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8/16/2010 12:44 AM
 

The South Slavic language of Croatian is most commonly spoken by Croats in Croatia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The current form of the language is a mixture of Croatian Church Slavonic and the vernacular language which has been evolving for nearly a millennium. In terms of the history of the language, its development has been somewhat complicated, with a few notable events which have affected the language as we know it today.

Written Croatian documents can be traced back as far as the 9th century, mainly by looking at religious texts. This is because Old Church Slavonic (as it was then known) was the language of the liturgy at that time. The influence of religion, not just in Croatia but worldwide, was such that the language gradually gained momentum and began to be used for non-liturgical purposes. It was around this time that the language took on a specifically Croatian identity as opposed to a general Slavonic nature. This Croatian Old Slavonic continued to be used until the 16th century, and was employed alongside Latin and ‘Croatian’ as it was then known. Slowly, texts written solely in Croatian began to appear and began to be accepted, and it could have been partly due to the recognition of Croatian Old Slavonic that pure Croatian started to take off. During the 14th and 15th centuries the modern Croatian language emerged, although the Old Slavonic remained in its position of prominence until the 16th century. The Croatian of the 14th and 15th centuries only differs slightly from the standard language today.

Two domestic prince dynasties ruled semi-autonomous Croatia at the time of the 17th century. They attempted unification on both cultural and linguistic levels and selected an official language for the country. They chose a transitional dialect in a decision thought by many to be very wise, as it was a rare mixture of all the main contemporary Croatian dialects. The variant is still used now in the north, as well as in some parts of central Croatia. Almost inevitably, it was this form of the language which went on to become the language of administration and any important documents were recorded in this official tongue. It would seem that the Croatian language blossomed in harmony, and to a point this might be true, but both dynasties were executed in 1671, and at this point Austrian influences affected the way in which the Croatian language grew. It took four more centuries for the Croatian language to settle, due to the unusual complications incurred by its being a three dialect and three script tongue. What this means is that there are three ways to write and three ways to say everything.

The nuances in the language developed in an extremely complicated manner, but the area which really needs further exploration is the link Croatia has with Serbia and how this has affected the Croatian language. The two languages had been joined together for bureaucratic reasons during the 19th century, and the idea was born to create a Serbo-Croatian language. This meant many grammatical and orthographical reforms for Croats, with the main influences coming from South Slavic dialects. Joint languages have been a sought after ideal for countries such as Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia for many years, and the creation of hybrids often reflect the political trauma or upset of the time. For example, when Yugoslavia existed, a new joint language was attempted which bowed to Yugoslav ideology. Serbian and Croatian were forced to merge, but because there were far more Serbs than Croats, the language was heavily influenced by Serbian rather than Croatian. These linguistic ideals continued in one form or another for the best part of the 20th century and inevitably influenced the purity of the Croatian language. Linguists and writers of course were strongly opposed to the attempts to merge languages, as were many people with strong senses of national identity, as language is intrinsically linked to the essence of a country. The suppression of the Croatian language continued however and was used as a political tool in order to suppress the Croats themselves. For example, again during the Communist era the Serbian influence over the language again gained strength.

Declarations and agreements were always made which promised that Slavic languages were equal, but they simply failed to make any difference in the real world. This continued until the 1950’s when the “Novi Sad Agreement” was made, in a Serbo-Croatian orthography. Far from calming the public, it enraged them, prompting unrest which lasted until action was taken in 1967 when a collective Croatian reaction against such Serbian imposition erupted when nineteen Croatian scholarly institutions and cultural organizations dealing with language and literature (Croatian Universities and Academies), including foremost Croatian writers and linguists issued the "Declaration Concerning the Name and the Status of the Croatian Literary Language". In the Declaration, they asked for amendment to the Constitution recognising equality between Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian, along with the use of Croatian in schools and in the media. The declaration essentially ended the forced Serbo-Croatian unification which had existed for so long.


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5/28/2012 8:23 AM
 
Stjepan Krasić: The International Scope of the National Language Croatian as one of six world languages
Link: http://www.crowc.org/index.php/najnovije-vijesti/331-stjepan-krasi-the-international-scope-of-the-national-language-croatian-as-one-of-six-world-languages

This is an abridged edition of an extensive 576 page monograph reviewed by distinguished Croatian linguistics professors Radoslav Katičič and Josip Silić. It covers the crucial and not very well known time of Croatian linguistic and cultural history, when the Croatian peoples, like other European peoples, began to gather in a recognizable national group. This monograph was a result of a very long research conducted by the Dominican Stjepan Krasić, a professor of many years at the university of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, and currently professor emeritus of Dubronvik International University. Professor Krasić drew the attention of the academic circles in 1996 with his 1000 pages long monograph Generalno učilište Dominikanskog reda u Zadru ili 'Universitas Jadertina' 1396 – 1807 where he published his discovery of the first Croatian university, moving back the beginnings of higher education in Croatia by a couple of centuries. Now he surprised the cultural and academic community with a no less sensational discovery: as early as late 16th and early 17th century the Popes ordered the linguistic norming of the Croatian language (ordered the compiling of the first dictionaries, grammars, spelling books, they also chose the štokav dialect as the basis for the Croatian standard language, etc.).

The author explains that first in 1599 pope Clement VIII introduced the study of the Croatian language at university level, and then in the 1623 decree pope Urban VIII ordered that Croatian language be taught for at least two years at other well know universities throughout Europe (Bologna, Padua, Paris, Toulouse, Valencia, Vienna, Ingolstadt, Cologne, Louvaine, Salamanca and Madrid) together with Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldean and Arabic, placing it thus on equal standing with “bible” languages and languages of the high world cultures. In the background of these decisions were a number of pragmatic reasons and far-reaching plans among which the author especially emphasizes two: 1) up until the 14th century the in Europe the belief that prevailed was that all Slavic peoples spoke the same language, and that the only difference among them was the dialect, and that the Croatian “dialect” was the oldest, the most developed and the most beautiful, some even referred to it as “the root and mother of all Slavic languages”; 2) at the time of the Catholic Revival following the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the fight against the spreading of Protestantism, the Roman popes decided to publish church books for all Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church Slavic nations in the Croatian “dialect” so as to solve the great problem of the lack of church books and through doing that reconnect the Churches.

Thus, the Croatian language was recognized as “all-Slavic” language previously reserved for the Old Church Slavic language. As a confirmation of this, the author presents numerous and up to now unknown documents, and reaches a conclusion that this time represents the high point of the history of the Croatian language, never before and never after to be repeated. All this was taking place during a very crucial moment when, following the religious Reformation in Germany and the Catholic Revival after the Council of Trent, the political, cultural and religious map of Europe was being redrawn.

The image of Croatian language that comes as a result From Krasić's research is completely new and unexpected. The research presents the language as a language of a high world culture and great semantic possibilities. This great discovery, we are convinced, will interest all Croatian cultural history aficionados, especially Croatian expatriates. The book contains numerous illustrations. It could be a beautiful gift to foreign friends, especially well known libraries.

 
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