Simple Facts about Serbian Language

May 12th, 2014

Serbian is a fascinating language with a lot of interesting facets that should be getting more linguistic attention than it is.

Simple Facts about Serbian Language  | One Hour Translation

Serbian is one of the most ignored languages in the world, it seems. Despite having close to nine million speakers around the world, it’s rarely mentioned in the media, not often chosen as a professional language pair by language translation professionals (though I can’t fault my fellow translation gurus for going where the money is – there just isn’t a huge market for Serbian translation in the world right now), and frequently conflated with Bosnian or ignored altogether when Serbia and the Serbian people are discussed.

For that reason alone, I decided to focus on it briefly, just to give it its due. Serbian is a complex and historically significant language that deserves a lot more attention than it’s currently getting, so let me do my tiny part here to shine some light on this wonderful language with a few simple facts about it to whet your curiosity.

As She Is Spoke

That heading is a reference to the wonderful Portuguese-English phrase book produced by Pedro Carolino in 1883, filled with unintentionally hilarious translations of Portuguese phrases into English. I’m reminded of it here for the related reason that Serbian is a uniquely uniform language when you consider it’s written and spoken forms. Put simply, every Serbian letter in the script has a defined sound that never changes, and this means that Serbian is written precisely as it’s pronounced, and read exactly as it’s written – a rare feat for a modern language. Consider English and all the strange exceptions to rules and changing, shifting pronunciation of letters – now imagine if every letter always sounded exactly the same. That would remove just about any possibility of mispronouncing a word.

That makes Serbian a great candidate for second-language status, because once you master the pronunciation of the alphabet, you can easily pronounce any word you see on paper. Even without knowing what the words mean, you can read them out perfectly!

Loanwords

Serbian is one of the most “friendly” languages in the world, gladly accepting loans into its vocabulary. A study once determined that there were 7,000 Turkish words in the modern Serbian vocabulary – though it further found that many of these were actually Persian or Arabic that had come to Serbian through Turkish. There are also significant numbers of German, Italian, Hungarian, and Greek words as well in Serbian.

When it comes to what are known as “classical international” words (words that serve a common usage and stem from a classical language such as Latin or Greek), Serbia doesn’t translate them as many other languages do, but simply adapts them. One example is atmosphere, from the Greek atmos sphaira (vapor sphere), which in Serbian is simply atmosfera.

Serbian is well worth your time, so I’d encourage anyone with a curiosity about languages to investigate Serbian. You won’t be disappointed, and bonus – it’s relatively easy to learn.

Image courtesy inserbia.info

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