Language restandardization in Croatia: Problems and perspectives

Anita Peti-Stanti?, Keith Langston

Faculty of Arts Zagreb, Croatia (Hrvatska), Georgia University


Language restandardization in Croatia: Problems and perspectives

In this paper the authors treat language policies in Croatia in the period since 1991 as an example of restandardization, within a theoretical framework which takes into account the intersecting roles of nationalist ideology, rhetoric, and language myths in contemporary Croatian society. The analysis is based on published sources and data from text corpora and two surveys of language attitudes among teachers.

The term ‘restandardization’, in contrast to other possible labels such as ‘corpus planning’ or ‘language reform’, presupposes the existence of a standardized Croatian language prior to the period in question. We have chosen this term to emphasize that changes to this standard have been proposed for purely symbolic purposes, rather than to meet any functional needs.

Given the fact that the existence of an explicitly codified norm is arguably the most important defining feature of a standard language, the current Croatian situation is particularly problematic, due to the fact that there is no single generally accepted authority on linguistic issues. Current debates on language have led to a situation where educated native speakers of the language doubt their own linguistic competence.The problem is particularly acute within the Croatian educational system, where uncertainties about what is “correct” cause difficulties for both teachers and students, and have led to demands for the establishment of unambiguous standards.

As a result, we argue that examples such as Croatian indicate a need to reexamine the position of standard languages in contemporary societies. In the conclusion we will shed new light on the questions of the scope and acceptance of language planning (surveys of published sources show that there is much more acceptance of proposed new solutions in the formal written standard, as in texts written in the administrative style, than in the informal spoken/written standard). This leads to a proposal of a new hierarchy of social and functional styles and their influence on the standard language as a whole.


1. Radoslav Kati?i? (1997) Undoing a «unified language»: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian. In: Clyne, Michael (ed.) Undoing and Redoing Corpus Planning. Berlin/New York, 166-191.

2. Dubravko Škiljan (2002) Govor nacije: Jezik, nacija, Hrvati. Zagreb.

3. Damir Kalogjera (2007) Slojevitost iskazivanja identiteta. In: Grani?, Jagoda (ed.) Jezik i identiteti, Zagreb/Split: HDPL, 259-267.

4. Keith Langston, Anita Peti-Stanti? (2003) Attitudes towards linguistic purism in Croatia: Evaluating efforts at language reform, In: Dedai?, Mirjana and Nelson, Daniel N. (eds.) At War with Words, 247-282.

Session: Paper session
Planning/Policy 6 (Standardization, Codification)
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 14