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Political socio-linguistic dispute 'Bunjevac dialect vs. Bunjevac language' 

Map of Shtokavian dialects:

BCMS, comparison Croatian and Serbian

The Indo-European Connection 

Difference, Language and Dialect

Terminological confusion

"ethno dialect, govor, mother tongue, jezik, dialect, political language, dijalekt, ethno dijalect, lect,  mother language,  speech, language, minority language, ethnolect, regional language, …"

Dialects can be classified into two categories: standard and non-standard. A standard dialect is a dialect that is approved and supported by institutions. Likewise, non-standard dialects are those that are not supported by institutions. For example, some dialects of English include American English, Indian English, and Australian English, etc. There are sub-dialects within these dialects as well. There is no globally accepted standard to distinguish the difference between language and a dialect of a language. One of the most common ways of identifying the difference is their mutual intelligibility. If two speakers of two varieties can understand each other, then it is accepted that the two varieties are two dialects; if not, they are considered to be two different languages.

Classification of Bunjevac dialects (ethnolect): There is a diversity of Bunjevac dialects in Croatia, Hungary, and Serbia. A dialect is a regional speech pattern. Bunjevac speech is categorized as a New-Štokavian Young Ikavian dialect of the Serbo-Croatian pluricentric language (Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian: BCMS). And an ethnolect is a variety of a language, spoken by a certain ethnic/cultural subgroup, and serves as a distinguishing mark of social identity. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic/cultural group and a dialect. BEC

Dialect standardization: "In every region there is a linguistic variation. This linguistic variation has to be respected, because it is the identity of people. That is where differentiation between the culture is. Dialect standardization only happens when the people involved have enough or modify their identity to that or affiliation associated with a larger group, standardization is possible and often occurs. Before a standardization process, speaker use their dialects for all of their speech functions. After a standardization process, speaker use the standardized variety for at least some of their speech functions. For example, reading and writing and conversation in formality situations often call for use of standardized variety. Thus, the standardization process is fundamentally a shift in language use patterns." Mark E. Karan, Kerry M. Corbett. (2014). The Importance of Identity and Affiliation in Dialect Standardization. pp. 55-61. Dialogue on Dialect Standardization. University North Dakota. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN (10):1-4438-666-1X.

Pluricentric language: A pluricentric language or polycentric language is a language with several interacting codified standard versions, often corresponding to different countries (e.g. English, French, Portuguese, German, Korean, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swedish, Armenian, and Chinese). Pluricentric language - Wikipedia 

Dialects of the pluricentric Serbo-Croatian language: "The linguistic and political situation is particularly complex as the majority of those living in the village identify with an ethnic group (Bunjevci) which Croatian nationalists argue to be Croatian, whilst other ethnic Bunjevac activists argue that they constitute an ‘autonomous ethnic group’. Serbian, Croatian and Bunjevac language varieties form part of a mutually intelligible dialect continuum. The issue is particularly relevant at present as the Serbian government has allotted funding for the standardization of the Bunjevac language variety, as well as for school textbooks written in that language variety, a move that has angered some of those who identify as Croatian." Hodges, Andrew (2015). Teaching in Croatian in Serbia: discursive hegemonies and ‘state effects’- web page not accessible any longer (editor 01-03-2019)

BCMS│Constitutional language of Bosnia (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia. They all developed their own standardized dialect variety of the Serbo-Croatian pluricentric language, and registered it legally as constitutional language of their country. BEC

Political-linguistic dispute 'Bunjevac dialect vs. Bunjevac language': "It appears that the concept of standardization, whatever it may mean to the various parties involved, occupies a central position, or – actually – the central position in the Bunyev language debate, for it looks as though it is only thanks to standardization that a speech variety may gain the label of language." Belić, Bojan (2014). изворни научни чланак УДК 81'27(497.113) Bunyev(s): a linguistic frontier to be? pp.613

Standardized Bunjevac dialect variety in Serbia: Institutions of Serbia developed a standardized Bunjevac dialect variety in Serbia (2018). A few Bunjevac leaders and political activists, who are influential in the Bunjevac National Council, are strongly involved in developing a "national" identity of Bunjevci: stimulating folklore activities and searching for political and linguistic support to transform Bunjevac dialect in to a distinct language. The leadership of the Croat Bunjevci and Croatian minority in Serbia, has presented the 'standard of the Bunjevac dialect' as an attempt to abolish the dialect of Bunjevac Croats from the Croatian cultural heritage. BEC 

Bunjevac speech/dialect in Serbia (2017): "Although Bunjevac language has not been standardised yet, the Republic of Serbia has introduced measures in certain areas in which the standardisation of language is not a condition for its usage, in order to encourage or facilitate the usage of this language." Serbia - Fourth periodical report presented to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in accordance with Article 15 of the Charter. pp.33. 15 november 2017

Status of Bunjevac dialect according to Aleksandar Raičh and Suzana Kujundžić Ostojić: Bunjevac speech is in Serbia officially recognized as a dialect. "Bunjevački jezik u javnoj upotribi. Dakle, za onaj jezik za koji mi kažemo jezik, a zvanično je priznat ko dijalekat." Bunjevci izmed asimilacije i nacionalne zajednice. Udruženje građana "Bunjevci". 2013. pp. 144.

School textbooks in a standardized Bunjevac dialect variety in Serbia. The Serbian government insisted that textbooks in a Bunjevac dialect  appeared in the Cyrillic script for the first class of primary school, despite the fact that the use of the Latin script is dominant in the Bunjevac community. It is noteworthy that textbooks were published (Serbia, 2014), in a variety of the Bunjevac speech (ethnolect), before an official scientific standardization of the Bunjevac dialect variety was finalized (Serbia, 2018). BEC

Serbo-Croatian pluricentric language: "The language continuum known as Serbo-Croatian was the most widely spoken language in the former Yugoslavia, at its peak counting as many as 20 million speakers. Culturally, Yugoslavia’s eastern region — consisting of present-day Serbia, Montenegro and parts of Bosnia and Hercegovina — was separated both religiously and linguistically from its western region consisting of present-day Croatia and parts of Bosnia and Hercegovina. As a result, the Serbian and Croatian official languages as they exist today are based on distinct dialects and are written with different alphabets, although because of their close similarity, some still consider the languages as a unit called ‘Serbo-Croatian’. Because of their shared development, portions of this profile must refer to Croatian, as well as Serbian."

Disputes about the national status and historical origins of the Bunjevci - 'Bunjevac Question':  Both the Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian authorities do not recognize a distinct Bunjevac/Bunjevci language/nationality. Disputes about the national status and historical origins of the Bunjevci go back to the nationalism wave in the 19th century in Austria-Hungary. The debate revived by the Breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Some Bunjevci in Hungary and Serbia, who are gathered around the Bunjevac National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia), claiming they are an autochthonous ethnic group (Bunjevac nation/tribe/people,, while most of the Bunjevci in the Bačka region identify themselves as a Croatian subethnic group an integral part of the Croatian national corpus (Izjava Predsjednistva HAZU o hrvatskoj etnickoj skupini Bunjevci), represented by the Croat National Council (Vojvodina/Serbia). BEC

Sociolinguistic situation of Bunjevci in Serbia: "The Bunjevci are an South Slavic ethnic minority living on the territory of four countries: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, and Hungary. Originally they were recognized as a part of the Croatian nation, however because of a specific political situation in Serbia shortly after the breakup of Yugoslavia they were given an opportunity to declare themselves as a separate minority group in the 1991 census. After gaining a minority status, they have started to standardize their own language. In 2014, after a long years of work, the textbooks for teaching Bunjevian ethnolect were published. The aim of the article is to present the complex sociolinguistic situation of Bunjevci and analyze grammatical and orthographical content of textbooks as well as the metalanguage used to describe the language processes." Dudek, Anna. Socjolingwistyka XXX, 2016. pp.39-51. (Download)

"The subject Bunjevac Speech with Elements of National Culture continues  to be taught at primary schools, but Bunjevac is not present at pre-school or secondary levels." Conclusions of the Committee of Experts on how the Serbian authorities have reacted to the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers, Recommendation, Chapter 2, no. 2: 22, pp.7.

In the Bilateral screening report of the Negotiation Group for the Chapter 26 – Education and Culture, Republic of Serbia: For the Bunjevac speech, there were provided 2 approved textbooks for primary-and 2 textbooks for secondary education. Brussels, April 4, 2014.

Definition of Language: The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. Dialect is a particular form of a language which is peculiar to a specific region or social group. Categories Language can be categorized into two main parts: spoken language and written language. Dialects can be categorized into two main parts: standard dialects and non-standard dialects. Mutually Intelligibility Languages of the same language family are often not mutually intelligible. Dialects of the same language are often mutually intelligible.

Definition of minority language:

  1. "Regional or minority languages" are languages traditionally used within a given territory of a state by nationals of that state who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the state’s population; they are different from the official language(s) of that state, and they include neither dialects of the official language(s) of the state nor the languages of migrants." European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), European Council, European Treaty Series - No. 148, Strasbourg, 5.11.1992, pp.2-3.
  2. "Territory in which the regional or minority language is used" means the geographical area in which the said language is the mode of expression of a number of people justifying the adoption of the various protective and promotional measures provided for in this Charter; 
  3. "Non-territorial languages" means languages used by nationals of the State which differ from the language or languages used by the rest of the State's population but which, although traditionally used within the territory of the State, cannot be identified with a particular area thereof. ECRML, European Council, European Treaty Series - No. 148, Strasbourg, 5.11.1992.

Minority languages in Serbia The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has published a report on the application of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in Serbia (3rd monitoring cycle); and recommendations to the authorities, together with the response from the Serbian Government. The importance of protecting national minorities and their languages is well recognised in Serbia which enjoys a rich linguistic diversity with 15 regional or minority languages. The following languages have been given special protection under the European Charter: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Bunjevac, Croatian, Czech, German, Hungarian, Macedonian, Romani, Romanian, Ruthenian, Slovak, Ukrainian and Vlach. Progress was observed in education and language use in administration should be strengthened.  ECRML (2016) 1. Strasbourg, 27.04.2016. Evaluation  of the 3rd monitoring cycle can be found: 

Balkan language politics and EU integration: "While language previously had been a means to unite Balkan Slavs, it became an instrument of nationalism wielded by politically motivated actors to widen the division among the ethnicities. Language disputes did not destroy Yugoslavia, but they may hinder recovery and modernization.  As each Yugoslav successor state strives toward integration into the European Union, political questions concerning language may polarize domestic politics and inhibit regional cooperation, thereby hampering efforts to carry out needed economic and political reforms." Rice, Eric A. (2010). Language politics in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia - Calhoun: The NPS

Demografic politics in Vojvodina


After the Yugoslav authorities included the category of "Bunjevci" into the census (1991, Milošević Regime), also the Serbian authorities continued to marke Bunjevci as a separate ethnic minority. The number of the total population of Bunjevci is unknown. In Serbia, Bunjevci declare themselves either as Bunjevci or Croats. BEC

"To understand the politics of population census in postconflict countries and salience of the categories imposed through census. By doing so, it seeks to shed light on the mechanisms of identity construction in the post-Yugoslav context.  The article  analyses the categories and the responses to post-Yugoslav censuses, focusing on national, religious, and linguistic identity markers." Bieber, Florian. Social Science Quarterly, 2015. The Construction of National Identity and its Challenges in Post‐Yugoslav Censuses

Law on National Councils of National Minorities in Serbia: LAW on National Councils of National Minorities I. GENERAL PROVISIONS

The Statute of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina

Equality of Citizens and National Equality, Article 6:  The citizens of the AP Vojvodina shall be equal in exercising their rights, irrespective of their race, gender, nationality, social background, birth, religion, political or other belief, financial standing, culture, language, age, mental or physical disability, in conformity with the Constitution and law. Within the scope of its rights and responsibilities, the AP Vojvodina  shall contribute to the exercise of a full equality, guaranteed under the Constitution, of Hungarians, Slovaks, Croats, Montenegrins, Romanians, Roma, Bunjevac, Ruthenians, Macedonians and persons belonging to other numerically smaller national minorities - national communities living in its territory and the Serbian people.

Official Languages and Scripts, Article 24:  In addition to Serbian language and Cyrillic script, Hungarian, Slovak, Croatian, Romanian and Ruthenian languages and their scripts shall be in official use in authorities of the AP Vojvodina, in conformity with the law. Within the scope of their competences, authorities of the AP Vojvodina shall undertake the measures to ensure a consistent exercise of the official use of languages and scripts of national minoritiesnational communities stipulated by the 

Constitution of the Republic of Serbia - II HUMAN AND MINORITY RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Prohibition of discrimination against national minorities in Serbia, Article 76:  Persons belonging to national minorities shall be guaranteed equality before the law and equal legal protection. Any discrimination on the grounds of affiliation to a national minority shall be prohibited. Specific regulations and provisional measures which the Republic of Serbia may introduce in economic, social, cultural and political life for the purpose of achieving full equality among members of a national minority and citizens who belong to the majority, shall not be considered discrimination if they are aimed at eliminating extremely unfavourable living conditions which particularly affect them. 

Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (consolidated text).

© Stichting Bunjevac European Center, 2015