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About Montenegrin Language

Montenegrin (Црногорски језик, Crnogorski jezik) is a South Slavic language spoken in Montenegro and by the Montenegrin diaspora. It is based on the Shtokavian dialect.

Since 2004, the Montenegrin academic and literary community has been slowly promoting the idea of a distinct Montenegrin language to the public[3], a movement which has its origins as far back as 1993 and the fall of communism. Montenegrin became the official language of Montenegro following the ratification of a new constitution on 22 October 2007, and received a new standard on 10 July 2009.

Language standardization

In January 2008, the government of Montenegro formed the Council for the Codification of the Montenegrin Language, which aims to standardize the Montenegrin language according to international norms. Proceeding documents will, after verification, become a part of the educational programme in Montenegrin schools.

The first Montenegrin standard was officially proposed in July 2009. In addition to the Serbo-Croatian standard, the proposal introduced two additional letters, ś and ź, which are both used in speaking despite their absence in the Serbo-Croatian standard. The Ministry of Education has accepted neither of the two drafts by the Council for the Standardization of the Montenegrin language, but adopted an alternate 3rd one, which wasn't a part of their work. The Council has criticized that this act, referring that it corresponds to "a small group" and that it contains an abundance of "methodological, conceptual and linguistic errors".

Official Status

The language remains an ongoing issue in Montenegro.

In the previous census of 1991, the vast majority of Montenegrin citizens, 510,320 or 82.97%, declared themselves as speakers of the then official language: Serbo-Croatian. The 1981 population census also recorded a Serbo-Croat-speaking majority. However in the first Communist censuses, the vast majority of the population declared Serbian their native tongue. Such is also the case with the first recorded population census in Montenegro, in 1909, when approximately 95% of the population of the Princedom of Montenegro declared Serbian their native language. According to the Constitution of Montenegro, the official language of the republic, since 1992, is Serbian of the Ijekavian standard. After World War II and until 1992, the official language of Montenegro was Serbo-Croat. Before that, in the previous old Montenegrin realm, Serbian was the language in usage. The Serbian language was the officially used language in Communist Montenegro, until after the 1950 Novi Sad Agreement that defined the Serbo-Croat, and "Serbo-Croatian" introduced into the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Montenegro in 1974. In the late nineties and early twenty-first century, organizations promoting Montenegrin as a distinct language appeared, and since 2004 the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro regime introduced the term to usage. The new constitution, adopted on 19 October 2007, deemed Montenegrin to be the official language of Montenegro.

Some people may compare the situation with Montenegrin to the positions of Croatian and Bosnian, and even come to the conclusion that the position of Montenegrin fully parallels the positions of the others. However, there are significant differences between the three: while Croatian and Bosnian are standard languages and official languages, Montenegrin is official but not standard. A standard is expected soon.

Mijat Šuković, a prominent Montenegrin lawyer, wrote a draft version of the constitution, which passed the parliament's constitutional committee. Šuković suggested Montenegrin as the official language of Montenegro. The Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, had a generally positive attitude towards the draft of the constitution, but did not address the language and church issues, calling them symbolical. The new constitution was ratified on 19 October 2007, declaring Montenegrin as the official language of Montenegro, as well as recognising Albanian, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro and Socialdemocratic Party of Montenegro stand for nothing but plainly renaming the country's official language into Montenegrin, meeting opposition from the Socialist People's Party of Montenegro, the People's Party, the Democratic Serb Party, the Bosniak Party, the Movement for Changes as well as the Serb List coalition led by the Serb People's Party. However, a referendum was not needed, as two-thirds majority of the parliament voted for the Constitution, including the ruling coalition, Movement for Changes, the Bosniaks and the Liberals, while the pro-Serbian parties voted against and the Albanian minority parties abstained from voting. The Constitution was thus ratified and adopted on 19 October 2007, recognizing Montenegrin as the official language of Montenegro.

Montenegrin alphabet

The proponents of the separate Montenegrin language tend to prefer using Latin alphabet over the Cyrillic.

  • Abeceda: A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š Ś T U V Z Ž Ź
  • Azbuka А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж З З' И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш Ć


Many literary works of authors from Montenegro provide examples of the local Montenegrin vernacular. The medieval literature was mostly written in Old Church Slavonic and its recensions, but most of the 19th century works were written in some of the dialects and speeches of Montenegro. They include the folk literature collected by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić and other authors, as well as books of the writers from Montenegro, such as Petar Petrović Njegoš's Gorski vijenac (The Mountain Wreath), Marko Miljanov's Primjeri čojstva i junaštva (The Examples of Humanity and Bravery), etc. In the second half of the 19th century and later, the East Herzegovina dialect, which served as a base for the standard Serbo-Croatian language, was often used instead of the Zeta-Sanjak dialect, characteristical for most speeches of Montenegro. Petar Petrović Njegoš, one of the most respectable Montenegrin authors, changed many characteristics of the Zeta-Sanjak dialect from the manuscript of his Gorski vijenac to those proposed by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić as a standard for the Serbian language. For example, most of the accusatives of place, used in the Zeta-Sanjak dialect, were changed by Njegoš to locatives, used in the Serbian standard. Thus the stanzas "U dobro je lako dobar biti, / na muku se poznaju junaci" from the manuscript were chaged to "U dobru je lako dobar biti, / na muci se poznaju junaci" in the printed version. Other works of later Montenegrin authors were also often modified to the East Herzegovinian forms, in order to follow the Serbian language literary norm. However, some characteristics of the traditional Montenegrin Zeta-Sanjak dialect sometimes used to appear as well. For example, the poem Onamo namo by Nikola I Petrović Njegoš, although it was written in East Herzegovinian Serbian standard, contains several Zeta-Sanjak forms: "Onamo namo, za brda ona" (accusative, instead of instrumental case za brdima onim), and "Onamo namo, da viđu (instead of vidim) Prizren", and so on.


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