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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 27, 2008

On “unified Serbo-Croatian” and its “new successor languages”: a case study of scholarly treatment

Radoslav Katičić
From the journal


Reading Professor Robert D. Greenberg's book Language and Identity in the Balkans, one encounters many obviously wrong claims. It takes a while to perceive that it results from an approach that disregards reality. The author believes indeed that Serbo-Croatian really existed as a living unified language, and then ceased to exist, although he himself mentions many data about developments and circumstances that allow us to infer that this was not the case. Nevertheless, his faith remains unshakable. Things appear even stranger when it becomes evident that his belief is almost solely based on the so-called 1850 Vienna Literary Agreement and the 1954 Novi Sad Agreement, which stipulate such a unified literary language for Serbs and Croats without taking into account the whole historical context of these two events. This only shows that a unified Serbo-Croatian standard language was a project supported by important champions, but nota linguistic reality. In the book, linguistic reality is consequently disregarded as a factor in itself and considered in the light of normative regulations and legal acts of language policy, which they were subsumed under. This considerably hampers any deeper understanding. Such an approach is not only inadequate in itself, but also leads to inadequate interpretations and wrong judgments about the course taken by language history, especially with regard to the literary and the standard language. In addition, the book contains a series of false data and untrue statements about factual matters and obvious misinterpretations of historical developments. In this respect, it is not trustworthy. It is also obvious that, quite regrettably, these mistakes clearly reveal the author's bias in controversial matters. As a case study of scholarly treatment of an atypical course taken by the history of a literary language, this paper may help in understanding other analogous developments in the world, more so as the approach of Professor Greenberg is not quite atypical on occasions in which undesired linguistic loyalties are to be intellectually repressed.

Published Online: 2008-05-27
Published in Print: 2008-May

© 2008 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, D-10785 Berlin