Croatian: Doviđenja! (Wait, isn’t that Serbian?)

Uh, yeah. About that video recap I promised last time? I’m still not able to do one, as my camera issues have not been resolved. I promise I will make it up to you, somehow.

But life goes on, as must I. We have only 13 languages left before 10 are selected. Can you believe we’ve come that far?

SUMMARY: Croatian, a South Slavic language, is spoken in Central Europe and the Balkans by almost 7 million people. It’s spoken mostly in Croatia (of course) whose settlers arrived to the region in the 600s. Croatia would be divided by two separate kingdoms in the Middle Ages before finding itself under the influence of Austria-Hungary and later the Ottoman Empire. Croatia reached a cultural zenith in the 1800s due to a revival in national identity, which helped to propagate the status of the language.

FINAL IMPRESSION: I love it. I think I like it just as much as Serbian, even though the two are almost exactly like.

I’m not exaggerating there. The opinion on whether or not Serbian and Croatian are separate languages varies. Some think that both differ in every area of linguistics (morphologically, phonetically and so on), while others think they’re just different versions of the same thing.

I am not a linguistic scholar by any means, but the differences are very minor to me. Both sound exactly the same and Serbian, when transliterated from Cyrillic, looks just like Croatian. When I asked several friends the degree of mutual intelligibility between the two languages, it was always 100 percent.

One of my friends mentioned that some Serbian words in Croatian tend to use the “j.” For example, in Serbian the word lepo and in Croatian lijepo, which both mean beautiful.

The biggest difference seems to be the vocabulary, as Serbian has more Greek and Turkish words, while Croatian borrowed from Latin (credit this to Croatia’s Roman Catholic heritage) and German. The months are also different, although the rule is reversed as Croatian uses Slavic-based names, while Serbian uses Latin-based ones.

Grammar seems to be the same. Croatian is just as inflective as Serbian. But here’s a shocker — I actually didn’t mind the noun cases! In fact, they seem to be way more logical than I had assumed. (There’s more to this and I will explain in later posts, but you can thank my blogger friend Benny from his post on Czech — this will definitely make me reconsider my earlier thoughts on Slavic languages.) While Croatian is SVO, the suffixes indicate cases and the declensions seem pretty regular, making word order not so important. Here’s an example of the verb pisati (to write) from Verbix:

First Person Singular (I) pišem
Second Person Singular (You write) pišeš
Third Person Singular (He/She writes) piše
First Person Plural (We write) pišemo
Second Person Plural (You all write) pišete
Third Person Plural (They write) pišu

Apart from these things, I think I prefer Croatian over Serbian because it uses a Latin alphabet, only because that would make it somewhat easier for me to learn. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like Serbian any less, especially the way it sounds. My favorite word, which I have been saying repeatedly since the last post is oprostite (sorry).

And on an end note, I just had to add this. Rock it out, Hrvatski-style!


Intelligibility: 4
Complexity: 3
Resonance: 4

COMING UP: Afrikaans

5 thoughts on “Croatian: Doviđenja! (Wait, isn’t that Serbian?)

  1. Keith,
    In Croatia they write in IJekavica dialect- mlIJeko
    In Serbia they write in Ekavica dialect – mlEko.

    So they write and pronounce with IJ.

  2. Hi!

    Great experiment you have there! But one must wonder: you realize that by the time it will be over, you could have been almost fluent in one language if you had pick one at the beginning?

    But of course, there is no fun in that 🙂


  3. the differences between croat and serbian might be slight to the uninitated, but the fact that their closely related doesn’t mean that they’re one and the same.

    as a comparative example take dutch or norwegian — technically, dutch is a german dialect, just as norwegian is a variant of swedish, but they’re still considered proper languages.


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