Croatian Language: History, Origins, and Facts

The Croatian language is a Slavic language that was established in the Balkan peninsula of Europe when the people migrated in the region around the 7th century AD. The primary language of the Slavic people has evolved into two branches, the East South Slavic and West South Slavic. The Croatian language along with the Slovenian and Serbian belong to the West South Slavic group. Along the eventful history of the country, the language was enriched with German, Turkish and Italian words over the years.

In fact, there are 3 major dialects divided within the 3 regions of the country. The Kajkavian, Štokavian, and Čakavian, all of which are further divided into seven dialects.

The Kajkavian dialects have many loan words from German and Hungarian, Štokavian dialects from Turkish and Italian (and in the North also German and Hungarian) and Čakavian from the Italian language.

In the US there are approximately 70,000 speakers of the Croatian language from the 270,000 who speak Serbo-Croatian languages, according to the Census Bureau.

The Written Language and Pronunciation

The earliest scripts recorded in the Croatian language are written in the 11th century using the Glagolitic alphabet, as all the countries in that region at the time. 2 centuries later, somewhere around 1345, the Latin alphabet replaced the Glagolitic alphabet and it is the alphabet used to this date.

Croatian has 30 letters in total, and although it uses the standard Latin alphabet, there are some letters that differ from it and some that lack. For instance, č, ć, dž, đ, LJ, NJ, š, and ž are the additional letters unique to Croatian, whereas q, w, x, and y are not used in the standard Croatian alphabet. The reading, in general, is quite easy once one gets a hold of the basic rules since each letter represents a single sound. The general guidelines are:

  • Every single letter must be clearly enunciated
  • There are no silent letters
  • There are no special combinations of letters that together create one sound
  • Letters are pronounced the same, regardless of which their position in the word.

Interesting Facts About The Croatian Language

  • Up until 1846, although Croatian existed as language, in the county the Latin language was commonly used. In the year 1847, the Croatian Parliament passed the decision to make Croatian the official language.
  • There are many one-letter words that have full meaning in the Croatian language – a (but), u (in), i (and), s (with, from), k (towards).
  • However, they can get pretty long too, for instance, one of the longest words in Croatian consists of 31 letters and is prijestolonasljednikovičičinima which translates in English to “of little heiress apparent to the throne” in plural dative case.
  • The Croatian word Paprika was transferred into English and many other European languages in its original form and has never been translated.
  • The Croatian language is used as one of the sources for the minimal language called the “Toki Pona” created in Toronto, Canada. This language is based upon many natural languages that comply with the Tao principles.

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