Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Bosnian Language and Ethnic Identity

Bosnian Language and Ethnic Identity

R. LaPorte

The individual countries of what was once Yugoslavia each had a distinct history, different legends, different literary figures and quite often, different religions. As a result of these disparities, each country uses language sometimes unique unto them. Bosnia is no exception, but is a unique situation in that the official language is frequently considered to be Serbian-Croatian, despite the war for self-governance and the desire for complete independence.

This paper examines how language used in Bosnia serves to create a distinctive ethnic identity, separate from the other countries of former Yugoslavia. Is Bosnian actually a separate language or is the primary reason for the distinction as separate languages political, to reinforce three independent groups: Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians? Two separate methods of addressing this question were used: by researching the history of the language used in Bosnia and by conducting random interviews at the Cultural Center located in Hamtramck, MI.

A review of historical and anthropological works shows that the Ottoman history of Bosnia is intertwined with the language used in Bosnia, by the heavy influence of Turkish words.

In the interviews twelve men and eight women were asked if they thought Bosnian was a dialect of Serbian-Croatian, or if they thought it was its own separate language. Each participant was born either in Serbia, Croatia, or Bosnia, and each participant had been in the United States no more than eighteen years. The ages ranged from 22 to 58. Ten participants thought Bosnian was a dialect of Serbian-Croatian, and ten would consider Bosnian a separate language. Interestingly, the common factors in all twenty responses were history and religion. Each participant thought the variations between Serbian-Croatian and Bosnian were somehow attributed to the Turkish influence in Bosnia, and the subsequent majority of the Bosnian population being Muslim.

In conclusion, these results showed that although there is some hesitance in labeling a separate Bosnian language, there is a separate and distinctive Bosnian ethnic identity, which extends into the language used in Bosnia.

April 23, 2010 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for such a nice entry. You may also be interested in this anti-racism magazine!!.

    Comment by Lisbeth Salander | April 26, 2010 | Reply

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