Monday, 13 March 2023

Exploring The Croatian Language - The Slavonian Dialect

March the 13th, 2023 - Standard Croatian is made up of a very significant number of dialects and subdialects. From the extreme south of Dalmatia to the northernmost points of modern Croatian territory, the way people speak varies considerably. Have you ever heard of the Slavonian dialect?

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian

Heading to the overlooked eastern part of Croatia, we find ourselves in Slavonia. This region is dominated by agriculture, and in contrast to most of the rest of the country, it is flat, making it perfect for fields as far as the eye can see. Formerly the bread basket of Croatia and indeed the wider region, Slavonia has unfortunately become synonymous with Croatia's burning demographic issues which have since spread across even the more economically favourable areas.

Much like almost every other part of Croatia, Slavonia has its various dialects and subdialects. In this article, I'll stick to the basic Slavonian dialect before delving into deeper specifics surrounding subdialects. 

Where is the Slavonian dialect spoken?

The name certainly gives this one away - in the eastern part of Croatia. First and foremost, the Slavonian dialect is sometimes called the Slavonic dialect and is a dialect of the far wider Shtokavian, one of the three main dialects making up standard Croatian language as we know it today. It boasts numerous more archaic features when compared to other dialects based on Shtokavian and is spoken by ethnic Croats who come from various parts of Slavonia. As a marginal western Shtokavian dialect, the beginning of its linguistic development looked starkly different to the end result, it was also spoken in more areas than it is today.

A brief history of the Slavonian dialect

Ways of speaking that belong to the wider Slavonian dialect have been being spoken to varying degrees in the extreme northeast of parts of the country in which Croatian is spoken since medieval times. Given the fact that they are located primarily in the northwest, they are peripherally located and have features of marginality. That means that while the Slavonian dialect is undoubtedly Shtokavian, it does connect in some ways quite closely with both the Chakavian and the Kajkavian dialects.

One might assume, given Slavonia's geographical position, that the Slavonian dialect would have far, far more in common with Kajkavian. Such an assumption would be more than logical, but as I'll explain a little further down, endless migration and settlers from elsewhere made sure that Shtokavian was far more prominent.

Croatian history has been turbulent for an incredibly long time, and with the invasions of the Ottomans and various changes of power and even recognised states, one can imagine the sheer amount of migration that has taken place in and around these lands as the centuries have passed by. This naturally had an enormous effect on the languages spoken, where they're spoken, and how they're spoken. It is precisely because of strong waves of migration over time that the linguistic connections between the Slavonian dialect and the Kajkavian dialect were largely severed, but the results of these old connections are still evident in the details if one looks closely (and of course, if they know what they're looking at).

The demographic crisis in Slavonia isn't something that came about recently or even during more modern historical periods. Back during the rule of the Ottoman Empire, Slavonia lost a very significant part of its local population, attracting the populations of what were then much poorer neighbouring regions. Settlers from Herzegovina were abundant in Slavonia, and they naturally heavily influenced the physiognomy of the native population's speech over time.

As I touched on above when I mentioned Slavonia's position on the map and the proximity of Kajkavian speaking areas to it, one would assume that Kajkavian would have more of a ''say'' in the Slavonian dialect, and historically, you'd be right for assuming so. In a historical sense, the Slavonian dialect was once closely connected with Kajkavian, but migrations and new settlers from elsewhere changed that, and as a result of those very migrations, this connection decreased and decreased, and in some cases it was even broken entirely. The Podravina subdialect is more or less the only subdialect which has done well to retain its Kajkavian speech connection.

For more on the Croatian language, dialects and subdialects, as well as learning to swear in Croatian, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 6 March 2023

Exploring The Croatian Language - The Gorski-Kotar Dialect

March the 6th, 2023 - The Gorski-Kotar dialect is a dialect of Kajkavian, and is spoken in the narrower area of the boundaries of Gorski Kotar, all the way to the upper reaches of the Kupa river.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian.

Where is the Gorski-Kotar dialect spoken?

While its name might lead one to the apparently blindingly obvious conclusion, as touched on above, the Gorski-Kotar dialect is actually spoken in the very distinct area of the upper part of where the Kupa River flows and then further east, reaching all the way to the outskirts of what is classed as the region of Gorski Kotar. It's a form of Kajkavian, and so the way the words are formed, accentuations and most of its general features are clearly Kajkavian. That said, it also boasts features of both the Chakavian and modern Slovenian languages.

Kajkavian is very widely spoken and is one of the main dialects that makes up modern standard Croatian. It contains many dialects of its own, from Eastern Kajkavian to Northwestern and Southwestern Kajkavian. The Gorski-Kotar dialect is just another in a list.

A little history involving former Croatian territory...

Jumping across the Croatian-Slovenian border for a minute or two, we can how linguistics in this area and an often turbulent history has intertwined over time, as speech with many features of the Gorski-Kotar dialect has stretched to the border areas on the (modern-day) Slovenian side of the Kupa river (more specifically areas of Bela Krajina and Pokuplje), which was where Croatian feudal lords had many of their fancy estates once upon a time.

In brief, the Gorski-Kotar dialect is a type of transitional speech that originated in an originally Chakavian area and then along the Kajkavian-Chakavian border a little south of the Kupa river which flows through both Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia

It's worth noting that Bela Krajina, which is now Slovenian territory, was then part of Croatia, and much later it also became part of the wider Zagreb diocese. The entire wider area was quite dramatically changed by populations of migrants to the north, fleeing the arrival of the marauding Ottomans across the region, and later the return of that native population from the area of lower Kranjska (Dolenjska), now Slovenia.


For more on the Croatian language, including histories on the various dialects and subdialects, as well as learning how to swear in Croatian, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 27 February 2023

Exploring Croatian Language - The Southwestern Kajkavian Dialect

February the 27th, 2023 - The Southwestern Kajkavian dialect, sometimes referred to as the Turopolje-Posavina dialect, is one of the main dialects which makes up Kajkavian.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian

With so much variation of what standard Croatian is, you won't be surprised to learn that there are dialects in dialects, and then subdialects thrown in the mix as well. While Kajkavian is a dialect, one of the main ones making up standard Croatian, it has numerous dialects of its own, including the Northwestern dialect, and the Eastern one. In this article, I'll talk about the Southwestern Kajkavian dialect, which was, like many others, once much more widely spoken than it is today.

Where can the Southwestern Kajkavian dialect be heard?

Delving back into the not so distant past, the Southwestern Kajkavian dialect could be heard being spoken across the old area of the wider Zagreb County, with the exception of its very outskirts where Prigorski was primarily spoken. It has several subdialects of its own which certain linguists consider to instead be dialects in their own right.

Fast-forward to the modern day, it is still spoken in the area of Posavina from Zagreb and to the area in which Jekavian (the southern dialect) is primarily spoken in the areas of western Slavonia and along the modern-day Croatian border with neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Heading further up north, the spoken Southwestern Kajkavian dialect extends to the area of Moslavina, where it borders the Eastern Kajkavian dialect.

Outside of Croatian borders

While of course not the same, the dialects spoken in Austria's Gradisce (Burgenland) and Romania's Karasevo are believed to originate from Southwestern Kajkavian. Karasevo in particular is known for its Croatian residents (the Krashovani).


For more on the Croatian language, including history, dialects, subdialects and even extinct languages, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section. An article on language (even on how to swear in Croatian) is published every Monday.

Monday, 20 February 2023

Exploring the Croatian Language - The Buzet Dialect

February the 20th, 2023 - If you're into linguistics, you've more than likely heard of Chakavian, which is one of the main dialects of standard Croatian as we know it today, and which was officially declared a language back in 2020. What about a dialect of Chakavian itself, such as the Buzet dialect, however?

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian

The Buzet dialect is just one of a multitude of dialects and subdialects spoken in and around the region of the Istrian peninsula, which was dominated by Italian for a very long time owing to the formerly powerful Venice. Contrary to popular belief (and what the bilinguial signs across Istria might have you believe), there is far more than just Italian spoken alongside standard Croatian in this part of the country. Istro-Venetian, Istriot, Istrian-Albanian (now extinct), Istro-Romanian... the list goes on. All of these dialects, which some linguists consider to be languages in their own right, showcase the sheer amount of culture and foreign influence that has come and gone in Istria throughout the many centuries gone by, and as you can see - it stretches far beyond the realms of Italian and the former Venetian Empire.

A brief history of the Buzet dialect

The Buzet dialect, a dialect of the much more widely spread Chakavian, is particularly interesting as it is believed to represent the transition of Chakavian towards the dialects spoken nearby, just across the border in neighbouring Slovenia. It is precisely this linguistic relationship which provides the Buzet dialect with (in many cases) very obvious Chakavian-Kajkavian dialectological features.

Owing to the presence of these transitional features of Kajkavian (and not only Chakavian), which actually represent a transitional line between the Chakavian and several Slovenian dialects, numerous linguists once thought that this separate part of the Kajkavian dialect had found itself in the northern part of Istria and in Buzet from the wider region of Gorski kotar. It was even considered to be a marginal Slovenian dialect in the past. This is now deemed to have been a mistake made by the Slovenian linguist Fran Ramovs.

Who was Fran Ramovs?

Born in the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana, this prominent linguist studied and explored the various dialects of the Slovenian language in Vienna. 

Where is the Buzet dialect spoken?

Well, the name likely gives it away. It is spoken in and around the area of Buzet, but it spreads considerably across the northern part of Istria as well.

The background of this dialect now considered to undoubtedly be Chakavian, there are still some features that make it stand out it from the rest of the Chakavian dialects spoken in the modern day, and one of those features are its consonants and how they've developed. Delving a little deeper, even the Buzet dialect, which is a dialect of Chakavian (which was also once considered a dialect!) can be divided into two separate subdialects; the southeastern subdialect, which is an apparent transition towards North Chakavian, and then the rest of it which is more widely spoken and which doesn't show as many North Chakavian transition points.

In the wider division of Chakavian into its northwestern and southeastern dialects, the Buzet dialect is considered to be northwestern.


For more on the Croatian language, from its dialects, subdialects, history and even learning to swear, make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle section. An article on language is published every Monday.




Monday, 6 February 2023

Croatian Language - The Difference Between Dalmatic and Dalmatian

February the 6th, 2023 - You might have heard of Dalmatian (and I'm not talking about the ones Cruella tried to make coats out of), but have you ever heard of Dalmatic? In this edition of our series on all things to do with the Croatian language, dialects and subdialects, we'll explore why they're not one and the same.

A brief history

Not to be confused with Dalmatian, the Dalmatic language is now extinct. It belonged to the wider group of Italo-Dalmatian family of languages and was once spoken along both the Croatian and Montenegrin coastlines. What makes Dalmatic so interesting is that the date of its disappearance from use is very precisely known - June the 10th, 1898, when the last speaker of a form of this language (known as the Vegliot dialect), Tuone Udain, died. You can read more about Tuone, who was born on Krk and was unfortunately killed during a road mine explosion, by clicking here

Dalmatinski (Dalmatian) and Dalmatski (Dalmatic), what's the difference?

Here's where it gets linguistically tricky thanks to our good old (and awkward) friend - terminology. In the Croatian language, Dalmatic (Dalmatski) is the common name for this language, and it should never be confused with Dalmatian (Dalmatinski). One is a Slavic language and one is a Romance language.

The Dalmatian language, i.e. a dialect or a set of dialects, refers to various spoken versions of the Croatian language, which belongs to the wider group of Slavic languages. The Dalmatic language does not belong to the Slavic language family and is actually a Romance language which originated from Latin and was spoken all along the eastern Adriatic coast, this means that Dalmatian and Dalmatic are not at all closely related outside of the basic fact that both Slavic and Romance languages share a common ancestor as they belong to the far wider group of Indo-European languages.

Where did Dalmatic come from?

The Dalmatic language first came to be way back during Middle Ages as a direct continuation of spoken Latin in the then Roman Dalmatia, sharing the same spontaneous origins of most other Romance tongues. Latin language was the most important and most heavily used language at the time, and Dalmatic wasn't used for any official purposes, with the occasional exception of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) where it has been discovered in some old notarial documents. The oldest Dalmatic texts we know of date from way back in the thirteenth century, and were written in the Ragusan (Dubrovnik) subdialect.

How did it become extinct?

The use of Croatian (a Slavic language) began to gain a lot of ground and spread across a wider and wider geographical area, and Italian and Venetian also took hold across vast parts of modern Croatia owing to the power of the Venetians at the time. Unfortunately, this saw spoken Dalmatic become extinct, with the Zadar version of spoken Dalmatic likely dying out first, and Ragusan ceasing to exist during the sixteenth century.

Native Dalmatic speakers once resided on the Croatian islands of Rab, Cres and Krk, in numerous coastal Croatian cities, including Trogir, Split, Dubrovnik and Zadar, and further south across the border in neighbouring Montenegro (Kotor). The most well known regional Dalmatic dialects were Ragusan (Dubrovnik), Vegliot (Krk), and the local dialect spoken in Zadar (Jadera).


For more on the Croatian language, including learning it, looking into the history of the dialects, subdialects and extinct languages, and even learning to swear, make sure to check out our lifestyle section. A new article on the Croatian language is published every Monday.

Monday, 16 January 2023

Exploring The Croatian Language - The Shtokavian Dialect

January the 16th, 2023 - We've looked into many a dialect, but what about what's known as a ''prestige dialect''? of the modern (standard) Croatian language? A look deeper into the Shtokavian dialect, part of the wider family of South Slavic dialects.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously.

That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian. Shtokavian is far less obscure than the majority of the above, with the exception of Kajkavian and Chakavian, and forms the basis of the Croatian language standard as we know it today.

If you're not a linguist and you hear the words Shtokavian, Kajkavian or Chakavian, you're probably thinking ''what?!''. Did you know that the question of ''what'' is so valid in this context that it makes up the beginning of each of these names? In the parts of the country where the Western Shtokavian dialect is dominant, the Croatian word for ''what'' is ''shto'', and for the areas of the country where Kajkavian is used, the word for what changes to ''kaj'', and - you guessed it - for Chakavian, people typically say ''cha''.

Where is the Shtokavian dialect used?

In the modern day, Shtokavian is used in much of Croatia, as well as in Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and even in parts of Austria (more precisely in Burgenland).

A brief history of the Shtokavian dialect

For the sake of this article not turning into a book, I'll be focusing on the use of the Shtokavian dialect solely in the Croatian sense, and we first see it appear way back in the 12th century, then splitting off into two zones; Eastern and Western - one encompassed Serbia, the more eastern parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and further south in Montenegro, while the other was dominant in Slavonia and in most of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

We can read early texts written in the Shtokavian dialect which are dated as far back as the 1100s, one of the most important of them all being the regulation of commerce between Dubrovnik and Bosnia, called the Ban Kulin Charter. Other legal documentation also boasts the dialect from across Dalmatia during the pre-Ottoman era, and Dubrovnik stands out quite a lot in this regard. Another important text written in the Shtokavian dialect is the Vatican Croatian Prayer Book which was published before the year 1400 in Dubrovnik.

Are there different dialects within the wider Shtokavian dialect?

In short - yes. There are a great many dialects (or subdialects) of the Shtokavian dialect which are or were spoken in different areas of not only Croatia but within the wider region. As I said before, for the sake of this article not becoming a book, I'll focus only on Shtokavian spoken in Croatia, and as such draw your attention to Slavonian (old Shtokavian), Bosnian-Dalmatian (neo Shtokavian), Eastern Herzegovian (neo Shtokavian) and the Dubrovnik subdialect (neo Shtokavian).


Meet Podravian/Podravski and Posavian/Posavski (just when you thought this couldn't possibly get any more needlessly complicated). This form of speech is spoken primarily by Croats from Baranja, Slavonia and areas of the wider Pannonian plain. The aforementioned subdialects (Posavian and Podravian) are the northern and southern variants of the dialect, and there are ethnic Croats who speak it outside of Croatia's modern borders in parts of northern Bosnia, as well. The two subdialects boast two accents, Ikavian and Ekavian. 


This dialect is sometimes referred to as Younger Ikavian and most people who speak it are ethnic Croats from a wide range of modern Croatia - spanning from Dalmatia all the way to Lika and Kvarner. Outside of Croatian borders, you'll also find people who speak it in Subotica (Serbia) and in Herzegovina, and to a much lesser extent in areas around Central Bosnia. Unlike with Slavonian, the only accent heard in the Bosnian-Dalmatian pronunciation of the wider Shtokavian dialect is Ikavian.

Eastern Herzegovian

This is the most widespread subdialect of the Shtokavian dialect of all, encompassing vast areas of Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Of all of the subdialects of the Shtokavian dialect, Eastern Herzegovian (or Eastern Herzegovinian) has the largest number of speakers. 

The Dubrovnik dialect (Ragusan)

You can read more about the Dubrovnik dialect (or subdialect) by clicking here.

Standard Croatian is based on the neo Shtokavian dialect, but despite that, it took over four centuries for this dialect to gain enough ground and eventually prevail as the basis for modern Croatian, with other dialects (including Kajkavian and Chakavian) falling short primarily owing to not only historical reasons but because of usually turbulent political issues.


For more on exploring the Croatian language, as well as the numerous dialects and subdialects spoken in different areas across the country, and even a look into endangered and extinct languages, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 9 January 2023

Exploring the Languages of Croatia: Bosnian/Bosniak/Bošnjački

January the 9th, 2023 - The Bosnian language, or Bošnjački jezik, if you want to say it in the local way, is a tongue belonging to the western subgroup of the wider south Slavic language family. It's worth mentioning straight away that it is rather ambiguous for many people here in Croatia, and has attracted many a dispute from linguists and other experts.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian

Standard Croatian is far from the only language or dialect spoken in this small country, and some have more rights than others based on their level of dispute and controversy. While some, such as Istrian-Albanian, are now extinct as a result of a lack of preservation and/or a rapidly dwindling number of speakers, others are widely spoken but attract significant debate. The so-called Bosnian language is one of them.

Bosnian, Bosniak, Bošnjački - the basics

Let's start with the basics and say that in Croatia, the Bosnian language is usually called the Bosniak language. As I touched on above, this language attracts debate very often, and as such, you'll likely face corrections no matter what you call it. The issue with this has little to do with the formation of spelling of the word, but instead with historical ties to the country (Bosnia), and the terminology used when referring to it. 

Bosnian (as it is called in Bosnian), or Bosniak (as it is called in Croatian), as you might have guessed, is one of the three official languages spoken in neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other two being Croatian and Serbian. The use of Bosnian, despite being a language which has no difficulty in attracting linguistic arguments, especially here in Croatia, is widespread, with over two million individuals spanning the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia speaking it.

Members of the diaspora, along with their descendents, across Western Europe, North America and even much closer to home in Turkey, also speak Bosnian, although their precise numbers have never been confidently determined. 

Bosnian is very similar to Croatian and Serbian, but developed down its own path as a result of Ottoman Turkish influence, which reigned strong in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a very long time. There are also Arabic and modern Turkish influences thrown in there, as well. Despite having an array of influences thrown into the mix, Bosnian is primarily based on four main subgroups of the Shtokavian dialects, with Shtokavian also being one of the pillars of standard Croatian, alongside Cakavian and Kajkavian.

A brief history and a (past) Croatian connection

On a small scale only, Bosnian leans on the Ijekavian pronunciation of modern Serbian but there are an abundant use of Turkish words to be found, and anyone with an interest in language and knowledge of Croatian will be able to instantly point them out. The language evolved and changed throughout the centuries, with the first Bosnian-Turkish glossary being published in 1631. Fast forward a few years to the post-Ottoman occupation period, more specifically to the nineteenth century, the much more extensive cultural activity of Bosniaks appeared in a language that was constantly referred to as something different: Serbo-Croatian, Croatian, Serbian, and then Bosnian. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy's long rule also led to the predominance of the Latin script across its former territories (which included modern Croatia in a very large part), giving birth to a (by then) much more visible Bosniak language, which was much, much more like Croatian than Serbian back during those times.

Where can the largest number of Bosnian speakers be found in the modern day?

In this day and age, the largest number of Bosnian speakers live in Bosnia and Herzegovina - more precisely in the cities of Sarajevo, Bihac, Tuzla and Zenica, with some other locations also having a significant number of people who claim it as their mother tongue. Just over 1.5 million people who claim their mother tongue to be Bosnian live in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Disputes about the name, and where Croatia stands when it comes to Bosnian

There are a considerable number of people (just under 10,000 of them) who live in the Republic of Croatia who consider their mother tongue to be Bosnian, and the name ''Bosniak'' as Croatia typically refers to it, has and continues to be the subject of argument and debate from not only those in the world of linguistics, but also from politicians. Bosnian politicians believe Croatia should refer to it as Bosnian, and not Bosniak, and there are several Croatian linguists who very staunchly agree with the sentiment. Most Croatian language experts believe that nothing other than ''Bosnian language'' will do, and that such a title is the only appropriate one. Some linguists and experts who make up that very same group believe that Bosnian and Bosniak are actually two different things entirely.

Just to add to the confusion, in Croatia's 2001 census, this language is referred to as ''bošnjački'', while in the one which was carried out in 2011, the term ''bosanski'' is used, only furthering the ''Bosniak or Bosnian'' debate. Croatian state institutions, it seems, can't seem to make their mind up on this issue either.

For more on languages spoken in Croatia, as well as standard Croatian, dialects, subdialects and extinct languages, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 19 December 2022

From Czech to Ruthenian - Minority Languages in Croatia

December the 19th, 2022 - Minority languages in Croatia are either given no attention or are quite controversial, and with such a rich and tumultuous history which involves some of their speakers, some are given more rights under the Croatian Constitution than others.

We've explored many of the dialects, subdialects and indeed languages in their own right as some linguists consider them to be which are spoken across modern Croatia. From the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan) in the extreme south of Dalmatia to Northwestern Kajkavian in areas like Zagorje, the ways in which people speak in this country deviate from what we know as standard Croatian language enormously. That goes without even mentioning much about old DalmatianZaratin, once widely spoken in and around Zadar, Istriot, or Istro-Venetian

What about minority languages in Croatia, though? While some of the above might seem as if they themselves are minority languages, with so much controversy about whether they're languages or mere dialects has unfortunately caused many to not even be given a proper protected status. It's true that some are even on UNESCO endangered languages list, but they're still not categorised by the Croatian powers that be in the same way that the likes of Czech, Hungarian or Slovakian are in this country.

Let's look into what exactly is deemed to be a minority language in Croatia and how that functions within the Croatian Constitution. 

Minority languages in Croatia are the mother tongues (first languages) of national and ethnic minorities living across modern Croatian territory. In addition to personal and intra-community use, minority languages in Croatia are used in different ways and to varying extents in both official and public areas.

The Croatian Constitution defines the Republic of Croatia as the nation of the Croatian people, the country which belongs to all its citizens, including traditional autochthonous communities, which the constitution refers to as national minorities. The minorities explicitly listed in the constitution are; Serbs, Czechs, Italians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Jews, Germans, Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Austrians, Bosniaks, Slovenes, Macedonians, Russians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians, Poles, Romanians, Turks, Roma, Vlachs and Albanians.

Article 12 of the Croatian Constitution states that the official language in Croatia is what we now call standard Croatian, while for some local self-government units (cities and municipalities) another script may be introduced into official comparative use.

Now we've seen who the national minorities are, how do minority languages in Croatia stand under the law?

The use minority languages in Croatia is regulated on the basis of competent national laws, international conventions and agreements which the country has signed. The most important laws at the national level are the Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities, the Law on the Use of the Language and Script of National Minorities and the Law on Education in the Language and Script of National Minorities. The most important international agreements related to minority languages in Croatia are the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities adopted by the Council of Europe. The members of national minorities have acquired certain rights in this country over time through interstate and international treaties and agreements, such as the Erdut Agreement and the Rapala Treaty.

It's unfortunate to say but must be said regardless, that the Croatian public and in many cases the authorities don't always have much of a positive attitude towards issues experienced by minorities in this country, and as such minority rights, but Croatia's EU membership has had an overall very positive impact on the affirmation of the official use of minority languages in Croatia, and things in that respect continue to stabilise as time goes by.

There are several Croatian municipalities in which what are deemed to be official minority languages are spoken today.


The National Association of Danube Swabians, which is the largest minority association of the German Community, strongly advocates for German language use in the Eastern part of the country, particularly in and around Osijek where it holds a form of traditional status. In modern Croatia, spoken German is primarily the first or second foreign language someone has, and it is also recognised as the official minority language of both Germans and Austrians living in Croatia.


Over 6000 people living in the continental Croatian county of Bjelovar-Bilogora have declared themselves to be members of the Czech national minority. 70% of these individuals say that Czech is their mother tongue. Back in 2011, MP Zdenka Cuhnil pointed out that based on their acquired rights, the Czech minority in Croatia has the right to equal use of the language (alongside standard Croatian) in nine local self-government units.


The Ruthenian dialect spoken in both Vojvodina and modern Croatia became standardised back during the first half of the 20th century, with Ruthenian publications having been being published since the 1920s. While in Ukraine, the Ruthenian community isn't officially recognised as being a separate nation, minority status and language rights outside of Vojvodina and Croatia were recognised and began to develop only in the post-Cold War period.

The Ruthenians living in the area of Eastern Slavonia don't differ from the Ruthenians living in Vojvodina culturally or linguistically. It is worth noting however that Ruthenian spoken in this area does differ from the speech of other Ruthenian communities located elsewhere, and is characterised by a significant number of loanwords from Croatian as we know it today. The use of the Ruthenian language on the whole began to decline after the Second World War, and the process accelerated even more following the end of the Homeland War (Croatian War of Independence).

Romany (Roma language)

While the Croatian Parliament formally recofnised the Day of the Roma Language (May the 25th) back in 2012, the Central Library of Roma in Croatia, which is also the only Roma library in all of Europe, was on;y opened back during the summer of 2020, so not long ago at all when you consider the length of time the Roma people have been present in this country and the wider region. The Roma people are among those who experience a lack of help when it comes to the authorities, and issues between this community and the general public are rife for a multitude of reasons.


A magazine called Pramen is published in the Slovakian language by the Union of Slovaks in Croatia. This was achieved thanks to cooperation with the Slovak Cultural Centre (located in Nasice). Back in 2011, over 500 students in the Eastern part of the country were taught Slovakian twice per week from the first grade of elementary school onwards.


The Ukrainian community present in Croatia publishes the following publications in the Ukrainian language - Nova Dumka, Vjesnik, Nasa Gazeta, Vjencic (aimed at kids) and Misli s Dunava. Since way back in 2001, the Department of Ukrainian Language and Literature has been in function at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Zagreb. Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine following shock Russian invasion back in February 2022, Ukrainian presence has been far stronger in Croatia thanks to its very welcoming stance towards Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russian onslaught in their homeland. As a result, it's likely that the language will be heard much more.

Hebrew and Yiddish

The library of the Jewish Municipality of Zagreb actually doesn't (yet, anyway) have the status of one of the central minority libraries of Croatia. In addition to the library in Zagreb, the Hugo Kon Elementary School, founded in 2003, is also in operation. The Festival of Tolerance - The Jewish Film Festival was founded back in 2007 by the well known Branko Lustig with the aim of preserving the memory of those lost during the Holocaust and promoting tolerance going forward so that such horrors are never repeated.


When it comes to higher education institutions in Croatia, Hungarian can be studied at the University of Zagreb, the Josip Juraj Strossmayer University in Osijek, and most recently at the University of Rijeka. To turn the wheels of time back a little, it's worth remembering that much of Croatian territory was once under the reign of the former Austro-Hungarian empire, and aside from being our neighbours, Hungary and as such Hungarian language has had quite the influence on this country over the centuries. Now classed as one of the official minority languages in Croatia, Hungarian has been advocated for in many ways here. Back in 2004, representatives of the Hungarian national minority called for the introduction of Hungarian into official use in Beli Manastir, referring to the rights acquired by Hungarian nationals before 1991 and the complications which arose due to the outbreak of war. In the same year (2004) the Hungarian minority made up 8.5% of Beli Manastir's resident population.


I've written numerous articles on the array of dialects and subdialecs spoken across the Istrian peninsula, most of them deriving in some way from Venetian. These dialects (and some linguists would argue them to be languages in their own right) come from the complex and very long history Italy and Istria share, as the two are deeply historically, culturally and as such linguistically enmeshed. As such the Italian minority in Croatia achieved a significantly wider right to use their own language than all other minority communities in the country. La Voce del Popolo is a daily newspaper published in the Italian language that is published in Rijeka. On top of that, we also have the likes of Istro-Venetian, which is sparsely spoken in comparison to standard (modern) Italian, and you can learn more about it here.


By far the most controversial of all, and for obvious reasons, is the Serbian language as one of the Croatian minority languages. I probably don't need to go into the ins and outs of why it is controversial in comparison to the others, as that would be an article of its own. Instead, I'll just list some facts. 

Education in Serbian was made possible in the territory of the former self-proclaimed Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Srijem on the basis of the aforementioned Erdut Agreement, which created the preconditions for the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region. In this region, teaching is conducted according to Model A of minority education, in which the entire teaching takes place in the language and script of national minorities - in this case it is Serbian. Schools in Podunavlje, for example, do organise classes in Croatian or in another minority language if the minimum number of students to enroll in a class according to a certain model are present.

Critics see the continuation of the Croatian-Serbian conflict in the Danube region in the model of divided classes, while the official representatives of the Serbian minority see the negative attitude towards the Serbian departments as pressure in the direction of denationalisation. In either case, the use of the Cyrillic script on road signs, on buildings and indeed elsewhere in parts of Croatia which were ravaged by Serbian onslaught back during the nineties are far from popular and have remained a burning issue ever since the Homeland War drew to a close.

Of the other languages, one which is sadly dying out at an alarming rate is the Istro-Romanian language, which is listed in UNESCO's own Red Book of Endangered Languages as seriously endangered. With Istro-Romanian likely to follow the same path as Istrian-Albanian and become extinct within the next few decades, if not sooner, little is being done to preserve it for generations to come.

For more on Croatian languages, history, minority languages and dialects, follow our lifestyle section.

Monday, 21 November 2022

Exploring Croatian - A Brief History of the Istro-Venetian Language

November the 21st, 2022 - Delving further into the intricacies of the Croatian language, and veering away from standard Croatian as we know it today, let's look at another lesser spoken tongue - Istro-Venetian language.

We've looked into the main three dialects that make up modern standard Croatian as we know it today - Shtokavian, Chakavian and Kajkavian (as well as Northwestern Kajkavian), as well as some old and almost forgotten Dalmatian words, the Dubrovnik subdialect (Ragusan), and some dialects and languages which are so sparsely spoken today that they barely exist anymore. These include the Istriot language from parts of the Istrian peninsula, and of course Zaratin, once widely spoken in the Zadar area. All this clearly tells us that the Croatian language goes far beyond what most people know it as, and it has a history that is as varied as it is deep.

So, what about the mysterious Istro-Venetian language? The name might give it away, especially if you're familiar with the somewhat complicated history between Italy, Venice and the Istrian peninsula. This language which is often also called the Istrovenetic language, is heavily influenced by Venetian.

Istro-Venetian shares a common basic lexicon and language structure as other languages within the wider ''family'', but what makes the Istro-Venetian language interesting is that it is not only the most widespread (by far) of the so-called Istro-Romanic idioms still spoken today, but that it also occurs on both sides of the modern Croatian-Slovenian border. Both of these languages (the Croatian and the neighbouring Slovenian ''version'') ​​are classified within the wider Venetian dialectal diasystem despite having a few slight differences.

If you know anything about the formerly mighty Venice and its constant expansion and extensive trade networks (you'll know a lot about this if you've ever studied the former Dubrovnik Republic), you'll know that it took not only its culture and style of architecture with it, but its language too. This was to the detriment of both Romance and Slavic languages which once reigned strong in the areas in which Venetian influence took hold. The saga is no different for the Istro-Venetian language, and its history begins with the arrival and expansion of Venetian rule across the what is the modern day Croatian Istrian peninsula.

With the ever-strengthening presence of all things Venetian across much of the Croatian coast, particularly down in Dalmatia, the Istro-Venetian language took hold and prevailed very well across urban areas, and the Republic of Venice contributed to this consolidation when it controlled most of the Istrian peninsula after around 1420.

Today, the Istro-Venetian language is primarily preserved among bilingual native Istrians, most of whom are older individuals who number approximately 25,000-30,000 people. Unlike Zaratin, which you'd be extremely unlikely to hear used at all anymore and which nosedived after the Second World War, these 30,000 people do continue to use Istro-Venetian in addition to their mother tongue.

The initial linguistic ''venetisation'' of Istria took place between the 10th and the 15th centuries, and Venetian was the official language of the administration, which is logical given the ruling body at the time. The rest of the phases rolled out with the process coming to a natural end with the end of Venetian rule in Istria in the 1800s. Despite the end of an era having occurred as far as Venice was concerned, Istrian languages (of which there are several, including Istriot) prevailed. For some lesser spoken dialects and subdialects, the passage of time unfortunately sealed their demise, but for some, such as the Istro-Venetian language, that wasn't the case.

As stated, by the 1800s, the clock had started ticking for the once mighty Venice and it weakened as a state and a ruling body in both political and economic power and influence, and a natural consequence of that came in the form of culture and language, too.

As time passed, one important linguistic period was the one which was marked by the contact of Trieste (Italy), which had gained in power and influence as a free port following Venice's weakening, and the existing Istro-Venetian language, Croatian and Slovenian languages ​​spoken across Istria came into much deeper contact as a result. The economic expansion of that time created an extremely abundant flow of goods, people and information throughout Istria, and communication was largely dialectal. Owing to that, a relatively large part of the former Romance language continuum was restored across a lot of Western Istria. Due to the bilingualism of the original speakers of Croatian and neighbouring Slovenian, the number of speakers of what had then come to be the Istro-Venetian language gradually increased.

While nowhere near as well known as some other dialects, subdialects and languages (as some linguists and other experts argue many of them to be), the Istro-Venetian language has had a lot of efforts put into preserving it for generations of Istrians yet to come. Since back in 2012, the Festival of the Istro-Venetian Dialect (Festival dell'Istroveneto), an international cultural manifestation dedicated to the protection, evaluation and promotion of the Istrovenetic dialect, has been held in the picturesque Istrian town of Buje.

Buje is of course the ideal location for such a festival, being located in the western part of the Istrian peninsula, where the Istro-Venetian language has arguably remained the strongest, and because this hilltop town is known as the sentinel of Istria. Buje was part of the Venetian Republic from 1358 until 1797, with a high number of people identifying as Italian still living there to this very day.

For more on the Croatian language, dialects and subdialects, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 7 November 2022

Dalmatian-Venetian Languages - A Brief History of the Zaratin Dialect

November the 7th, 2022 - Have you ever heard of the Zaratin dialect (Zaratinski dijalekt)? Unless you're a linguist or you just happen to be from the part of the wider Zadar area which spoke it, it isn't likely.

For such a small country geographically speaking, there are so many dialects, subdialects and even ways of speech which border on a language of their own spoken across Croatia. There are words specific not only to certain areas, but in many cases to specific islands, and in some cases, to specific places on those same specific islands. Having looked into the main dialects which make up the standard Croatian language as we know it today, Shtokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian, as well as old Dalmatian and Ragusan (the Dubrovnik subdialect), let's get a little bit more obscure and delve a little into the Zaratin dialect from Zadar (or should I say Zara, given that we're talking about the Venetians).

The Zaratin dialect came to be from mixing Venetian speech with both the Croatian and Jadertine languages and was used by Italians from Zadar for centuries. The horrors which played out across Europe during World War Two are often blamed for kickstarting the beginning of the end for the Zaratin dialect, more specifically the bombing of the City of Zadar.

This tragic event saw a huge number of Zadar locals leave this part of Dalmatia and seek refuge and better lives elsewhere. Most of those people were actually Italians from Zadar who spoke in the Zaratin dialect, and censuses taken during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth show that a significant number of locals living in Zadar spoke in the Zaratin dialect (then listed as Italian for all intents and purposes) - over 60 percent to be more precise.

There were of course other dialects spoken in Zadar, most of which were heavily influenced by the Venetians and as such their language. As stated, up until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Italian influence in Zadar was strong and ethnic Italians living in Zadar were numerous, and as such their various ways of speaking. Following the bombing of Zadar and the aforementioned exodus of around 20,000 or so Italian Zadar residents, the Zaratin dialect (and others) suffered a decline in the amount of people left there who spoke it. The tragedy for this dialect didn't stop there, as Italian property was either handed over to relatives or confiscated by the state in Yugoslavia, and the ethnic Croatian influence began to grow, replacing the traces of the ethnic Italians from Zadar.

By the time the war ended and the 1950s rolled around, a heavily damaged Zadar was reconstructed by Croats, and the standard Croatian language began to gain a stronghold. The demise of the Zaratin dialect was then in full force. In this day and age, with many local dialects and subdialects across the Republic of Croatia unfortunately dying with the very last generations to speak them, very few elderly people in Zadar still speak in the Zaratin dialect and have it as their mother tongue.

While not all of them spoke in just the Zaratin dialect, the Dalmatian Italians were once a fundamental part of the way life was woven in Zadar and across the rest of Dalmatia, and it seems that even today the true amount of Italian Dalmatians is unclear, with just a few hundred individuals declaring themselves ethnic Italians in official censuses. It has been more or less accepted that the census carried out in Croatia back in 2001 underestimated the sheer number of Italian Dalmatians there are, as many people simply chose not to express their actual ethnic identity for a variety of reasons, from disputes over property ownership rights to not having adequate representation or protection as a minority.

Today, there are numerous Dalmatian Italian Associations, and the one in Zadar is called the Italian Community of Zadar (Comunita Italiana di Zara), which boasts 500 members and was founded back in 1991. It is responsible for launching the first Italian courses after Italian schools were all shut down in 1953.

If you want to hear the Zaratin dialect, one song which was once very popular and is worth listening to is El muto zaratin (Zadarski mulac), written back at the end of the nineteenth century by Luigi Bauch.

For more on Croatian language and history, make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Page 1 of 2