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Location map of Kajkavian

The Croatian Kajkavian dialect (Croatian: kajkavski, proper name: kajkavica or kajkavština) is one of the three main dialects of Croatian. The name of the dialect, like those of its correspondents, Štokavian and Čakavian, is named after the interrogative pronoun kaj ("what"). The dialect is spoken in the northern and northwestern parts of Croatia, including the Croatian capital Zagreb, as well as in a few Croatian language enclaves in Austria, Hungary and Romania.

The Kajkavian dialect area is closely related to neighbouring Slovene dialects, partly forming a dialect chain which encompasses all South Slavic dialects. This dialect may further fit into the wider group as the result of a fusion with Štokavian and Čakavian Croatian.


The Kajkavian of Croatia is bordered on the northwest by Slovene language territory. It is bordered on the east and southeast by Štokavian dialects roughly along a line that was the former division between Civil Croatia and the Habsburg Military Frontier; in southwest along Kupa and Dobra rivers, it persisted in ancient (medieval) contact with Čakavian dialects.

Near relation also with the prekmurian language (variant of the Slovene in Prekmurje and Hungary). The prekmurian-speakers Hungarian Slovenes was belogn to the Bishop of Zagreb. By means of the bishop the Hungarian Slovenes apply Kajkavian books and his priests and teachers was studied in Croatia. The kajkavian impact in the prekmurian manifest to in the infelxion and vocabulary.

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

Another distinctive feature of Kajkavian is the preference for the future tense. Instead of Štokavian and Čakavian "ću", "ćeš", "će", Kajkavian speakers say "bum", "buš" and "bu",. The near-future tense is far more often used than in the standard Croatian language. 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 language, and also the Prekmurian language Slov.: bom boš, bo; Prek.: Bom, boš, bou. Through the ou diphtong, this nearer on the Kajkavian language.


Dialectogical investigations of Kajkavian dialect have begun at the end of the 19th century: the first comprehensive monograph was written in Russian by Ukrainian philologist A.M.Lukjanenko in 1905 (Kajkavskoe narečie). Kajkavian dialects have been classified along various criteria: Serbian philologist Aleksandar Belić had divided (1927) Kajkavian dialect according the reflexes of Ur-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 is based on accentuation characteristics. Due to great diversity of Kajkavian speech, primarily in phonetics, phonology and morphology– the Kajkavian dialectological atlas is notable for its bewildering proliferation of subdialects: from four identified by Ivšić, via six proposed by Štokavian linguist Brozović (formerly accepted division) to fifteen, according to a monograph authored by Kajkavian linguist Lončarić (1995).

Area of use

Kajkavians now include 1/3 or 31% i.e. 1.300.000 of Croatian inhabitants, chiefly in northern and NW Croatia. The mixed half-Kajkavian towns along the eastern and southern edge of Kajkavian speaking area are Pitomača, Čazma, Popovača, Sunja, Petrinja, Martinska Ves, Ozalj, Ogulin, Fužine, and Čabar, with included newer Štokavian enclaves of Bjelovar, Sisak, Glina, Dubrava and Novi Zagreb. The southernmost Kajkavian villages now is Krapje at Jasenovac; and Pavušek, Dvorišče and Hrvatsko selo in Mt Zrinska Gora (R. Fureš & A. Jembrih: Kajkavski u povijesnom i sadašnjem obzorju p. 548, Zabok 2006). All three Croatian dialects collide between Karlovac and Ogulin.

The major cities in northern Croatia with prevailing urban Kajkavians (purgeri) are chiefly Zagreb (old central city + Sesvete and V. Gorica), Koprivnica, Križevci, Varaždin, Čakovec etc. The typical and archaic Kajkavian is today spoken chiefly in Zagorje hills and Medjimurje plain, and in adjacent areas of NW Croatia where other immigrants and Štokavian standard yet had scarcer influence. The most peculiar Kajkavian archidiom (Baegnunski) is spoken at Bednja in northernmost Croatia.

Most other Croatian speakers know of Kajkavian as the metropolitan dialect of Zagreb city, where a half of citizens (nearly 300.000 ones) now widely use the "zagrebečki" speech (a half-Kajkavian koine) for their private communication at home and on street (using a Štokavian speech in official sites only). This relative stability of Zagreb Kajkavian is due to prevailing local immigration of many surroundung Kajkavians from NW Croatia and from Kajkavian satellite towns.

Moreover, in the central city of old Zagreb and in satellite towns Sesvete and V. Gorica, up today persist at least 7.000 indigenous Kajkavian elders speaking old "Agramer" archidiom; they understand official standard but hardly can speak them. Also the coastal Čakavian immigrants in Zagreb or elsewhere in NW Croatia quickly transform to Kajkavians in one generation: their non-standard accentuation is subequal to Kajkavian, with many connecting archaisms in vocabulary. The best adaptable are the transitional northern Čakavians from NE Istra, Cres, Vinodol and Pokupje accepting well Kajkavian in few years.

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. In older Serbo-Croatian times, as explained by the Serbian linguist Pavle Ivić (from Srpski narod i njegov jezik): "Not to be able to work Kajkavština means to be considered inferior, to show utterly that you don't come from the capital".

It still holds true that Štokavian speakers in Zagreb clearly show that they aren't from the capital, but given how Zagreb had been inundated with Yugoslav immigrants, this had partly lost in importance over past years; but now in independent Croatia to speak metropolitan became a new prestige of true citizens, and others unadapted ones there are considered as Balkanites.

Kajkavian literary language

Kajkavian is not only a folk dialect, but in the course of history of Croatian language, 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. While first Croatian truly vernacular Čakavian texts (ie. not mixed with Church Slavonic) go back to the 13th century, Štokavian to 14th century, the first Kajkavian published work was Pergošić's "Decretum", 1574.

After that, numerous works appeared in 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 (Čakavian-Štokavian-Kajkavian, but based on Kajkavian idiom) dictionary "Gazophylacium" by Ivan Belostenec (posthumously, 1740). Interestingly enough, Miroslav Krleža's visionary poetic masterpiece, "Balade Petrice Kerempuha", 1936, drew heavily on Belostenec's dictionary. Croatian 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 Croatian National Unification Movement (the majority of them being Kajkavian native speakers themselves) adopted the most widespread and developed Croatian Štokavian literary language as the idiom for Croatian standard language.

However, after a period of lethargy, the 20th century has witnessed new flourishing of Kajkavian literature - 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).

Croatian dialects.PNG

Kajkavian media

During Yugoslavia in 20th century, the exotic Kajkavian was mostly restricted in private communication, poetry and folklore. By the recent regional democratizing and cultural revival from 1990ies, 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 hundred fascicles, published from 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 from 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 pa 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.

External links


  • 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.