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Language & Identity in the Balkans Chapter 1: Introduction.

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1 Language & Identity in the Balkans Chapter 1: Introduction

2 1.0 Overview Dramatic changes in the status of what used to be called Serbo-Croatian This study addresses specific controversies surrounding the codification of the four successor languages to Serbo-Croatian: Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian, and Bosnian Examines link between national image, personal & group identity, and the spoken word

3 What do you know about the Former Yugoslavia? What republics did it contain? What were the titular languages of the republics? What other languages were present? What are the successor states?


5 1.1 Goals & methodology Works on the subject of Serbo-Croatian published in former Yugoslavia are subjective & lack scholarly rigor Experts from outside Yugoslavia have focused only on individual successor languages, without attempting to incorporate data from the entire Serbo- Croatian speech territory

6 1.1 Goals & methodology, cont’d. Outline of book –Ch 2: history of joint literary language –Successor languages: –Ch 3: Serbian –Ch 4: Montenegrin –Ch 5: Croatian –Ch 6: Bosnian –Ch 7: Conclusion -- language controversies of the past continue to destabilize standardization process

7 1.1 Goals & methodology, cont’d. We will examine: –codification instruments (dictionaries, grammars, etc. -- these have political rather than linguistic significance) –work by indigenous scholars (focus on main controversies) –blueprints for new successor languages –popular press (to gauge wider implications of emergence of successor languages)

8 1.1 Goals & methodology, cont’d. Main themes: –Trends in process of birth & re-birth within former Serbo-Croatian territory –How language planners attempt to differentiate among various languages –Political motivations and social forces that brought about linguistic transformations among 20M people who once spoke a unified langauge –Relationship between language, ethnicity, nationalism

9 1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity Ethnicity (Fishman 1989): –Collective, intergenerational cultural continuity –Links to one’s own people –Shared ancestral origins and the gifts, responsibilities, rights, and obligations deriving therefrom

10 1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity, cont’d. In former Yugoslavia: –Administrative boundaries have never corresponded with ethnic ones –Ethnic distribution looks like a jigsaw puzzle –Ethnic terms have been fluid, members have switched allegiance, ethnic labels have changed (esp Muslim > Bosniac)

11 1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity, cont’d. Ethnicity (Edwards 1985): –Based on both objective and subjective considerations –Objective: language, race, geography, religion, ancestry –Subjective: ethnic belonging is voluntary, mutable, and a reflection of belief, sense of groupness (but must relate to something real in the past) BUT: Are these really “objective”?

12 1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity, cont’d. Two flaws in Edwards’ definition as a description of Yugoslav identities: –Religion and ancestry have been insufficient in determining group identity –Language has proven to be neither an objective factor nor an immutable one –How can language be a subjective factor?

13 1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity, cont’d. Croats are Catholic, Serbs & Montenegrins are Orthodox Christians, but they all speak mutually intelligible dialects Language as a ”flag” –1944 Establishment of Macedonian literary language –1995-96 Codification of Bosnian language

14 1.2 Language as a marker of ethnic identity, cont’d. Language is NOT an ”objective” marker of ethnic identity in former Yugoslavia –They all speak ”the same” language, but cannot agree on what to call it, what dialects should be official, or what orthography to use –Language choices are subjective and politically motivated

15 1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism Balkan peoples began national revivals in 19th & early 20th c Herder’s principle that a nation required its own language was enthusiastically received in Eastern Europe 1850 Literary Agreement by Serb and Croat intellectuals asserted that Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim Central Southern Slavs were one people with a single language

16 1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism, cont’d. The two Yugoslav states (1918-41 & 1945-91) recognized these same people as 2, 3, or 4 separate peoples (who still spoke the same language) This fact violated the belief that a group with national pretensions was incomplete without its own language -- groups sought to ”correct” this after 1991 How could this be ”corrected”?

17 1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism, cont’d. Tito’s regime suppressed nationalism and thus denied the right of each people to its own language –Only Macedonians and Slovenes were recognized to have their own languages –Everyone else was supposed to use Serbo- Croatian, which was also the language of the army and diplomacy


19 1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism, cont’d. 1960s Croats began openly calling their language ”Croatian” Bosnia-Herzegovina used a variant different from standard S-C and Latin letters 1986 Serbian ”Memorandum” expressed distress at the lack of protection for Serbian outside Serbia proper


21 1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism, cont’d. 1968 Kosovo Albanians abandoned their native Gheg dialect in favor of the Tosk standard used in Albania, and Serbs regarded this as a move toward a unified Albanian state 1990s Croatians initiated a campaign to purge ”Serbian” words and replace them with ”Croatian” ones In 1990s Serbs living in Croatia attempted to use Cyrillic as a marker of identity

22 1.3 Language in the context of Balkan nationalism, cont’d. Language planners set up barriers for communication instead of facilitating mutual intelligibility Language birth in Balkans results in part from explosive nationalist policies in Croatia, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro But the unity of the language was threatened before this as well

23 1.4 Serbo-Croatian: A dying tongue? Language death for S-C is not conventional, since it was not brought on by the death of the last speaker or language shift Maybe S-C never really existed, but was just a collection of diverse dialects

24 1.4 Serbo-Croatian: A dying tongue?, cont’d. Languages can differentiate –Abstand: by ”naturally” drifting apart (e.g., English and German) –Ausbau: through the active intervention of language planners, linguists, and policy makers (e.g., Hindi & Urdu, Scandinavian) –Dialects in Bulgarian and Macedonian area drifted apart via Abstand, but their literary languages are the products of Ausbau

25 1.4 Serbo-Croatian: A dying tongue?, cont’d. Mutual intelligibility is NOT the determining factor in language differentiation As of 1991-2 Serbo-Croatian officially ceased to exist in the Yugoslav successor states The splitting of the language occurred along ethnic lines, rather than geographic or political boundaries, and was neither orderly nor planned

26 1.4 Serbo-Croatian: A dying tongue?, cont’d. Today: –Serbs and Croats do not accept the existence of Bosnian language –Serbs and some Montenegrins do not accept the existence of Montenegrin –Serbs living in Croatia do not accept Croatian language reforms (despite speaking a similar dialect) –Bosniacs accept neither Serbian nor Croatian

27 1.4 Serbo-Croatian: A dying tongue?, cont’d. Linguistics has been highly politicized in the Balkans (even before break-up of Yugoslavia) In ex-Yugoslavia, linguists have been major actors on the political stage

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