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15 September 2014
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Croatian/Serbian today
The history of Croatian/Serbian
Names and writing system

The history of Croatian/Serbian

Serbian and Croatian, traditionally known as Serbo-Croat, are spoken in Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia Hercegovina, and in the regions of Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. They form part of the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European family of languages.

Divisions between Serbs and Croats date back to their conversion to Christianity in the eleventh century. The Serbs aligned themselves with the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Croats with the Roman Catholic Church. The linguistic differences - mainly in intonation and vocabulary - between Serbian and Croatian are small. Serbian, for instance, has tended to borrow new words from Russian, whereas Croatian has turned to German and Czech.

In the former Yugoslavia, there was considerable pressure from the federal government to treat Serbian and Croatian as one language and attempts were made to harmonise pronunciation, vocabulary and orthography. However, Croatians objected to the preferential status accorded to the Serbian dialect in federal institutions such as the army, and called for greater use of the Croatian dialect in schools, the mass media, and federal communication. Since Croatia achieved independence, insistence on the differences has become even stronger.

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