Croatian Language and Script

The Croatian language is the official language of the Republic of Croatia. It belongs to the group of South-Slavic languages, along with Slovene, Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Macedonian and Bulgarian. The two other large groups of Slavic languages are West-Slavic (Czech, Slovak, Polish, Lusatian and Kashub) and East-Slavic (Russian, Belarussian, and Ukrainian).

The Croatian language is spoken not only by Croats in Croatia, but also by those in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croats in the neighboring countries and those who have emigrated to other continents, especially to America.

Throughout the history this language has not always been called Croatian. Instead it was called by various names such as Illyrian, Slovin, Slavonian, Dalmatian and others.

The Croatian language has three dialects: štokavian, kajkavian and chakavian. The most widespread is the štokavian dialect. The Croatian Standard language is based on some neo-Štokavian vernaculars. The standardization of Croatian begins in the second half of the 18th century, but the history of the Croatian language is much longer than that. The oldest writings date from the 11th century. In those times the official language of all Slavs was Old Slavonic (Old Church Slavonic), the language which was preserved in written form in clerical and political documents. However, in time this language began to change because of the introduction of Croatian elements in the area where the Croats lived, some Russian elements in Russia, Czech elements among the Czechs and so on. That is why we find from the earliest times some monuments written in vernaculars (Croatian, Russian, Macedonian, etc.)

Croatian was the only European language that was written in three different scripts: angular Glagolitic (from the 9th century), Western Cyrillic (from the 12th century) and Latin (from the 14th century). With time the Latin script prevailed, but even in the 19th century we can still find some documents written in Glagolitic script.

Aside from the original Croatian words, the Croatian language has many words from other Slavic languages as well as from Greek, Latin, Italian, German, English, Turkish and some other languages.

The Croatian alphabet has 30 letters. The vocals of this language are exceptionally 'clear'. The clearness of vocals and a rich system of accents (four accents) make Croatian a very melodious language. That is why Croatian sounds so tuneful to many of those who hear it for the first time.

Find out more at The Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics

  • The Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics is the central Croatian scholarly institution for the study of the Croatian language. It was founded in 1948, and has existed under its present name since 1997. The primary task of the Institute is the scientific study of Croatian and the cultivation of the Croatian linguistic tradition. Research done in the Institute encompasses a range of scientific research projects, including the analysis of language corpora, publication of fundamental works of Croatian contemporary and historical lexicography, the collection and analysis of dialectal and onomastic language corpora. The Institute also publishes a wide range of linguistic literature.