Slovene Dialects.

Joel of Far Outliers has posted another excerpt from Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages, by Gaston Dorren (see this LH post), this time about Slavic dialects, or rather the lack of significant dialects in all languages but one:

Whether they’re from the Baltic port of Kaliningrad or from Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan, there’s little difference in the way Russians speak. In Poland, the same holds true: North Poles and South Poles can chat away effortlessly to each other, as can West and East Poles. Even people speaking different Slavic languages can often communicate without much trouble. Bulgarians can converse with Macedonians, Czechs with Slovaks, and Russians with Belarusians and Ukrainians. And, for all their political differences, there is no great language barrier between Croats, Bosnians, Serbs and Montenegrins. In fact, as the eminent nineteenth-century Slovak scholar Ján Kollár suggested, the Slavic world could, with no great effort on the part of its citizens, adopt just four standard languages: Russian, Polish, Czechoslovak and, lastly, what you might call Yugoslav or South Slavic.

There is one language, however, that wouldn’t so easily be absorbed into Kollár’s scheme: Slovene, also known as Slovenian. Admittedly, this is the language of a very small nation. Its entire territory fits no fewer than twelve times into the area of the UK (which is itself not large) and the population, at just over two million, is just a quarter of that of London. And yet, when Slovenes speak their local dialects, many of their compatriots can make neither head nor tail of what they are saying. So just imagine how these dialects would bewilder the members of some of the other nations that Kollár lumped together as ‘South Slavic’, such as the Bulgarians.

How come? Why does Russian span more than four thousand miles from west to east with next to nothing in the way of dialect diversity, whereas the Slovene language area, measuring just two hundred miles from end to end, is a veritable smorgasbord of regional varieties?

A good question!

Comments

  1. SFReader says:

    And, for all their political differences, there is no great language barrier between Croats, Bosnians, Serbs and Montenegrins.

    No doubt, he will be shocked when he finally learns about existence of Štokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian dialects….

  2. He’s not saying dialects don’t exist, he’s saying they’re not the kind of barrier to communication they are in Slovene. Is that wrong?

  3. January First-of-May says:

    Russian dialects were fairly divergent back in the day; I think what did them in was mostly 1) standartization, 2) more standartization, 3) population mixing, and 4) the Nazis destroying much of what was left in 1941 and 1942.
    …And of course Kaliningrad, in particular, would never have an especially divergent dialect regardless of whether it was an option, because until seventy-odd years ago its population wasn’t Russian-speaking at all, and when it became so, the city was settled by people from all over the place. To a lesser extent, the same is true of Vladivostok (though the time that it was Russian for is about twice as long). That’s like complaining that there’s no divergent Juneau dialect of English (actually, is there? I have no idea).

    Polish dialects aren’t quite all the same as well, IIRC, though the diffences I’m aware of are fairly minor and have to do with the phonology (as in, standard Polish has a sound merger than the eastern dialects lack, or something along those lines).

    Ukrainian and Belarusian are (or were – much was erased by standartization and/or the Nazis there as well) basically dialect continua between Russian and Polish (and each other), and have historically been standartized in various ways along that range; it’s true, however, that they’re still quite similar to Russian (except on the extreme west, when they’re more like Polish).

    No comment on other Slavic languages, which I mostly know even less about.
    That said, what about Sorbian? I don’t think this scheme accounts for Sorbian.

    No doubt, he will be shocked when he finally learns about existence of Štokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian dialects….

    Yeah – there are more than enough dialects of *Yugoslav (even without accounting for Bulgarian/Macedonian, which is a different branch of South Slavic entirely), but it just so happens that standard Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Bosnian were all chosen from within a small sub-sub-branch of that range (Eastern Hercegovinian, IIRC).

  4. While I don’t know how big of a barrier they are in Slovene, certain Kajkavian dialects are quite unintelligible to Shtokavians, note the subtitles on this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkyEffwBYGg

  5. I’m at a physics summer school right now, and a couple nights ago, I was having dinner with some colleagues and students. One post-doc, a Dutchman who recently moved to a university in Poland, said that he had been told by everyone in Poland that there were no regional accents of Polish. The Polish graduate student sitting at our table told him that was absurd, and she immediately demonstrated half a dozen major pronunciation differences between different varieties of Polish.

  6. My understanding is that Slovak is also subdivided into lots of dialects, and the further East you move from Bratislava the more unintelligible they become to a “standard” Slovak speaker until they essentially become Ruthenian. Up on the Polish border Polish and Slovak sort of merge into each other with dialects on both sides. That said, standard Slovak is fairly easy to understand if you speak Polish (much easier than Czech).

    I don’t know that much about Slovenian dialects and why some unintelligible dialects are not considered separate languages. Certainly Kashubian, Silesian, and Sorbian have all been considered “dialects” of Polish at times.

  7. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    there were no regional accents of Polish

    Yes and no – the approach to language in Poland is just different from the one in English-speaking countries and the same categories are difficult to use. There are considerable differences in vocabulary and phonetics between Polish dialects (e.g. a Silesian guy living across the Vistula from me could say kupiłech nowo kara where I’d say kupiłem nową taczkę ‘I bought a new wheelbarrow’.) but in many regions non-standard dialects are dying out or are hidden by diglossia with a more standard variety (so as a stranger you’ll hear the latter), they’re often confined to rural areas and the elderly. There’s also a language variety close to the literary standard that’s spoken across the country with just very minor (less obvious than between English accents) differences in phonetics and vocabulary. Some differences are in the (de)voicing of consonants in certain contexts, the pronunciation of trz/drz, the pronunciation of final “ą”. The traditional dialects have much bigger differences than this.

  8. The best story I can work out is this:

    1) For centuries, Slovene was the L language over its entire range, German being the H language. So all varieties of Slovene are shot through with Germanisms at every level of the language.

    2) The language of the Slovene Bible of 1583 was the only standard written form until about the 1850s. This is about as if Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer in King James Bible English (the same as every other anglophone author of his day) and then suddenly switched to vernacular American for Huckleberry Finn. The shock would have been enormous.

    3) Standard Slovene underwent two periods of heavy influence from Serbo-Croat, 1860-1890 and 1920-1939. In between and afterwards, many of the borrowings were lost to the standard. In both interwar Yugoslavia, when Slovene was officially a variety of Serbo-Croat, and 1945-1991 Yugoslavia, when it was officially a separate language, Slovene was the official language of Slovenia, but the army used Serbo-Croat exclusively, which also affected the dialects.

    4) Slovene-speakers outside political Slovenia were under heavy pressure during the 20C from German, Italian, and (briefly) Hungarian. All of these have had their effects on the border regions of Slovenia by diffusion.

    5) Even today, Standard Slovene is not the only written standard in use. Resian dialect (spoken in Italy) has a separate standard which is used by the local authorities, and spoken Resian is especially remote both syntactically and phonologically from the standard.

    A good synchronic conspectus of the major dialect groups can be found on Wikipedia.

  9. bulbul le parisien says:

    Eh, Kollár didn’t know shit. The Slovak language area is at least as divergent dialectally with Eastern Slovak standing out from among them in a very significant way, sharing some isoglosses with Polish and Czech and others with Eastern Slavic. And, what’s more important, the mutual intelligibility with other dialects of Slovak is not that high.

  10. Etienne says:

    Kollár’s claim that a “Yugoslav” language could have been used from Slovenia to Bulgaria strikes me as more than implausible: not only is there, synchronically, a deep typological divide between Southeastern (=Bulgarian and Macedonian) and Southwestern (=Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian) Slavic, but it is my understanding (Can any hatter confirm or refute this?) that even diachronically not a single innovation can be found across all of South Slavic, setting it off from the rest of Slavic.

    Vanya: my understanding is that there is a sharp divide between Eastern Slovak and Ruthenian, just as there is between all varieties of West and East Slavic. A Slavic scholar of my acquaintance once told me that he suspected that this was because between West and East Slavic there must originally have been Baltic-speaking communities, which, sandwiched as they were between East and West Slavic, gradually shifted to Slavic, with East and West Slavic thus ending up coming into contact with one another (after the last Baltic communities had shifted) long after each had broken away from Common Slavic. Apparently Slavic may have played a similar role further West: it has been claimed that the sharp divide separating North and West Germanic is due to Southern Jutland/Northernmost Germany having been Slavicized, with North Germanic spreading from the North and West Germanic (Low German, possibly Frisian) from the South, ultimately coming back into contact after Slavic speakers had all shifted to whatever the locally dominant Germanic variety was…

    All: I am surprised nobody has mentioned what may be THE most important factor in explaining Slovenian dialect diversity: geography! Slovenia is a very mountainous country: its dialect diversity may seem extreme from a Polish or Russian point of view, but if you look at the dialect diversity of other languages within the Alpine area (Swiss German, Southern Bavarian, Rhaeto-Romance, Northern varieties of Lombard and Piemontese, Franco-Provencal…) Slovenian looks rather normal…

    Finally, I have a question: mention was made above of the birth of new, not-very-divergent varieties of Slavic languages, Kaliningrad Russian for example: Polish and Czech varieties which arose after WWII on what had been German-speaking territory are another example of this: another such new dialect I know of is the Slovenian dialect of Kočevsko (AKA Gottschee). Anyway, my question: Is there any good comparative study of the birth of these and other new Slavic koines?

  11. nemanja says:

    My own experience – I grew up in Bosnia on standard ijekavian BCS then learned Slovene as a teenager – accords with the notion that Slovene has an unreal amount of dialectal variation for such a small language and compact population. I lived in Maribor and so learned the Styrian (Štajerski) accent, replete with German borrowings for even the most basic vocabulary. But despite native-like fluency in that accent I nevertheless would occasionally struggle to keep up with people speaking Gorenjsko or Dolensko in a way that I never had trouble with people speaking different dialects of BCS.

    I’m learning Portuguese now and I think a decent comparison is that Slovene:BCS has a similar relationship as PT:ES. The basic structures are similar, the basic vocabulary is similar, but the pronunciation and rhythm is quite different and takes some getting used to. But I wouldn’t characterize Slovene as quite the outlier as the article referenced in the post seems to.

    Finally I would just add, and of course I’m biased here, but I find Macedonian far more distant and difficult to understand.

  12. struggle to keep up with people speaking Gorenjsko or Dolensko in a way that I never had trouble with people speaking different dialects of BCS
    Could a part of the answer be simply that we are less sensitive to problems of mutual intelligibility of the related languages to which we were exposed while growing up in multi-ethnic areas? In this example, your grasp of BCS could have formed under exposure to multiple dialectal varieties when you were a child. It’s sort of the same with Russians understanding Ukrainian … if they grew up in the areas where Ukrainian or transitional dialects of Southern Russia / Eastern Ukraine were widely spoken, then surely they understand spoken Ukrainian reasonably well. But a kid from a Northern village may be stumped.

  13. Good point.

  14. it is my understanding (Can any hatter confirm or refute this?) that even diachronically not a single innovation can be found across all of South Slavic, setting it off from the rest of Slavic.

    Matasović makes this claim in “Poredbeno povjesna…” (2008), although I’m not sure if all Slavicists agree. Generallly there’s no dearth of common innovations cutting across Slavic lects, but they often postdate the formation the subgroupings (metathesis of liquids, Havlik’s law, …)

  15. gwenllian says:

    He’s not saying dialects don’t exist, he’s saying they’re not the kind of barrier to communication they are in Slovene. Is that wrong?

    Definitely wrong. Without the standard, speakers of various Chakavian or Kajkavian dialects would have trouble communicating with each other, let alone with speakers of the other two Croatian “dialects”. The same is, I believe, true of Shtokavian and Torlakian in Serbia.

    It is only Shtokavian that is intelligible and apart from vocabulary relatively uniform across the areas it covers, though nowhere near what I understand to be the situation in Russia, Poland, etc.

  16. gwenllian says:

    But despite native-like fluency in that accent I nevertheless would occasionally struggle to keep up with people speaking Gorenjsko or Dolensko in a way that I never had trouble with people speaking different dialects of BCS.

    By dialects of BCS, do you mean the various Shtokavian varieties in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, or Torlakian, Chakavian and Kajkavian ones?

  17. On South Slavic: yep, there is not a single common innovation that is both shared by all South Slavic languages and exclusive to them. South Slavic is basically a residual group – Slavic minus West Slavic and East Slavic.

  18. gwenllian says:

    Without the standard, speakers of various Chakavian or Kajkavian dialects would have trouble communicating with each other, let alone with speakers of the other two Croatian “dialects”

    Just remembered this ad campaign from a few years ago with the heartwarming theme of overcoming intelligibility difficulties through beer:

    Čabar (Kajkavian)

    Bednja (Kajkavian)

    Komiža (Čakavian)

    It gives some small idea of the enormous variety of the non-Shtokavian dialects here.

  19. No one’s going to suggest Yiddish? Not even just for the sake of batting it down?

  20. John Cowan says: “the army used Serbo-Croat exclusively”

    The language used in the JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) was Serbian, written in a Latin alphabet.

    Kollár’s claims have to be understood in the context of 19th century romanticism and the desire to reverse the unfavourable political and socioeconomic situation that the Slavic nationalities of the Habsburg state found themselves in too. ie. it is a statement aimed at the Germanic overlords, telling them “we are many and are important too.” The claim that all the Slav people between the Adriatic and the North Sea speak the one Slav language is a commonplace assertion by writers going back some 500 years.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    Serbian may have been picked because most of Serbian, like all of Slovene, is ekavian, and it’s much easier to derive ekavian from ijekavian forms than the other way around.

  22. Trond Engen says:

    zyxt: Kollár’s claims have to be understood in the context of 19th century romanticism and the desire to reverse the unfavourable political and socioeconomic situation that the Slavic nationalities of the Habsburg state found themselves in too.

    That, and (what at the time was seen as) dialectal variation within other national languages like German and Italian.

  23. Vladislav Marjanovic says:

    It was logic, that in an multinational army as the Yugoslav people’s Army (JNA) was, there should be a commando on a common language. The choice was taken on the ground that in four of the six yugoslav federal republics people are speaking the same language. This language was officially named serbo-croatian. The two other official languages (Slovenian and Macedonian) were peripheric and were unfit to be used in a common, federal army. Anyway, the the differences in the serbo-croatian language were so minimal, that it was not forbidden to use the iecavic (spocken in Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and in the south-western part of Serbia) instead the ecavic mode (spoken mostly in Serbia but also in Kaikavian dialekt from northern Croatia). But it is true that the commando words were issued from the old, royal Serbian and, later royal-Yugoslav army. It was a historical continuity because Serbia (and Montenegro) were independent states before 1918. This was not the case with Slovenia and Croatia who were part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The whole structure of the army was indeed imposed by the tradition of Serbian army. But the imposition of the latin alphabet in the written communication was a concetion towards the other people, especially Croats an alphabet.d Slovenes, who use latin and not the cyrillic alphabet. The Army was considered before the Second World War as well after it as a melting pot of the nations or of the “fraterity-unity” as the communist regime use to say. As far as I know, there was no rumor against this system, not even in the private circles, until the late eighties. Demands for the introduction of national languages and to transform the JNA in armies of federal republics was the result of the avaken of the nationalism after Tito’s death, and this was supported (if not inspired) from abroad. But this is an another story.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    Absolutely.

  25. nemanja says:

    “By dialects of BCS, do you mean the various Shtokavian varieties in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro, or Torlakian, Chakavian and Kajkavian ones?”

    I meant the former. Hardly anyone speaks Cakavian or Kajkavian these days.

  26. Vladislav: Thanks, that’s very helpful historical context!

    David: Of course a Marjanović would agree with a Marjanovic.

  27. Of course a Marjanović would agree with a Marjanovic.

    Except about their acute accent.

    But I can assure you, there are many times when a Cowan doesn’t agree with a Cowan. At all. Even without an acute accent.

  28. *waits for John Cowán to show up*

  29. Although Croatia was ruled by the Habsburgs, it was a separate country with its own government, parliament, laws, flag and passports. The nearest equivalent I can think of is Scotland, which is a part of the UK, but is a country separate from England. Croatian was used as the official language for the Croatian army units (Domobranstvo) since the 19th century – German was used before that. That is an example of a multinational state using different command languages in its army. With the breakup of Austria-Hungary in 1918, the short lived State of Slovenes, Croats & Serbs inherited the Domobranstvo as well as the entire Navy. The command language in those military formations was also Croatian. It was only after the State of SCS merged with the Serbian kingdom to form the Kingdom of SCS, that the Serbs imposed their language on the rest of the entire military.

    Serbian ekavian was the only permitted dialect allowed in all the armed forces, including the navy. This is despite Serbia, a landlocked country, having no maritime tradition at all. In essence, the core of the army command was Serb. Non-Serbs, and even the Serbs living in areas formerly under the Habsburgs, were discriminated against in the sense of being viewed as suspicious or undesirable. This resulted in an officer corps consisting almost entirely of Serbs in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The situation improved somewhat during the Socialist era, but there was still much prejuduce, especially against the Albanians. The main evidence of example of this is that the Army leadership took no steps to counter the great-serbian program of Milosevic and his cronies, and instead opted to facilitate it by arming the Serb rebel groups and going to war against the democratically elected governments of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.

    As an aside, the Serbs also suppressed Montenegrin military traditions and language after 1918. Indeed, there was an armed uprising in Montenegro against Serbian occupation (in the early 1920s I think).

  30. Of course, these things were taboo, not only during the Kingdom, but also during the Socialist era. It was only after the first democratic parties were allowed in in 1989 in Slovenia and Croatia that such things could even be discussed. That is why I suspect that there were no rumours, as David puts it, about this.

  31. Apologies David. It should read “as Vladislav puts it”.

  32. Although Croatia was ruled by the Habsburgs, it was a separate country with its own government, parliament, laws, flag and passports. The nearest equivalent I can think of is Scotland, which is a part of the UK, but is a country separate from England.

    Croatia was in personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary from 1102 to 1868. Scotland, however, was only in personal union with England from 1603 to 1707. Although it retained its separate legal code after the Acts of Union, a separate parliament with limited powers dates only from 1999, though claiming continuity with the fully independent pre-1707 parliament. There are no separate Scottish passports. A flag, well, any organization can have a flag.

    A better analogy would be the present personal union between Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom. As far as I can tell, the only other surviving personal union is that between France and Andorra: the President of France (as successor to the King of France) is co-prince of Andorra with the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia.

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    Is part of the confusion here about what “significant” means in a claim about “lack of significant dialects”? Just as a baseline, let’s take American English. There are pretty obviously some distinct dialect differences in terms of their being significant numbers of speakers who within a few words after opening their mouths make it clear that they are speakers of an identifiably different dialect than mine. But there are few-to-no native speakers of some variety of AmEng I can’t understand perfectly well in face-to-face communication and probably not all that many that I can’t follow reasonably well if eavesdropping on a conversation they are having with someone else who shares the same other-than-mine dialect. Perhaps many of the Slavic languages are similar – dialect differences significant enough to be noticeable but not significant enough to dramatically impede communication (esp when people are aware they are speaking across a dialect boundary and either code-switch a bit or at least slow down and choose their words more carefully).

    (FWIW the one notable type of native AmEng speakers that I have personally noted on several instances having a bit of difficulty following — although probably not nearly so much so as whatever UK regional dialect I would find most opaque — were white South Carolinians a generation or more older than myself — but there may well be other AmEng varieties I might find even trickier but have had less exposure to.)

  34. J.W. Brewer says:

    I take zyxt’s point that back c. 1918 many Slovenes and Croats assumed they were going to be equal partners with the Serbs in the new Jugoslavija but it didn’t work out that way, both as to the fine details of language policy and otherwise. (There’s a historicity-not-guaranteed anecdote about some famous Croatian nationalist who had been imprisoned under the Hapsburgs for being an agent of pro-Serb irredentism but was then treated so badly by the new regime that after being released from their prison in turn sometime during the ’20’s he asked friends to lend him X dinars and when asked why said “that’s the train fare to Vienna and I want to go visit Franz Josef’s grave and tell him I was wrong.”)

    But you would assume that, Serbia being landlocked, the Serb-military-command register of the regional dialect continuum would have been seriously lacking in a lot of the nautical jargon you would need for naval purposes and that the simplest thing to do would have been to adopt the lexemes already in use along the coast by Croats and/or Montenegrins.

  35. Etienne says:

    Hans: Thank you for confirming that “South Slavic” is a geographical and not a linguistic term. You and other hatters may be interested to know that the same is true of the now-extinct “Dalmatian language(s)”: a recent study has shown that the various “Dalmatian” varieties once spoken along the Eastern Adriatic coast shared no common innovation whatsoever. Just to underscore this point: studies on the substrate vocabulary (chiefly relating to fishing) of “Dalmatian” origin found in coastal Croatia, Montenegro and Albania have shown an amazing degree of lexical diversity along the entire Dalmatian coast: as a rule, any given marine animal species or maritime tool will be designated with different words, deriving from distinct Latin etyma, at different points along the Eastern Adriatic.

    J.W. Brewer: when I was working in the American South (in a mid-sized city, nota bene!) I occasionally went to a fast food restaurant close to my place of work, and the (in-group!) speech of the African-American teen girls working there was -consistently!- quite utterly incomprehensible to my ears, despite my having some (theoretical) knowledge of the salient features of Black English as a result of a sociolinguistics seminar or two. I did notice that white Southerners seemed to have no trouble understanding them, whereas (white) native speakers of non-Southern English did seem to find their speech as impenetrable as I did.

  36. Etienne, What’s the reference for the Dalmatian study? Are the etymologies of the various fish and fishing terms transparent? That is, did every community have to invent them all from scratch?

  37. Etienne says:

    Y: Here is the article I was talking about: It is by a Croatian linguist, but is in Catalan: however, even if you do not read Catalan the maps should give you a good idea of the lexical diversity present. Some of the words designating various fish species are not found anywhere else in Romance-speaking Europe, and thus may be local Romance coinages which were subsequently borrowed by Slavic speakers:

    http://www.academia.edu/3998853/Una_proposta_per_a_latles_dels_vestigis_lexicals_dalm%C3%A0tics_a_la_riba_oriental_de_lAdri%C3%A0tic

    For those Hatters who do read Catalan and find the topic interesting: Bona Lectura!

  38. Thanks! The Catalan isn’t a serious handicap. It’s quite interesting.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    “Absolutely” referred to Trond Engen’s comment; what seems to be my dad’s (I had sent him a link to the comment with all the beer commercials) wasn’t there yet.

    isn’t a serious handicap

    Indeed not:

    Però el temps no ensafavoreix: les parles illenques de Croàcia, així que els oficis tradicionals, van desapareixent ràpidament i amb ells també l’últim record de la Romània submersa de l’Adriàtic oriental.

    I’ll read most of the rest later. 🙂

  40. gwenllian says:

    I meant the former. Hardly anyone speaks Cakavian or Kajkavian these days.

    They’re certainly slowly but surely declining, but some 40% of the Croatian population (30% Kajkavian, 10% Chakavian) is a far cry from “hardly anyone”.

    I agree with zyxt about attitudes to the YNA, and the reason for the supposed lack of rumours. It was certainly something people couldn’t openly talk about in public, but the army was absolutely not seen as a symbol of true fraternity and unity among non-Serbs. Quite the opposite. The situation zyxt describes caused widespread unease and dissatisfaction with the army and the police, and was one of the main factors undermining any possibility of true brotherhood and unity and eventually leading to the country’s dissolution.

    and this was supported (if not inspired) from abroad

    Sadly, Yugoslavia needed no support or inspiration from abroad to collapse.

  41. “Absolutely” referred to Trond Engen’s comment; what seems to be my dad’s (I had sent him a link to the comment with all the beer commercials) wasn’t there yet.

    Sigh. My clever comment is thus rendered both mistaken and unfounded.

  42. nemanja says:

    There’s no way that 40% of the Croatian population speaks kajkavian or chakavian. Probably more like 5% for both together.

  43. Bathrobe says:

    I’m always in two minds about “fomented from abroad” statements. Citizens of (former) socialist countries have an inordinate fondness for them (the other day a Chinese told me that the killing of PLA soldiers in the lead up to the quashing of the Tiananmen students was fomented from abroad). On the other hand dirty tricks and clandestine intervention seem to be part of the stock-in-trade of big imperial powers, so sometimes such claims are all too believable. Still, constantly resorting to them as a default explanation does push one’s credulity.

    The discussion of the Yugoslavian situation has brought a slight breath of that area’s fraught sectarian politics to LH. The picture of dominant groups forcing themselves on smaller or weaker groups does not, alas, seem to be confined to the former Yugoslavia.

  44. gwenllian: They’re certainly slowly but surely declining, but some 40% of the Croatian population (30% Kajkavian, 10% Chakavian) is a far cry from “hardly anyone”.
    nemanja: There’s no way that 40% of the Croatian population speaks kajkavian or chakavian. Probably more like 5% for both together.

    I think we need to decide what ‘speaks’ means and what ‘kajkavian’/’chakavian’ means. 😀

    I think nemanja’s figure of 5% would refer to the type of person who understands the standard but in all everyday situations (family, friends, buying groceries, but also work), speaks a pretty distinct form of their dialect.
    I think gwenllian’s figure of 40% would refer to those people who are pretty much balanced bidialectals, and who usually speak a kind of an urban mix of the standard and dialect (until and if they move to Zagreb to study, that is).

    EDIT: And as for the situation in the YNA… well, as with most things related to the 1918-1991 period, you still tend to hear very different things, depending on who you ask (even within the same country let alone across different ex-Yugoslav republics).

  45. bulbul le parisien says:

    Etienne,

    my understanding is that there is a sharp divide between Eastern Slovak and Ruthenian
    Somewhat sharp, but some isoglosses are quite gradual. For example, the verbal suffix for first person singular present tense is (plus ou moins) -m in West Slavic, as in Slovak, but -u in Eastern Slavic, as in Ruthenian. Except the moment you cross the Slánske vrchy mountain range (as I used to about twice a month when I was a kid, to visit my mother’s family), you suddenly start hearing robu (“I do”) and vidu (“I see”) instead of robim and vidzim. (Note to self: ask mom and all the ants about zna- “to know”, because znaju doesn’t seem right). Same with a bunch of other isoglosses, like the verb for “speak” – hutorec in proper Eastern Slovak, but kazac in my mother’s dialect and Ruthenian.

  46. From the descriptions of Kajkavian on-line it seems like Kajkavian could just as easily be described as a dialect of Slovene rather than Croatian (or maybe Slovene is a collection of Alpine dialects of Kajkavian). Just to confuse the issue more.

  47. J.W. Brewer says:

    I take it that probably wasn’t the point of the usage of the term in the Catalan scholarly piece, but it turns out that “Romania Submersa” can be used for fantasy-nationalistic ends at least as aggressively (esp in terms of impact on the former Yugoslavia) as e.g. “Italia Irredenta.” https://lorec10.deviantart.com/art/The-Reconquista-of-Romania-Submersa-598800494

  48. Bill W. says:

    The quote from Dorren’s book above is somewhat out of context. As has already been noted, Dorren’s point is not that Slavic languages other than Slovene have no dialect differentiation, but rather that the various dialects of each such language don’t pose an insurmountable barrier to communication among their speakers. I have no idea whether this generalization is true for Slavic languages other than Russian or not, although my impression is that it is more or less true for Russian.

    But Dorren’s point about Slovene is that Slovenia’s mountainous topography has isolated Slovene-speaking communities from one another to such an extent that at least some Slovene dialects are not mutually intelligible. Again, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this observation, but it doesn’t seem implausible on its face.

  49. gwenllian says:

    From the descriptions of Kajkavian on-line it seems like Kajkavian could just as easily be described as a dialect of Slovene rather than Croatian (or maybe Slovene is a collection of Alpine dialects of Kajkavian). Just to confuse the issue more.

    Pretty much. The divide between Slovene and Croat identity and Slovenian and Kajkavian pretty much just follows the millennium-old border. But don’t suggest that to Slovenes or Kajkavians. Especially these last few years when tensions have been rising over border disputes and the issue of refugees passing through the region. Though in my experience, there’s very little tension or hostility to be felt between Slovenes and Croats in everyday life, especially in actual border towns and villages.

  50. gwenllian says:

    There’s no way that 40% of the Croatian population speaks kajkavian or chakavian. Probably more like 5% for both together.

    You’re very much misinformed on the subject.

    I think we need to decide what ‘speaks’ means and what ‘kajkavian’/’chakavian’ means. 😀

    I think nemanja’s figure of 5% would refer to the type of person who understands the standard but in all everyday situations (family, friends, buying groceries, but also work), speaks a pretty distinct form of their dialect.
    I think gwenllian’s figure of 40% would refer to those people who are pretty much balanced bidialectals, and who usually speak a kind of an urban mix of the standard and dialect (until and if they move to Zagreb to study, that is).

    The 40% is all native speakers of dialects under the Kajkavian and Chakavian umbrellas.

    I totally get what you’re getting at with your descriptions, but it gets complicated because the same person, for example, will speak in their dialect at work with co-workers who speak it, and will switch to either the speech of the nearest Shtokavian urban center or some mixture between the two with co-workers who don’t. Same goes for friends, shops, etc. During an average day, a non-Shtokavian who both lives and works in a non-Shtokavian area will mostly use their dialect, one who commutes to a Shtokavian center for work or school will speak a lot of both, while the one who’s moved to that center will mostly use Shtokavian but still use their dialect in its non-“watered down” form with others in their situation. And people move between those categories, often multiple times in their lives.

    Of course, the dialects themselves are certainly under heavy Shtokavian influence, and have been for many decades, but at this point, most of them would still present a barrier to communication if there were no standard to resort to.

    The discussion of the Yugoslavian situation has brought a slight breath of that area’s fraught sectarian politics to LH. The picture of dominant groups forcing themselves on smaller or weaker groups does not, alas, seem to be confined to the former Yugoslavia.

    Yugoslavia, taken at face value at least, was a nice idea, and I don’t believe, as many in ex-Yu do, that it was doomed no matter what. And it wasn’t all bad even in practice, but ultimately the execution was nowhere near good enough to overcome the mistrust, from all sides. After Tito’s death, the 1980s collapse of the economy, and the Kosovo crisis, collapse was inevitable.

  51. J.W. Brewer says:

    gwenllian presents I guess a third alternative I had not specifically thought of before although I expect it’s probably present in a number of places outside the former Yugoslavia, i.e. there are in fact dialect differences that are significant enough that communication between people who insisted on speaking the purest/deepest versions of divergent dialects might be difficult, but pretty much everyone who speaks any of the dialects (or at least the more divergent-from-standard ones) can and does code-switch to some degree, with everyone’s talking-with-outsiders register being close enough to everyone else’s to make relatively smooth communication possible throughout the whole range of the “language” or dialect continuum. But maybe also making deliberately opaque-to-outsiders in-group conversations possible when desired?

  52. David Marjanović says:

    there are in fact dialect differences that are significant enough that communication between people who insisted on speaking the purest/deepest versions of divergent dialects might be difficult, but pretty much everyone who speaks any of the dialects (or at least the more divergent-from-standard ones) can and does code-switch to some degree, with everyone’s talking-with-outsiders register being close enough to everyone else’s to make relatively smooth communication possible throughout the whole range of the “language” or dialect continuum

    That’s pretty much how German works nowadays.

  53. bulbul už zase bratislavský says:

    Bill W.,

    But Dorren’s point about Slovene is that Slovenia’s mountainous topography has isolated Slovene-speaking communities from one another to such an extent that at least some Slovene dialects are not mutually intelligible. Again, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this observation, but it doesn’t seem implausible on its face.

    No one is… Well, ok, *I* am not saying it’s implausible, quite the contrary. What I’m objecting is to is the description of this state of affairs as unique in the Slavic world, noting the example of Slovak. By the way, Slovakia is much more mountainous topographically than Slovenia is, something Dorren is not aware of since he says “Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Polish have always been spoken in predominantly flat countries… To a lesser degree, this is also true of Czech and Slovak.” This is a relief map of Slovakia. Those green areas in the South? Historically Hungarian, for the most part.

  54. Just to confirm Kollár didn’t know shit, I checked some of his works, the most pertinent is his chapter in Hlasowé o potřebě jednoty spisowného jazyka pro Čechy, Morawany a Slowáky (pp. 101). In it, he asserts (in Czech and archaic at that) that

    “… w Uhřích pak mezi Slowáky téměř tolik rozličných nářečí, kolik stolic a krajů slowenských, která wšak wlastněji jména nárečných stínů a odrodů zasluhují, nežli oprawdowých nářečí, nebo wšickni mohau mezi sebau tak srozumitedlně mluwiti…”

    “… among the Slovaks in Kingdom of Hungary* there are nearly as many dialects as there are provinces** and regions of Slovakia, yet they should more aptly be named accents and variants rather than true dialects, for each of them is intelligible with any other…”

    *Czech “Uhry”, Slovak “Uhorsko” as opposed to the post-1918 country called “Maďarsko” in both languages.
    **21 historical provinces at the time of publication, each could be subdivided into 2-3 regions.

    But then he proceeds to try to classify Slovak dialects into 7 subgroups and boy, does he mess it up with nonsense like “Slovak-Czech dialects”, “Polish-Slovak dialects” or “German-Slovak dialects”.
    You have to keep in mind that he was no disinterested observer: he wrote this at a time when the language wars raged on in Slovakia with those favoring Czech as the written standard and those who wanted to give Slovak the same status. Kollár was firmly on the former side and all his dialectological investigations were subordinate to his attempts to convince his fellow intellectuals to abandon their plans to raise Slovak to the status of a written languages. Occasionally, he even sacrificed consistency of argument, as evident here (p. 106):

    “Daremný a nesnesitedlný jest každý křik těch, kteří říkají: ‘pišme po slowensky, my nejsme Čechové!’ Povězte že, milí bratři, jak ‘po slowensky’? Tak jak Handrburci, či tak jako Krekači, či tak jako Trpáci, či tak jako Bernolák, či tak jako p. Čaplowič, či tak jako Šáryský Potemkin aneb spisowatel Šenku pálenčeného? Která stolice a které nářečíčko sobě tu přednost osobowati může?”

    “Pointless and insufferable is every cry of those who say ‘Let us write in Slovak, for we are not Czechs!’ Pray tell me, brethren, ‘which Slovak’? The Slovak of Handrburci (German community in the Nitra province), that of Krekači (the German community of Handlová), that of Bernolák (Western Slovak), that of Mr. Čaplovič (???), that of Šáryský Potemkin (???) or that of the author of Šenk pálenčený (a temperance pamphlet written in Eastern Slovak)? Which province and which microdialect can claim this primacy?”

    Well, if they are mutually intelligible, then it doesn’t matter, does it? Which is essentially what Štúr said, but he decided to pick the variety that he felt was the most central, both geographically, as well as in terms of isoglosses.

    Kollár goes on with his bullshit for a few pages, my favorite argument is that we don’t need a literature in another small language, “for it would surely grow to be but a small and pitiful plant, deprived of the water by the large trees of its neighboring Slavic nations, same as the shrubs of Dutch, Danish and Swedish literatures anguish and wither in the shade of the mighty German oak”.

  55. Sedem jezikov znam, pa vse koj svóvenji.
    ‘I know seven languages, and all of them are Slovenian.’

    —Carinthian proverb

  56. Sounds straight out of the Triune Monarchy of Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania.

  57. “There are a hundred ways of wasting paint, and the first way is to paint a sign in Vlox.” —Old proverb of the Triune Monarchy

    Alas, though we are explicitly told that Slovačko is written in Glagolitic, and we may presume that Gothic is written in Gothic script and Romanou in Latin, we do not know the script for Vlox, the language of the Veloshchii (though I would guess it is Cyrillic). Still less do we know what script, or even what language, was used by the (Pannonian) Avars in the 19C. If they were indeed related to the Caucasian Avars, then they may have continued to employ the Georgian script, since they were evidently not Islamized. Record-keeping in the Triune Monarchy must have been a nightmare.

  58. A nightmare or an employment opportunity, it all depends on your point of view.

  59. Picking up my earlier comment about languages used in the Austro-Hungarian armed forces. There were 3 official languages: German, Hungarian – used in the Honved, and Croatian – used in the Domobranstvo. Official languages were used for communication within the army beraucracy, and in other official publications.

    A larger number of languages were used as command languages – these, along with the official languages, were used to issue commands to the rank and file soldiers. This was possible because of the territorial structure of recruitment and location of army units. Eg. Units raised in the Kingdom of Bohemia were manned largely by Czechs, and served within Bohemia. The command language of those units was Czech, but the official language was German. Some kind of “army German” was also employed, but I haven’t been able to ascertain what that was.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    nářečíčko

    New favorite word.

  61. Re features of South Slav v East & West Slav, Katicic gives 2 examples: (1) merger of y and i, so that “byti” (to be) and “biti” (to beat, hit) are pronouced the same – “biti”; (2) “right”, as in the opposite of “left” is “desno”, not “pravo”.

  62. language of the Veloshchii

    I’ve speculated in the past whether this is an endonym or a distortion of Vlach (which Vlox obviously resembles), or possibly both at once, but I just don’t know enough about Slavic.

  63. The merger of “y” and “i” isn’t diagnostic of a genetic grouping “South Slavic”, as it isn’t an inherited feature; it hadn’t happened yet in Old Bulgarian. So it must have developed independently in Western and Eastern South Slavic, or it can be at most an areal feature. “desno” is not a common innovation, but rather a retention, as it contains the old IE root for “right”. “Pravyj” is a common innovation of the non-Southern languages, showing again South Slavic as a residual group.

  64. nemanja says:

    gwenllian, since, unlike me, you’re not a native speaker of BCS I don’t see how you could possibly think yourself competent to judge the relative frequencies with which people speak the various dialects. If you don’t read the papers, or watch TV, how could you possibly know or even have any vague sense other than some preconceived notion?

    Cakavian or Kajkavian are almost never heard or printed in Croatia today. Hell even my own grandfather, who was born and grew up on Korcula, did not speak cakavian.

    But yeah, please tell me more about how I’m misinformed.

  65. Hans , thanks for clarifying about y & i. On “desno”, Katicic also does say that it’s a retention.

  66. gwenllian says:

    gwenllian, since, unlike me, you’re not a native speaker of BCS

    Wrong again. And wildly jumping to assumptions with nothing to base them on again, too.

    Cakavian or Kajkavian are almost never heard

    Nope.

    or printed in Croatia today.

    Yep. More or less.

    Hell even my own grandfather, who was born and grew up on Korcula, did not speak cakavian.

    Is that the only thing you’re basing your bizarre conviction on?

    But yeah, please tell me more about how I’m misinformed.

    Sure. Hope this comment meets your expectations.

  67. Nemanja: Gwenllian has already administered a short sharp shock to your ignorant assumptions, but there are two more general points I want to add as the semi-official Speaker-To-Difficult-Participants.

    1) Hattics don’t make assumptions about other people’s status without evidence. If you looked through Gwenllian’s comments, you’d see repeated mentions of living in Croatia and speaking BCS. Why ever would you assume that they weren’t also a native speaker? Just from a Welsh pseudonym (explained in a comment on another page)? Pfui.

    2) Hattics are anti-essentialist. We don’t assume that just because Alice is an anglophone she knows more about English, or that because Bob is African American he knows more about U.S. black history, or that John the adoptive New Yorker has an intimate understanding of rural U.S. culture, than those who have studied these things.

    Feel free to attack people’s errors if you have evidence. If the evidence is of a personal nature, state it up front. Don’t attack other individuals, even if you believe they have attacked you first.

  68. J.W. Brewer says:

    Wait, “Hattics are anti-essentialist” is a pretty essentialist-sounding claim, isn’t it? Not that I disagree with it if taken to be an aspirational one. Perhaps there’s a “No True Hattic” stratagem to deal with any apparent counterexamples.

  69. Trond Engen says:

    @nemanja, gwenilian: I hope this place is big enough for both of you. And for zyxt. And for as many Marjanovićes we can muster. And … This discussion has been (and could be even more) edifying for the interested non-speaker. It seems that the two of you address the issue from different viewpoints, be it geographically or sociolinguistically, and the fact that you see it so differently is linguistically interesting in itself. If you are willing to let us stand by while you work out how and why that is, those of us watching would be much wiser in the end.

  70. Trond Engen says:

    Hattics are essentially anti-essentialists fighting essentialism with antithetical essentalism.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    Was there confusion with me? I’m not a native speaker (anymore), have barely been to the whole region, and at this point my Polish is better than my FYLOSC.

    Wait, “Hattics are anti-essentialist” is a pretty essentialist-sounding claim, isn’t it?

    “You are all individuals!”
    “We are all individuals –”
    “I’m not!”

    It seems that the two of you address the issue from different viewpoints, be it geographically or sociolinguistically, and the fact that you see it so differently is linguistically interesting in itself.

    Comparable shocks of my life: 1) having, in the 5th year of school, a classmate who spoke only (Austrian) Standard German; 2) moving to Vienna and learning that a) Viennese mesolect existed and b) was native for my whole generation, who told me, when I asked why they were speaking Standard, told me they had to as a matter of school policy or something as if I had went back 50 years to the kinds of attitude that lost my dad’s Hungarian; 3) conversely, Stu here learning that I, with all my education (and intellectual family background, though I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that), speak a dialect at all.

    1) Later I heard, once, that there’s a handful of families in Linz – probably some kind of historical upperclass, though I’d never have guessed from that classmate, who was non-linguistically unremarkable – who have been speaking only Standard for generations. Those families are supposed to be well known for that. – At the same time I had a classmate I only ever heard speaking a very northern Standard German, but that wasn’t surprising, he was from Bremen. 2) I’ve never encountered this policy in theory or practice. I guess it was still in people’s heads a generation after it had lost its applicability.

  72. This discussion has been (and could be even more) edifying for the interested non-speaker. It seems that the two of you address the issue from different viewpoints, be it geographically or sociolinguistically, and the fact that you see it so differently is linguistically interesting in itself. If you are willing to let us stand by while you work out how and why that is, those of us watching would be much wiser in the end.

    I agree!

  73. Why my mother spoke only Standard German.

    As for anti-essentialism, I considered using non-essentialist instead but decided it was not strong enough for what is, after all, a rebuke.

  74. Bulbul le parisien:
    …the moment you cross the Slánske vrchy mountain range (as I used to about twice a month when I was a kid, to visit my mother’s family), you suddenly start hearing robu (“I do”) and vidu (“I see”) instead of robim and vidzim.

    In Ukrainean, roblu(I do/work) vs. robym(o)(we do/work), in Russian vizhu(I see) vs. vidim (we see).

  75. Etienne says:

    1-Hans: Thank you for confirming that “South Slavic” is not a linguistic label. I might add that the merger of /i/ and /ɨ/ is so widespread outside of “South Slavic” that, even if its status as a pan-“South Slavic” innovation could be established, this innovation could not serve to linguistically define “South Slavic” as a subgroup clearly distinct from other Slavic subgroups.

    2-Nemanja, Gwenllian: allow me to third (since our cyberhost has seconded) Trond Engen’s suggestion: I too would find a discussion between the two of you, on the subject of the number of Chakavian + Kajkavian speakers in Croatia, most illuminating: I have learned a lot of Slavic linguistics (and literature!) here at Casa Hat and would love to learn more.

    3-Speaking of which, Nemanja: you wrote that-

    “Hell even my own grandfather, who was born and grew up on Korcula, did not speak cakavian.”

    Now, I am no Slavic scholar or dialectologist (Other hatters can confirm this, rest assured!). However, according to this map (see page 3 of 9)-

    http://www.matica.hr/media/uploads/knjige/kapovicpha038.pdf

    -Korcula was traditionally partly Shtokavian-speaking. Could your grandfather, Nemanja, simply have acquired this “Korcula Shtokavian” as his L1?

    4-Oh, a question to those Hatters who do know something about Slavic linguistics: I assume Croatian “narječje” and (Old) Czech “nářečíčko” (David Marjanović’s favorite word, see his comment above) are partial cognates? (? With a diminutive in Czech lacking in Croatian?)

  76. The answer to your number 4 is “more or less”. The words contain the same Slavic elements, but without having a Croatian etymological dictionary at hand, I assume that they don’t descend from a Proto-Slavic word for “dialect”, but that the Croatian word is a calque from Czech, probably from the 19th century, when many Slavic languages created “native” replacements for learned words, frequently calqued on Czech.

  77. Louis Jay Herman, in his Dictionary of Slavic Word Families (p. 401), says Serbo-Croatian narječje is borrowed from Russian наречие, “as are in all probability the Polish and Czech words” (narzecze and nářečí respectively).

  78. Kollár apparently also invented word popodnářečíčko with the meaning unknown to me (didn’t find it in context). Going by intuition derived from Russian, if nářečí means dialect, nářečíčko would be a sub-dialect, podnářečíčko then is sub-sub-dialect, and popodnářečíčko… you’ve got the idea.

  79. David Marjanović says:

    With a diminutive in Czech lacking in Croatian?

    Two diminutives in a row, as you should expect from Czech.

  80. Чешский народушко…

  81. David Marjanović says:

    Obligatory old Polish joke about the Czech language:
    Darth Vader: “Ja sam tvůj tatiček!”
    Luke: “Jooooo!”

  82. Etienne says: 4-Oh, a question to those Hatters who do know something about Slavic linguistics: I assume Croatian “narječje” and (Old) Czech “nářečíčko” (David Marjanović’s favorite word, see his comment above) are partial cognates? (? With a diminutive in Czech lacking in Croatian?)

    “Rječ” means “word” in Croatian, but its meanings also have connotations of “speech” or “utterance”. The words “narječje” and “razrječje” entered common use in Croatian in the 19th century to designate dialects and subdialects. They may have been used earlier, but I’d need to do a bit more digging around sources to confirm that. Their use in Croatian 19th century philology is derived from Dobrovsky’s theories that broadly, there is the one Slavic language, with 4 dialects “narječje” (Russian, Polish, Czechoslovak, and South Slav – whether it be described as Illyrian or Serbian). These, in turn were divided into several subdialects “razrječje”. “Razrječje” is no longer used in Croatian.

    In Croatian, at least according to Katičić, the hierarchy now seems to be “govor” or “mjesni govor” (local speech), “narječje” (group of local speeches, dialect), “dijalekt” (dialect), “jezik” (language).

    In terms of the cognates or borrowings, I’m not sure if “narječje” is a borrowing from Czech “nářečí”, from Russian, Old Slavic, or a native term. But Kollár ‘s use of the term “nářečíčko” strikes me as pejorative, ie. he’s saying that they speak these tiny little dialect that no one cares about; instead of speaking a “nářečí” – a proper dialect in the Dobrovskian sense.

  83. On the origins of Slav dialects, what has struck me as odd is that there has not been any work, to my knowledge, to link the language of Serby (ie. Lusatian Sorbs) to Srbi (ie. South Slav Serbs). If Serbs came to the Balkans from the north, did they come from Lusatia? If so, surely they spoke a West Slavic dialect, like their present day cousins, and only later acquired the speech of the local Slavs who arrived in the Balkans before them. Similar to the Bulgarians, who lost their language, but gave their name to the who were already in the Balkans beforehand.

    With Croats, the situation is a bit different, because there is no remnant Croat population in the north at present. Although, there is some evidence of the presence of Croats (sometimes called White Croats) in the area from present day Bohemia, through Cracow into Ukraine. The original Croats could have spoken West or East Slavic, or some transitional dialect that may have disappeared after they moved south.

  84. David Marjanović says:

    Or all the diversity of Slavic is younger than these tribes, and only formed after they had reached their current locations.

    Old High German presents some interesting variation, Germanic was spoken in little to none of the later OHG area in the time of Tacitus, and we know of the Migration Period and earlier movements like those of the Marcomanni & Quadi; and yet, to the best of my knowledge, none of this variety has yet been traced to a Tacitus-era geographic source. Admittedly, nobody seems to have tried, but part of the reason for that must be that it’s really not easy.

  85. @LH: Thanks for checking. Vasmer only says about наречие that it is a calque on Latin adverbium, which makes sense for the meaning “adverb” for the word, but doesn’t explain the meaning “dialect”. My Croatian etymological dictionary (Gluhak) doesn’t have the word (the article reći doesn’t discuss derivations of the root); Brückner (for Polish) calls narzecze “new” and “bookish” (as compared to gwar), but doesn’t say anything about any source for a loan or calque. I don’t have any Czech etymological dictionary at hand.

  86. @zyxt: It seems that some of the tribal names are older than the Slavic migrations. Sorbs / Serbs are not the only ones showing up in different places; I have also seen “White Croats” mentioned in Southern Poland.

  87. My Czech etymological dictionary just derives nářečí from řeč, with no further explanation.

  88. Rodger C says:

    I’ve seen hrvat explained as a borrowing of a Grimm’s-law version of “Carpathian.” I’m interested in seeing whether this idea will survive the scrutiny of Hatters.

  89. zyxt says: In Croatian, at least according to Katičić, the hierarchy now seems to be “govor” or “mjesni govor” (local speech), “narječje” (group of local speeches, dialect), “dijalekt” (dialect), “jezik” (language).

    Just to correct the record, the hierarchy for the purposes of dialectology is actually: “mjesni govor” then “dijalekt” then “narječje” and finally “jezik”.

    For the study of standardised languages, Katičić gives this hierarchy: “interdijalekt”, “razgovorni jezik” (colloquial language), “književni jezik” (literary language), “standardni jezik” (standard language). Reference: Radoslav Katičić, »Hrvatski jezik«, Školska knjiga, Zagreb, 2013.

  90. Rodger C says: I’ve seen hrvat explained as a borrowing of a Grimm’s-law version of “Carpathian.”

    “Hrvat” does not have a clear etymology. It seems that the most favoured opinion is that “Hrvat” is an Iranian word. I think it’s mainly because of the “hrv” sequence which is more common in Iranian languages than in Slavic languages.

    I believe a couple of other Slavic nations also don’t have a clear etymology either: Serbs and Czechs.

  91. Simplicissimus says:

    A couple of throwaway comments (and youtube links) concerning the vibrancy of Kajkavian and Čakavian, for whatever they’re worth:

    1) Putting aside the considerable output of poetry and song in both Kajkavian and Čakavian (at the intersection of which, for instance, are the very reputable folk-punk band Cinkuši’s excellent and eminently youtube-able versions of bits of Krleža’s Balade Petrice Kerempuha, one of the most important works of 20th century Croatian poetry and written exclusively in Krleža’s own idiosyncratic hyper-erudite Kajkavian), there have been entire major TV series commissioned by Radio Televizija Zagreb in the 60s-70s that were filmed entirely in hot-blooded Čakavian (Naše Malo Misto, Velo Misto) and Kajkavian (Gruntovčani, Mejaši), sans subtitles, that still get shown on Croatian state TV. In particular, Naše Malo Misto and Gruntovčani are considered serious cult classics of Croatian-language TV.

    2) As I think has been mentioned above (?), a heavily Germanised urban Kajkavian, not the neo-Štokavian Ijekavian Croatian literary norm, is the traditional social prestige dialect of Zagreb, and is at least passively familiar even to Zagrepčani who exclusively speak Štokavian and have Štokavian- or Čakavian-speaking family backgrounds. The current mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, a native neo-Štokavian Ijekavian speaker from Herzegovina, has caused some amusement by conspicuously peppering his own speech with Kajkavianisms.

    3) Some pertinent youtube links, because why not:

    a) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c9V8omECys Cinkuši Miroslav Krleža, Nenadejano Bogčije Zveličenje, arranged and performed by Cinkuši
    b) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mY_fSJ4w3yY Miroslav Krleža, Ciganjska, arranged and performed by Cinkuši
    c) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXmxWCjmOxA Vladimir Nazor, Galiotova Pesan (a staple poem in the Croatian school curriculum, written in Čakavian), in one of two (!) a cappella arrangements
    d) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpgPIIkUS9U&t=4s Naše Malo Misto, Episode 1
    e) https://youtu.be/6G-8DOe4T8U A particularly well known scene from Gruntovčani

  92. There’s also at least one metal band that sings in Chakavian:
    https://pometracrijeva.bandcamp.com/album/a-metal

  93. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    W. Boryś confirms that narzecze is based on Russian наречие and first attested in the 19th century. Czech nářečí is of the same origin according to him.

    (as compared to gwar),

    To nitpick a little: gwara is ‘dialect, patois’, gwar is ‘buzz, noise’ (of human voices).

  94. gwenllian says:

    Just to correct the record, the hierarchy for the purposes of dialectology is actually: “mjesni govor” then “dijalekt” then “narječje” and finally “jezik”.

    I’d say narječje, the way it is used in Croatia, is basically a way of not saying that Shtokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian are separate languages.

    1) Putting aside the considerable output of poetry and song in both Kajkavian and Čakavian (at the intersection of which, for instance, are the very reputable folk-punk band Cinkuši’s excellent and eminently youtube-able versions of bits of Krleža’s Balade Petrice Kerempuha, one of the most important works of 20th century Croatian poetry and written exclusively in Krleža’s own idiosyncratic hyper-erudite Kajkavian), there have been entire major TV series commissioned by Radio Televizija Zagreb in the 60s-70s that were filmed entirely in hot-blooded Čakavian (Naše Malo Misto, Velo Misto) and Kajkavian (Gruntovčani, Mejaši), sans subtitles, that still get shown on Croatian state TV. In particular, Naše Malo Misto and Gruntovčani are considered serious cult classics of Croatian-language TV.

    All of this is true, and the works you mention are indeed classics of Croatian culture. Note though how, except for Cinkuši, everything mentioned was created and accepted by wider society a very long time ago. Velo misto and Gruntovčani are the last major non-Shtokavian TV productions, and they are 40 years old.

    Balade Petrice Kerempuha were published in 1936, and I have trouble thinking of truly mainstream (even on a regional level, let alone national) non-Shtokavian literary works after the 1950s. There is, as you say, considerable output of poetry, and long may it continue. But no matter how much quantity and quality there is, it just doesn’t reach the mainstream anymore, let alone gain widespread mainstream acceptance.

    It’s my impression that Kajkavian and Chakavian art is unfortunately well and truly niche nowadays, with only a couple of relatively recent exceptions in music, e.g. Gustafi or Zadruga. Both, btw, bands whose heyday was in the 90s, with very few likely candidates on the music scene to carry the torch.

    a heavily Germanised urban Kajkavian, not the neo-Štokavian Ijekavian Croatian literary norm, is the traditional social prestige dialect of Zagreb, and is at least passively familiar even to Zagrepčani who exclusively speak Štokavian and have Štokavian- or Čakavian-speaking family backgrounds

    An urban Kajkavian was the social prestige dialect of Zagreb back in the time so lovingly depicted in Tko pjeva, zlo ne misli. Just as Split was a Chakavian city in the times depicted in Naše malo misto and Velo misto. But both cities have been firmly Shtokavian for decades, with some residual kajkavianisms and chakavianisms respectively. The biggest city in Croatia in which has not yet become Shtokavian would be Varaždin at around 40 000 inhabitants.

  95. This is fascinating stuff; thanks to all the well-informed commenters! (I really must read the Krleža I bought many years ago…)

  96. gwenllian says:

    This discussion has been (and could be even more) edifying for the interested non-speaker. It seems that the two of you address the issue from different viewpoints, be it geographically or sociolinguistically, and the fact that you see it so differently is linguistically interesting in itself. If you are willing to let us stand by while you work out how and why that is, those of us watching would be much wiser in the end.

    2-Nemanja, Gwenllian: allow me to third (since our cyberhost has seconded) Trond Engen’s suggestion: I too would find a discussion between the two of you, on the subject of the number of Chakavian + Kajkavian speakers in Croatia, most illuminating: I have learned a lot of Slavic linguistics (and literature!) here at Casa Hat and would love to learn more.

    I am definitely always open to a discussion, but the numbers I gave aren’t my own estimates (though they’re definitely in line with them), they’re the actual percentages always given in the rare occasion the issue of narječja and their fate is discussed by the wider public, so finding the source would be the best thing to do in the case of this particular disagreement.

    I can’t seem to find an official one, though, just a lot of study aid resources and media reports, none of which mention or link to the source. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    The commonly reported numbers are certainly in line with demographic distribution and my real life experience, but there’s nothing like finding the official sources they originate from.

  97. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    Btw it occurred to me that the word narzecze isn’t normally used to talk about Polish dialects anymore, instead it came to be associated with the unwritten languages of various uncivilized/tribal peoples (it instantly brings the likes of black Africans, Native Americans, New Guineans in 19th century descriptions or adventure books to my mind). It can also refer to a jargon/slang, it may be closest to English ‘lingo’.

  98. gwenllian says:

    I really must read the Krleža I bought many years ago…

    Just as a note, Krleža mostly wrote in Shtokavian. The diminishing presence of Kajkavian in the public domain and the question of its fate in Zagreb and elsewhere spurred him into writing Balade, in which he famously points the finger at Ljudevit Gaj, one of the leaders of the Illyrian movement and a Kajkavian, as the undertaker of his own language.

    V megli sem videl, videl sem v megli:
    seh križnih putov konec i kraj …
    V meglenom blatu, v pogrebnom maršu,
    otkod nas nigda več ne bu nazaj,
    Ileri kak pilki, faklonosi,
    pokapali su paradno starinsku reč: KAJ.
    Kak zvon je KAJ germelo,
    kak kres je KAJ plamtelo,
    kak jogenj, kak harfa vekomaj,
    a oberpilko v gali,
    s pogrebnom faklom v roki,
    med ilerskim fanti,
    mertvečkimi snuboki,
    španceral se
    doktor Ludwig von Gay.

  99. Simplicissimus says:

    You’re absolutely right, gwenllian, Štokavian does reign supreme in Zagreb and Split—I suppose the works I cited are, in retrospect, swansongs for things that are well within living memory but that are nonetheless fading away. In particular, as you rightly point out, the Balade Petrice Kerempuha are (amongst other things) an explicit elegy for Kajkavian as a (would-be) literary language. But there’s nothing new under the sun, and I suppose that Split, for instance, is just undergoing in the 20th and 21st centuries what Dubrovnik underwent in the 16th—didn’t Džore Držić write in Čakavian, whilst his (more famous) nephew Marin wrote in Štokavian?

  100. Although the use of čakavian and kajkavian is giving way to štokavian, there is still literary and musical production in both čakavian and kajkavian. The author of “Naše malo misto” and “Velo misto” Miljenko Smoje wrote in his native Split čakavian until his death in 1995. His work was televised in the 1970s and the 1980s, and repeats of his series continue to be shown on Croatian TV. His work regularly appeared in newspapers.

    There are also academic publications dealing with čakavian (Čakavska rič published in Split) and kajkavian (Kaj published in Zagreb). In these publications, you can also find articles about the latest in čakavian and kajkavian literature eg. the 2017 issue of Čakavska rič had an article about the čakavian poetry of Vlasta Vrandečić Lebarić (born in 1953).

    Finally let’s not forget that Burgenland Croatian spoken in Austria is standardised on a čakavian basis.

  101. gwenllian says:

    You’re absolutely right, gwenllian, Štokavian does reign supreme in Zagreb and Split—I suppose the works I cited are, in retrospect, swansongs for things that are well within living memory but that are nonetheless fading away. In particular, as you rightly point out, the Balade Petrice Kerempuha are (amongst other things) an explicit elegy for Kajkavian as a (would-be) literary language. But there’s nothing new under the sun, and I suppose that Split, for instance, is just undergoing in the 20th and 21st centuries what Dubrovnik underwent in the 16th—didn’t Džore Držić write in Čakavian, whilst his (more famous) nephew Marin wrote in Štokavian?

    Some things can’t be helped, but I still wish more was being done. There just seems to be so little awareness of the reality of the situation and what it actually means for the future. So many people think a few weekly newspaper supplements and annual music events that appeal largely to elderly audiences can keep these languages going forever.

    The commonly reported numbers are certainly in line with demographic distribution

    In the absence of an official source, I’ve taken a closer look at demographics, and come up with between 6 and 7% for Chakavian and 25-28% for Kajkavian. These are just my estimates, and the latter is especially iffy and not to be taken seriously, as Kajkavian hasn’t largely contracted to a pretty compact area the way Chakavian has and I’m also not at all familiar with its eastern border areas. But I’m fairly confident Chakavian makes up no more than 7%.

  102. gwenllian says:

    Although the use of čakavian and kajkavian is giving way to štokavian, there is still literary and musical production in both čakavian and kajkavian. The author of “Naše malo misto” and “Velo misto” Miljenko Smoje wrote in his native Split čakavian until his death in 1995. His work was televised in the 1970s and the 1980s, and repeats of his series continue to be shown on Croatian TV. His work regularly appeared in newspapers.

    There are also academic publications dealing with čakavian (Čakavska rič published in Split) and kajkavian (Kaj published in Zagreb). In these publications, you can also find articles about the latest in čakavian and kajkavian literature eg. the 2017 issue of Čakavska rič had an article about the čakavian poetry of Vlasta Vrandečić Lebarić (born in 1953).

    Finally let’s not forget that Burgenland Croatian spoken in Austria is standardised on a čakavian basis.

    This is all true, but Simplicissimuss and I are lamenting the invisibility of Kajkavian and Chakavian in the mainstream, both national and local, in recent decades.

    Naše malo misto and Velo misto are firmly products of a long gone era. They are shown every couple of years because they are classics, but summer repeats of ’60s and ’70s classics being the most visibility non-Shtokavian varieties ever get reinforces the point about their invisibility these days.

    Musical production in Kajkavian and Chakavian largely appeals to an elderly audience, i.e. not the people who are supposed to carry these languages into the future. And even these genres have been slowly losing the importance and impact they used to have locally. In past decades, some songs from the Festival kajkavskih popevki or Melodije Istre i Kvarnera became local hits and classics, but that just doesn’t happen anymore.

    Very little music has been produced in recent times in Kajkavian or Chakavian that might have some wider appeal. There are exceptions like the ones mentioned above – Cinkuši, Gustafi, Livio Morosin, etc. But there is no scene. And, most importantly, no young people involved.

    Literary production is pretty much limited to poetry, and largely also follows this general patern of growing invisibility. This old column is a good example of just how the state treats non-Shtokavian literature and what its idea of fostering dialects actually looks like. It’s a text that’s always stayed with me because it was so unusual to see, in several ways. It’s rare to see people asserting Chakavian or Kajkavian as separate languages, and even rarer for someone to openly state something quite as grim as zato ča je danas čakavski zajik mići, a jutra će bit pokojni. And, of course, just seeing a non-Shtokavian text in a nationally mainstream publication is quite a shock in and of itself.

  103. David Marjanović says:

    This old column

    Also notable there:   s p a c e s   f o r   e m p h a s i s   (Saka beseda va libriće ima samo d v a slova.) and the apparent absence of any nonstandard spelling devices – is all of FYLOSC phonologically identical except for pitch accent?

  104. “absence of any nonstandard spelling devices ”

    I’d imagine that in čakavian, the standard č is used to write the same sound as in štokavian, namely, [tʃ], but ć is used to write [c] as the standard [tɕ] is absent from čakavian.

    On the other hand, kajkavian would use both č and ć to write the same sound, [tʃ], since [tɕ] is absent from kajkavian. This would be most apparent in names ending in -ić.

    This is to be expected given that the kajkavian parts of the country abandoned their old spelling system in the 1830s and 1840s: cz for [ts], ch for [tʃ], gy for [dʒ], ly for [ʎ], ny for [ɲ], sz for [s], s and ss for [ʃ] and [ʒ].

    Similarly, Dalmatian spelling was abandoned over a longer period, but the last books in the Dalmatian spelling and the (separate) Dubrovnik spelling are from c 1860s.

  105. gwenllian says:

    and the apparent absence of any nonstandard spelling devices – is all of FYLOSC phonologically identical except for pitch accent?

    I’m not really the right person to answer this, but I’d still like to try to add a bit to the differences zyxt has mentioned. What he describes is, in addition to the accent, the big phonological difference between Chakavian and Shtokavian – definitely the easiest way to spot a Chakavian even when speaking a Shtokavian devoid of any Chakavianisms in grammar or vocabulary. There also used to be no [dʒ] in Chakavian. Some Chakavian dialects are non-palatal. Some use a lot of diphthongs. I’m sure I’m missing something.

    Kajkavian has quite a few differences, most noticeably more vowel sounds. Again, I’m really bad at this, so any attempt at a closer description I’d just mess up (even more than I already am messing this up). I expect it’s closer to Slovene phonology than that of the other varieties put under the Serbo-Croatian umbrella.

    Some Shtokavian dialects, e.g. in the Dubrovnik region and Montenegro, also use diphthongs other varieties don’t.

  106. David Marjanović says:

    Thanks!

  107. Thanks gwenlian. There are definitely phonological differences in local dialects, including diphthong, sound mergers (eg. Cakavian merger of c and č, and more general čakavian loss of lj). However at the level of “interdijalekt” and colloquial speech, in Katičić’s categorisation, some of these differences may be lost.

    When it comes to writing, in the days when separate writing systems were used before the days of Gaj, both čakavian and kajkavian used a 5 vowel system – namely AEIOU – despite the actual vowel inventory of the dialect in question. This would indicate that the written or literary kajkavian and written or literary čakavian also had a phonological system of 5 vowels only.

    Kajkavian also used “y” for writing the vowel “i”, but only when it stood for the conjunction “and”. Belostenec in his dictionary published in 1740 differentiated an open and closed “e” by using e and ė, respectively, as well ë for the schwa, but this was not adopted more widely in kajkavian.

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