Sorting the languages of the former Yugoslavia
Angela Drenovac & Michel H. Porcher

The political turmoils of the past decades and the ensuing splitting of the former Yugoslavia have confused a lot of people from distant lands. The border disputes are not completely over but now one can sort fairly accurately the countries and languages from this part of the world. Of course it helps enormously when local inhabitants can give some feedback on their personal experiences.
In the former Yugoslavia the most well known language was called  "Serbo-Croatian" a mixed bag of Croatian and Serbian vocabulary difficult to separate from each other. The Cyrillic and Roman (with diacritics) scripts were equally used, but Cyrillic was more represented in Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Roman characters were used in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia. In what is known today as Bosnia people spoke Serbo-Croatian, but after gaining their independence they named it Bosnian. Today Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, although still extremely close and interwoven, are developing as distinct new languages. Macedonian and Slovenian are related to "Serbo-Croatian" but clearly distinguishable. They are written today as mentioned above. All these languages belong to South Slavic branch of Indo-European family.
The recent development of Unicode on the world wide web makes these languages’ words perfectly readable. Outside the internet it is still relatively difficult to cope with diacritics, but they are the main feature of these languages whose spelling is rendered very simple by their use, because in most cases one letter corresponds to only one phoneme.
Slovak / Slovakian (sometimes confused with Slovenian by people far away from those regions) belongs to a branch of the Slavonic languages  (West Slavonic, with Czech & Polish) and is clearly distinct from all the above.
Bosnian speakers (est. 4 millions worldwide) are now mostly centered in Bosnia - Herzegovina (variously written as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Bosnia-Hercegovina. Now they just
use the Roman script.
Croatian speakers (est. 6 millions worldwide) are now mostly centered in the Republic of Croatia. They also
just use the Roman script.
Macedonian speakers (est. 1.4 to 2 millions worldwide) are now mostly centered in the Republic of Macedonia. They use Cyrillic as well as the Roman script.
Serbian speakers (est. 11 millions worldwide) are now mostly centered in SerbiaMontenegro. They also use equally the Cyrillic and Roman scripts.
Slovenian / Slovene speakers (est. 2 millions worldwide) are now mostly centered in the Republic of Slovenia. They just
use the Roman script.

back to various indexes

Bosnian, Croatian, Macedonian, Serbian, Slovenian, Slovakian


back to
Gateway , to list of notes

Date created: 17 / 07 / 2005
Authorised by
Last modified: 22 / 07 / 2005
Access: No restriction
Copyright © 1995 - 2020, I.L.F.R. - The University of Melbourne.
Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher