After making waves with its national football team during FIFA 2023, the country of Croatia is still an undiscovered gem in the European continent. Its language, Croatian, is a tapestry woven through centuries of history, culture, and the influence of empires, standing as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its people. So let’s check out the story of this dark horse native tongue: history, influence, and its surprising presence throughout Europe, and how Croatian language translation is a necessity amongst the world language service providers.
The history of the Croatian language is a fascinating tale of survival and evolution. The language's journey began in the 6th or 7th century with the migration of Slavs to the Balkans, branching into the West South Slavic group alongside Slovene and Serbian. At this time, Croatian was written in the Glagolitic alphabet, which is thought to have been invented by the monks specifically for the Slavic languages.
The earliest known records of Croatian date appear in the 9th century, when Old Church Slavonic appeared during the time of the Great Moravia empire. It’s considered as the first Slavic literary language. This alphabet was used until the 12th century, when it was gradually replaced by the Latin alphabet.
Through centuries, Croatian absorbed influences from Ottoman, Venetian, Hapsburg, and Italian rule, enriching its vocabulary and shaping its modern form. The 19th century saw some changes in the language, as linguists reformed both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabet, the latter used for Serbian.
Politics further shaped the evolution of this language. After World War I, the Communist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was formed, which brought Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Hercegovina all together. The 1990s brought a period of strife within the then-nation, causing 4 out of the 6 republics to declare themselves as independent states. It’s only recently that Croatia was recognized as its own territory, in 1992.
In contemporary Croatia, standard Croatian, called Hrvatski, holds the status of the official language. It is a Slavic language written in the Latin alphabet, spoken by approximately 6 million people worldwide, with the majority residing within the country’s borders.
As with all languages, Croatian has its own set of regional dialects, which vary in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Three main dialects can be heard in Croatia:
Čakavian (Čakavski): Used along the Adriatic coast, on the islands, and in the western parts of Croatia, including the entire Istrian peninsula). This dialect is distinctive by its soft pronunciation and the use of the “č” sound instead of “ć”. It’s a dialect mostly found in Croatian literary language and literature.
Kajkavian (Kajkavski): spoken in the northern and central parts of Croatia. It’s characterized by a more sing-song style of intonation and its use of the “kaj” question word.
Štokavian (Štokavski): the dialect with the most speakers, used in the central and eastern parts of Croatia, as well as in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia. Its features include its hard pronunciation and the use of the “š” sound instead of “s”. Štokavian is also considered the “standard” for the country, used by the media and education sectors.
Croatia's linguistic landscape is as diverse as its history. While Croatian is the lingua franca, several other languages are spoken by the population, reflecting the country's multicultural fabric.
Serbian is the official language of Serbia and has many similarities to Croatian. However, Serbian is distinguishable by its Cyrillic alphabet and some linguistic nuances. In Croatia, Serbian is spoken by a significant minority, around 4.5 percent of the population, stemming from its past as a part of the former Yugoslavia.
Italian enjoys popularity in Croatia, especially in regions once under Venetian influence, such as the Istrian Peninsula. It is one of the minority languages officially recognized in Croatia, with 0.5% of the population as speakers, reflecting the historical and cultural exchanges between the two nations.
Hungarian is spoken by smaller, local communities in Croatia, a legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's influence on the region. While not having specific numbers, the presence of the languages indicates the once-historical ties and the shared heritage between Croatia and Hungary.
Croatian's influence extends beyond the borders of Croatia, highlighting the language's global presence.
Naturally, Croatia is the heartland of the Croatian language, where it is spoken by the majority of the population and serves as the official language.
Croatian is one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reflecting the complex ethnic and linguistic composition of the country.
In Serbia, Croatian is recognized and spoken by the Croatian minority, maintaining the linguistic connection between the two countries.
Croatian is spoken by a portion of the population in Montenegro, a testament to their shared history and cultural exchanges as a part of the former Yugoslavia.
These countries host Croatian-speaking communities, emblematic of the diaspora's spread and the historical migrations that have dispersed Croatian speakers across Europe.:
Croatian language, with its rich history and diverse influences, is a journey into the heart of the Balkans' cultural heritage. For those looking to dive deeper into the complexities of Croatian, expert guidance and support is usually a step in the right direction. Drop Tomedes a line, whether it's translation, localization, or navigating the subtleties of dialects and regional nuances. Tomedes is here to help embrace the full spectrum of Croatian's linguistic legacy.
Raphaella Funelas is a creative writer who graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Studies, specializing in Language. She likes learning about anything new in any field, and has pursued that interest through a writing career. She always has an ear on the ground for any exciting topics, and an enthusiasm to share any newfound knowledge through her words.