Cyrillic & Latin scripts in Serbian

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Go-Moskva-go, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. Go-Moskva-go Member


    I've been wondering how the Serbian diagraphia is working out. I've read that all official
    government documents etc. are only written using the Cyrillic alphabet, however in most
    other situations people can choose which script to use. Since I've sadly never been to Serbia
    (I'm really hoping to visit the country some day), I'd really appreciate it, if you could give me
    some concrete examples, on how the diagraphia works in everyday life in Serbia.
    One thing that particularly interests me, is which script students use in schools, universities etc
    when writing reports, essays and such. Does each teacher have their own preference, which they
    express to their students, or does each student decide for themselves? And how do Serbians themselves
    feel about the diagraphy - are there problems with it or is it working out smoothly?

    (The reason I ask all these questions is that I've never come across an other language, except for Serbian,
    that is actively written within one country using two different scripts, and I find this to be
    quite an interesting phenomenon.)

    Thanks for all answers! :)
  2. Pajapatak

    Pajapatak Senior Member

    Belgrade, Serbie
    serbe / Serbian
    Yes, it's true, all official government documents etc. nowdays must be written in Cyrillic alphabet, but we can choose what script to use (even when we fill in official forms.) Most pepople don't even pay attention to it - after you read something, and you cover the text, you would probably not be able to tell if it was in Cyrillic or Latin alphabet, because you switch mechanically from one script to another. When I was at school (long time ago), we used to write one day in Cyrillic and one day in Latin alphabet. It's not big deal, trust me.
  3. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    However, it has recently became a political issue, along the lines of Ukrainian vs. Russian language debate in Ukraine. Cyrillic is seen as "traditional", "national", "pro-Eastern", "conservative", "retrograde" (depending on speaker's political viewpoint), and Latin as "modern", "progressive", "pro-Western", "commercial", "imported", "imposed" or "Croatian" (again, depending on a view). "Right-wing" media (as well as state-owned) tend to use Cyrillic, while "Left-wing" Latin. Most people simply don't mind, and read both passively, and just slightly prefer one for active use (writing). While concern for survival of Cyrillic is genuine, many people (including me) are annoyed by bigotry of "Cyrillists" who turned the campaign of preservation of Cyrillic into a crusade.
  4. vianie Senior Member

    Interesting, because I would normally think that it is contrariwise.
  5. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Here's an opinion survey (pdf) for the media in Serbia. Of interest is page 15, covering people's preferences for the script of the magazine or newspaper. In total, 64% expressed no preference, 22% slight or strong preference for Cyrillic and 13% for Latin. Residents of Vojvodina generally preferred Latin, while the rest of Serbia preferred Cyrillic.

    For an illustration of political debate, see this recent news from Novi Sad, capital of Vojvodina, after a new manager of the public transport utility, from a conservative/centralist party, ordered that local buses switch their displays into Cyrillic. It is not so much the contents of the news, but the fact that it attracted 210 comments, many of them heated and bigoted, both from "Cyrillist" and "Latinist" side (portal 021 is visited by many Vojvodina autonomists, most extreme of whom regard Cyrillic as a "symbol of occupation").
  6. Miliu Member

    Dear foreros,

    could anyone suggest a free software to pass a text directly from one alphabet to the other alphabet? (in case that rules change in the "S" section of the BCS Forum, it would be very useful for all of us!!)

  7. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    I use Firefox and Transliterator extension. Once configured, works like a charm, even in "Find" and "Search" dialogs: just select text and hit [Alt+]Ctrl+Shift+Q for forward/backward transliteration.

    IKI prevodilac has a wide variety of options, including ekavian-ijekavian, Cyrillic-Latin, foreign names transliteration etc. I think that it has an option to transliterate whole web pages somewhere.

    There are lot of resources around, but I find those two most practical.
  8. Diaspora Senior Member

    Serbocroatian, English
    I don't travel to Serbia but I've noticed that in the Serb Republic of Bosnia most private organizations/businesses use the Latin alphabet while government/educational/religious institutions prefer the Cyrillic. Personally, I think Latin should be officially removed from the Serbian language. Bosnian officially retains Cyrillic too but I have never seen it used. Kurdish is written in Latin or Arabic script.
  9. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    However, luckily, we're not North Korea. People find it convenient, use it, where's the problem?
  10. Pajapatak

    Pajapatak Senior Member

    Belgrade, Serbie
    serbe / Serbian
  11. mmbata

    mmbata Member

    Novi Sad (Vojvodina)
    Serbian & Croatian
    Thanks God it won't happen.
  12. Budspok Senior Member

    Lübertsy, Russian Federation
    Why in the first place had Latin script been intrpduced in Serbia?
  13. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    It gained currency when Serbia entered Yugoslavia, particularly after WW2. Press, books and packagings were printed for the whole country's market, often in Belgrade; companies were operating across the country; people migrated. There was a rather strong sense of unity, so the choice of script "didn't matter much". While the two scripts were theoretically on equal footing, Latin spread more easily eastwards than Cyrillic in the other way round.
  14. Johnny Milutinović

    Johnny Milutinović New Member

    I second the motion. Not because I am some extreme "Cyrillicist" (though I do use Cyrillic more often), but because I honestly see no point in having two scripts and I'd rather they'd (the linguists, or, whoever makes these kind of decisions) finally make up there mind and say which one is the "right one", so to speak. I beg to differ, when some people claim that it is a "richness", "uniqueness" of a language having two scripts. If it were so, how come there are no other languages with this phenomenon (I speak locally, i.e., in Europe)? It should be either one or the other, not both.
  15. iezik

    iezik Senior Member

    I played with transliteration and transcription. Current technology makes it hard to limit a writing system to a single script. This also means that Latin scripts could be transliterated into Cyrillic. Is anybody interested in reading English or some other western language written in Cyrillic, either exclusively or next to the original version? Or to produce English texts in Cyrillic and then convert them automatically to usual script? This could be wanted for different reasons. Educational: to learn pronunciation. Cultural: my preferred script is good enough for the most important language (English). I don't have anything ready right now, but I'm not far from it.
  16. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    Hello Duya!

    It seems that the idea of removing Latin script from Serbian is well rooted also in Croatia.

    Look at the Croatian site (the official site of "Zbirka: nastavnih materijala razredne nastave hrvatskih učitelja i učiteljica) where, among the "materials for national minorities" (Serbian, Italians, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians ans Germans), all the texts of Serbian are only in cyrillic!
  17. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    First, I must say that I'm no fan of these ridiculous separate curriculums for Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian kids, particularly for "mother tongue" classes.

    Having said that, using only Cyrillic for Serb lessons sort of makes sense in given context: children will certainly do the Latin well, as the script of their environment, but Cyrillic should be actively promoted to be acquired.

    The additional caveat, though, is that Serbs of Croatia had never, until 1990s, used Cyrillic very much. It was mostly passive knowledge.
  18. I do speak Serbian and I learnt it and as for a native Slovak speaker Latin script is easier for me to read, although after a couple of minutes my brain adjusts to texts in Cyrillic too and I read it just as fluently as Latin script. I wanted to mention something else though. I visited Serbia for the first time in 2003 a couple of years after Milosevic's fall and I was just surprised to see that all the inscriptions on road signs are duplicated in both scripts - just thought about it from the cost point of view as the country was in a difficult financial state back then - and is now, and having the comfort of roadsigns in 2 scripts seemed just unreasonable for me, especially when people apparently do not have preference (although the government has). It would be reasonable that all these signs would be in one script, or maybe some in Cyrillic and some in Latin, but to have two pieces for the same purpose is weird...
  19. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    find it bizarre as well; but then, this whole lingo politics stuff in Ex-Yu is bizarre. It comes from the "Cyrillic is official" mantra, so it has to be included; however, since foreigners, for whom they're intended, can't read it, we had to provide "transliteration" as well. And, in the end of the day, it raises costs and impedes usability, because your eyes have to parse twice as much information at the speed of 120 km/h.

    But then, maybe it's just me, whose engineer's soul likes simple and practical solutions... After all, Greeks, Bulgarians and Macedonians also have these bi-scriptal signs.
  20. Vanja Senior Member

    Well, I have noticed that some Serbs use only (or exclusively, or most of the time) Latin, and the rest only Cyrillic, from the very simple reason - one of the script has got into the habit. My father uses Cyrillic, my mother Latin. When you got used to one of the script, you usually stick to it and don't use the other script.

    What is sad in this story is that those who use Latin fill in a form/document (printed in Cyrillic) in Latin, so there are two scripts on one document. So, if a document is in Cyrillic, fill it in in Cyrillic! :eek: This is what people at least here could change!
  21. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    What about the internet and cell phones? I've seen that even speakers of Russian and Ukrainian tend to use (ad hoc) Latin transliteration in situations were Cyrillic is not available or awkward to use.
  22. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    For SMS, Latin is almost exclusively used, and usually stripped of diacritics at that (čćšžđ -> ccszdj). That is also much cheaper: insertion of a single "š" in a message causes the system to encode it as UTF-16 (2 bytes per character) instead of ANSI/ASCII (1 byte per character), cutting your buffer from 160 to 80 characters per SMS "page".

    On the Internet, Latin dominates. I'd roughly estimate some 90:10 ratio. More serious websites, such as public institutions and newspapers, offer you a choice of both scripts. So does also, for example,; they utilize automatic transliteration in the software, but their editors must be careful to use appropriate markup to indicate which strings are not to be transliterated.
    Last edited: May 24, 2013
  23. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    Anyway, officially...


    Jezik i pismo

    Član 10.

    U Republici Srbiji u službenoj upotrebi su srpski jezik i ćiriličko pismo.

    Službena upotreba drugih jezika i pisama uređuje se zakonom, na osnovu Ustava.
  24. Dekadent New Member


    Officially, yes. The Constitution just postulates that the officially langage is Serbian and the official script is the Cirillic one - meaning, representative, executive and the judicial branch of the authority are obliged to communicate on that 'line'; in a common life, we are using respectievely Latin and Cilliric script.

    BUT, "uređuje se zakonom" (according to Law), and Zakon o službenoj upotrebi jezika i pisama, postulates that where there are minorities, their mother tongue will be used due process.
  25. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    Yes, I've seen the respect of minorities in Vojvodina: the majority of road signs have been changed in Cirillic (even in villages mainly inhabitated by bunjevaci, švabi and Hungarians).
  26. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Perhaps in 90's. All road signs are now in Cyrillic+Latin, plus minority-language name where in co-official use. And unfortunately, the latter are still a magnet for vandals.

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