Požgaj Hadži, Vesna – Language Between Linguistics And Politics

Vesna Požgaj Hadži (ed.)izmedju_lingvistikeV

Language Between Linguistics And Politics

First edition: 2013

192 pages

Price $7.50




Vesna Požgaj Hadži is Professor of Croatian and Serbian language at the Department of Slavistics of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana. Her books include: Croatian and Slovenian in Contact (2002), Croatian from Outside (coauthored, 2007) and Challenges of Contrastive Linguistics (coauthored, 2012). Her research activity covers the field of standard Croatian language (particularly contrastive analyis of Croatian and Slovenian), dicursive stylistics, second language teaching and learning, as well as sociolinguistic questions directly or indirectly connected to Yugoslav philology.

Language Between Linguistics and Politics includes the following texts: Vojko Goranc – Slovene language policy and social power relations, Vesna Požgaj Hadži, Tatjana Balažić Bulc and Vlado Miheljak – Serbo-Croatian language from a Slovenian perspective, Jagoda Granić – An assessment of Croatian standard-language policy, Ranko Bugarski – Language policy and linguistic reality in Serbia since 1991, Marina Katnić-Bakaršić – Sociolinguistic transformations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Igor Lakić – A linguistic portrait of Montennegro, Aleksandra Gjurkova – The sociolinguistic situation in Macedonia since 1991.



The turbulent social and political events of the Nineties on the territory of the federal state of Yugoslavia had effects on the relations between language and society as well. The dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991 and the generation of new states influenced not only changes in the status of language but also changes within languages, which were visible in the «death» of Serbo-Croatian and the creation of new standard languages based on the štokavski dialect (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin). Happenings around language and within languages attracted the attention of numerous domestic and foreign experts, especially sociolinguists, who were concerned with the role of linguistic nationalism, the dissolution of the unified Serbo-Croatian language, and linguistic changes, especially lexical ones. In spite of several studies that have been written, conferences that have been held, and collections of essays that have been published, we still lack monographs that would offer a sociolinguistic picture of the territory of the former Yugoslavia as a whole, including Slovenia and Macedonia as well. The majority of authors from the South Slavic-speaking areas have been primarily concerned with questions of the disolution of the shared language and with problems related to newly standardised languages, however without a holistic approach and open dialogue about these themes. This was one of the factors motivating a series of projects at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana, in the framework of bilateral agreements between Slovenia and Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. As a part of those projects twenty years ago, we researched language changes and sociolinguistic transformations in all of these new states, including orientations of people toward their mother tongues and orientations toward other, foreign and minority languages. The results of this research were published in 2009 in the volume Between Policy and Reality (edited by Vesna Požgaj Hadži, Tatjana Balažic Bulc, and Vojko Gorjanc) and presented at the first annual meeting of Slavists in Ljubljana, held in October of that year. This scientific gathering on a «neutral» terrain, which was attended by the ambassadors of all the new states, was carried out through open and objective dialogues and without politicisation. We considered that it would be regrettable that this material, which was still current and which has been completely developed, should remain unavailable to a wider public. Therefore we are continuing our dialogue on this theme in the highly reputed Biblioteka XX. vek in the volume before you, Language Between Linguistics and Politics. On this occasion, of course, all of the works, which have been written from the perpective of critical sociolinguistics, have been updated and added to in order to offer as comlete as possible a picture of the sociolinguistic situation on the territory of the former Yugoslavia over the past twenty years.

Just as language and society are conditioned by one another and cannot be understood separately, so are language and politics always mixed. Politics, for example, always influences the standardisation of laguage, which is never simply a linguistic question but is much greater measure a political question. The fact that declared language policy frequently differs completely from linguistic reality is illustrated through numerous examples in this volume. The current sociolinguistic situation and relations between language policy and language reality in the new states is described from north to south, from Slovenia to Macedonia. Although it is possible now, twenty years after the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the wars that followed, and necessary and unnecessary linguistic changes, to approach the theme with „cool heads“ in a nonpoliticized way, the authors were not confronted with an easy task. Presenting sociolinguistic transformations in the new states and bringing forward our insider views, we endeavoured to be as objective as possible keeping in mind that all of us, consciously or not, always carry a part of ourselves into our research. Whether we succeeded in striking the necessary balance, the readers will judge for themselves.

In the first chapter, Slovenian language policy and social power relations, Vojko Gorjanc presents Slovene language policy and language planning, which dates from the 1960s with a debate on the Slovenian language beginning in the 1970s as a result of the closeness between people active in language policy and political actors. In contrast, once Slovenia becomes independent and Slovenian gains the status of an official language, it is possible to speak of a conflict between two opposed ideological concepts: one the one hand there is ideology of linguistic protectionism seeks to regulate linguistic reality and language itself, while on the other hand this is opposed by the liberal concept of regulation of linguistic reality – of course, both ideologies operate from a position of social power. With the entry of Slovenia into the European Union in 2004, the Slovenian language became one of the 23 official languages of the EU, whereas contemporary Slovene society is multilingual. This last fact should be taken into account in the development of Slovenian language policy.

In the second chapter, The Serbo-Croatian language from a Slovenian perspective, Vesna Požgaj Hadži, Tatjana Balažic Bulc and Vlado Miheljak discuss the Serbo-Croatian language, which in Slovenia until the 1990s carried in some spheres the status of a high-prestige and dominant language. In spite of the formal-legal status of Slovenian as an official language in Slovenia, in linguistic relaity it had a devalued position. During the conflicts of the 1990s Serbo-Croatian took on a pronouncedly negative connotation in Slovenian society, instruction in the language was discontinued in Slovenian schools, and speakers of the language and its successors (Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Montenegrin) were stigmatised. Now, according to public opinion research, negative perceptions against the successor languages are receding and they are slowly coming to be perceived as foreign languages. One of the currently active questions in Slovenian language policy remains to fundamentally address the position of mother tongues of members of minorities, particularly migrants from other parts of the former Yugoslavia, and the status of the Croatian, Serbian and Macedonian languages as elective subjects in Slovenian primary schools.

Jagoda Granić in the third chapter, An assessment of Croatian standard-language policy, presents langauge standardisation practice in Croatia over the last twenty years.Croatian linguistic reality from the 1990s onward was characterised by changes in all aspects of language, especially lexical changes, which were visible in the publication of a series of differential dictionaries and language guidebooks, as well as in the Croatian „new speech.“ A part of the lexicon was changed directly, and a part indirectly – mainly by means of media, some words became marked as signs of „good Croatian“ character, while others were marked as „enemy“ language. As the choice of linguistic elements became a signifier of identity (and language identity came to be equated with national and political identities), speakers began to feel insecurity and fear of their native language. Croatian standard-language practice in print media came to be marked by passionate, politicised debates over lexical and grammatical rules, which unfortunately continue into the present.

In the fourth chapter, Language policy and linguistic reality in Serbia since 1991,Ranko Bugarski presents and compares strategies of language regulation in Serbia from the constitutions of 1974, 1990 and 2006, concluding that the quality of resolutions adopted and their suitability to the actual language situation constantly declines. The author warns of two important changes: the first has to do with the name of the language in official use (Serbo-Croatian becomes Serbian), and the second with the reduced status of the Latin alphabet as an alternative script in the Serbian language, which is directly opposed to linguistic reality. In contrast with the linguistic changes in other newly-codified languages, the Serbian language was not changed by outside pressure after 1991, although it is possible to speak of linguistic nationalism in Serbian (for example, the contested status of the Latin alphabet) and of various abuses and manipulations, especially in public discourse.

The complex sociolinguistic situation is Bosnia-Herzegovina is described by Marina Katnić-Bakaršić in the fifth chapter, Sociolinguistic transformations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Until the 1990s, the Standard/language speech of Bosnia-Herzegovina was promoted, which „united“ eastern and western variants but took into consideration some linguistic constructions specific to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Currently most linguists in Bosnia-Herzegovina consider that there exists a single language with three standards (Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian), and many users of each standard have been compelled to relearn their „own“ language. The greatest amount of debate involved whether one of the language standards should be called „Bosnian“ or „Bosniak,“ and this is reflected in legislation. The complexity of the linguistic reality in Bosnia-Herzegovina is shown in the functioning of three languages in education, media, and so on, and many problems are presented that confront the standardisation of each of the three official languages.

Igor Lakić in the sixth chapter, A linguistic portrait of Montennegro, gives particular attention to polemics surrounding the question of the official language before and after the declaration of the constitution of Montenegro in 2007, and to the political and linguistic arguments for the introduction of an official language. The process of standardisation of the Montenegrin language was (and continues to be) accompanied by many problems and disputes over normative guides, particularly between literary circles (who would like to restore the Montenegrin language of Njegoš’s era, introduce new phonemes, and promote similar changes) and linguistic circles (who advocate that Serbo-Croatian should be adopted as the foundation of Montenegrin). Language policy in Montenegro also confronts, aside from unresolved questions surrounding the standardisation of Montenegrin as the official language, resolution of the status of languages in official use (Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian) as well as the status of the Romani language.

In the seventh and last chapter, The sociolinguistic situation in Macedonia since 1991, Aleksandra Gjurkova presents the language situation in Macedonia, taking into consideration sociopolitical changes that had a direct influence on Macedonian language policy. In the former joint state the Serbo-Croatian language occupied a privileged position not only in Slovenia but also in Macedonia. But in contrast with Slovenes, Macedonians in communication with representatives of other people in the former Yugoslavia tended to use Serbo-Croatian, in the desire to be understood by others and not desiring to insist too much on their own language. The language situation after the independence of Macedonia in 1991 was marked by an increase in the use of the Macedonian language, changes in legislation and changes in the language. In connection with legislation the issue is raised of the status of Albanian as a second official language in the areas where it is spoken by at least 20% of the residents and of problems related to the lack of enforcement of certain legal regulations (here the lack of fit between linguistic policy and linguistic reality is visible). With regard to changes in the Macedonian language, reference is made to the influence of English and Serbian on Macedonian and to the characteristics of Macedonian when used in public communication. Agents of Macedonian language policy anticipate above all regulation of the status of Macedonian as a shared cohesive language at all levels of state administration and the regulation of the status of Albanian as a second official language.

The volume Language Between Linguistics and Politics is directed to (socio)linguists, particularly Slavists who are professionally engaged with the region, professors and instructors at international universities who are frequently called upon to provide information for the entire South Slavic language region, as well as for students of Slavic languages at domestic and international universities who are beginning to acquaint themselves with the region and for members of the broader public as a source of information about language changes in new states. We hope that it will contribute to mutual recognition and understanding and to the development of cultural tolerance among the states discussed. Finally, by understanding otherswe come to better know ourselves and top become aware of some elements of our own languages and cultures that we may have accepted unconsciously.

Finally, we would like to thank the Research Fund of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana for providing financial support for the production of the book. Special thanks are owed to the editor of Biblioteka XX vek Ivan Čolović who has helped us, by publishing this book, to continue the dialogue about language between linguistics and politics.

Ljubljana, April 2013.

Vesna Požgaj Hadži