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Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, a Grammar

With Sociolinguistic Commentary

Ronelle Alexander

Publication Year: 2006

Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, a Grammar analyzes and clarifies the complex, dynamic language situation in the former Yugoslavia. Addressing squarely the issues connected with the splintering of Serbo-Croatian into component languages, this volume provides teachers and learners with practical solutions and highlights the differences among the languages as well as the communicative core that they all share. The first book to cover all three components of the post-Yugoslav linguistic environment, this reference manual features:

· Thorough presentation of the grammar common to Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian, with explication of all the major differences
· Examples from a broad range of spoken language and literature
· New approaches to accent and clitic ordering, two of the most difficult points in BCS grammar
· Order of grammar presentation in chapters 1–16 keyed to corresponding lessons in Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, a Textbook
· "Sociolinguistic commentary" explicating the cultural and political context within which Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian function and have been defined
· Separate indexes of the grammar and sociolinguistic commentary, and of all words discussed in both

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page

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pp. v-xv

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pp. xvii-xxii

This book is about the language that used to be called Serbo-Croatian. When Yugoslavia split up into separate component states, this one language was replaced by the three languages now known as Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian.1 The background of this situation is complex. Some claim that Serbo-Croatian still ...


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pp. 1-15

Two different alphabets are used within the territory covered by BCS. One is based on the Cyrillic alphabet, known worldwide primarily from its variant used in Russian. The other is a variant of the alphabets used to write nearly all European languages, including English, and is known (as are other alphabets ...

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pp. 16-33

There are numerous different verb types in BCS, but only three basic present tense conjugations. These are the a-conjugation, the e-conjugation, and the i-conjugation. Their names come from the vowel which is characteristic of each conjugation, and which in each case is also the ending of the 3rd singular (3sg.) form. ...

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pp. 34-47

This conjugation type is restricted to the verb davati “give” plus its prefixed forms, and all verbs whose infinitives end in -znavati, such as poznavati “be acquainted with, know”. Other BCS verbs in -avati follow the regular a-conjugation, but in these verbs, the sequence -ava- in the infinitive is replaced ...

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pp. 48-63

Most verbs with infinitive in -ivati follow the same conjugation as those in -ovati (review [14e]). This means that -iva- in the infinitive is replaced by -uj- in the present tense. The infinitive accent is always long rising on -iv-, and the present tense is short rising on the syllable preceding -uj-. ...

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pp. 64-83

Several important verbs with -ati infinitives belong to the i-conjugation. All such verbs keep the same accent in both infinitive and present tense. The most important are bojati se “fear” držati “keep, hold”, and stajati “stand”. The present tense of stajati is irregular in that the root vowel changes: ...

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pp. 84-105

In many e-conjugation verbs, the shape of the infinitive stem is different from that of the present tense stem. In some instances, the stem-final consonant is altered, according to a complex but predictable set of consonant shifts (for a full list, see [112c]). In other instances, an additional segment is inserted ...

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pp. 106-123

A few verbs have ekavian and ijekavian forms in both infinitive and present tense. The theme vowel of the infinitive is short but that of the present is long, which means ijekavian spells the infinitive with -je- but the present tense with -ije-. For more on this type, see [153n]. ...

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pp. 124-141

The dative, locative and instrumental plural share the same case forms. For nouns with Nsg. ending in -a it is -ama, and for all other nouns it is -ima. Masculine nouns with stems ending in -k, -g, or -h shift these consonants to -c, -z, or -s, respectively, before the DLIpl. ending -ima. The adjective ending ...

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pp. 142-155

Verbs like prati are similar to slati (review [65c]) and zvati (review [7a]): each inserts a vowel into the present tense stem. While the vowel is a in slati and o in zvati (1sg. šaljem and zovem, respectively), it is e in this group. For more on this type, illustrated by brati “gather” and prati “wash”, see [153k]). ...

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pp. 156-172

Although there are only three different present tense conjugations in BCS, each named by its theme vowel (a, e or i, review [13]), there are a great many more verb types. In order to predict the form of the infinitive from the form of the present tense, and vice versa, one must know which type the verb belongs to. ...

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pp. 173-194

Certain grammatical forms of a word require that the stem-final consonant be replaced by another, similar sounding consonant. This process is usually referred to as softening. The correspondences between the base consonant and its softened version fall into three different groups. The following sections list ...

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pp. 195-214

The past tense expression used in nearly all instances is the compound past (review [69, 104]). There are two other ways to express simple past action, however, each of which is a simplex past tense (that is, all the meaning of “past tense” contained in a single word). These two tenses are called the aorist and the imperfect. ...

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pp. 215-229

The BCS conditional mood is a compound verb form. It is composed of the L-participle and an auxiliary derived from the aorist tense of biti (review [122a]). As in other compound tenses, the conditional auxiliary has three forms: full, negated, and clitic. What is different about this auxiliary is that ...

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pp. 230-258

A verbal adverb is made by adding a suffix to the appropriate verbal stem (review [129]). The subject of the verbal adverb is necessarily the same as the subject of the sentence. The main sentence verb is conjugated, but the verbal adverb is not. The function of the verbal adverb is similar to English gerunds: ...

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pp. 259-281

The idea of future involves the prediction that a particular action will be taken or a particular state will come about. Not surprisingly, this idea is most frequently expressed by the future tense – a compound comprising a conjugated form of hteti / htjeti plus the infinitive of either a perfective or an imperfective verb, ...

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pp. 282-301

Most verbs can form a noun which refers either to the process of the action or its result. This form, called the verbal noun, is made from many imperfective verbs, as well as a few perfective ones, by adding the suffix -nje (review [108, 116]). A smaller group of nouns can form a different sort of verbal noun, ...

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pp. 302-329

Nouns in English essentially have two forms, singular and plural. The possessive form, expressed by ‘s, is also used in certain instances, but as many English speakers are uncertain as to its correct usage (especially in writing), it can no longer be viewed as a central part of the English noun system. ...

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pp. 330-349

The many words which make up the vocabulary of BCS are related to one another through a complex interweaving of roots, prefixes, and suffixes. The process by which these segments are combined with one another is usually called derivation, referring to the fact that new words are derived in this way from existing words ...

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pp. 350-364

The ordering of clitics within sentences is a major part of BCS grammar. Two requirements must always be fulfilled whenever clitics are present. One is that they must all occur together in a particular order. The other is that the chunk of clitics (properly ordered) must occur at a particular point in the sentence. ...

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pp. 365-378

In its primary form, language is spoken. Writing originally came into being in order to preserve utterances of language beyond the actual moment of speech, and to make these utterances available to a wider audience. In time, of course, the written word took on a character of its own. Nevertheless, for most languages ...


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pp. 379-386

The preceding chapters have presented a description of BCS; this complex in turn may be defined as the common core underlying Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. These chapters have also identified the major grammatical points on which the three separate systems diverge. No consistent attempt has been made to ...

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pp. 387-403

South Slavic languages and dialects cover the geographical expanse from the Julian Alps in the northwest to the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea in the southeast. The northwestern corner of this area is inhabited by speakers of Slovenian, and the southern and southeastern areas are inhabited by speakers of Macedonian and Bulgarian. ...

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pp. 404-409

Of the three groups denoted by the acronym BCS, the Bosnians are the hardest to define. In part, this is because one must usually approach the idea Bosnian – at least within the context of the former Yugoslavia – in the context of the ideas Serbian and Croatian. Each of the three groups traces its history back ...

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pp. 410-415

Linguistically, Croatian identity is a very complex issue. It encompasses all three major dialects (čakavian, kajkavian and štokavian), as well as the regionally-marked speech of several quite discrete areas. Medieval Croatia itself ceased to exist as an independent state in 1102, and the separate regions ...

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pp. 416-423

From the outset, the Serbian language and the Serbian Orthodox Church have been closely intertwined. This is partly because Orthodox Slavs are very conscious of the fact that the Cyrillic alphabet was created for the express purpose of bringing the word of God to Slavs; as such, it carries obvious religious significance ...

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pp. 424-426

It is appropriate to conclude this sociolinguistic commentary by returning to the question of whether it is more correct to speak of BCS as a single language, or to consider that Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are three separate languages. The goal of this book has been to present the grammar of BCS as a single ...

INDEX to Grammar

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pp. 427-438

INDEX to Sociolinguistic commentary

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pp. 439-442

INDEX of words (BCS)

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pp. 443-461

INDEX of words (English)

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pp. 462-464

E-ISBN-13: 9780299211936
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299211943

Publication Year: 2006