Bosnian 101

Bosnian language uses both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. A less standardised script has also been used, so it had more versions and names: Bosančica, Bosnian Cyrillic, Begovica (used by Bosniak nobility). Bosniaks have also used an Arabic script called Arabica.

Early "international" mentioning of the Bosnian language: the summer of year 1300 - is found in the work of "Skazanie iziavlieno o pismenah" (History of written languages), by the most well known traveling Eastern Roman author at the time, Constantin Filosof.

Another early mentioning of Bosnian language is: July 3rd 1436. - where in the region of Kotor, a duke bought a girl that is described as :"Bosnian woman, heretic and in Bosnian language called Djevena"

One of the oldest South Slavic documents is as well the Bosnian statehood charter from 1189, written by Bosnian ruler Kulin Ban.

The irony of the Bosnian language is that its speakers are, on the level of colloquial idiom, more linguistically homogenous than either Serbs or Croats, but failed, due to historical reasons, to standardize their language in the crucial 19th century. The first Bosnian dictionary, a rhymed Bosnian-Turkish glossary authored by Muhamed Hevaji Uskufi, was composed in 1631.

Uskufi's Bosnian glossary

But unlike Croatian dictionaries, which were written and published regularly, Uskufi's work remained an isolated foray. At least two factors were decisive:

    * The Bosniak elite wrote almost exclusively in foreign (Arabic, Turkish, Persian) languages. Vernacular literature, written in modified Arabic script, was thin and sparse.
* The Bosniaks' national emancipation lagged behind that of the Serbs and Croats, and since denominational rather than cultural or linguistic issues played the pivotal role, a Bosnian language project didn't arouse much interest or support.

Prescriptions for the language of Bosniaks in the 19th and 20th centuries were written outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Probably the most authentic Bosniak writers (the so-called "Bosniak revival" at the turn of the century) wrote in an idiom that is closer to the Croatian form than to the Serbian one (western Štokavian-Ijekavian idiom, Latin script), but which possessed unmistakably recognizable Bosniak traits, primarily lexical ones. The main authors of the "Bosniak renaissance" were the polymath, politician and poet Safvet-beg Bašagić, the "poète maudit" Musa Ćazim Ćatić and the storyteller Edhem Mulabdić.

In the days of Communist Yugoslavia the lexis was Serbianized but the Latin script became dominant; the official name was Serbo-Croatian. After the collapse of Yugoslavia Bosnians remained the sole inheritors of the Serbo-Croatian hybrid.

On a formal level, the Bosnian language is beginning to take a distinctive shape: lexically, Islamic-Oriental loan words are becoming more frequent; phonetically and phonologically, the phoneme "h" is reinstated in many words as a distinct feature of Bosniak speech and language tradition; also, there are some changes in grammar, morphology and orthography that reflect the Bosniak pre-World War I literary tradition, mainly that of the Bosniak renaissance at the beginning of the 20th century.

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