Kajkavian dialect

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kajkavica, kajkavština
Native to Croatia
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kjv
Glottolog kayk1238[1]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Kajkavian dialect /kˈkɑːviən/ (Kajkavian noun: kajkavščina; Shtokavian adjective: kajkavski, noun: kajkavica or kajkavština) is a dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language spoken by Croats in Central Croatia,[2] Gorski Kotar[3] and northern Istria.[4] It has low mutual intelligibility with the Shtokavian dialect upon which Croatia's standard language is based.[5] Some linguists consider Kajkavian to be a language of its own.[6]

All three Serbo-Croatian dialects derive their name from their reflex of the interrogative pronoun what.[7] In Kajkavian, the interrogative pronoun is kaj.[8]

Outside of Croatia, the dialect is also spoken in Austrian Burgenland and a number of enclaves in Hungary, and Romania.[9] Although speakers of Kajkavian are Croats, and Kajkavian is as such also considered a dialect of Serbo-Croatian, its closest relative is the Slovene language, followed by Chakavian and then Shtokavian. Kajkavian is part of a dialect continuum with both Slovene and Chakavian.[10]


The Kajkavian speech area is bordered in the northwest by Slovene language and in the northeast by Hungarian language. In the east and southeast it is bordered by Shtokavian dialects roughly along a line that used to serve as the border between Civil Croatia and the Habsburg Military Frontier. Finally, in the southwest it borders Chakavian along the Kupa and Dobra rivers.[11]

The capital Zagreb has historically been a Kajkavian-speaking area and Kajkavian is still in use by its older population and to a lesser extent younger population. Modern Zagreb speech has been under considerable influence of Shtokavian.[12] The most significant features of Kajkavian that have found their way into Shtokavian as spoken by younger populations of Zagreb are the fixed stress-based accentual system without distinctive lengths, merger of /č/ and /ć/, merger of /dž/ and /đ/, vocabulary differences as well as a different place of stress in words.[13]

Kajkavian is closely related to Slovene and to Prekmurje Slovene in particular.[14] Higher amounts of correspondences between the two exist in inflection and vocabulary. Speakers of Prekmurian are Slovenes and Hungarian Slovenes who belonged to the Archdiocese of Zagreb during the Habsburg era. They used Kajkavian as their liturgical language and by the 18th century Kajkavian had become the standard language of Prekmurje.[15]

Some Kajkavian words bear a closer resemblance to other Slavic languages (such as Russian) than they do to Shtokavian or Chakavian. For instance gda seems to be, at first glance, unrelated to kada, however, when compared to the Russian когда, the Slovene kdaj, or the Prekmurian gda, kda, the relationship becomes more apparent. Kajkavian kak (how) and tak (so) are exactly like their Russian cognates, as compared to Shtokavian and Chakavian kako and tako, in Prekmurian in turn tak, kak (in Slovene like Chakavian: tako, kako). (This vowel loss occurred in most other Slavic languages; Shtokavian is a notable exception, whereas the same feature of Macedonian is probably not a Serbo-Croatian influence, because the word is preserved in the same form in Bulgarian, to which Macedonian is much more closely related than to Serbo-Croatian.)[citation needed]

Another distinctive feature of Kajkavian is the use of another future tense. Instead of Shtokavian and Chakavian future I ("ću", "ćeš", and "će" + infinitive), Kajkavian speakers use future II ("bum", "buš" and "bu" + active verbal adjective). Future II in Standard Croatian can only occur in subordinate clauses to refer to a condition or an action that will occur before other future action. For example, the phrase "I'll show you" is "Ti bum pokazal" in Kajkavian whereas in standard Croatian it is "Pokazat ću ti". This is a feature shared with Slovene: bom, boš, bo.


Dialectogical investigations of the Kajkavian dialect began at the end of the 19th century: the Ukrainian philologist A.M.Lukjanenko wrote the first comprehensive monograph on the subject (Kajkavskoe narečie) in Russian in 1905. Kajkavian dialects have been classified along various criteria: Serbian philologist Aleksandar Belić had divided (1927) the Kajkavian dialect according to the reflexes of Proto-Slavic phonemes /tj/ and /dj/ into three subdialects: eastern, northwestern and southwestern.

However, later investigations have not corroborated Belić's division. Contemporary Kajkavian dialectology originates mainly from Croatian philologist Stjepan Ivšić's work "Jezik Hrvata kajkavaca"/The Language of Kajkavian Croats, 1936, which highlights accentuation characteristics. Due to great diversity of Kajkavian speech, primarily in phonetics, phonology and morphology – the Kajkavian dialectological atlas features a bewildering proliferation of subdialects: from four identified by Ivšić, up to six proposed by Croatian linguist Brozović (formerly the accepted division) and even as many as fifteen, according to a monograph authored by Croatian linguist Mijo Lončarić (1995).

Area of use[edit]

Bilingual Kajkavian/German streetsign in Zagreb:
Kamenita Vulicza / Stein Gaſſe

Kajkavian is chiefly spoken in northern and northwestern Croatia. The mixed half-Kajkavian towns along the eastern and southern edge of Kajkavian speaking area are Pitomača, Čazma, Kutina, Popovača, Sunja, Petrinja, Martinska Ves[disambiguation needed], Ozalj, Ogulin, Fužine, and Čabar, with included newer Štokavian enclaves of Bjelovar, Sisak, Glina, Dubrava, Zagreb and Novi Zagreb. The southernmost Kajkavian villages are Krapje at Jasenovac; and Pavušek, Dvorišče and Hrvatsko selo in Zrinska Gora (R. Fureš & A. Jembrih: Kajkavski u povijesnom i sadašnjem obzorju p. 548, Zabok 2006).

The major cities in northern Croatia with that have historically been Kajkavian speaking areas chiefly Zagreb, Koprivnica, Krapina, Križevci, Varaždin, Čakovec, etc. The typical and archaic Kajkavian is today spoken chiefly in Zagorje hills and Medjimurje plain, and in adjacent areas of northwestern Croatia where other immigrants and Štokavian standard had much less influence. The most peculiar Kajkavian archidiom (Baegnunski) is spoken at Bednja in northernmost Croatia. Many of northern Croatian urban areas today are partly Štokavianized due to the influence of standard language and immigration of Štokavian speakers.

Other southeastern people who immigrate to Zagreb from Štokavian territories often pick up rare elements of Kajkavian in order to assimilate, notably the pronoun "kaj" instead of "što" and the extended use of future anterior (futur drugi), but they never adapt well because of alien eastern accents and ignoring Kajkavian-Čakavian archaisms and syntax.

Kajkavian phonetics[edit]

Vowels: /a/, /ɑ/, /ɛ/, /e/, /ə/, /i/, /ɔ/, /o/, /u/
consonants: /b/, /ts/, /tʃ/, /d/, /dz/, /dʒ/, /f/, /ɡ/, /ɦ/, /x/, /j/, /k/, /l/, /ʎ/, /m/, /n/, /ɲ/, /p/, /r/, /r̝/, /s/, /ʃ/, /t/, /v/, /z/, /ʒ/

Letter or digraph IPA Example Translation
a /a/ Kaj buš? What do you will?
a /ɑ/ Ja grem v Varaždin. I'm going to Varaždin.
b /b/ Kaj buš ti, bum i ja. What will you, I will to.
c /ts/ Čuda cukora 'ma v otem kolaču. There is a lot of sugar in this cake.
č /tʃ/ Hočeš kaj ti povedam? Would you like me to tell you?
d /d/ Da l' me ljubiš? Do you love me?
dz /dz/ Pogledni dzaj za hižom! Look behind the house!
/dʒ/ Kda nam pak dojde to vreme, kda pemo mi v Meimurje? When will this time come again, when we will go to Medjimurje?
e /ɛ/ Moje srčeko ne m're bez tebe! My heart can not go on without you!
e /e/ Moj Zagreb tak imam te rad! My Zagreb, I love you so much!
e /ə/ Ja sem Varaždinec! I'm a Varaždinian!
f /f/ Cveti! Cveti, fijolica lepa! Blossom! Blossom, beautiful violet!
g /ɡ/ Smrt po vse nas dojde! Na koncu, v grabi smo vsi. Death comes for us all, at the End we are all in our graves!
h /ɦ/ Ljubim tve čobice mehke. I love your tender lips.
h /x/ Naj se hurmati, kak nekšni hrmak. Don't fool around, like some baffoon.
i /i/ Kdo te ima? Who haves you.
ie /jɛ/ Liepa moja, daj mi se osmiehni, ker ti imaš najliepši osmieh na svietu. My Beauty, give me one smile, because you have the most beautiful smile in the world.
j /j/ Hej, haj, prišel je kraj, nikdar več ne bu dišal nam maj. Hej, haj, End has come, to us May, never again whould it smell .
l /l/ Ja sem včera v Zagrebu bil, kda sem dimo išel, solzicu sem pustil. Yesterday I was in Zagreb, when I went home, tear had drop.
lj /ʎ/ Tak malo dobroga, v življenju tu se najde. So little good, in life is there to find.
m /m/ Molim te kaj mi oprostiš. Please forgive me.
n /n/ Znaš kaj? – Nikaj! You know what? – Nothing!
nj /ɲ/ Ja samo nju ljubim. I love only her.
o /ɔ/ Idemo na morje? Are we going to the sea?
o /o/ Ja sem samo tvoj. I'm only yours.
p /p/ Upam se, da me još imaš rada. I hope, you love me still.
r /r/ Vjutro se ja rano 'stanem, malo pred zorju. I woke up early in the morning, a little before dawn.
r /r̝/ Prešlo je prešlo, puno ljet. Many years have passed.
s /s/ Popevke sem slagal, i rožice bral. Songs did I compose, and roses did I pick.
š /ʃ/ Ja bi ti štel kušlec dati. I would like to give you a kiss.
t /t/ Kajti: kak bi bilo da nebi nekak bilo, nebi bilo nikak, ni tak kak je bilo. Because: how would it be if it wouldn't be like this, it would be nohow, and not like this as it is.
u /u/ Nikdar ni tak bilo da ni nekak bilo, pak ni vesda ne bu da nam nekak ne bu. Never had been that has not been nothing and nohow, so it will never be that somehow would it not be.
v /v/ Vrag te 'zel! Devil has taken you away!
z /z/ Zakaj? – Morti zato? Why? – Maybe because?
ž /ʒ/ Kde delaš? – Ja delam na železnici. Zakaj pitaš? Where are you working? – I'm working on railway. Why do you ask?

Kajkavian literary language[edit]

Kajkavian is not only a folk dialect, but in the course of history of Serbo-Croatian it has been the written public language (along with the corpus written in Čakavian and Štokavian). Kajkavian was the last to appear on the scene, mainly due to economic and political reasons.[citation needed] Although the first truly vernacular Serbo-Croatian texts (i.e. not mixed with Church Slavonic) go back to the 13th century (Chakavian) and to the 14th century (Shtokavian), the first Kajkavian published work was Pergošić's "Decretum" from 1574.

After that, numerous works appeared in Serbo-Croatian Kajkavian literary language: chronicles by Vramec, liturgical works by Ratkaj, Habdelić, Mulih; poetry of Ana Katarina Zrinska, dramatic opus of Tituš Brezovački. Kajkavian-based are important lexicographic works like Jambrešić's "Dictionar", 1670, and monumental (2,000 pages and 50,000 words) inter-dialectal (Chakavian–Shtokavian–Kajkavian, but based on Kajkavian idiom) dictionary "Gazophylacium" by Ivan Belostenec (posthumously, 1740). Miroslav Krleža's poetic work "Balade Petrice Kerempuha" drew heavily on Belostenec's dictionary. Kajkavian grammars include Kornig's, 1795, Matijević's, 1810 and Đurkovečki's, 1837.

Kajkavian literary language gradually fell into disuse since Croatian National Revival, ca. 1830–1850, when leaders of the Illyrian movement(the majority of them being Kajkavian native speakers themselves) adopted the most widespread Serbo-Croatian dialect of Shtokavian to serve as a dialectal basis for the literary language.

The 20th century has witnessed new flourishing of literature in Kajkavian dialect – this time as Croatian dialectal poetry, main authors being Antun Gustav Matoš, Miroslav Krleža, Ivan Goran Kovačić, Dragutin Domjanić, Nikola Pavić etc.

Kajkavian lexical treasure is being published by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in "Rječnik hrvatskoga kajkavskoga književnoga jezika"/Dictionary of the Croatian Kajkavian Literary Language, 8 volumes (1999).

Latterly Dario Vid Balog, actor, linguist and writer translate the New Testament in Kajkavian.[16]

Below are examples of the Lord's Prayer in the Croatian variant of Shtokavian, literary Kajkavian and a Međimurje variant of the Kajkavian dialect.

Standard Croatian Literary Kajkavian Međimurje-Kajkavian

Oče naš, koji jesi na nebesima,
sveti se ime tvoje,
dođi kraljevstvo tvoje,
budi volja tvoja,
kako na nebu tako i na zemlji.
Kruh naš svagdanji daj
nam danas
i otpusti nam duge naše,
kako i mi otpuštamo dužnicima našim,
i ne uvedi nas u napast,
nego izbavi nas od zla.

Otec naš, koj si na nebesi,
sveti se ime tvoje,
dojdi kralestvo tvoje,
budi vola tvoja,
kak na nebu tak i na zemli.
Kruha našega vsagdašnega dej
nam denes.
I otpusti nam duge naše,
kak i mi otpuščamo dužnikom našim,
i ne vpelaj nas vu skušavanje,
nego oslobodi nas od zla.

Japek naš ki si v nebesaj,
nek se sveti ime Tvoje,
nek prihaja cesarstvo Tvoje,
nek bo volja Tvoja,
kakti na nebi tak pa na zemlji.
Kruhek naš vsakdaneši daj
nam denes
ter odpuščaj nam duge naše,
kakti i mi odpuščamo dužnikom našim,
ter naj nas vpelati v skušnje,
nek zbavi nas od vsakih hudobah.

Location map of Serbo-Croatian dialects in Croatia and areas in BiH with Croat majority. Kajkavian in purple.
Distribution of Chakavian, Kajkavian and Western Shtokavian before migrations. Kajkavian in yellow.

Kajkavian media[edit]

During Yugoslavia in the 20th century, Kajkavian was mostly restricted in private communication, poetry and folklore. By the recent regional democratizing and cultural revival from 1990s, Kajkavians partly regained their former half-public positions chiefly in Zagorje County and Varaždin County and local towns, being now presented there in some modern public media e.g.:

  • Quarterly periodical "Kaj", with 35 annual volumes in nearly a hundred fascicles, published since 1967 by the Kajkavian Association ('Kajkavsko Spravišče') in Zagreb city.
  • Autumnal Weeks of Kajkavian culture in Krapina since 1997, with iterative professional symposia on Kajkavians resulting by five published proceedings.
  • Annual periodical Hrvatski sjever ('Croatian North'), with dozen volumes partly in Kajkavian, published by Matica Hrvatska in Čakovec.
  • A new internet portal: Kaykavian Zohowiki, a minor wiki-lexicon on the Kajkavian culture and dialect in northwestern Croatia, starting in autumn 2009.
  • A permanent program in Kajkavian of the Kajkavian radio in Krapina township. Other minor half-Kajkavian media with temporary Kajkavian contents include also the local television of Varaždin city, local radio program Sljeme in Zagreb, and some local newspapers in northwestern Croatia, e.g. in Varaždin, Čakovec, Samobor, etc.


  • Kaj bum? – in Kajkavian: What should I do?
  • Kak je, tak je; tak je navek bilo, kak bu tak bu, a bu vre nekak kak bu!
  • "Nigdar ni tak bilo da ni nekak bilo, pak ni vezda ne bu da nam nekak ne bu."Miroslav Krleža (quotation from poem "Khevenhiller")
  • Kaj buš ti, bum i ja! (Whatever you do, I'll do it too!)
  • Ne bu išlo! (standard Croatian: Ne može tako, Neće ići, Slovene: Ne bo šlo, "It won't work!")
  • "Bumo vidli!" (štokavski: "Vidjet ćemo!", Slovene: Bomo videli, English: "We will see!")
  • "Dej muči!" or "Muči daj!" (štokavski: "Daj šuti!", Slovene: Daj molči, English: "Shut up!")
  • "Buš pukel?" – "Bum!" (jokingly: "Will you explode?" – "I will!")
  • Numerous supplementary examples see also by A. Negro: "Agramerski štikleci"
  • Another major example – traditional Kajkavian "Paternoster" (bold = site of stress): Japa naš kteri si f 'nebesih nek sesvete ime Tvoje, nek prihaja cesarstvo Tvoje, nek bu volya Tvoja kakti na nebe tak pa na zemle. Kruhek naš sakdajni nam daj denes ter odpuščaj nam dugi naše, kakti mi odpuščamo dužnikom našim ter naj nas fpelati vu skušnje, nek nas zbavi od sekih hudobah. F'se veke vekof, Amen.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kaykavski". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Klaus J. Mattheier (1991). Sociolinguistica. M. Niemeyer. ISBN 978-3-484-60368-4. 
  3. ^ Stig Eliasson; Ernst Håkon Jahr (1 January 1997). Language and Its Ecology: Essays in Memory of Einar Haugen. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-3-11-014688-2. 
  4. ^ Janneke Kalsbeek (1998). The Čakavian Dialect of Orbanići Near Žminj in Istria. Rodopi. pp. 4–. ISBN 90-420-0712-5. 
  5. ^ Robert Lindsay. "Mutual Intelligibility of Languages in the Slavic Family". academia.edu. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Okuka, Miloš (2008), Srpski dijalekti, p. 7.
  7. ^ Bernard Comrie (13 January 2009). The World's Major Languages. Routledge. pp. 331–. ISBN 978-1-134-26156-7. 
  8. ^ "HJP - kaj". Novi Liber. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  9. ^ Dicky Gilbers; John A. Nerbonne; J. Schaeken (1 January 2000). Languages in Contact. Rodopi. pp. 160–. ISBN 90-420-1322-2. 
  10. ^ Marc L. Greenberg (2008). A Short Reference Grammar of Slovene. Lincom Europa. ISBN 978-3-89586-965-5. 
  11. ^ Predrag Stepanović (1986). A Taxonomic Description of the Dialects of Serbs and Croats in Hungary: The Štokavian Dialect. Akad. K. ISBN 978-3-412-07484-5. 
  12. ^ Kapović, Mate (2006). "Najnovije jezične promjene u zagrebačkom govoru". Kolo (in Serbo-Croatian) 4. 
  13. ^ Kapović, Mate (2004), "Jezični utjecaj velikih gradova" (PDF), Rasprave Instituta za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje (in Serbo-Croatian) 30 
  14. ^ Časopis za zgodovino in narodopisje: Review for history and ethnography. Univerza v Mariboru in Zgodovinsko društvo Maribor. 1988. 
  15. ^ Boris Golec (2012). Nedokončana kroatizacija delov vzhodne Slovenije med 16. in 19. stoletjem: po sledeh hrvaškega lingvonima in etnonima v Beli krajini, Kostelu, Prekmurju in Prlekiji. Založba ZRC. pp. 170–. ISBN 978-961-254-383-9. 
  16. ^ "iCloud". me.com. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  17. ^ Vilmos Harangozó: Ruža nebeska, Molitve i popevke, Szombathely February 2, 1993.


  • Feletar D., Ledić G., Šir A.: Kajkaviana Croatica (Hrvatska kajkavska riječ). Muzej Međimurja, 37 str., Čakovec 1997.
  • Fureš R., Jembrih A. (ured.): Kajkavski u povijesnom i sadašnjem obzorju (zbornik skupova Krapina 2002-2006). Hrvatska udruga Muži zagorskog srca, 587 str. Zabok 2006.
  • JAZU / HAZU: Rječnik hrvatskoga kajkavskog književnog jezika (A – P), I – X. Zavod za hrvatski jezik i jezikoslovlje 2500 str, Zagreb 1984-2005.
  • Lipljin, T. 2002: Rječnik varaždinskoga kajkavskog govora. Garestin, Varaždin, 1284 str. (2. prošireno izdanje u tisku 2008.)
  • Lončarić, M. 1996: Kajkavsko narječje. Školska knjiga, Zagreb, 198 str.
  • Magner, F. 1971: Kajkavian Koiné. Symbolae in honorem Georgii Y. Shevelov, München.
  • Moguš, M.: A History of the Croatian Language, NZ Globus, Zagreb 1995
  • Šojat, A. 1969-1971: Kratki navuk jezičnice horvatske (Jezik stare kajkavske književnosti). Kaj 1969: 3-4, 5, 7-8, 10, 12; Kaj 1970: 2, 3-4, 10; Kaj 1971: 10, 11. Kajkavsko spravišče, Zagreb.
  • Okuka, M. 2008: Srpski dijalekti. SKD Prosvjeta, Zagreb, 7. str

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]