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Reviewed by:
  • Jezik naš i/ili njihov: Vježbe iz poredbene povijesti južnoslavenskih standardizacijskih procesa
  • Maciej Czerwiński
Anita Peti-Stantić, Jezik naš i/ili njihov: Vježbe iz poredbene povijesti južnoslavenskih standardizacijskih procesa. Zagreb, Croatia: Srednja Europa, 2008. 495 pp.

This book examines one of the most complex linguistic and cultural problems in the Slavic world, the case of literary languages in former Yugoslavia. The large amount of relevant scholarship devoted to this field has for many years attempted to answer one question: how many literary (standard) languages are there? This question entails several other questions concerning the existence or non-existence of this or that language, literariness and linguistic intelligibility, language and nationhood, and so on. As a result, there are, especially in the Croatian and Serbian literature, an enormous number of books that focused their study on this particular issue. When confronted with a work entitled Language, Ours and/or Theirs, one expects a similar dispute marshalling one or another sort of argumentation to demonstrate either that a Serbo-Croatian language does or does not exist. This is, however, not the case, as the book in question has a completely different nature.

Although the monograph takes for granted that there are distinct literary languages, Croatian and Serbian (even though there exists at the same time a “dialect continuum” enabling unbroken communication between individuals speaking the two languages), the argumentation is not determined by this issue. It rather offers an indepth insight into the sociolinguistic reality of more or less conscious codification processes applied to Croatian, Serbian, and Slovenian (the latter is however not relevant to the Serbo-Croatian conflict). It tries to exemplify how consciousness of the existence of a particular language–both as a tool of communication for a community and as a tool for defining (and thus establishing) a community (in virtue of that language, and its symbolic power), was emerging in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. We stress that this period is important insofar as it preceded the [End Page 111] National Revival in the 19th century and thus the final codification of literary languages, Croatian, Serbian, and Slovenian. Therefore, the issue of identity and otherness, constructed in language and by language, is taken into consideration. The book also highlights the problem of spoken vs. written codes and repercussions of this dualism for the idea of language. It, further, deals with some important historical figures—a few of them unjustly forgotten—who influenced the standardization processes in the cultures in question.

It has to be said that the monograph is very complex both in terms of the variety of problems and in terms of the variety of types of data taken into consideration. In this review I am only concentrating on some of the aspects and, at the end, I summarize them and try to give a conclusion with some additional remarks.

The author, in the introduction and in the first chapter, seeks to establish a new (sub)discipline, comparative historical standardology or comparative historical sociolinguistics that would be able to reject a traditional, separatist (i.e., exclusively linguistic) approach. Accordingly, Peti-Stantić questions another traditional dualism, namely the internal versus external history of language. As a matter of fact this is not a new approach in Croatian philology, since there is already a firm tradition, though not called sociolinguistic, of such a multidimensional history of language; see for instance studies by Milan Rešetar, Eduard Hercigonja, Josip Vončina, Zlatko Vince, Josip Bratulić, and many others. It is of course a right decision since dealing exclusively with the language-internal sphere, without taking into consideration the external circumstances in which the language “lived”, makes an analysis incomplete.

The second chapter is entirely devoted to definitions, and a sociolinguistic approach is specified with all the relevant terminology and references. A highly instructive distinction, that between language community and literary language community, is proposed.1 All this, alongside additional clarifications concerning nation-building processes (taken from theoretical works by historians and anthropologists, such as Anderson or Hobsbawm), helps us to grasp how one can speak of one dialect and multiple literary languages based on this dialect. [End Page 112] Moreover, social and...


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