Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Acronyms, Wikipedia.


(sûr`bō-krōā`shən), language belonging to the South Slavic group of the Slavic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Slavic languagesSlavic languages,
also called Slavonic languages, a subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Because the Slavic group of languages seems to be closer to the Baltic group than to any other, some scholars combine the two in a Balto-Slavic subfamily of the Indo-European
..... Click the link for more information.
). Serbo-Croatian comprises several dialects, one of which (Stokavian) has given rise to modern standard Serbian, which is spoken mainly in Serbia and written mainly in a form of the Cyrillic alphabet, and modern standard Croatian, which is spoken mainly in Croatia written in a modified version of the Roman alphabet. The other dialects are mainly found in parts of Croatia and Bosnia, and the predominant pre-1990s dialect in Bosnia and in Montenegro was the same as that of modern standard Croatian. Traditionally, the dialects of Serbo-Croatian had a regional and historical basis instead of an ethnic one, but no true national Yugoslav language ever existed despite efforts by some to develop one. The political domination of Yugoslavia by Serbs, the reaction against that, and the breakup of Yugoslavia into more ethnically based nations has led to a greater emphasis on the differences (some of them introduced) between dialects as a mark of national and ethnic identity, particularly among Croatians and Bosniaks, and led Serbs and Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina to use modern standard Serbian or Croatian respectively. The tendency now is to speak of Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian languages, though those tongues remain largely mutually intelligible, a hallmark of dialects. The various forms of Serbo-Croatian are the native tongues of more than 18 million people in present-day Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Serbo-Croatian is not spoken to any significant extent outside these countries.

A feature that sets Serbo-Croatian apart from other Slavic languages is its use of musical pitch or intonation. It possesses four kinds of musical accentaccent,
in speech, emphasis given a particular sound, called prosodic systems in linguistics. There are three basic accentual methods: stress, tone, and length. In English each word has at least one primary stressed syllable, as in weath`er;
..... Click the link for more information.
: two rising inflections, one long and one short, and two falling inflections, one long and one short. This musical intonation apparently reflects the earlier Indo-European pitch accent. Grammatically, Serbo-Croatian resembles Polish.

The oldest extant texts in Serbo-Croatian date from the 12th cent. For a number of centuries the literary language of the Serbs was a variant of Church SlavonicChurch Slavonic,
language belonging to the South Slavic group of the Slavic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Slavic languages). Although it is still the liturgical language of most branches of the Orthodox Eastern Church, Church Slavonic is extinct today
..... Click the link for more information.
, and in Catholic Croatia it was usually Latin, although in the 13th cent. the Croats began to write down their spoken language. In the 19th cent. the Serbian philologist Vuk Stefanovíc KaradžićKaradžić, Vuk Stefanović
, 1787–1864, Serbian philologist and folklorist, of Moldavian descent. During his lifetime Karadžić published 10 volumes of Serbian folk poetry. He inaugurated language reforms and adopted the Serbian vernacular.
..... Click the link for more information.
, through his writings and efforts, accomplished several major linguistic reforms. The most important one instituted the spoken tongue as the basis of the literary language. Karadžić also worked for a more phonetic spelling and consequently for a revision of the alphabet to that end. See also Yugoslav (South Slav) LiteratureYugoslav or South Slav literature,
literature written in Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and, especially after World War II, Macedonian languages.
..... Click the link for more information.


See grammars by M. Partridge (1964) and O. Grozdić (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the language of the Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, and Muslim Bosnians, spoken mainly in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by approximately 15 million persons (1971, estimate).

Serbo-Croatian belongs to the southern group of the Slavic languages. It has three principal dialects: Ŝtokavian, Čakavian, and Kajkavian. Each vowel (i, e, a, o, u) can be long or short; of the 25 consonants, j, lj, nj, ć, and dj are soft and the others are hard. The consonant r can be syllabic, as in prst (“finger”). There are Ekavian (in Serbia) and Jekavian orthoepic norms: the old ě is pronounced e according to the former norm and je (in a short syllable) or ije (in a long syllable) according to the latter. Stress is expiratory and musical and may be long rising, as in rúka (“hand,” “arm”); short rising, as in nòga (“foot,” “leg”); long falling, as in vrât (“neck”); or short falling, as in öko (“eye”). Substantives, adjectives, pronouns, and some numerals are declined; there are six cases and a vocative form. The verb has four past tense forms. The perfect and pluperfect are compound tenses and the aorist and imperfect are simple tenses; the perfect predominates in the spoken language. The two future tense forms include auxiliary verbs equivalent to the Russian khotet’ (“to want”) or byt’ (“to be”).

Serbo-Croatian is written in two alphabets: a Cyrillic alphabet, similar to that of Russian, and a modified version of the Latin alphabet. The Cyrillic Ц corresponds to the Latin c, Ч to č, ħ to ć, 3 to z, ж to ž, џ to dž, Ҕ to dj or ж, ž to Ij, and Џ to nj.

The oldest texts in Serbo-Croatian date to the 12th century. The modern literary language was created in the first half of the 19th century on the basis of the folk subdialects of the Ŝtokavian dialect, with V. Karadzic and L. Gaj playing decisive roles in its formation. The literary language has regional differences, mainly lexical, caused by the dissimilar conditions under which the language developed in Croatia and Serbia.


Kul’bakin, S. M. Serbskii iazyk, 2nd ed. Poltava, 1917.
Gudkov, V. P. Serbokhorvatskii iazyk. Moscow, 1969.
Tolstoi, I. I. Serbsko-khorvatsko-russkii slovar’. Moscow, 1970.
Ivić, P. Dijalektologija srpskohrvatskogjezika. Novi Sad, 1956.
Brabec, I., M. Hraste, and S. Živković. Gramatika hrvatskosrpskoga jezika, 9th ed. Zagreb, 1970.
Stevanović, M. Savremeni srpskohrvatski jezik, 2nd ed., vols. 1-2. Belgrade. 1969–70.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Serbo-Croatian
the language of the Serbs and the Croats, belonging to the South Slavonic branch of the Indo-European family. The Serbian dialect is usually written in the Cyrillic alphabet, the Croatian in Roman
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Further research will also include a comparison of duration values predicted by these models with the values obtained by the duration model developed previously for the Serbo-Croatian language [13] and a detailed analysis of differences in terms of influential parameters, concept and complexity among these models.
In Serbia, and amongst Serbs generally who made up the largest single national group in SFRY, Serbian existed alongside Serbo-Croatian as the label commonly used.
Nada is a Serbo-Croatian language teacher who immigrated to Quebec from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, in 1995 with her husband and two daughters.
It was significant that, being written in ten languages (English, German, Greek, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian, Vietnamese, Dutch, and Arabic), it was the first multilingual bill to pass in the Australian parliament when the report was adopted (Galbally, 1978).
Estonian and its cognates, Serbo-Croatian, Latvian, English, Japanese), as well as, for example, the acoustics of Estonian diphthongs and consonants, including the palatalization of the latter, and segmental phonetics of several other languages.
Based on interviews, unpublished documents, correspondence and published works in Italian, French, German, English, and Serbo-Croatian, Hitler's New Disorder, a book that required more than thirty years of labour, adds to our understanding of the tragic fate of this Balkan country during World War II.
Jimmy Summers, once a small-college pitcher, refused to flee Croatia during the Serbo-Croatian war despite hearing bombs falling around him in his team's hometown of Karlovac, near the Serbian border.
I wish I had been the one who said this, but no one described Rod Blagojevich as "the prominent Serbo-Croatian governor of Illinois." Nobody felt the need to point out his ethnic roots when he was acting in a way that was demonstrably corrupt, even though the Serbo-Croatian community of Illinois clearly played a big role in helping Blagojevich get elected.
It is with this critical cluster in mind that I open my reflections on the cultural translatability of Faulkner's work into Slavic languages and cultures with the following question: "Da li ti Viljem Fokner stvarno zvuci slovenski?" ("Does William Faulkner sound very Slavic to you?" in Serbo-Croatian).
It's Serbo-Croatian. In drama school, they said that people will never believe you are American and that you speak English with a name like that.
Blum told members of the regional media, speaking in both English and Serbo-Croatian. "Excellent results."
His winning portfolio features images of Croatian Serbs displaced during the Serbo-Croatian War, a subject which was sparked by his first visit to Kosovo in 2005.