The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Serbian language

The Serbian language is one of the standard versions of the Central-South Slavic diasystem, formerly (and still frequently) called Serbo-Croatian. Serbian is used primarily in Serbia-Montenegro, Republika Srpska and by Serbs everywhere.

Serbian (српски)
Spoken in: Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and other countries
Region: Balkans
Total speakers: 10 million (25M)
Ranking: around 75 (44)


Official status
Official language of:

Serbia and Montenegro
Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Republika Srpska   Federation

Regulated by: Council for Standardization of the Serbian Language
Language codes
ISO 639-1 sr
ISO 639-2(B) scc
ISO 639-2(T) srp

It is based on the Štokavian dialect, has Western and Eastern spoken variants, and uses both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Differences from other versions include phonetic transcription of foreign names.

Serbian literature emerged in the Middle Ages, and included such works as Miroslavljevo jevandjelje (The Gospel of Miroslav) in 1192 and Dušanov zakonik (Dušan's Code) in 1349. Little secular medieval literature has been preserved, but what there is shows that it was in accord with its time; for example, Serbian Alexandride, a book about Alexander the Great, and a translation of Tristan and Isolde into Serbian.

In the mid 15th century, Serbia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, and for the next 400 years there was no opportunity for the creation of secular written literature. However, some of the greatest literary works in Serbian come from this time, in the form of oral literature, the most notable form being Serbian epic poetry. It is known that Goethe learned the Serbian language in order to read Serbian epic poetry in the original. Written literature was produced only for religious use in churches and monasteries, and held to Old Church Slavonic. By the end of the 18th century, the written literature had become estranged from the spoken language. In the early 19th century, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, following the work of Sava Mrkalj , reformed the Cyrillic alphabet by introducing the phonetic principle, as well as promoting the spoken language of the people as a literary norm.

The first printed book in Serbian was produced in Cetinje in 1494, only 40 years after Gutenberg's invention of movable type.

"Miroslavljevo jevandjelje" (The Gospel of Miroslav), a manuscript
"Miroslavljevo jevandjelje" (The Gospel of Miroslav), a manuscript

Two Serbian words that are used in many of the world's languages are vampire and slivovitz.

Figures of speakers according to countries:

See also

External links

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:26:54
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