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Serbian Cyrillic language

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Serbian Cyrillic language

Serbian alphabet redirects here. For the Latin variant of Serbian, see Gaj's Latin alphabet.
Serbian Cyrillic
Type Alphabet
Languages Serbian, Bosnian
Time period 1814 (modern)
Parent systems
Child systems Macedonian
ISO 15924 ,
Unicode alias
Unicode range subset of Cyrillic (U+0400...U+04F0)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet (Serbian: српска ћирилица / srpska ćirilica, pronounced [sr̩̂pskaː t͡ɕirǐlit͡sa]) is an adaptation of the Cyrillic script for the Serbian language, developed in 1818 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić. It is one of the two standard modern alphabets used to write the Serbian and Bosnian languages, the other being Latin. Cyrillic is traditionally the official script in Serbia.

Karadžić based his alphabet on the Cyrillic script, following the principle of "write as you speak and read as it is written". Serbian Cyrillic and Latin alphabets have a complete one-to-one congruence, with the Latin digraphs Lj, Nj, and Dž counting as single letters.

The Cyrillic alphabet is seen as being more traditional, and has official status in Serbia (designated in the Constitution as the "official script", compared to Serbian Latin's status of "script in official use" designated by a lower-level act), Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro (besides Latin script). During the course of the 20th century the Latin alphabet has become more frequently used, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, together with the works of Krste Misirkov and Venko Markovski, was used as a basis for the Macedonian alphabet.

Modern alphabet

The following table provides the upper and lower case forms of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, along with the equivalent forms in the Serbian Latin alphabet and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) value for each letter:

Cyrillic alphabet Latin alphabet IPA value
А а A a //
Б б B b //
В в V v //
Г г G g //
Д д D d //
Ђ ђ Đ đ //
Е е E e //
Ж ж Ž ž //
З з Z z //
И и I i //
Ј ј J j //
К к K k //
Л л L l //
Љ љ Lj lj //
М м M m //
Н н N n //
Њ њ Nj nj //
О о O o //
П п P p //
Р р R r //
С с S s //
Т т T t //
Ћ ћ Ć ć //
У у U u //
Ф ф F f //
Х х H h //
Ц ц C c //
Ч ч Č č //
Џ џ Dž dž //
Ш ш Š š //


The two Slavic scripts, Glagolitic and Cyrillic, in tradition, were invented by the Byzantine Christian missionaries and brothers Cyril and Methodius in the 860s, amid the Christianization of the Slavs. Glagolitic appears to be older, predating the introduction of Christianity, only formalized by Cyril and expanded to cover non-Greek sounds. Cyrillic may have been a creation of Cyril's disciples, perhaps at the Preslav Literary School in the 890s.[1]

The earliest form of Cyrillic was the ustav, based on Greek uncial script, augmented by ligatures and letters from the Glagolitic alphabet for consonants not found in Greek. There was no distinction of capital and lowercase letters. The literary Slavic language was based on the Old Slavic dialect of Thessaloniki.[1]

Major medieval works written in various Cyrillic alphabets include:

Karadžić's reform

Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (l. 1787–1864) fled Serbia during the Serbian Revolution in 1813, to Vienna. There he met Jernej Kopitar, a linguist with interest in slavistics. Kopitar and Sava Mrkalj helped Vuk to reform the Serbian language and its orthography. He finalized the alphabet in 1818, with the Serbian Dictionary.

Karadžić reformed the Serbian literary language and standardised the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet by following strict phonemic principles on the German model and Jan Hus' Czech alphabet. Karadžić's reforms of the Serbian literary language modernised it and distanced it from Serbian and Russian Church Slavonic, instead bringing it closer to common folk speech, specifically, to the dialect of Eastern Herzegovina which he spoke. Karadžić was, together with Đuro Daničić, the main Serbian signatory to the Vienna Literary Agreement of 1850 which, encouraged by Austrian authorities, laid the foundation for the Serbian language, various forms of which are used by Serbs in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia today. Karadžić also translated the New Testament into Serbian, which was published in 1868.

He wrote several books; Mala prostonarodna slaveno-serbska pesnarica and Pismenica serbskoga jezika in 1814, and two more in 1815 and 1818, all with the alphabet still in progress. In his letters from 1815-1818 he used: Ю, я, Ы and Ѳ. In his 1815 song book he dropped the Ѣ.[2]

The alphabet was officially adopted in 1868, four years after his death. The corresponding Latin script (latinica) is also used to write in the language.

From the Old Slavic script he retained these 24 letters:

А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ж ж З з
И и К к Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р
С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш

He added one Latin letter:

Ј ј

And 5 new ones:

Љ љ Њ њ Ћ ћ Ђ ђ Џ џ

He removed:

Ѥ ѥ (је) Ѣ, ѣ (јат) І ї (и) Ы ы (јери, тврдо и) Ѵ ѵ (и) Ѹ ѹ (у) Ѡ ѡ (о) Ѧ ѧ (ен) Я я (ја)
Ю ю (ју) Ѿ ѿ (от) Ѭ ѭ (јус) Ѳ ѳ (т) Ѕ ѕ (дз) Щ щ (шт) Ѯ ѯ (кс) Ѱ ѱ (пс) Ъ ъ (тврди полуглас) Ь ь (меки полуглас)

In Austria-Hungary

Orders issued on the 3 and 13 October 1914 banned the use of Serbian Cyrillic in the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia, limiting it for use in religious instruction. A decree was passed on January 3, 1915, that banned Serbian Cyrillic completely from public use. An imperial order in October 25, 1915, banned the use of Serbian Cyrillic in the Condominium of Bosnia and Herzegovina, except "within the scope of Serb Orthodox Church authorities".[3][4]

World War II

On April 25, 1941, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini of Jerusalem, who was made chief architect of the Nazi German offensive in Bosnia, had Serbian Cyrillic outlawed. The Orthodox Serbs were forced to wear blue patches, and Jews the yellow patch.[5]

In Yugoslavia

The Serbian Cyrillic script was one of the two official scripts used to write the Serbo-Croatian language in Yugoslavia since its establishment in 1918.

With the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbo-Croatian was divided into its variants on ethnic lines (as it had been in pre-Yugoslav times) and Cyrillic is no longer used officially in Croatia, while in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro the Serbian Cyrillic stayed the official constitutional script.[6]

Under the Constitution of Serbia of 2006, Cyrillic script is the only one in official use.[7]

Special letters

The ligaturesЉ⟩ and ⟨Њ⟩, together with ⟨Џ⟩, ⟨Ђ⟩ and ⟨Ћ⟩ were developed specially for the Serbian alphabet.

  • Ћ⟩ was adopted by Karadžić to represent the voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate (IPA: /tɕ/). The letter was based on, but different in appearance to, the letter Djerv, which is the 12th letter of the Glagolitic alphabet; that letter had been used in written Serbian since the 12th century, to represent /ɡʲ/, dʲ/ and /dʑ/.
  • Karadžić adopted a design by Lukijan Mušicki for the letter ⟨Ђ⟩. It was based on the letter ⟨Ћ⟩, as adapted by Karadžić.

Љ⟩, ⟨Њ⟩ and ⟨Џ⟩ were later adopted for use in the Macedonian alphabet.

Differences from other Cyrillic alphabets

Serbian Cyrillic does not use several letters encountered in other Slavic Cyrillic alphabets. It does not use hard sign (ъ) and soft sign (ь), but the aforementioned soft-sign ligatures instead. It does not have Russian/Belorussian Э, the semi-vowels Й or Ў, nor the iotated letters Я (Russian/Bulgarian ya), Є (Ukrainian ye), Ї (yi), Ё (Russian yo) or Ю (yu), which are instead written as two separate letters: Ja, Je, Jи, Jo, Jy. J can also be used as a semi-vowel. The letter Щ is not used. When necessary, it is transliterated as either ШЧ or ШT.

Serbian and Macedonian italic and cursive forms of lowercase letters б, п, г, д, and т, differ from those used in other Cyrillic alphabets (in Serbian ш is optionally underlined, whereas in Macedonian is not). That presents an obstacle in Unicode modeling, as the glyphs differ only in italic versions, and historically non-italic letters have been used in the same code positions. Serbian professional typography uses fonts specially crafted for the language to overcome the problem, but texts printed from common computers contain East Slavic rather than Serbian italic glyphs.[8] Cyrillic fonts from Adobe,[9] Microsoft (Windows Vista and later) and a few other font houses include the Serbian variations (both regular and italic). The letters can easily be implemented using Adobe Illustrator, for example.

See also



  • Sir Google Books
  • Alphabet

External links

  • Omniglot – Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian
  • Serbian Alphabet
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