Serbia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.5 Language issues and policies

From 1918 to 1991, the official language of the former Yugoslavia was Serbo-Croat, or Croato-Serbian, depending on which part of the country one lived. Both alphabets were recognised. Currently, there is also a third recognised language, derived from the same root, the so-called Bosnian language, which is spoken in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but claimed as the language spoken by Muslims living in Serbia and Montenegro.

From 1991, the official use of the Serbian language and script meant the following: use of language and script by government agencies, organs of autonomous provinces, towns and municipalities, organisations exercising public authority, public companies etc. The Law on the Official Use of the Languages stipulates which particular activities the provision applies. The official use of the language also applies to the inscription of names of towns and villages, other geographical names, streets, organs, organisations, public warnings and other public notices.

In the Republic of Serbia, the Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet are in official use. The Latin script is used in municipalities having a considerable population belonging to people whose primary script is Latin, in line with their tradition.

In those areas where significant numbers of ethnic minorities live, the minority languages are in official use concurrently with the Serbian language. After World War II, ethnic minorities gained the right to the official use of their languages.

In AP Vojvodina, 20 municipalities use an ethnic minority language in addition to Serbian. 11 municipalities recognise two ethnic minority languages, and five municipalities and the city of Novi Sad use three ethnic minority languages in addition to Serbian.

Still, cultural practices are equalising the use of both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabet; Cyrillic is predominant in official communication, while Latin is predominant in the marketplace and in business communication (billboards, shop windows, etc.).

The media (press) is published in both alphabets, according to their marketing strategies or tradition (Politika (cyrillic) – Danas (Latin), NIN (cyrillic) – Vreme (Latin), etc.).


Chapter published: 24-01-2013


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