UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A synopsis of the development of the Serbo-Croatian language and the inguistic contribution of Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic Juricic, Zelimir


The language of the Serbians and the Croatians is, with the exception of some differences of phonetic and lexical nature, one and the same; thus it is customary to speak of it as the Serbo-Croatian language. Speakers of Orthodox heritage use the Cyrillic alphabet, Croatians use the Latin alphabet. It is, however, only in very early times, and now, that there have been any general centripetal tendencies, to outweigh the centrifugal forces that have guided writers in different directions as far as the linguistic unity of the two cultural groups is concerned. The purpose of this study is to present the linguistic divergencies which followed after the Slavonic peoples first came into the Balkan peninsula and, in comparatively recent times, the common efforts to re-unite linguistically the divergent elements within the Serbo-Croatian group. A survey of the contents of the chapters of this thesis aims at showing how the author worked. Chapter I examines historical developments of the Serbian and the Croatian languages, as separate entities, from the time of Cyril and Methodius, up to the eighteenth century. I take into account various political and cultural factors which were responsible for important differences in the linguistic and literary development of the two peoples. Special emphasis Is placed on the life and works of the Lomonosov of the Yugoslav Renaissance, Dositej Obradović, the man who long strove to introduce the vernacular into literature and to put an end to unnatural, artificial languages hitherto used. Chapter II deals with 0bradović's disciples, Sava Mrkalj and Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Also examined, to some extent, is the work of Ljudevit Gaj who did the same in standarizing his language arid in adopting it for modern literature. The linguistic contributions of Karadžić, however, are dealt with in more detail. In spite of dogged opposition, he strove for, and achieved, the introduction of a simplified and rationalized alphabet, a reformed system of orthography and recognition of the national vernacular as the literary language, rejecting the confusion of Church Slavonic, Russian and Serbian used by writers before. Pew languages in the world have such a simple, phonemic orthography as Serbian has. Inspired by Vuk's work and fostered by nationalistic ideas, Gaj also decided that the language of the traditional ballads should also become the literary language of his people. Early in the nineteenth century both branches of the nation realized the advantage of using one language. Thus in the middle of the nineteenth century it was agreed that they should unite their literatures by the use of one, namely, "štokavian" form. This was sanctioned by the 1850 Agreement. Latin and Cyrillic were to be used for the same literary language and were granted equal status. One can fairly say that Vuk was an early leader in what is now an accepted theory in linguistic science, namely that a graphic symbol should consistently, as far as possible, record in print the phonemes of a language. Evidence for this is innovation in the Cyrillic alphabet used by the Serbians.

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