Bosnia and language

Bryan A. Alexander bnalexan at
Wed Aug 9 10:58:16 MDT 1995

One item that I discovered while in the Balkans: the language is being
Balkanized.  According to Yugoslav specialists, the varieties of
Serbo-Croatian spoken in the Yugoslav state varied pretty much as English
does from New York to Boston; i.e., very very little.  Hence, in part, the
odd name for the tongue.
	Now Croatia is claiming to recover a lost - better yet, suppressed
- language: pure Croatian.  Every week or so vocabulary lists emerge from
the executive branch, being sent to radio stations, TV stations,
newspapers, etc.  From there the new language appears.  Words are being
replaced by obscure village synonyms for the old, by German, by
neologisms.  While in Mostar (Bosnia) the rector of the University of West
Mostar insisted that his campus was the only place where Croatian could be
spoken.  His pronunciation, syntax, etc. were indistinguishable from those
of the Muslims across the Neretva, or just a few blocks away and on the
other side of the DMZ.
	Bosnian Muslims were baffled by this, pretty much.  They haven't
modified their language since the wars started, and are happy with the few
popular Turkish expressions they have.  (But this year saw the publication
of a couple of volumes on the "Bosnian language," so maybe the split will
be reciprocal after all)
	I'm not sure of the economics of this.  In Mostar, the
Western/Croat side was by far richer, having working industry, high tech,
commerce, etc.  The Eastern/Muslim side was nearly at a barter economy,
relying on aid and local crops and minor trade.  The state of Croatia is
clearly aiming for the G7 orbit... But the politics are interesting,
centered as they seem to be on the expansion of state power.

Bryan Alexander
Department of English
University of Michigan

On Tue, 8 Aug 1995, Louis N Proyect wrote:

> Louis Proyect:
> Lisa's post below and the exchange just now taking place between 2
> outstanding people--Jeff Booth and Chris Burford--has convinced me that my
> subscription to this list is as every bit important to me as my
> subscriptions to New Left Review, Science and Society, Monthly Review, etc.
> On Tue, 8 Aug 1995, Lisa Rogers wrote:
> >
> > My understanding is that nobody in "Yugoslavia" ever considered
> > themselves "Yugoslavian" - it is not an ethnicity/culture - what is
> > it? or what was it?  Wasn't Yugoslavia invented in some way at the
> > end of WWII?  I don't know the exact history, but I know I have never
> > met a "yugoslavian".  Some "yugos" say that "Serbo-Croatian" was the
> > invented language.  When spoken there is little difference, as a
> > result of ancient relations, even an original unity, but now Eastern
> > Orthodox Serbs used cyrillic script, and Roman Catholic Croats used
> > roman letters.
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