Serbian (српски / srpski, pronounced [sr̩̂pskiː]) is the
standardized variety of the
Serbo-Croatian language mainly used by
Serbs. It is the official language of Serbia, the territory
of Kosovo, and one of the three official languages of Bosnia and
Herzegovina. In addition, it is a recognized minority language in
Montenegro where it is spoken by the relative majority of the
population, as well as in Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Hungary,
Slovakia, and the Czech Republic.
Standard Serbian is based on the most widespread dialect of
Shtokavian (more specifically on Šumadija-Vojvodina
and Eastern Herzegovinian dialects), which is also the basis of
Standard Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. The other dialect
Serbs is Torlakian in southeastern Serbia, which is
transitional to Macedonian and Bulgarian.
Serbian is practically the only European standard language whose
speakers are fully functionally digraphic, using both Cyrillic and
Latin alphabets. The
Serbian Cyrillic alphabet
Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was devised in 1814 by
Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić, who created the alphabet on phonemic
principles. The Latin alphabet was designed by Croatian linguist
Ljudevit Gaj in 1830.
2 Geographic distribution
2.1 Status in Montenegro
3 Differences between standard Serbian and standard Croatian and
4 Writing system
4.1 Alphabetic order
6 Serbian literature
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
See also: History of Serbo-Croatian
Serbian is a standardized variety of Serbo-Croatian, a Slavic
language (Indo-European), of the South Slavic subgroup. Other
standardized forms of
Serbo-Croatian are Bosnian, Croatian, and
Montenegrin. It has lower intelligibility with the Eastern South
Slavic languages Bulgarian and Macedonian, than with Slovene (Slovene
is part of the Western South Slavic subgroup, but there are still
significant differences in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation to
the standardized forms of Serbo-Croatian, although it is closer to the
Chakavian dialects of Serbo-Croatian).
Figures of speakers according to countries:
Serbia: 6,540,699 (official language)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: 1,086,027 (co-official language)
Germany: 568,240
Austria: 350,000
Montenegro: 265,890 (recognized minority language)
United States: 172,874
Italy: 106,498 
Croatia: 52,879 (recognized minority language)
Republic of Macedonia: 35,939 (recognized minority language)
Romania: 22,518 (recognized minority language)
Status in Montenegro
Serbian was the official language of
Montenegro until October 2007
when the new Constitution of
Montenegro replaced the Constitution of
1992. Amid opposition from pro-Serbian parties, the Montenegrin
language was made the sole official language of the country, and
Serbian was given the status of a recognised minority language along
with Bosnian, Albanian, and Croatian.
According to the 2011 Montenegrin census, 42.88% declare Serbian to be
their native language, while Montenegrin is declared by 36.97% of the
Differences between standard Serbian and standard Croatian and Bosnian
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November
Main article: Comparison of standard Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian
Serbo-Croatian phonology and
Main articles: Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, Gaj's Latin alphabet, and
Serbian language uses both Cyrillic (ћирилица,
Latin script (latinica, латиница). Serbian is a
rare example of synchronic digraphia, a situation where all literate
members of a society have two interchangeable writing systems
available to them. Media and publishers typically select one alphabet
Serbian language authorities have recognized the official
status of both scripts in contemporary Standard Serbian for more than
half of a century now, due to historical reasons, the Cyrillic script
was made the official script of Serbia's administration by the 2006
Constitution. However, the law does not regulate scripts in
standard language, or standard language itself by any means, leaving
the choice of script as a matter of personal preference and to the
free will in all aspects of life (publishing, media, trade and
commerce, etc.), except in government paperwork production and in
official written communication with state officials, which have to be
In media, the public broadcaster, Radio Television of Serbia,
predominantly uses the
Cyrillic script whereas the privately run
broadcasters, like RTV Pink, predominantly use the Latin script.
Newspapers are found in both scripts. Outdoor signage, including road
signs and commercial displays, predominately uses the Latin alphabet.
Larger signs, especially those put up by the government, will often
feature both alphabets.
A survey from 2014 showed that 47% of the Serbian population favors
the Latin alphabet whereas 36% favors the Cyrillic one.
Slavic languages and dialects
Western South Slavic
Serbo-Croatian standard languages
Comparison of standard
Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian
Eastern South Slavic
Church Slavonic (Old)
Transitional Bulgarian dialects
a Includes Banat Bulgarian alphabet.
The sort order of the ćirilica (ћирилица) alphabet:
Cyrillic order called Azbuka (азбука): А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж
З И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш
The sort order of the latinica (латиница) alphabet:
Latin order called Abeceda (абецеда): A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F
G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž
Serbian verbs are conjugated in four past forms—perfect, aorist,
imperfect, and pluperfect—of which the last two have a very limited
use (imperfect is still used in some dialects, but the majority of
native Serbian speakers consider it archaic), one future tense (also
known as the first future tense, as opposed to the second future tense
or the future exact, which is considered a tense of the conditional
mood by some contemporary linguists), and one present tense. These are
the tenses of the indicative mood. Apart from the indicative mood,
there is also the imperative mood. The conditional mood has two more
tenses: the first conditional (commonly used in conditional clauses,
both for possible and impossible conditional clauses) and the second
conditional (without use in the spoken language—it should be used
for impossible conditional clauses). Serbian has active and passive
As for the non-finite verb forms, Serbian has one infinitive, two
adjectival participles (the active and the passive), and two adverbial
participles (the present and the past).
See also: Loanwords in Serbian
Most Serbian words are of native Slavic lexical stock, tracing back to
Proto-Slavic language. There are many loanwords from different
languages, reflecting cultural interaction throughout history. Notable
loanwords were borrowed from Greek, Latin, Italian, Turkish,
Hungarian, Russian, and German.
Main article: Serbian literature
Miroslavljevo jevanđelje (The Gospel of Miroslav), a manuscript, ca.
Serbian literature emerged in the Middle Ages, and included such works
as Miroslavljevo jevanđelje (Miroslav's Gospel) 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 Iseult
Tristan and Iseult into Serbian. Although
not belonging to the literature proper, the corpus of Serbian literacy
in the 14th and 15th centuries contains numerous legal, commercial and
administrative texts with marked presence of Serbian vernacular
juxtaposed on the matrix of Serbian Church Slavonic.
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. The epic poems were
mainly written down in the 19th century, and preserved in oral
tradition up to the 1950s, a few centuries or even a millennium longer
than by most other "epic folks". Goethe and
Jacob Grimm learned
Serbian in order to read
Serbian epic poetry
Serbian epic poetry in the original. By the
end of the 18th century, the written literature had become estranged
from the spoken language. In the second half of the 18th century, the
new language appeared, called Slavonic-Serbian. This artificial idiom
superseded the works of poets and historians like Gavrilo Stefanović
Venclović, who wrote in essentially modern Serbian in the 1720s.
These vernacular compositions have remained cloistered from the
general public and received due attention only with the advent of
modern literary historians and writers like Milorad Pavić. In the
early 19th century,
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić
Vuk Stefanović Karadžić promoted the spoken
language of the people as a literary norm.
See also: Dialects of Serbo-Croatian
The dialects of Serbo-Croatian, regarded Serbian (traditionally spoken
by Serbs), include:
Eastern Herzegovinian (Ijekavian, Neo-Shtokavian), Croatia, Bosnia,
Zeta–Raška (Ijekavian, Old-Shtokavian), in south and east
Montenegro and southwest Serbia
Šumadija–Vojvodina (Ekavian, Neo-Shtokavian), in central and north
Kosovo–Resava (Ekavian, Old-Shtokavian), in north Kosovo, eastern
Smederevo–Vršac (Ekavian, Old-Shtokavian), in east-central Serbia
Prizren–Timok (Ekavian, Old-Shtokavian), in southeast
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June
Vuk Karadžić's Srpski rječnik, first published in 1818, is the
earliest dictionary of modern literary Serbian. The Rječnik
hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika (I–XXIII), published by the Yugoslav
Academy of Sciences and Arts from 1880 to 1976, is the only general
historical dictionary of Serbo-Croatian. Its first editor was Đuro
Daničić, followed by
Pero Budmani and the famous Vukovian Tomislav
Maretić. The sources of this dictionary are, especially in the first
volumes, mainly Štokavian. There are older, pre-standard
dictionaries, such as the 1791 German–Serbian dictionary.
Rečnik srpskohrvatskog književnog i narodnog jezika (Dictionary of
Serbo-Croatian standard language and vernaculars) is the biggest
dictionary of Serbian and still unfinished. Starting with 1959, 16
volumes were published, about 40 are expected. Works of Croatian
authors are excerpted, if published before 1991.
Rečnik srpskohrvatskoga književnog jezika in six volumes, started as
a common project of
Matica srpska and Matica hrvatska, but only the
first three volumes were also published in Croato-Serbian
Rečnik srpskoga jezika (ISBN 978-86-7946-004-2) in one volume,
published in 2007 by Matica srpska, which on more than 1500 pages in
A4 format explains more than 85,000 entries. Several volume
dictionaries were published in
Croatia (for the Croatian language)
since the 1990s (Anić, Enciklopedijski rječnik, Hrvatski rječnik).
The standard and the only completed etymological dictionary of Serbian
is the "Skok", written by the Croatian linguist Petar Skok:
Etimologijski rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika ("Etymological
Dictionary of Croatian or Serbian"). I-IV.
There is also a new monumental Etimološki rečnik srpskog jezika
(Etymological Dictionary of Serbian). So far, two volumes have been
published: I (with words on A-), and II (Ba-Bd).
There are specialized etymological dictionaries for German, Italian,
Croatian, Turkish, Greek, Hungarian, Russian, English and other
loanwords (cf. chapter word origin).
Kosovsko-resavski dialect dictionaries:
Gliša Elezović, Rečnik kosovsko-metohiskog dijalekta I-II.
Prizren-Timok (Torlakian) dialect dictionaries:
Brana Mitrović, Rečnik leskovačkog govora. Leskovac 1984.
Nikola Živković, Rečnik pirotskog govora. Pirot, 1987.
Miodrag Marković, Rečnik crnorečkog govora I-II. 1986/1993.
Jakša Dinić, Rečnik timočkog govora I-III.1988–1992.
Jakša Dinić, Timocki dijalekatski recnik, (Institut za srpski jezik,
Monografije 4; ISBN 978-86-82873-17-4) Beograd 2008,
Momčilo Zlatanović, Rečnik govora južne Srbije. Vranje, 1998,
East-Herzegovinian dialect dictionaries:
Milija Stanić, Uskočki rečnik I–II. Beograd 1990/1991.
Miloš Vujičić, Rečnik govora Prošćenja kod Mojkovca. Podgorica,
Srđan Musić, Romanizmi u severozapadnoj Boki Kotorskoj. 1972.
Svetozar Gagović, Iz leksike Pive. Beograd 2004.
Rada Stijović, Iz leksike Vasojevića. 1990.
Drago Ćupić – Željko Ćupić, Rečnik govora Zagarača.
Vesna Lipovac-Radulović, Romanizmi u Crnoj Gori – jugoistočni
dio Boke Kotorske. Cetinje – Titograd, 1981.
Vesna Lipovac-Radulović, Romanizmi u Budvi i Paštrovićima. Novi Sad
Rečnik srpskih govora Vojvodine. Novi Sad.
Mile Tomić, Rečnik radimskog govora – dijaspora, Rumunija.
Language secessionism in Serbo-Croatian
Dialects of Serbo-Croatian
Romano-Serbian language (mix with Romany)
Šatrovački (slang form)
Abstand and ausbau languages
Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic
Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo
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continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two
governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the
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independent state from 113 out of 193
United Nations member states.
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Serbian edition of, the free encyclopedia
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Swadesh list of basic vocabulary words (from Wiktionary's Swadesh list
Standard language as an instrument of culture and the product of
national history – an article by linguist
Pavle Ivić at
A Basic Serbian Phrasebook
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