The Full Wiki

Croatian language: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Croatian language

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pronunciation [xř̩ʋaːtskiː]
Spoken in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and others
Region Central Europe, Southern Europe
Total speakers 6,214,643 (1995)
Ranking approximately 100 (95)
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin
Official status
Official language in  Croatia
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Burgenland Landesflagge.PNG Burgenland (Austria)
Actual Caras-Severin county CoA.png Caraşova in Caraş-Severin County (Romania)
Regione-Molise-Stemma.svg Molise (Italy)
Regulated by Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics (Council for Standard Croatian Language Norm)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 hr
ISO 639-2 hrv
ISO 639-3 hrv

Croatian (hrvatski) is a South Slavic language spoken chiefly by Croats in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighbouring countries, as well as Croatian diaspora worldwide.

Standard Croatian is based on the Western Štokavian dialect with the Ijekavian reflex of the Common Slavic yat vowel. The Croatian linguistic area encompasses two other major dialects, Čakavian and Kajkavian, which contribute lexically to the standard language. It is written with the Croatian alphabet, based on the Latin alphabet. Along with Serbian and Bosnian, Croatian belongs to the Central South Slavic diasystem (also referred to as "Serbo-Croatian").

The modern Croatian standard language is a continuous outgrowth of more than nine hundred years of literature written in a mixture of Croatian Church Slavonic and the vernacular language. Croatian Church Slavonic was abandoned by the mid-15th century, and Croatian as embodied in a purely vernacular literature (Croatian literature) has existed for more than five centuries.




Early development

The beginning of the Croatian written language can be traced to the 9th century, when Old Church Slavonic was adopted as the language of the liturgy. This language was gradually adapted to non-liturgical purposes and became known as the Croatian version of Old Slavonic. The two variants of the language, liturgical and non-liturgical, continued to be a part of the Glagolitic service as late as the mid-9th century.

Until the end of the 11th century, Croatian medieval texts were written in three scripts: Latin, Glagolitic, and Croatian Cyrillic (arvatica, poljičica, bosančica/bosanica), and also in three languages: Croatian, Latin and Old Slavic. The latter developed into what is referred to as the Croatian variant of Church Slavonic between the 12th and 16th centuries.

The most important early monument of Croatian literacy is the Baška tablet from the late 11th century. It is a large stone tablet found in the small church of St. Lucy on the Croatian island of Krk, containing text written mostly in Čakavian, today a dialect of Croatian, and in Croatian angular Glagolitic script. It is also important in the history of the nation as it mentions Zvonimir, the king of Croatia at the time. However, the luxurious and ornate representative texts of Croatian Church Slavonic belong to the later era, when they coexisted with the Croatian vernacular literature. The most notable are the "Missal of Duke Novak" from the Lika region in northwestern Croatia (1368), "Evangel from Reims" (1395, named after the town of its final destination), Hrvoje's Missal from Bosnia and Split in Dalmatia (1404) and the first printed book in Croatian language, the Glagolitic Missale Romanum Glagolitice (1483).

Also, during the 13th century Croatian vernacular texts began to appear, the most important among them being "Istrian land survey", 1275 and "The Vinodol Codex", 1288., both in the Čakavian dialect.

The Štokavian dialect literature, based almost exclusively on Čakavian original texts of religious provenance (missals, breviaries, prayer books) appeared almost a century later. The most important purely Štokavian vernacular text is Vatican Croatian Prayer Book (ca. 1400).

Both the language used in legal texts and that used in Glagolitic literature gradually came under the influence of the vernacular, which considerably affected its phonological, morphological and lexical systems. From the 14th and the 15th centuries, both secular and religious songs at church festivals were composed in the vernacular.

Writers of early Croatian religious poetry (začinjavci), translators and editors gradually introduced the vernacular into their works. These začinjavci were the forerunners of the rich literary production of the 15th and 16th centuries. The language of religious poems, translations, miracle and morality plays contributed to the popular character of medieval Croatian literature.

Modern language and standardisation

The first purely vernacular texts in hrvatski (Croatian) are distinctly different from Church Slavonic dated back to the 13th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries the modern Croatian language emerged. (It appears in texts as Vatican Croatian Prayer Book from 1400.) The morphology, phonology and syntax) only slightly differ from contemporary Croatian (standard language).

The standardization of the Croatian language can be traced back to the first Croatian dictionary (Faust Vrančić: Dictionarium quinque nobilissimarum Europae linguarum—Latinae, Italicae, Germanicae, Dalmatiae et Ungaricae, Venice 1595) and the first Croatian grammar (Bartul Kašić: Institutionum linguae illyricae libri duo, Rome 1604).

The language of Jesuit Kašić's translation of the Bible (Old and New Testament, 1622–1636; unpublished until 2000) in the Croatian Štokavian-Ijekavian dialect (the ornate style of the Dubrovnik Renaissance literature) is as close to the contemporary standard Croatian language (problems of orthography apart) as are the French of Montaigne's "Essays" or the English of the King James Bible to their respective successors—the modern standard languages.

This period, sometimes called "Baroque Slavism" was crucial in the formation of the literary idiom that was to become the Croatian standard language—the 17th century witnessed the flowering in three fields that shaped modern Croatian:

This "triple achievement" of Baroque Slavism in the first half of the 17th century laid the firm foundation upon which the later Illyrian movement completed the work of language standardisation.

First standard attempt

In late medieval times up to the 17th century, the major part of semi-autonomous Croatia was ruled by two domestic dynasties of princes (bani), the Zrinski and the Francopan, who were linked by inter-marriage. Toward the 17th century both of them attempted to unify Croatia also on the cultural and lingual level, and with great foresight they selected as their official language the transitional Ikavish-Kaykavian dialect, this being an acceptable dialect intermediate between all the principal Croatian dialects (Chakavian, Kaykavian and Ikavish-Shchakavian); it is still used now in northern Istra, and in the valleys of the Kupa, Mrežnica and Sutla rivers, and sporadically elsewhere in central Croatia also.

This standardised form then became the cultivated elite language of administration and intellectuals from the Istra peninsula along the Croatian coast, across central Croatia up into the northern valleys of the Drava and the Mura. The cultural apogee of this unified standard in the 17th century is represented by the editions of "Adrianskog mora sirena" (Syren of Adriatic Sea) and "Putni tovaruš" (Travelling escort), these being on the highest cultural plane in contemporary Europe. However, this first linguistic renaissance in Croatia was halted by the political execution of both dynasties by the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna in 1671. Then, the Croatian elite in the 18th century gradually abandoned this combined Croatian standard, and after an Austrian initiative (Wien 1850), replaced them with the uniform Neo-Shtokavian.

Illyrian period

Due to the unique Croat linguistic situation, formal shaping of the Croatian standard language was a process that took almost four centuries to complete: Croatian is a three dialects tongue (a somewhat simplistic way to distinguish between dialects is to refer to the pronoun what, which is ča, kaj, što in, respectively, čakavian, kajkavian and štokavian dialects) and three scripts language (Glagolitic, Croatian/Western/Bosnian Cyrillic and Latin script, with Latin script as the ultimate winner). The final obstacle to the unified Croatian literary language (based on celebrated vernacular Croatian Troubadour, Renaissance and Baroque – acronym TRB) literature (ca. 1490 to ca. 1670) from Dalmatia, Dubrovnik and Boka Kotorska was surmounted by the Croatian national awakener Ljudevit Gaj's standardization of Latin scriptory norm in 1830–1850s.

Gaj and his Illyrian movement (centred in kajkavian-speaking Croatia's capital Zagreb) were, however, important more politically than linguistically. They "chose" the štokavian dialect because they didn't have any other realistic option—štokavian, or, more precisely, neoštokavian (a version of štokavian which emerged in the 15th/16th century) was the major Croatian literary tongue from 1700s on. The 19th century linguists and lexicographers' main concern was to achieve a more consistent and unified scriptory norm and orthography; an effort followed by peculiar Croatian linguistic characteristics which may be humorously described as "passion for neologisms" or vigorous word coinage, originating from the purist nature of Croatian literary language. One of the peculiarities of the "developmental trajectory" of the Croatian language is that there is no single towering figure among the Croatian linguists/philologists, because the vernacular osmotically percolated into the "high culture" via literary works so there was no need for revolutionary linguistic upheavals—only reforms sufficed.



Vowel chart for Croatian

The Standard Croatian vowel system has five monophthongal vowels. Although phonemic, the difference between long and short vowels is not represented in standard orthography, nor are any other features of prosody, which are noted only in the dictionaries and grammars. Schwa /ə/ also occurs allophonically.

Front Central Back
Close i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /e/ o /o/
Open a /a/

There is some variation of the phonetic value and spelling of the long yat reflex, represented in modern writing as the trigraph <ije>. This orthographic practice is a remnant of late 19th century codification efforts in which the development of a common orthography was planned for a common literary language of Serbs and Croats. In Ijekavian and Štokavian dialects in Eastern Herzegovia, this was a disyllabic (triphonemic /ije/) sequence; but in Western Štokavian dialects, Croats predominantly pronounced this as a monosyllable. Pressure from Vuk Karadžić, a major reformer of the Serbian alphabet, thought that the former pronunciation was ideal and this influenced the spelling used in Croatian (e.g. Serbian briȉjeg, zvijèzda and Croatian brijȇg, zvijézda.

There were two different attempts at addressing this problematic <ije> spelling. Dalibor Brozović and Stjepan Babić argued that this is a diphthong /ie/. Brozović suggested to the Council for Standard Croatian Language Norm that the spelling should change to <ie>, e.g. mlijeko > mlieko. The other method, largely neglected by the public, was that of Ivo Škarić,[2] who suggested <je>, i.e. mljeko. The current practice is still to write <ije>. Most grammars, such as the Hrvatska gramatika published by the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics, describe it as a diphthong.

When greater precision is desired, /e/ and /o/ can be transcribed as [ɛ̝] and [ɔ̝] respectively.

The syllabic trill can also be either long or short, and can carry the rising or falling pitch accent (see below).

Pretonic syllables are always short. Posttonic syllables may have either short or long vowels, the latter is usually marked with a macron.

Pitch accent

Croatian has a two-way pitch accent. When a syllable is stressed, it may have either a rising or a falling tone. Although the distinction is meaningful, it is not represented in Croatian orthography. In the descriptive literature, five diacritics are used that are specific to Croatian. They are:

e [e] non-tonic short vowel
ē [eː] non-tonic long vowel
è [ě] short vowel with rising tone
é [ěː] long vowel with rising tone
ȅ [ê] short vowel with falling tone
ȇ [êː] long vowel with falling tone

Lexical words (such as nouns) of one syllable always have falling tone. Words with two or more syllables may also have a falling tone, but (with the exception of foreign borrowings and interjections) only on the first syllable. Words of more than one syllable may instead have a rising tone, on any syllable but the last.

Enclitics (little grammatical words which latch on to a preceding lexical word) never have tone. Proclitics (clitics which latch on to a following word), on the other hand, may "steal" a falling tone (but not a rising tone or the vowel length) from the following word. The stolen accent may end up being either falling or rising on the proclitic:

ȍko /ôko/ (eye) - ȕ oko /û oko/ (in[to] the eye);
grad /ɡrâːd/ (town) - u grad /û ɡraːd/ (in[to] the town);
šuma /ʃûma/ (forest) - but u šumi /ǔ ʃumi/ (in the forest).

Proclitic system rules are rather omitted in western and northern parts of Croatia, particularly around Zagreb and other centres, and practically no one who claims to speak "Standard Croatian" pronounces the proclitics as they should be (and mostly are) pronounced in Shtokavian areas. They simply act as enclitics. Thus, u oko [u ȍko], u šumi [u ʃȕmi], etc. will always be heard.


The consonant system is more complicated, and its characteristic features are series of affricate and palatal consonants.

Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal /m/
Plosive /p/
Affricate /ts/
Fricative /f/
Approximant /ʋ/
Lateral /l/
Trill /r/

Voicing contrasts are neutralized in consonant clusters, so that all obstruents are either voiced or voiceless depending on the voicing of the final consonant. This process of voicing assimilation may be blocked by syllable boundaries.

/r/ can be syllabic, playing the role of the syllable nucleus in certain words (occasionally, it can even have a long accent). For example, the tongue-twister navrh brda vrba mrda involves four words with syllabic /r/. A similar feature exists in Czech, Slovak, Macedonian and Serbian. Very rarely other sonorants can be syllabic, like /l/ (in bicikl), /ʎ/ (surname Štarklj), /n/ (unit njutn), as well as /m/ and /ɲ/ in slang.



Croatian, like most other Slavic languages, has a rich system of inflection. Pronouns, nouns, adjectives and some numerals decline (change the word ending to reflect case, i.e. grammatical category and function), while verbs conjugate for person and tense. As in all other Slavic languages, the basic word order is SVO; however, due to the use of declension to show sentence structure, word order is not as important as in languages that tend toward analyticity such as English or Chinese. Deviations from the standard SVO order are stylistically marked and may be employed to convey a particular emphasis, mood or overall tone, according to the intentions of the speaker or writer. Often, such deviations will sound literary, poetical or archaic.

Nouns have three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) that correspond to a certain extent with the word ending, so that most nouns ending in -a are feminine, -o and -e neutral and the rest mostly masculine with a small but important class of feminines. Grammatical gender of a noun affects the morphology of other parts of speech (adjectives, pronouns and verbs) attached to it. Nouns are declined into 7 cases: Nominative, Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Vocative, Locative and Instrumental.

Verbs are divided into two broad classes according to their aspect, which can be either perfective (signifying a completed action) or imperfective (action is incomplete or repetitive). There are seven tenses, four of which (present, perfect, future I and II) are used in contemporary standard Croatian, with the other three (aorist, imperfect and plusquamperfect) used much less frequently - the plusquamperfect is generally limited to written language and some more educated speakers, while aorist and imperfect are considered stylistically marked and rather archaic. Note, however, that some non-standard dialects make considerable (and thus unmarked) use of those tenses.

Language examples

Notturno (A. G. Matoš)

Mlačna noć; u selu lavež; kasan
Ćuk il' netopir;
ljubav cvijeća - miris jak i strasan
Slavi tajni pir.
Sitni cvrčak sjetno cvrči, jasan
Kao srebren vir;
Teške oči sklapaju se na san,
S neba rosi mir.
S mrkog tornja bat
Broji pospan sat,
Blaga svjetlost sipi sa visina;
Kroz samoću, muk,
Sve je tiši huk:
Željeznicu guta već daljina.

Lord's Prayer

Oče naš, koji jesi na nebesima,
sveti se ime Tvoje.
Dođi kraljevstvo Tvoje,
budi volja Tvoja,
kako na Nebu, tako i na Zemlji.
Kruh naš svagdašnji daj nam danas,
i otpusti nam duge naše,
kako i mi otpuštamo dužnicima našim.
I ne uvedi nas u napast,
nego izbavi nas od zla.

Bible (opening passage)

U početku stvori Bog nebo i zemlju.
2 Zemlja bijaše pusta i prazna; tama se prostirala nad bezdanom i Duh Božji lebdio je nad vodama.
3 I reče Bog: "Neka bude svjetlost!" I bi svjetlost.

Month names

Croatian English
Siječanj January
Veljača February
Ožujak March
Travanj April
Svibanj May
Lipanj June
Srpanj July
Kolovoz August
Rujan September
Listopad October
Studeni November
Prosinac December

Relation to Bosnian, Montenegrin, and Serbian

The 19th century language development overlapped with the upheavals that befell the Serbian language. It was Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, a self-taught linguist and folkorist, whose scriptory and orthographic stylization of Serbian folk idiom made a radical break with the past; until his activity in the first half of the 19th century, Serbs had been using the Serbian variant of Church Slavonic and a hybrid Russian-Slavonic language. His Serbian Dictionary, published in Vienna 1818 (along with the appended grammar), was the single most significant work of Serbian literary culture that shaped the profile of Serbian language (and, the first Serbian dictionary and grammar thus far).

Following the incentive of Austrian bureaucracy which preferred a common literary language of Serbs and Croats languages for practical administrative reasons, in 1850, Slovene philologist Franc Miklošič initiated a meeting of two Serbian philologists and writers, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić and Đuro Daničić together with five Croatian "men of letters": Ivan Mažuranić, Dimitrija Demeter, Stjepan Pejaković, Ivan Kukuljević and Vinko Pacel. The Vienna Literary Agreement on the basic features of a common literary language based on the Neoštokavian dialect with Ijekavian pronunciation was signed by all eight participants (including Miklošič).

Karadžić's influence on Croatian standard idiom was only one of the reforms for Croats, mostly in some aspects of grammar and orthography; many other changes he made to Serbian were already present in Croatian literary tradition (which also historically flourished in other dialects). Both literary languages shared the common basis of South Slavic Neoštokavian dialect, but the Vienna agreement didn't have any real effect until a more unified standard appeared at the end of 19th century when Croatian sympathizers of Vuk Karadžić, known as the Croatian Vukovians, wrote the first modern (from the vantage point of dominating neogrammarian linguistic school) grammars, orthographies and dictionaries of the language which they called Serbo-Croatian, Croato-Serbian or Croatian or Serbian. Monumental grammar authored by pre-eminent fin de siècle Croatian linguist Tomislav Maretić (Grammar and stylistics of Croatian or Serbian language, 1899), dictionary by Ivan Broz and Franjo Iveković (Croatian dictionary, 1901), and an orthography by Broz (Croatian Orthography, 1892) fixed the elastic (grammatically, syntactically, lexically) standard of Croatian literary idiom that is used to this day.

The establishment of the Yugoslav state was an important event in the history of the Croatian language.

The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1918–1929), after the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1929–1941) was pronounced, tried to use a joint language of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs ─ in the spirit of supra-national Yugoslav ideology. This meant that Croatian and Serbian were no longer officially developed individually side by side, instead there was an attempt to forge all three into one language. As Serbs were by far the largest single ethnic group in the kingdom, this forging was resultant in a Serbian-based language, which meant a certain degree of Serbianization of the Croatian language.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the lexical, syntactical, orthographical and morphological characteristics of "Serbo-Croato-Slovene" were officially prescribed for Croatian textbooks and general communication.

This process of "unification" into one Serbo-Croatian language was preferred by neo-grammarian Croatian linguists, the most notable example being the influential philologist and translator Tomislav Maretić. However, this school was virtually extinct by the late 1920s and since then leading Croatian linguists (such as Petar Skok, Stjepan Ivšić and Petar Guberina) were unanimous in the re-affirmation of the Croatian purist tradition.

The situation somewhat eased in the run-up to World War II (cf. the establishment of Banovina of Croatia within Yugoslavia in 1939), but with the capitulation of Yugoslavia and the creation of the Axis puppet regime (the Independent State of Croatia, 1941–1945) came another, this time hardly predictable and grotesque attack on standard Croatian: the totalitarian dictatorship of Ante Pavelić pushed natural Croatian purist tendencies to ludicrous extremes and tried to re-impose older morphonological orthography preceding Ivan Broz's orthographical prescriptions from 1892. An official order signed by Pavelić and co-signed by Mile Budak and Milovan Žanić in August 1941 deprecated some imported words and forbade the use of any foreign words that could be replaced with Croatian neologisms.

However, Croatian linguists and writers were strongly opposed to such "language planning" in the same way that they rejected pro-Serbian forced unification in monarchist Yugoslavia. Not surprisingly, no Croatian dictionaries or Croatian grammars were published in this period.

In the Communist period (1945 to 1990), it was the by-product of Communist centralism and "internationalism". Whatever the intentions, the result was the same: the suppression of the basic features that differentiate Croatian from Serbian, both in terms of orthography and vocabulary. No Croatian dictionaries (apart from historical "Croatian or Serbian", conceived in the 19th century) appeared until 1985, when centralism was well in the process of decay.

In Communist Yugoslavia, Serbian language and terminology were un-officially dominant in a few areas: the military (officially: 1963-1974), diplomacy, Federal Yugoslav institutions (various institutes and research centres), state media, and jurisprudence at the federal level. Also encouraged by the state, language in Bosnia and Herzegovina was gradually Serbianized in all levels of the educational system and the republic's administration. Virtually the only institution of any importance where the Croatian language was dominant had been the Lexicographic Institute in Zagreb, headed by Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža.

Notwithstanding the declaration of intent of AVNOJ (The Antifascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia) in 1944, which proclaimed the equality of all languages of Yugoslavia (Slovene, Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian) – everything had, in practice, been geared towards the supremacy of the Serbian language. This was done under the pretext of "mutual enrichment" and "togetherness", hoping that the transient phase of relatively peaceful life among peoples in Yugoslavia would eventually give way to one of fusion into the supra-national Yugoslav nation and, arguably, provide a firmer basis for Serbianization. However, this "supra-national engineering" was arguably doomed from the outset. The nations that formed the Yugoslav state were formed long before its incipience and all unification pressures only poisoned and exacerbated inter-ethnic/national relations, causing the state to become merely ephemeral. However legal texts were translated to all four official Slavic languages (from 1944), as well as to Albanian and Hungarian (from 1970).

The single most important effort by ruling Yugoslav Communist elites to erase the "differences" between Croatian and Serbian – and in practice impose Serbian Ekavian language, written in Latin script, as the "official" language of Yugoslavia – was the so-called "Novi Sad Agreement". Twenty five Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrin philologists came together in 1954 to sign the Agreement. A common Serbo-Croatian or "Croato-Serbian" orthography was compiled in 1960 in an atmosphere of state repression and fear. There were 18 Serbs and 7 Croats in Novi Sad. The "Agreement" was seen by the Croats as a defeat for the Croatian cultural heritage. According to the eminent Croatian linguist Ljudevit Jonke, it was imposed on the Croats. The conclusions were formulated according to goals which had been set in advance, and discussion had no role whatsoever. In the more than a decade that followed, the principles of the Novi Sad Agreement were put into practice.

A collective Croatian reaction against such de facto Serbian imposition erupted on March 15, 1967. On that day, nineteen Croatian scholarly institutions and cultural organizations dealing with language and literature (Croatian Universities and Academies), including foremost Croatian writers and linguists (Miroslav Krleža, Radoslav Katičić, Dalibor Brozović and Tomislav Ladan among them) issued the "Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Standard Language". In the Declaration, they asked for amendment to the Constitution expressing two claims:

  • the equality not of three but of four literary languages, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, and Macedonian, and consequently, the publication of all federal laws and other federal acts in four instead of three languages.
  • the use of the Croatian standard language in schools and all mass communication media pertaining to the Republic of Croatia. The Declaration accused the federal authorities in Belgrade of imposing Serbian as the official state language and downgrading Croatian to the level of a local dialect.

Notwithstanding the fact that "Declaration" was vociferously condemned by Yugoslav Communist authorities as an outburst of "Croatian nationalism", Serbo-Croatian forced unification was essentially halted and an uneasy status quo remained until the end of Communism. The "Declaration" succeeded in establishing a Constitutional norm by which in the Socialist Republic of Croatia the official language was the Croatian literary language which could be called Croatian or Serbian.

In the decade between the death of Marshall Tito (1980) and the final collapse of communism and the Yugoslavian federal state (1990/1991), major works that manifested the irrepressibility of Croatian linguistic culture had appeared. The studies of Brozović, Katičić and Babić that had been circulating among specialists or printed in the obscure philological publications in the 60s and 70s (frequently condemned and suppressed by the authorities) have finally, in the climate of dissolving authoritarianism, been published. This was a formal "divorce" of Croatian from Serbian (and, strictly linguistically speaking, "the death of Serbo-Croatian"). These works, based on modern fields and theories (structuralist linguistics and phonology, comparative-historical linguistics and lexicology, transformational grammar and areal linguistics) revised or discarded older "language histories", and restored the continuity of the Croatian language by definitely reintegrating and asserting specific Croatian characteristics (phonetic, morphological, syntactic, lexical, etc.) that had been constantly suppressed in both Yugoslavian states and finally gave modern linguistic description and prescription to the Croatian language. Among many monographs and serious studies, one could point to works issued by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, particularly Katičić's Syntax and Babić's Word-formation.

After the collapse of Communism and the birth of Croatian independence (1991), the situation with regard to the Croatian language has become stabilized. No longer under negative political pressures and de-Croatization impositions, Croatian linguists expanded the work on various ambitious programs and intensified their studies on current dominant areas of linguistics: mathematical and corpus linguistics, textology, psycholinguistics, language acquisition and historical lexicography. From 1991 on, numerous representative Croatian linguistic works were published, among them four voluminous monolingual dictionaries of contemporary Croatian, various specialized dictionaries and normative manuals (the most representative being the issue of the Institute for Croatian Language and Linguistics). For a curious bystander, probably the most noticeable language feature in Croatian society was the re-Croatization of Croatian in all areas, from phonetics to semantics and (most evidently) in everyday vocabulary.

Political ambitions played a key role in the creation of the "Serbo-Croatian language". Likewise, politics again were a crucial agent in dissolving the unified language. With the collapse of Yugoslavia, the Serbo-Croatian language officially followed suit.

Current events

Areas where Croatian language is spoken (as of 2006)

Croatian language is today the official language of the Republic of Croatia and, along with Bosnian and Serbian, one of three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also official in the regions of Burgenland (Austria), Molise (Italy)[3] and Vojvodina (Serbia). Additionally, it has co-official status alongside Romanian in the communes of Caraşova and Lupac, Romania. In these localities, Croats or Krashovani make up the majority of the population, and education, signage and access to public administration and the justice system are provided in Croatian, alongside Romanian. There are eight Croatian language universities in the world: the universities of Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek, Zadar, Dubrovnik, Pula, and Mostar.

There is at present no sole regulatory body which determines correct usage of the Croatian language. There is however an Institute for the Croatian language and linguistics with a prescription department. Judging by the patterns of the neighbouring South Slavic languages, it is most likely that Croatian will remain a language of academy and not a demotic language (e.g. English, Greek).

The current language standard is generally laid out in the grammar books and dictionaries used in education facilities, such as the school curriculum prescribed by the Ministry of Education and the university programmes of the Faculty of Philosophy at the four main universities. The most prominent recent editions describing the Croatian standard language are:

  • Hrvatski pravopis by Babić, Finka, Moguš,[4]
  • Rječnik hrvatskoga jezika by Anić,[5]
  • Rječnik hrvatskoga jezika by Šonje et al.[6]
  • Hrvatski enciklopedijski rječnik, by a group of authors,[7]
  • Hrvatska gramatika by Barić et al.,[8]

Also notable are the recommendations of Matica hrvatska, the national publisher and promoter of Croatian heritage, the Lexicographical institute "Miroslav Krleža", as well as the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Croatian dialects in Cro and BiH 1.PNG
Croatian shto dialects in Cro and BiH.PNG

See also



  • Branko Franolić, Mateo Zagar: A Historical Outline of Literary Croatian & The Glagolitic Heritage of Croatian Culture, Erasmus & CSYPN, London & Zagreb 2008 ISBN 978-953-6132-80-5
  • Ivo Banac: Main Trends in the Croatian Language Question, YUP 1984
  • Branko Franolić: A Historical Survey of Literary Croatian, Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1984
  • Branko Franolić: A Bibliography of Croatian Dictionaries, Paris, Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1985 139p
  • Branko Franolić: Language Policy in Yugoslavia with special reference to Croatian, Paris, Nouvelles Editions Latines 1988
  • Milan Moguš: A History of the Croatian Language, NZ Globus, 1995
  • Miro Kačić: Croatian and Serbian: Delusions and Distortions, Novi Most, Zagreb 1997
  • "Hrvatski naš (ne)zaboravljeni" (Croatian, our (un)forgotten language), Stjepko Težak, 301 p., knjižnica Hrvatski naš svagdašnji (knj. 1), Tipex, Zagreb, 1999, ISBN 953-6022-35-4 (Croatian)

External links

Croatian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Language history

General links

Simple English

The Croatian language is spoken mainly in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina throughout the countries, and surrounding countries of Europe. Croatian grammar is grammar of Croatian language. As Croatian language is three-dialectal in its basics[1] (Kaikavian, Chakavian and Shtokavian), here are presented both histories and present states of all three dialects of which consists Croatian language.

Croatian language Baska tablet 1100.
File:Vatican Croatian Prayer
Croatian Prayer Book 1380-1400.

List of Croatian-language grammar books shows that codification of Croatian language in its grammars is rich, and starts from beginning of 17th century (first was grammar of Bartol Kašić in Latin in 1604). From 1604 to 1836 there were 17 grammars, most of them dominantly Štokavian, other Kajkavian. Grammar of Bartol Kašić (17th century) described supradialectal form of Ikavian Štokavian with Čakavian admixture, in 19th century Croatian language already have grammar dominantly based on Štokavian in "Nova ricsoslovnica illiricka" of Šime Starčević (1812) and "Grammatik der illyrischen Sprache" of Ignjat Alojzije Brlić (1833)[2], although it is not formally so. Not only before 19th century Croatian language used three dialects almost equally (Kajkavian, Chakavian and Štokavian) but orthography of same dialect differed on Adriatic coast to that used near Hungarian border, as one was under influence of Italian, other of Hungarian language.[3][2] All grammars of above period (1604-1836) use three accents: acute, grave and circumflex, Starčević's grammar is exception as it uses system of four accents.[2] In 19th century Ljudevit Gaj proposed new letters from Czech (č,ž,š,ľ,ň,ď and ǧ), accepted were letters č, ž and š, from Polish ć, for other phonems accepted were digraphs ie, lj, nj and , later dj or gj was changed to đ (according to proposal by Đuro Daničić).[3]



Croatian language uses Latin script of 30 letters and one diphtong "ie" or "ije", and "ŕ", such system is in Croatian called gajica (or croatian Gaj's Latin alphabet), name came from Ljudevit Gaj.[4] Letter order (and whole alphabet) is in Croatian called abeceda, as first 4 letters are spelled "a, be, ce, de".[5] For writing foreign names and words, also in some professions Croatian language uses letters which do not belong to gajica, like "X, x (iks), Y,y (ipsilon" and others.[5]

Croatian alphabet (Gaica) 1830.c

Grammatical cases

In Croatian, nouns change form depending on the composition of the sentence. This is called declension. Declension has been proved the most difficult to master for people who are learning Croatian. It is very complicated and time consuming to explain it and because of that we will use simpler techniques in this course. However, many languages have noun and pronoun declension including English. In English, though, only pronoun declension remained through the course of years. Let us start by explaining all of the seven Croatian grammatical cases. The technique that is most frequently used in determining grammatical cases (the same technique is used in Croatian schools when taught to children) is by asking yourself a question when you are trying to figure out which case a noun should be in. In Croatian, grammatical cases are called padeži (plural) and padež (singular).

  • Example:
  1. In this example you will be shown how to determine a noun's grammatical case by using the table below.
  2. Krešimir is going to school. (Krešimir ide u školu.)

The question you will ask yourself here is: “Where is Krešimir going?”. And the answer is that he's going to school. By looking at the table below you will see that the question 'where' is used for the Locative case. Grammatical case The question you should ask yourself when determining the grammatical case *Example:

Nominativ (Nominative) Tko? Što? (Who or what?) Jabuka je fina. (The apple is delicious.)
Genitiv (Genitive) Koga? Čega? Čiji? (Who or what is missing? Who's?) Ovo radim zbog jabuke. (I'm doing this because of the apple.)
Dativ (Dative) Komu? Čemu? (Whom or what am I going toward?) Idem prema jabuci. (I am going toward the apple.)
Akuzativ (Accusative) Koga? Što? (Whom or what?) Ne vidim jabuku. (I don't see the apple.)
Vokativ (Vocative) Oj! Ej! (Oi! Hey!) Oj, jabuko! (Oi, apple!)
Lokativ (Locative) Gdje? U komu? U čemu? (Where? In what? In who?) Živim u jabuci. (I live in the apple.)
Instrumental S kime? S čime? (With whom or with what?) Trčim s jabukom. (I am running with the apple.)
  • exercise - key:

Determine the grammatical case of the underlined nouns in the following sentences:

  1. Zvonimir je u svojoj sobi. (Zvonimir is in his room.)
  2. Domagoj ide kući biciklom. (Domagoj is going home by bike.)
  3. Hrvatska je pobijedila na nogometnom natjecanju. (Croatia won the football tournament.)


Croatian nouns are divided into three genders. The masculine, feminine and neuter gender. To know a noun's gendre is very important because it affects all the words that are tied to the noun, such as adjectives. Such thing doesn't exist in English but don't get discouraged. There is a way of telling what gendre a noun is without memorizing it for each and every one. A gendre is determined by the noun's ending (with some exceptions). See the table below. It is also vital to know that nouns retain their gender in plural. For instance, the noun 'žene' (women) is of the feminine gender and not neuter which would be easy to think because the word ends with the letter -e.

Ending -a -e, -o -k, -l, -r, -d... (and all other)
Gender Feminine Neuter Masculine
  • example:
Neuter nouns: Feminine nouns: Masculine nouns:
sunce, dijete, more, drvo, tijelo, oko, jezero. žena, kuća, grana, stolica, knjiga, noga, slika. metak, zvučnik, okvir, krov, toranj, prozor, medvjed, podložak, prag.
  • exercise - key

Determine the gender of the following nouns: Krov, dolina, papir, staklo, panj, igra, brak, jaje, hitac, iskra, stablo, ljuljačka, zelje, karton.

Grammatical aspects

Croatian verbs have two grammatical aspects; the perfective and imperfective. The perfective aspect depicts an action that has already been finished or done with. The imperfective aspect depicts an action that is still going or underway. So, each verb in its infinitive form can be written in 2 ways; in its perfective and imperfective aspect. The table below is showing 5 verbs both in their perfective and imperfective aspects.

Imperfective aspect in infinitive Perfective aspect in infinitive
Trčati. (To run. infinite action) Odtrčati. (Definite action, the running has been done with.)
Sjediti. (To sit. infinite action) Sjesti.
Plivati. (To swim. infinite action) Odplivati.
Graditi. (To build. - infinite action) Izgraditi.
Popravljati. (To fix/repair/mend. infinite action) Popraviti.

Grammatical tenses

In Croatian, there are seven grammatical tenses. They can be divided in two ways. By the time they take place in and by their complexity. Simple tenses consist of only 1 word (simple tenses are aorist, imperfect, present) while complex tenses consist of 2 or even 3 words (complex tenses are pluperfect, perfect, first future, second future) because they also consist of auxiliary verbs. Also, some grammatical tenses cannot be formed with both grammatical aspects, they work with only.

Tense Description Example
Pluperfect An action that has happened before another action (same as English past perfect). Mladen je bio ručao. (Mladen had had lunch.)
Imperfect Past tense that is formed only by imperfective verbs. An unfinished past tense. Mladen trčaše. (Mladen was running.)
Aorist Past tense (not used much nowadays). It is the same as Perfekt. Can be formed only with verbs in perfective states. Mladen odtrčaše. (Mladen was running but he finished sometime in the past.)
Perfect Main past tense. Can be formed by both imperfective and perfective verbs. Mladen je trčao. (Mladen was running).
Present Present tense. Mladen ruča. (Mladen is having lunch.)
First future Future tense. Mladen će ručati. (Mladen will have lunch.)
Second future Before-future tense. Used in expresing a future action that will happen before another future action. Ako bude kiša uskoro pala, suša će prestati. (If rain soon falls, the drought will end.)
  • exercise - key

Determine the tenses of the underlined verbs:

  1. Jučer sam bio na poslu. (I was at work yesterday.)
  2. Rekla je da ga bude nazvala prije nego što će otići kući. (She said she would call him before she goes home.)
  3. Večeram. (I am having dinner.)
  4. Rekoh mu. (I told him.)
  5. Jučer cijeli dan pecijah peciva. (I was baking rolls the whole day yesterday.)
  6. Bio sam kupio novi auto ali mislim da nisam trebao. (I had bought a new car but I think I shouldn't have bought it.)


  • Basic and common expressions:
Croatian English
Da Yes
Ne No
Što What
I And
Ili Or
Bok Hi, bye
Zbogom Goodbye
Dobar dan Good day
Dobro jutro Good morning
Dobra večer Good evening
Laku noć Good night
Možda Maybe
Kada When
Gdje Where
Kako How
Hvala Thanks
Dođi Come
  • Colours:
Zlatna Golden
Croatian English
Zelena Green
Crvena Red
Žuta Yellow
Smeđa Brown
Narančasta Orange
Crna Black
Plava Blue
Ružičasta Pink
Ljubičasta Purple
Siva Grey
Bijela White
Tirkizna Turquoise
Srebrna Silver
  • Days, months & seasons

The Croatian week starts with Monday and ends with Sunday, unlike weeks from some other countries where Sunday is the first day and Saturday the last.

  • Days:
Croatian English
Ponedjeljak Monday
Utorak Tuesday
Srijeda Wednesday
Četvrtak Thursday
Petak Friday
Subota Saturday
Nedjelja Sunday
  • Months:
Croatian English
Siječanj January
Veljača February
Ožujak March
Travanj April
Svibanj May
Lipanj June
Srpanj July
Kolovoz August
Rujan September
Listopad October
Studeni November
Prosinac December
  • Directions

Sides of the world:

Croatian English
Sjever North
Jug South
Istok East
Zapad West
Gore Up
Dolje Down
Lijevo Left
Desno Right
  • Prepositions
Croatian English
Na On
Uz By
Ispod/pod Under, below
Iznad/nad/ober Above
U In
Ispred In front of
Iza Behind
  • Numbers
Numerically - Alphabetically
0 - Nula
1 - Jedan
2 - Dva
3 - Tri
4 - Četiri
5 - Pet
6 - Šest
7 - Sedam
8 - Osam
9 - Devet
10 - Deset
11 - Jedanaest
12 - Dvanaest
13 - Trinaest
14 - Četrnaest
15 - Petnaest
16 - Šesnaest
17 - Sedamnaest
18 - Osamnaest
19 - Devetnaest
20 - Dvadeset
30 - Trideset
40 - Četrdeset
50 - Pedeset
60 - Šezdeset
70 - Sedamdeset
80 - Osamdeset
90 - Devedeset
100 - Sto
1,000 - Tisuću
1,000,000 - Milijun
1,000,000,000 - Milijarda

File:Serbo croatian
Areas where Croatian language is spoken of central South Slavic dyasistems (as of 2006)

Different languages

English Croatian Serbian
Compare Usporedba Поређење (Poređenje)
Europe Europa Европа (Evropa)
Netherlands Nizozemska Холандија (Holandija)
Italians Talijani Италијани (Italijani)
Universe Svemir Васиона (Vasiona)
Spine Kralježnica Кичма (Kičma)
Air Zrak Ваздух (Vazduh)
Education Odgoj Васпитање (Vaspitanje)
Week Tjedan Седмица (Sedmica)
History Povijest Историја (Istorija)
Pantaloons Hlače Панталоне (Pantalone)
Belly Trbuh Стомак (Stomak)
Science Znanost Наука (Nauka)
Personally Osobno Лично (Lično)
Persona Osoba Лице (Lice)
United Nations Ujedinjeni Narodi Уједињене Нације (Ujedinjene Nacije)
Bread Kruh Хлеб (Hleb)
Artificial Umjetno Вештачки (Veštački)
Cross Križ Крст (Krst)
Democracy Demokracija Демократија (Demokratija)
Detection Spoznaja Сазнање (Saznanje)
Island Otok Острво (Ostrvo)
Officer Časnik Официр (Oficir)
Road traffic Cestovni promet Друмски саобраћај (Drumski saobraćaj)
Autobahn Autocesta Аутопут (Autoput)
Length Duljina Дужина (Dužina)
Association Udruga Удружење (Udruženje)
Factory Tvornica Фабрика (Fabrika)
General Opće Опште (Opšte)
Christ Krist Христoс (Hristos)
I'm sorry Oprosti Извини (Izvini)
Native language standard Materinski jezićni standard Матерњи језички стандард


krc:Хорват тил


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address