Croatian linguistic purism
The Croatian tradition of neologisms and linguistic purism goes back to the earliest documents of literacy (11th to 12th century), but it was in the Renaissance Croatian literature that this characteristic has become dominant.
Croatian literature across the centuries shows tendency to cherish Slavic words and coinage, and to expel "foreign" borrowings. Renown Croatian philologist Zlatko Vince articulates this tendency as follows:
Croatian literature even in the old ages tends to stay away from barbarisms and foreign words, a certain conscious care in the works of literature is felt when it comes to language selection. In the course of centuries hence the tendency is formed for literary language to be as much as pure and selective as possible. One thing is the colloquial language, often ridden with foreign words, and entirely different thing is the language of literary works in which tendency for language purity arises. The way and the extent to which that need could be satisfied is different in various periods, but the tendency for as pure and selective language can be noted even in Old Dubrovnik writers, and in Vitezović. All the way to pre-Illyrian and Illyrian efforts and by the end of the XIX. century, when the osmotic influence of traditional Croatian literary heritage does not cease to stop...That care of language purity which characterizes Croatian literary expression even in the XIX. century, remains immanent in later periods...Literary language of the Croats is in fact organic continuation of older state of affairs in Croatian literature.
In a session regarding the issue of the usage for foreign words in Croatian language, as well on the problems of ongoing projects of coining Slavic replacements for established technical terms by combined efforts of linguists and specialists, the central body for the standardisation of Croatian language—the Council for Standard Croatian Language Norm—presents the historical overview of the issue as follows:
The attitude towards foreign words in Croatian literary language is multi-dimensional in many respects. The origin of Croatian language culture, when writing in Slavic, is determined by the tradition of Church Slavonic literature. Originating from copies of Ancient Greek liturgical texts, it places a distinct emphasis to Slavic expressive devices, and only exceptionally non-Slavic words are being borrowed. That tendency has been continued in Croatian language culture to this day. The usage of Croatian words, if necessary even in a modified meaning, or Croatian coinages, if they're considered to be successful, represents higher merit then mere mechanical borrowing of foreign expressive devices. That way the Croatian word is more solemn and formal (glazba, mirovina, redarstvenik), and the loanword is more relaxing and less demanding (muzika, penzija, policajac). This dimension of purism is incorporated into the very foundations of Croatian language sensitivity.
The early period
In the Dubrovnik Renaissance literature, 16th century poet Dinko Zlatarić freely "translated" Greek and Latin names into Croatian — sometimes wrongly, due to superficial knowledge of etymology. For instance, in his translation of Torquato Tasso's "Aminta", published in 1580, Zlatarić's purist tendencies led to mistakes: the hero's name Aminta becomes in Croatian Ljubmir (Lover) because Zlatarić wrongly assumed that the name "Aminta" stems from Latin amare ("to love"), while in fact it is from Ancient Greek ἀμύνω (amýnō, "to defend").
This tradition of Croatian neologisms continued uninterruptedly in next centuries and is recorded in numerous Croatian dictionaries until the Illyrian movement in the 19th century when it reached the peak in works of one of the most prominent Croatian philologists, Bogoslav Šulek (born and raised in Slovakia).
The Illyrian period and Šulek's activity
The Illyrian movement and its successor, the Zagreb philological school, have been particularly successful in creating the corpus of Croatian terminology that covered virtually all areas of modern civilisation. In short — they extended and systematised the purist tendencies already present in the by then more than 300 years old Croatian vernacular literature and lexicography.
This was especially visible in two fundamental works: Ivan Mažuranić's and Josip Užarević's: "German-Croatian dictionary" from 1842 and Bogoslav Šulek's "German-Croatian-Italian dictionary of scientific terminology", 1875. These works, particularly Šulek's, systematised (i.e. collected from older dictionaries), invented and coined Croatian terminology for the 19th century jurisprudence, military schools, exact and social sciences, as well as numerous other fields (technology and commodities of urban civilisation).
During the Yugoslav period, from 1918 to 1990, Croatian and Serbian were largely subject to unification as the Serbo-Croatian language. Parts of this policy were systematic attempts to eliminate traits of the Croatian literary language by which it distinguished itself from the Serbian literary language.
Serbian language is "unfriendly" toward neologisms. One of basic tendencies of this language is to prefer loan-words over neologisms and calques. A non-negligible part of Slavic neologisms in this language was adopted from Croatian, for instance računovodstvo ("bank accountancy") or vodovod ("waterworks").
Unification into one language was preferred by neogrammarian Croatian Vukovians, the most notable example was the influential philologist and translator Tomislav Maretić. The recipe was simple:[editorializing] if a term is described by two words in Croatian (a neologism and Greek/Latin Europeanism) and one word in Serbian (Europeanism) — the "choice" was to suppress Croatian neologism and "promote" Europeanism. For instance, "geography" is geografija in Serbian, and zemljopis and geografija in Croatian. The policy was to try to establish geografija as the norm and to eliminate zemljopis. However, this school was virtually extinct by the 1930s and since then Croatian linguists have been unanimous in re-affirmation of purist tradition.
World War II
The language law of 1941 promulgated purity as a policy, and tried to eliminate internationalisms, stigmatized Serbisms and introduced etymological spelling (korijenski pravopis).
No Croatian dictionaries or grammars were published during this period because of the opposition of the Croatian linguists. This era is best covered in Marko Samardžija's "Hrvatski jezik u Nezavisnoj Državi Hrvatskoj", (Croatian language in Independent State of Croatia), 1993.
In the Communist period (1945 to 1990) the Serbo-Croatian unification was the by-product of Communist centralism and "internationalism". See: Novi Sad agreement and Declaration on the Status and Name of the Croatian Literary Language. Whatever the intentions, the result was the same: the suppression of one of basic features of Croatian language.
In Communist Yugoslavia, Serbian language and terminology were prevailing in a few areas: the military, diplomacy, Federal Yugoslav institutions (various institutes and research centres), state media and jurisprudence at Yugoslav level. Also, the language in Bosnia and Herzegovina was gradually Serbified, chiefly in the official terminology educational system and the republic's administration. For Croatian tradition of neologisms, these were "no go" areas.
The methods used for this "unification" were manifold and chronologically multifarious; even in the eighties, a common "argument" was to claim that the opponents of the official Yugoslav language policy were sympathising with the Ustaša regime of World War 2, and that the incriminated words were thus "ustašoid" as well. Another method was to punish authors who fought against censorship. Linguists and philologists, the authors of dictionaries, grammars etc., were not allowed to write their works freely and according to the best of their professional knowledge and competence. Hence, for example, the whole edition of the Croatian Orthography ('Hrvatski pravopis') edited by Babić-Finka-Moguš (1971) was destroyed in a paper factory just because it had been titled "Croatian" Orthography instead of "Serbocroatian" or "Croatoserbian" Orthography No Croatian dictionaries (apart from the historical "Croatian or Serbian" dictionaries, conceived in the 19th century) appeared until 1985, when Communist centralism was well in the process of decay.
Croatian linguist Stjepan Babić's monumental monograph "Tvorba riječi u hrvatskome književnom jeziku" (Word-formation in Croatian literary language), 1986, is considered still the best work on the topic in the entire Slavic philology.[editorializing]
The passive Croatian vocabulary contained many banished words equivalent to the actively used words of the politically approved vocabulary. For example, the officers of the JNA could be publicly called only oficir, and not časnik. For the usage of word časnik ('officer'), coined by a father of Croatian scientific terminology Bogoslav Šulek, the physician Ivan Šreter was sentenced to 50 days in jail in 1987. Concordantly, the possibility of using the previously frequent word časnik was already reduced to the extent that before 1991 it could occur only in special contexts, e.g. in relation to historical events.
After the collapse of Communism and subsequent wars, the situation changed. Suppressive relations changed significantly after the dissolution of the SFRJ and the founding of the sovereign Republic of Croatia. The regained freedom enabled public usage of previously forbidden words in the semantic sphere of administration, army etc. As a consequence, formerly suppressed words switched from the more or less passive vocabulary of the Croatian literary language to the active one without any special stylistic marking.
Croatian linguists fought this wave of "populist purism", led by various patriotic non-linguists. Ironically: the same people who were, for decades, stigmatised as ultra-Croatian "linguistic nationalists" (Stjepan Babić, Dalibor Brozović, Radoslav Katičić, Miro Kačić) have been accused as pro-Serbian "political linguists" simply because they opposed these "language purges" that wanted to kick out numerous words of Church Slavonic origin (which are common not only to Croatian and Serbian, but are also present in Polish, Russian, Czech and other Slavic languages).
In 1993, the Dr. Ivan Šreter Award was created to promote neologisms in Croatian.
Before 1994, the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (which had come into power in 1990) considered ideas reminiscent of the Independent State of Croatia language policy in the form of the so-called korijenski pravopis, but ultimately discarded it as too radical and instead made the londonski pravopis, originally made during the Croatian Spring, official. At the time, extreme forms of purism were advocated by nationalist-minded linguists who were in turn described by Radoslav Katičić as "marginal elements". The leaders of (mainstream) language purification were Stjepan Babić and Dalibor Brozović.
After creating a flurry of sensationalist articles in the press, this phenomenon subsided. Since the late 90s, instead of forced purism, Croatian has been evolving naturally, developing its own words and forms, thereby increasing the distance separating it from other South Slav languages.
Since the 1990s, there has been some[weasel words] language censorship practiced by proofreaders (called "lektori") in the media and schoolbooks. Despite forcing techniques for implementing purism, there has been significant resistance to purism in common usage. There have also been Croatian linguists that offer severe criticism of the language purism, e.g., Vladimir Anić, Snježana Kordić, Dubravko Škiljan, Kristina Štrkalj and Mate Kapović.
- Vince, Zlatko (1968). Filološke škole XIX. stoljeća u razvoju hrvatskog književnog jezika (in Croatian). Zagreb. pp. 171–172. "U hrvatskoj se književnosti već u staro doba nastoje kloniti barbarizama i stranih riječi, osjeća se u književnim djelima određena svjesna briga oko jezičnog odabiranja. U toku stoljeća javlja se dakle težnja da književni jezik u književnim djelima bude što čišći, probraniji. Jedno je jezik razgovorni, često pun tuđica, a drugo je jezik u književnim djelima u kojima se javlja nastojanje za što većom jezičnom čistoćom. Način na koji se to može postići i u kojoj mjeri, u raznim je vremenima različit, ali težnju za što probranijim i čistijim književnim jezikom zapažamo i kod dubrovačkih književnika, i kod Vitezovića...Ta briga oko jezične čistoće koja karakterizira hrvatski književni izraz i u XIX. stoljeću, ostala je imanentna i kasnije...Književni jezik u Hrvata zapravo je dakle organski nastavak starijeg stanja u hrvatskoj književnosti."
- "Zapisnik 15. sjednice Vijeća za normu hrvatskoga standardnoga jezika". 21. 12. 2006. "Odnos prema stranim riječima u hrvatskom književnom jeziku vrlo je slojevit. Ishodište hrvatske jezične kulture, kada se rabi slavenski, određeno je tradicijom crkvenoslavenske književnosti. U njoj, koja polazi od preslika grčkih liturgijskih tekstova, dana je izrazita prednost slavenskim izražajnim sredstvima, a tek iznimno se preuzimaju riječi koje nisu slavenske. To je udarilo pečat hrvatskoj jezičnoj kulturi sve do naših dana. Poraba hrvatskih riječi, ako treba i prilagođena značenja, ili hrvatskih tvorenica, ako se doživljavaju kao uspjele, predstavlja veću vrijednost nego mehaničko preuzimanje stranih izražajnih sredstava. Tako je onda hrvatska riječ svečanija i formalnija (glazba, mirovina, redastvenik), a posuđenica opuštenija i manje zahtjevna (muzika, penzija, policajac). Ta dimenzija purizma ugrađena je u same temelje hrvatske jezične osjetljivosti."
- Grčević 2002:150
- Busch 2004, p. 205.
- Grčević 2002:151
- Grčević 2002:152
- Busch 2004, p. 206.
- Czerwiński 2005, p. 90.
- Czerwiński 2005, p. 131.
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