Zeta-Ra%C5%A1ka Dialect
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Zeta-Ra%C5%A1ka Dialect
Map of Shtokavian sub-dialects, according to Pavle Ivi? (1988 book). The Prizren-Timok dialects are shown in three colors in the southeastern corner.
Petar II Petrovi?-Njego? of Montenegro (1813-1851) wrote his famous poem The Mountain Wreath in Zeta-Ra?ka dialect

The Zeta-Ra?ka dialect (Serbo-Croatian: Zetsko-ra?ki dijalekat / - ) is a dialect of ?tokavian / Serbo-Croatian.[1] Its prevalence is mostly in southern Montenegro and parts of the historical region of Ra?ka in Serbia.[2] It is spoken mainly by local ethnic Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosniaks and Muslims.[3]


Zeta-Ra?ka dialect is found mostly in the southern half of Montenegro. At its westernmost boundary, speakers of the dialect can be found along the Adriatic Sea from Ulcinj at its southernmost point to the town of Perast near Kotor in the north, where it borders with the Eastern Herzegovinian dialect. This border runs roughly northeast toward Grahovo and further east to Kola?in. The border continues northeast toward Bijelo Polje and crosses into Serbia near the town of Brodarevo and meets the Ibar river near Sjenica. The border continues east, just south of Sjenica, into Ibarski Kola?in (North Kosovo), where it borders the Kosovo-Resava dialect. The Zeta-Ra?ka dialect then veers south toward Leposavi?, reaching the vicinity Kosovska Mitrovica before continuing westward across Mokra Gora and ?ljeb back into Montenegro. Upon re-entry into Montenegro, the dialectal border continues through the Prokletije mountains and straddles along the entire Montenegrin border with Albania.[4]

Enclaves of the Zeta-Ra?ka dialect are scant. One enclave is in Petrovo Selo near Kladovo by the ?erdap Gorge in northeastern Serbia. Another enclave is in Vrakë, a region near Shkodër in northern Albania. The dialect is also spoken in Peroj, a town in Istria, northwestern Croatia.[4]


-a ending for masculine active past participle

In the standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian, certain verbs carry the -ao ending for the active past participle in the masculine gender. However, depending on the speaker, this ending is either contracted to -a (-? in official Montenegrin orthography) or -ä (phoneme explained below) in the Zeta-Ra?ka dialect. Thus, words like mogao and rekao are pronounced as mog? / mogä and rek? / rekä. This type of contraction is not the usual norm for ?tokavian speakers, as it is primarily elsewhere found in Croatian seaside vernaculars.[] Moreover, this characteristic is not present in all areas of the Zeta-Ra?ka dialect. In certain peripheral areas, the active past participle is not contracted to either -? or -ä and pronounced fully. In other areas, such as Pa?trovi?i in Budva and Zupci in Bar, speakers contract the masculine active past participle from -ao to -o, such as in mogo and reko (tonal m?g?, r?k?).[5] This type of contraction of the active past participle considered the norm among ?tokavian speakers.[] In certain parts of the dialectal region, namely Bro?anac and Pje?ivci, the contraction the masculine active past participle from -ao to -o takes on a further step, where speakers add a v in the coda position, giving dov from davao and prodov from prodavao (tonal d?v, pr?d?v).[5]

Presence of /æ/

Many vernaculars in southern and southeastern Montenegro have a distinct phoneme, characterized as a sound between /a/ and /e/, which is unusual for ?tokavian speakers. The phoneme, transcribed here as ä, can be pronounced as either /?/ or /æ/, depending on the region. This feature is characteristically a reflex of Proto-Slavic ? and ? (see examples below), but can also form by analogy by the speaker. This phoneme in syllable-final position becomes nasalized by speakers found along the border with Albania, notably rekän and zatekän (standard rekao and zatekao, respectively).[6]

Vernacular Pronunciation Standard Proto-Slavic
dän /d?æn?/ dan *d?n?
dänäs /d?æn?æs?/ danas *d?n?s?
duga?äk /d?ugatæk/ duga?ak *d?lgk?
gladän /glad?æn?/ gladan *glad?n?
säd /s?æd?/ sad *s?da

Yat reflexes

The Zeta-Ra?ka dialect follows the Ijekavian reflex of yat, where ? (?) in Proto-Slavic became either ije, je or e, depending on length and position.

Long yat reflex

Words with a long yat reflex became pronounced as disyllabic -ije- in middle positions. Examples include bijelo (*b?lo), snijeg (*sn?g?), vrijeme (*vr?m?).[5]

This transformation was largely ignored by ethnic Bosniaks living in Podgorica and Plav-Gusinje, who followed an Ikavian reflex of yat. Ikavian is another reflex of yat where ? (?) in Proto-Slavic would become -i- in almost all positions. Notably, instead of normal Ijekavian reflexes of yat, like mlijeko and sijeno, speakers in these regions would instead say mliko and sino.[5]

Aside from disyllabic -ije-, speakers in Mrkojevi?i region near Bar have multiple long yat reflexes.[5] One reflex is -je-, which is a long yat reflex typically found among Bosnian and Croatian Ijekavian speakers. Another is -e-, which is typically found among Ekavian speakers in Serbia and elsewhere.

Secondary ijekavisms, also known as hyperijekavisms, are widespread in the dialectal region. Examples include botijega (botega), kosijer (kosir), pancijer (pancer), but also drijevo and pokrijeva (pokriva).[5]

Short yat reflex

Words with a short yat reflex become transformed as either -je-, -e- or -i-, depending on length and position.[5]

The transformation of the short yat reflex in a word to -je- creates an iotified vowel. This forces the consonant that comes into contact with the iotified vowel to become either partially or completely palatalized. In the Zeta-Ra?ka dialect, dental consonants such as d, s, t and z become completely palatalized into ?, ?, ? and ?, respectively, before an iotified vowel. In standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian (except Montenegrin), these dentals would merely be partially palatalized, i.e. dj, sj, tj and zj respectively.

Iotation Vernacular Standard BCS Ijekavian
-dje- -> -?e- ?evojka, pone?eljak djevojka, ponedjeljak
-sje- -> -?e- ?etiti, ?ekira sjetiti, sjekira
-tje- -> -?e- le?eti, eti letjeti, htjeti
-zje- -> -?e- ?enica zjenica

This iotation is present even in words that do not have a short yat reflex, namely ko?etina (kozjetina), i?elica (izjelica) and ki?elo (kisjelo - hyperijekavism).

Iotation of -je- continues in labial consonants such as b, f, m, p and v where they undergo complete palatalization before an iotified vowel. Due to the iotation of labial consonants, the short yat reflex may become transformed into either -je- or -lje- as is common in many vernaculars found in the dialectal region. Such examples include: mjesec / mljesec (tonal mj?s?c / mlj?s?c), pjesma / pljesma (tonal pj?sma / plj?sma) and vjera / vljera (tonal vj?ra / vlj?ra).[5]

Short yat transforms into -e- before r, especially where the Proto-Slavic prefixes *pre- and *pr?- are merged into pre-, a characteristic common in Ekavian but not in Ijekavian. Examples include: prevoz and prelaz (standard Ijekavian forms: prijevoz and prijelaz). Other examples that follow this trend are gorelo, re?e, re?enje, stare?ina, among others, but it is common to hear their Ijekavian counterparts (gorjelo, rje?e, rje?enje, starje?ina) throughout the dialectal region. Ekavian is more present in vernaculars closer to the Serbian border, namely Ro?aje and Novi Pazar-Sjenica, where they are under the influence of literary Serbian, which is strictly Ekavian in Serbia. Moreover, Ekavian is also widespread in vernaculars in Crmnica and Mrkojevi?i near Bar.[7]

Short yat transforms into -i- before consonants j and lj, examples: biljeg, grijat and vijavica. Short yat also transforms into -i- before vowel o, usually seen in verbs where the masculine active past participle in Proto-Slavic ends in *-?l (later forming Proto-Western South Slavic *-?o). Examples for this transformation include htio, vidio and ?elio, which is standard in Ijekavian reflexes. However, it is not uncommon to hear htjeo / s?eo, vi?eo (> vidjeo) and ?eljeo respectively. Another example is the adjective cio, an unusual contraction of cijel. Its Ekavian counterpart is ceo (from *c?l?) where the -l in coda position transformed into -o, and similarly in Ikavian cio, where it is a contraction of *cil. Here, cio is not an Ikavian borrowing, but rather both Ijekavian and Ikavian reflexes form cio.

Lack of phoneme /h/ ~ /x/

Certain areas of the Zeta-Ra?ka dialectal region preserved the phoneme /h/ while others either dropped it completely or replaced it with other consonants. Areas where /h/ was preserved are Old Montenegro (specifically Rije?ka nahija, Lje?anska nahija and parts of Katunska nahija (Bjelice, ?ekli?i, Njegu?i)) and Pa?trovi?i, as well as by ethnic Bosniaks near Bihor, Novi Pazar and Sjenica.[8]

In areas where /h/ was dropped, such as Bar, Bjelopavli?i, Ku?i, Mrkojevi?i, Piperi and Zupci, speakers would replace /h/ with either /k/, /g/ (trbuge > trbuhe), /j/ (kijat(i) > kihat(i), Mijajlo > Mihailo) or /v/ (muva > muha).[8] Ironically, some of these forms became part of standard Montenegrin and Serbian, notably kijati and muva, while their original forms kihati and muha can be found in standard Bosnian and Croatian.

Palatalization of /l/ into /l?/

The alveolar lateral approximant, or /l/, is softened (palatalized) to /l?/ in certain vernaculars found in the dialectal region. This characteristic is most present in Bjelopavli?i (partially), Bratono?i?i, Crmnica, Ku?i, Mrkojevi?i, Novi Pazar, Pa?trovi?i Plav-Gusinje and Rijeka Crnojevi?a. Examples include: apr?l' /apri:l?/, dal'?ko /d?al?êko?/ and kol'a /ko?l?ât/.[8] This characteristic may be due to influence of Northern Albanian dialects present along the border with Montenegro.


  1. ^ ? 1956, p. 157-174.
  2. ^ Okuka 2008a, p. 170-197.
  3. ^ Okuka 2008b, p. 351-369.
  4. ^ a b Okuka 2008a, p. 170.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Okuka 2008a, p. 172.
  6. ^ Okuka 2008a, p. 171.
  7. ^ Okuka 2008a, p. 172-173.
  8. ^ a b c Okuka 2008a, p. 173.


  • ?, (1956). ? ? (1. ed.). ? : .
  • Okuka, Milo? (2008a). Srpski dijalekti. Zagreb: Prosvjeta. ISBN 9789537611064.
  • Okuka, Milo? (2008b). "Zetsko-ra?ki dijalekat srpskog jezika". ? ?. 1. pp. 351-369.

External links

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