonologically almost identical, but have differences in vocabulary and semantics: "Lexical differences between the ethnic variants are extremely limited, even when compared with those between closely related Slavic languages (such as standard Czech and Slovak, Bulgarian and Macedonian), and grammatical differences are even less pronounced. More importantly, complete understanding between the ethnic variants of the standard language makes translation and second language teaching impossible."[27] See Differences between standard Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

In 2017, numerous prominent writers, scientists, journalists, activists and other public figures from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia signed the Declaration on the Common Language, which states that in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro a common polycentric standard language is used, consisting of several standard varieties, similar to the situation in German, English, or Spanish.[28][29][30][31]

See also


  1. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008. Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the 2013 Brussels Agreement. Kosovo is currently (this note self-updates) recognized as an independent state by 98 out of the 193 United Nations member states. In total, 113 UN member states recognized Kosovo at some point, of which 15 later withdrew their recognition.
  1. ^ "Hrvatski jezi?ni portal (1)". Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ Sussex & Cubberly (2006:506) "The core of the modern literary languages and the major dialect area, is Shtokavian (?to 'what'), which covers the rest of the area where Serbo-Croatian is spoken."
  3. ^ Crystal (1998:25)
  4. ^ Alexander (2000:4)
  5. ^ Ivo Banac; (1984) The National Question in Yugoslavia: Origins, History, Politics p. 47; Cornell University Press, ISBN 0801416752
  6. ^ Okuka (2008:15)
  7. ^ Okuka (2008:16)
  8. ^ Okuka (2008:17)
  9. ^ Radoslav Kati?i?, 2013, Hrvatski jezik,{Tu su inovativni novo ?tokavski dijalekti, ikavski kakav se govori u Hercegovini zapadno od Neretve i na ?irokim potezima zagorske Dalmacije, Like, velebitsko ga Podgorja i u pojedinim mjestima Gorskog kotara, pa u Vojvodini, u Ba?koj, i u susjednim predjelima Ma?arske. To je nastavak isto?noga ?tokavskog, isto kao novo?tokavski ijekavski, kojim govore Hrvati u isto?noj Hercegovini, te u novije doba u dubrova?kom kraju i na vi?e mjesta u biv?oj Vojnoj krajini.}*JEZIK #page=29
  10. ^ Cited after Okuka (2008:20-21)
  11. ^ a b Cited after Okuka (2008:21)
  12. ^ Cited after Lisac (2003:17-18)
  13. ^ a b Alexander (2006:356)
  14. ^ Pe?ikan (2007:65)
  15. ^ Ka?i?, Zorka (1995). "Govor Konavala". Srpski dijalektolo?ki zbornik. XLI: 241-395.
  16. ^ "Hrvatski jezi?ni portal (2)". Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ "Hrvatski jezi?ni portal (3)". Retrieved 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Hrvatski jezi?ni portal (4)". Retrieved 2015.
  19. ^ P. Ivi?, Putevi razvoja srpskohrvatskog vokalizma, Voprosy jazykoznanija VII/1 (1958), revised in Iz istorije srpskohrvatske dijalektologije, Ni? 1991
  20. ^ Brozovi? (1992:347-380)
  21. ^ Blum (2002:134)
  22. ^ Kordi? (2010:99-101)
  23. ^ Pohl (1996:219)
  24. ^ Blum (2002:125-126)
  25. ^ Bun?i? (2008:93)
  26. ^ Zanelli, Aldo (2018). Eine Analyse der Metaphern in der kroatischen Linguistikfachzeitschrift Jezik von 1991 bis 1997 [Analysis of Metaphors in Croatian Linguistic Journal Language from 1991 to 1997]. Studien zur Slavistik ; 41 (in German). Hamburg: Kova?. p. 21. ISBN 978-3-8300-9773-0. OCLC 1023608613. (NSK). (FFZG)
  27. ^ ?ipka, Danko (2019). Lexical layers of identity: words, meaning, and culture in the Slavic languages. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 166. doi:10.1017/9781108685795. ISBN 978-953-313-086-6. LCCN 2018048005. OCLC 1061308790.
  28. ^ Mileki?, Sven (30 March 2017). "Post-Yugoslav 'Common Language' Declaration Challenges Nationalism". London: Balkan Insight. Archived from the original on 23 May 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  29. ^ J., T. (10 April 2017). "Is Serbo-Croatian a Language?". The Economist. London. ISSN 0013-0613. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 2017. Alt URL
  30. ^ Trudgill, Peter (30 November 2017). "Time to Make Four Into One". The New European. p. 46. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ Nosovitz, Dan (11 February 2019). "What Language Do People Speak in the Balkans, Anyway?". Atlas Obscura. Archived from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 2019.


  • Alexander, Ronelle (2000). In honor of diversity: the linguistic resources of the Balkans. Kenneth E. Naylor memorial lecture series in South Slavic linguistics ; vol. 2. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University, Dept. of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures. OCLC 47186443.
  • —— (2006). Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian - A Grammar with Sociolinguistic Commentary. The University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 978-0-299-21194-3.
  • Blum, Daniel (2002). Sprache und Politik : Sprachpolitik und Sprachnationalismus in der Republik Indien und dem sozialistischen Jugoslawien (1945-1991) [Language and Policy: Language Policy and Linguistic Nationalism in the Republic of India and the Socialist Yugoslavia (1945-1991)]. Beiträge zur Südasienforschung ; vol. 192 (in German). Würzburg: Ergon. p. 200. ISBN 3-89913-253-X. OCLC 51961066.
  • Bun?i?, Daniel (2008), "Die (Re-)Nationalisierung der serbokroatischen Standards" [The (Re-)Nationalisation of Serbo-Croatian Standards], in Kempgen, Sebastian (ed.), Deutsche Beiträge zum 14. Internationalen Slavistenkongress, Ohrid, 2008, Welt der Slaven (in German), Munich: Otto Sagner, pp. 89-102, OCLC 238795822
  • Crystal, David (1998) [1st pub. 1987], The Cambridge encyclopedia of language, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, OCLC 300458429
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  • Pohl, Hans-Dieter (1996), "Serbokroatisch - Rückblick und Ausblick" [Serbo-Croatian - Looking backward and forward], in Ohnheiser, Ingeborg (ed.), Wechselbeziehungen zwischen slawischen Sprachen, Literaturen und Kulturen in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart : Akten der Tagung aus Anlaß des 25jährigen Bestehens des Instituts für Slawistik an der Universität Innsbruck, Innsbruck, 25. - 27. Mai 1995, Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, Slavica aenipontana ; vol. 4 (in German), Innsbruck: Non Lieu, pp. 205-219, OCLC 243829127
  • Sussex, Roland; Cubberly, Paul (2006), The Slavic Languages, Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-22315-7
  • Pe?ikan, Mitar (2007), "III. Akcenat i druga pitanja pravilnog govora", Srpski jezi?ki priru?nik (IV ed.), Beogradska knjiga, p. 65, ISBN 978-86-7590-169-3

Further reading

External links

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