[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1988/2, p11-16 later designated J8]
[See Journal articles by Francis Knowles.]

Morphology versus Phonology in the Spelling of Slavonic Languages

Francis Knowles.


Professor Knowles is Professor of Language and Head of the Department of Modern Languages at Aston University, Birmingham, and his interests lie particularly in the application of computers to translation and lexicography and in the family of Slavonic languages. We here print with his permission an edited transcript of his address at the Society's Fifth International Conference in July 1987.

0. ABSTRACT.

A brief synopsis is first given of the 'size and shape' of the Slavonic languages. This is followed by a description of the Cyrillic and (modified) Roman alphabetic systems used by these languages. Consideration is given to the way in which certain structural characteristics in these languages are or are not reflected in the various orthographic systems used by them. In this paper particular attention is devoted to Russian and some attention is given to Byelorussian, Polish and Serbo-Croat.

I. THE SLAVONIC LANGUAGES.

1.1 Branches and orthographic origins.
The Slavonic languages are a major branch (in the so-called 'satem' cluster) of the Indo-European family of languages: today their most important representative is Russian (technically known as 'Great Russian', 'velikorusskij jazyk', which belongs to the East Slavonic group, together with Ukrainian and Byelorussian. Byelorussian is sometimes known as White Russian - its literal meaning - and, historically, Ukrainian was also known as 'Little Russian' in Tsarist times. The other two branches of the Slavonic languages are: the Western branch, today comprising Polish, Czech, Slovak, Upper and Lower Lusatian - also known as Sorbian - and Kashubian (Polabian became extinct in the eighteenth century); and there is South Slavonic, represented today by Bulgarian, Serbian, Croat, Slovenian and Macedonian.

Some of these languages are reasonably well documented over the last millennium, but for others written monuments are, sparse. Mention must, however, be made of Old Church Slavonic, the language into which Saints Cyril and Methodius, active in the territory of modern-day Bulgaria 1100 years ago, translated the Gospels and other Biblical and liturgical texts. Old Church Slavonic was, effectively, created as a 'superstructure' on the South Slavonic speech used in that area at that time, but it has played a central role, cultural as well as religious, in Eastern and South-Eastem Europe since those days. Saint Cyril was responsible, of course, for creating an appropriate alphabet for Old Church Slavonic, choosing a good set of correspondences between phoneme and grapheme. It is not clear which of the two ancient alphabets St. Cyril actually invented, Glagolitic or Cyrillic, even though the latter bears his name! One thing is, however, in no doubt at all: the Orthodox Church's faith and teaching were brought to and took firm root among the Slavs of the Balkans and Eastern Europe via the medium of the vernacular Slavonic speech and of the scriptural and liturgical texts recorded in the Slavonic alphabets, initially in both of them but ultimately in Cyrillic alone.

1.2 The USSR.
Let us now move to modern times and present the chief statistics and salient characteristics appertaining to certain Slavonic languages.

The USSR, acknowledged as one of the two so-called super-powers, has a growing population already within striking distance of 300 million people, inhabiting territory which amounts to one sixth of the globe's land surface. It is a multinational state with the Russians themselves enjoying only a slender absolute majority (approx. 52%) among the total population. The largest 'minority', the Ukrainians, are over forty million strong and represent 14% of the USSR's population. The Byelorussians number over seven and a half million, representing a further 3% of Slavs in the country. As for the rest, approximately 130 different languages (including, incidentally, Polish, Slovak and Bulgarian) are spoken in the USSR: belletristic writing is published in 77 of them, newspapers come out in 55 different languages, and magazines in 46; and 52 different languages are used in Soviet educational establishments. It is clear, therefore, that there is a multi-lingual ambience in the USSR that cannot be ignored in spite of the pre- eminent position of Russian as a language of communication between the ethnic minorities of the country.

1.3 Other Slavonic languages.
A brief review of certain other Slavonic languages will now be given, together with summary statistics from 1985.

In the case of Poland, 36.5 million people live in the Polish state, the vast majority speaking Polish. This is quite unlike the pre-war period where three out of every ten people who had Polish passports, were not actually Polish at all. Today Ukrainian and Byelorussian constitute very small minorities and they do not impinge on the life of the Polish state to any extent. Polish is also spoken by up to 8 million speakers in diaspora, notably in the USA.

Czechoslovakia, with 15.5 million people, has two major languages, Czech and Slovak, but there are also about 3 million speakers of Hungarian, and a residual number of speakers of German.

Bulgaria has nearly 9 million people, 90% of them speaking Bulgarian, but there is also a sizeable Turkish minority.

Finally, in Yugoslavia Serbo-Croat accounts for 15 million of the 23 million inhabitants, while Slovenia has 7% of the population, Macedonia about 6%. There is also a considerable Albanian minority, and a number of other languages are spoken, such as Hungarian, Turkish, Romanian, Greek, Italian and Romany, thereby making up a 'rump' containing a large group of people. The ratio of alphabet usage within Serbo-Croat is that for every five people using the Cyrillic alphabet, three use the Latin alphabet, although those figures are reportedly changing. Sociolinguists have in fact commented on a shift towards the Latin alphabet even in some of the strongly Serbian areas.

2. DEFICIENCIES OF ORTHOGRAPHIES.

2.1 Tasks of orthography
One may say it is the primary duty of orthography to lay down the representation of sounds by letters. It should also lay down whether words are to be written solid, hyphenated or separately. It has to regulate upper and lower case usage, line-breaks, soft versus hard hyphens, the use of other symbols, the apostrophe, punctuation marks and so on. Especially in a language like Russian the representation of foreign borrowings and in particular the representation of foreign proper names can cause considerable problems.

2.2 Common deficiences.
As is well known, orthographic systems tend to have a number of deficiencies that appear to crop up disappointingly often. Seven contingencies are listed here:
1. various letters represent the same sound
2. the same letter represents various sounds
3. a letter-combination represents one sound
4. one letter represents a combination of sounds
5. acoustic peculiarities are represented obliquely:
thus in the phrase for I love (1), l'ubl'u - in Russian orthography
(1) л ю б л ю

- it is obvious where the grapheme boundaries are, but they do not in fact precisely correspond to the phoneme boundaries. The repeated vowel-letter is split down the middle, so to speak, because it performs two functions: it indicates a vowel, but it also indicates the precise timbre of the preceding consonant. Dennis Ward, in his excellent monograph The Russian language today (Hutchinson, 1965) sums up these salient features thus: "The value of most of the consonant letters is not known unless what follows them is also known. ... Apart from that, the full value of most of the consonant letters followed by a vowel letter is known only if we also know what that vowel letter is. ... The vowel letters and most of the consonant letters, therefore, are used in what might be called a syllabic mode."

What this means is that one cannot read Russian by a purely sequential, phonic method: it requires a combination of the phonic and 'look-and-say' methods. This is the case with almost all the Slavonic orthographies.
6. Acoustic peculiarities can remain unrepresented, as in the case of these two Russian words svalka (2) meaning a rubbish-dump or tip, and s'v'az' (3) meaning communication. The first two consonant-letters are identical:
(2) с в а л к a (3) с в я з ь

and there is no indication whatsoever that in (3) the /s'/ is palatal. The spelling simply does not transmit that information.
7. Certain letters are written which do not represent any sound whatsoever. The following two examples (4) terminate in the so-called soft sign, which in both of these words is completely redundant and does not affect the pronunciation one jot. They are purely historical.
(4) м ы ш ь, р о ж ь (mу š, r o z - mouse, rye)

[z should have a v-shaped caron like s.]

Similarly there is relaxation in the case of some consonant combination: thus the /d/ in the word for heart (5), and the /l/ in the word for sun (6), are not pronounced (the silent letter is bracketed):

(5) с е р ( д ) ц e (6) с o ( л ) н ц е

In general, Russian is not affected at all by case 3, it has one instance, <щ>, of case 4, and it is affected by case 1 only in a positional sense. Case 2 is, however, ubiquitous but - in Russian - case 2 is virtually subsumed under case 5.

3. PHONEMES AND GRAPHEMES.

3.1 How many phonemes?
A general feature of Slavonic orthographies, as of many others, is that there are not enough letters for all the phonemes. An additional problem in the case of nearly all Slavonic languages is that there is no agreement even among professional scholars of linguistics about how many phonemes there actually are in the language. Very reputable and authoritative writers are in print as saying that Russian possesses somewhere between 37 and 41 different phonemes, and that of those phonemes either 5 or 6 are vowels. (To see this disagreement about the number of phonemes in perspective, one should remember that there is no agreement for English either.) The number of phonemes identified and 'claimed' can depend, in part, on which of the different styles of Russian pronunciation is being used, although it must be immediately pointed out that in spite of the vastness of the Soviet Union, there is no major dialect problem on the level of the national standard language. There is a clearly defined national standard which is accepted throughout the country and which is of course enjoined and enforced by the education system and the mass media as well. In this respect the USSR is remarkably unlike German-speaking areas, where dialect problems obtrude quite seriously.

3.2 How many graphemes?
Rather more surprising than the uncertainty about the number of phonemes is the uncertainty about the number of graphemes in Russian. Two signs, the soft sign we have already noted and the hard sign are not regarded as graphemes proper. They are not letters of the alphabet in the sense that they represent sounds - they are only used as auxiliary symbols to resolve spelling cruces. In the case of the symbol <ё>, the two dots are hardly ever used, except by learners of the language and in cases where disambiguation is highly desirable. A standard example is the word vs'o (7) which can be an adverb meaning all the time or increasingly, as opposed to vs'e (8) with the meaning of all, and it is sometimes quite important contextually to make that distinction.

(7) в с ё (8) в с є

But even then there is no guarantee the dots will actually be used. There is hence a number of problems.

 а aр r
 бbсs
 вvтt
 гgуu
 дdфf
 е (ё)e (ë)х h or kh
 жž or zhц c or ts
 зzчč or ch
 иiшš or sh
 йj or ĭщ šč or shch
 кkъ " or "
 лlыy
 мmь'or'
 нnэe or é
 оoюju or yu
 пpяja or ya

Transliterating Russian into English

3.3 Vowel symbols.
One surprising feature of Russian orthography is that there are 10 vowel symbols, even though there are only 5 actual vowel phonemes. That is because vowel symbols are used to indicate the correct pronunciation of the preceding consonant. That is the fundamental feature of Russian commented on above.

4. SOUNDS AND SYMBOLS IN RUSSIAN.

4.1 Shifting stress.
Two further points have to be made about Russian spelling. The first is that the stress in words is mobile, and to pronounce any written form correctly, one has to know exactly where the stress falls. This may need to be determined contextually. A slightly outrageous example of an utterance pronounceable in two totally different ways and yielding two totally different meanings (with its transliteration) would be:

с т р е л к и н а б а ш е н н ы х ч а с а х с т о я л и н е л о д в и ж н о
s t r e l k in ab a š e n n y x č a s a xs t o j a l i n e p o d v i ž n o

If the pronunciation of the first word is strelki, the sentence means the hands on the tower-clock were motionless; but if the stress on the first word moves to the last syllable, strelki, it now means the riflemen on sentry duty at the tower were standing motionless. A far-fetched example certainly, but it does show the importance of stress. The essential point is the concept of Russian as a stress-controlled language: this means in practice that speakers of the language must place enormous emphasis on the stressed vowel - and mumble everything else in the word! This leads on to the concept of strong and weak positions in words, the latter producing in their train a whole set of vowel-reductions which complicate sound-symbol correspondences very considerably.

We all know vodka (9), a word in which the <o> clearly carries the stress. Like the word whisky, vodka is the diminutive of the word voda (10) meaning water.

(9) в о д к а (10) в о д а

However in voda the stress has shifted from the /o/ in vodka to the final /a/, and in the process the sound-value of the <o> has changed to /a/, so that the word is now pronounced /vada/. However, in certain unstressed or weak positions, as in the polysyllabic word navodnenie (11) meaning flood

(11) н а о д н е н и е

that same /o/ is reduced to just shwa. That is a fundamental feature of Russian phonology which is not reflected by the spelling system, either directly or obliquely.

There are also weak positions for consonants, chiefly in word-endings and when juxtaposed with other consonants. Thus we have a word meaning an oak-tree (12), spelt dub.

(12) д у б

Because that <b> is final, the realised pronunciation is /dup/, but as soon as the word is declined, as say in the genitive singular, the <b> is voiced, /duba/. Then we have a verb, otbit' (13), meaning to beat off

(13) о т б и т ь

The spelling of the first syllable, which is a clearly defined verbal prefix meaning off, is <ot>, but because of its position, its phonetic realisation is as /od/.

There is a word meaning area, oblast' (14),

(14) о б л а с т ь/

but because the letter <s> precedes the palatalised /t'/ it too acquires palatalisation and is pronounced as /s't'/.

We have the word for dark (15), tёmny, with its first syllable stressed:

(15) т ё м н ы й

But the word for to go dark is temnet' with the second syllable stressed, and the word for darkness is temnota, with the third syllable stressed and the first syllable's vowel 'reduced' in pronunciation to /i/.

These examples show very clearly that such shifts represent a major system in spelling, but is not captured at all in actuality. There are thus a number of phonological features of Russian, some of which virtually play a key role counter to the way the spelling system works.

When it comes to putting a language down on paper by means of an alphabetic script, there are two basic methods, plus the antithesis of a method. Firstly, a phonetic-phonemic principle can be applied; in this system the less allophonic variation there is, the better. Secondly, a morphemic principle can be applied, in the sense that the spelling system makes an attempt to freeze the appearance of morphemes on paper, whatever their pronunciation is. Finally and regrettably, of course, it is possible to use an 'anti-system' - what English possesses to excess - a traditional or historical conglomeration of sui generis idiosyncrasies. Russian opts for the second, the morphemic principle, but also betrays some allegiance to the phonemic approach; it does, admittedly, have some asymmetries of a historical and traditional kind, but they do not burden the system as whole to any great extent.

Russian has its own history of spelling reforms, the most illustrious being immediately after the October Revolution, when the hard sign was removed from the alphabet, along with a number of other letters. Prior to that time all consonants had to be marked for either hardness or softness; the position today is that they are marked for softness only, although two consonants are admittedly 'innately' soft. After the hard sign disappeared one particular edition of Anna Karenina became 35 pages shorter in consequence, it is reported!

4.2 System of vowel-letters in Russian.
The ten vowel signs (five pairs) with their approximate phonemic representations are:

 
1а /a/я /ja/
2э /ε/е /jε/
3ы /əi/и /ji/
4о /ɒ/ё /jɒ/
5у /u:/ю /ju:/
 

The five second members of these pairs represent either an added preceding yot or the secondary articulation of palatalisation 'imposed' on a preceding consonant, followed by the appropriate vowel. There is some slight potential confusion in this pattern, but in general it is quite an efficient system. To observe it in operation, consider the two Russian words, mat' (16) meaning mother, and m'at' (17), meaning to crumple.

(16) м а т ь (17) м я т ь

We can see that the phonemic difference lies in the palatalisation feature of the initial consonant, yet graphemically it is the vowel letter that differs.

The hard and soft signs <ъ ь> are merely auxiliary signs which are also used as separators, because in a spelling system such as has just been described it may be necessary to protect the preceding consonant from being pronounced palatally.

4.3 Morphemic stability.
To appreciate the importance of the morphological principle in Russian, we may take the Russian root kaz (18) as an example. It means to point or to show. There are a number of derivatives, such as one that is occasionally used in English, where it is sometimes spelt ukase (19), meaning a government directive. The verb ukazat' (20) means to indicate, point out.

(18) к а з (19) у к а з (20) у к а з а т ь
(21) с к а з а т ь (22) с к а з к а
(23) с к а з о ч н ы й (24) р а с с к а з ы в а т ь
(25) р а с с к а з ч и к (26) р а с с к а ж y

The verb skazat' (21) logically means to point out by saying, in other words, just to say, while skazka (22) means a fairy-tale and skazočny (23) is an adjective referring to a fairy-tale. The verb rasskazyvat' (24) means to relate, to recount, while rasskazčik (25) is a person who recounts, in other words a raconteur, story-teller. So far, the spelling of this morpheme, kaz, has been preserved intact whatever its pronunciation: the /z/ in (25) is, in fact, phonetical palatalised, devoiced and merged with the following consonantal sound. On the other hand the morphophonemic system comes into play in the form I will say which is rasskažu (26): here Russian changes the grapheme <z> into the grapheme for /ž/, as a result of phonemic laws once active but now fossilised on the level of grammatical and word-derivational morphology. Even if it cannot achieve it in this circumstance, Russian tries via its spelling system to protect the integrity of the morpheme: that is its primary aim.

It cannot be said that there are no spelling problems at all in Russian. One problem is the use of geminated (doubled) consonants in foreign words. The occurrence and pronunciation of geminated consonants in native Russian words is very rare, but in borrowed words geminate spellings are very frequent. In almost every case pronunciation norms ignore such spellings and mentally convert geminates to singletons.

4.4 Russification of foreign words.

Another major crux is the incorporation and russification of foreign words. In a word like kodeks (27) the <d> ought, according to spelling rules, to be pronounced palatally, but it is in fact pronounced without any palatalisation.

(27) к о д е к с

A good deal of uncertainty exists with regard to the pronunciation of many words in this category: spelling pronunciations are gradually gaining the upper hand, ousting the 'alien' phonetic practices retained by the older generations of Russian speakers, partly in deference to such foreign borrowings and certainly in defiance of the normal rules of sound-symbol correspondence. Hence in these cases a russification process is being carried through. There are very full statistics, collected by sociolinguists, about words like these, giving a snapshot of what stage they are at on the cline towards complete russification.

4.5 Non-morphemic spellings.
There is one situation where Russian departs from its morphemic spelling principle and descends - if one may use that word - to the phonemic principle, and that is in the use of verbal prefixes. The verbal prefect ras-/raz- (28) is equivalent to the English dis- or de-. There is a verb razvivat' (29) meaning to develop, and another verb raspustit' (30), meaning to disperse.

(28) р а с - / р а з - (29) р а з в и в а ь (30) р а с л у с т и т ь

We can see here that the root in (29) begins with the voiced /v/ and in (30) with unvoiced /p/, and that an accommodation has taken place, with the spelling of the sibilant in the prefix indicating voicing before a voiced consonant, and non-voicing before an unvoiced consonant. The same accommodation occurs with most prefixes, and it must therefore be regarded as a subsystem that slightly blurs the integrity of the larger system, in which the morphemic principle of spelling prevails.

4.6 Acronyms.
Russian is a language that abounds in acronyms: there are many thousands of them alive and kicking in normal discourse. It often happens in 'stump words', or in concatenated initials which are pronounced as words, rather than as single letters, that unusual or misleading juxtapositions of vowels and consonants appear: some counterintuitive pronunciations appear as a result. Detyasli (31) means a creche, a junior kindergarten, and it is a blend of two words (32) deti and yasli put together rather like smog in English, made up from smoke and fog.

(31) д е т я с л и (32) д е т и, я с л и

According to spelling conventions the compound ought to be pronounced with a palatal /t/, but in fact the /t/ is retained as hard, and theme is almost a distinct juncture in the pronunciation as a result.

4.7 Problems and their reform in Russian.
There is a number of other small problems which conspire to create a spelling black list in Russian: these items are always adduced as 'warts' whenever the question of spelling reform rears its head in the USSR, but none of them has yet fallen prey to the zeal of reformers.

There are traditional spellings, the most common one being the use of the letters <-ogo>, which is the genitive singular inflection of masculine and neuter adjectives and which is pronounced as though it were <-ovo>.

By and large the Russians are quite satisfied with their spelling system. Although there are occasional proposals for reforming it, they are intended to clear out a ragbag of minor inconsistencies rather than to attack fundamentals.

5. OTHER SLAVONIC LANGUAGES.

5.1 Byelorussian.
We will now turn to Byelorussian, which, although very similar to Russian, is nevertheless a separate language, having experienced a different evolution. Here the major systems of morphology, syntax, semantics and lexis are exactly the same as in Russian. The same can be said to all intents and purposes of Byelorussian phonology. However in their spelling the Byelorussians have adopted a system which does not fully protect the integrity of morphemes, but rather partly overrides them with the help of a system that spells according to pronunciation.

Let us now look below at a little table of words: on the left are three Russian words - their English translation appears on the right. In the middle are the Byelorussian equivalents of these words. The Byelorussian orthographic system prescribes, by spelling alone, that in Byelorussian an /o/ is pronounced only where it is written. When it loses its stress and is pronounced /a/, then, unlike the pattern in Russian, the spelling changes to /a/ too.

(34) ґ о р о д    ґ о р а д   town
(35) ґ о р о д о к    ґ а р а д о к   townlet
(36) ґ о р о д с к о й    ґ а р а д с к і   municipal

Yet Byelorussian has only adopted this principle for vowels, not consonants.

This is an interesting contrast between Russian and Byelorussian, and it is claimed that this particular spelling system has helped to improve literacy in Byelorussia. Before we leave Byelorussian, it is worth mentioning that there are the same sorts of disagreements as in Russian about numbers. Experts are clear that there are 39 consonant phonemes and 5 vowel phonemes, but there is argument about how many graphemes there are, because Byelorussian, among the East Slavonic languages, 'descends' to the use of the digraphs <dz> and <dž>. There is further ambiguity because the former digraph may be soft, but this can be decided only by inspection of the following grapheme, either vowel or soft sign.

5.2 Polish.
Polish uses the Roman alphabet which it modifies either by the addition of diacritics, by the introduction of modified letters, or by the use of letter combinations. Polish, like all the West Slavonic languages, has a fixed word-stress - in this case on the penultimate syllable. Whereas Russian is isochronous (phrases rather than syllables tend to be of equal duration), Polish is isosyllabic (syllables tend to have a fixed duration), and as a result there are no weak or strong syllables and, obviously, no vowel reductions. Nonetheless Polish has the same problem as Russian, i.e. how to represent the palatal consonants, which incidentally occur in a positionally more restricted way than in Russian. Their representation is achieved by two methods. If a palatal consonant occurs before a consonant or at the end of the word, it acquires a diacritic, as in a request (37) or to take (38).

(37) prośba (38) brać

If it occurs before any vowel except /i/, the ordinary hard equivalent of the letter is used, with an /i/ after it, as in small (39) v. they (f.) had (40).

(39) mały (40) miały

If it occurs before /i/, the ordinary hard consonant letter is used, as in to beat (41) v. to be (42).

(41) bić (42) być

There is not the space here to do full justice to Polish, but the comment should be added that there are cases of orthographic dilemma in Polish and learners have to consult mental black lists. For instance the pronunciations of <h> and <ch> are absolutely equivalent in standard Polish (though not in certain dialects); and <ż> and <rz> are also absolutely indistinguishable in pronunciation. Etymologically it is very easy for a scholarly linguist to distinguish them, but Polish layfolk cannot do that. The word for heating, ogrzewanie, for instance is quite commonly spelt as (43) below. The letters <ó> and <u> have exactly the same value, but in some cases they cause difficulty. Words like wieczny (eternal) and wietrzny (windy) have identical pronunciations. The protection of morphemic integrity in Polish grammatical or derivational families does not extend to quite the same extent as in Russian, and some odd cases occur: there is no integrity between the word for to cut off (44) in Polish and the word for I will cut off (45) - not a single letter is the same. That is, of course, a very awkward case, but it is by no means untypical.

(43) ogżewanie (44) ściąć (45) zetnę

5.3 Serbo-Croat.
There are two alphabets in use in Serbo-Croat, the Cyrillic alphabet and the Roman alphabet - unusually, they have a one-to-one correspondence table but this is the result of the work of Vuk Karadžić a century ago. Admittedly, the corresponding letters in the two alphabets occur in a different order, so words are found in different positions in the dictionary, depending on the alphabet. In Serbo-Croat the phonetic principle reigns supreme and there is hence no such concept as the integrity of the morpheme. The word for sweet is sladek in the singular, with a medial /d/, but in the plural, slatki, the /d/ has become a /t/. Alternations of this type are very common and are therefore clearly indicated in the spelling. The word for a Serb, which is Srbin, has a <b>, but the adjective Serbian has a <p>, srpski. This system blurs morphologically important information, so that in a form like dovesti it is not clear from spelling which of two verbs, dovoditi (to conduct), or dovoziti (to convey), is actually being used - only the context can resolve the ambiguity.

6. CONCLUSIONS.

It is evident, then, that in the Slavonic languages a spectrum of spelling systems exists, from the predominantly morphemic (Russian) to the predominantly phonemic (Serbo-Croat); there is no representative of the English 'anti-system'! Each of these systems is the result of its own linguistic environment, its own problems, its own struggles, even internecine warfare.

There are muted proposals for spelling reform in a few Slavonic languages but opinions are agreed that, although Russian spelling may well be further systematised, Polish spelling stands virtually no chance of being reformed. There are some lessons to be learned perhaps in the English- speaking world, in the sense that there is a virtual obsession with what is known as 'speech culture', or the cultivation of educated speech accompanied by a war of prescription and proscription on substandard usage. This is very firmly part and parcel of the sociolinguistic environment, and has sociological and even political origins. It was, to begin with, part of the battle against the influx of foreign words and concepts which have permeated these languages to varying extents. But there is a still a strong view that a cohesive national language is helpful to the body politic, creating feelings of solidarity among the populace. The prospects for spelling reform on linguistic grounds alone are very meagre, not least because no reliable indices have yet been elaborated and implemented for testing the efficiency of orthographies. The prospects for spelling reform based on socio-political considerations are less easy to judge - no proposals are really topical at the present time, but one must always remember that spelling reforms have taken place in Eastern Europe in the past and that appeals have been made to just such socio-political grounds in the process.

 
 аa јj сs
 бbкk тt
 вvлl ћć
 гgљlj уu
 дdмm фf
 ђđнn хh
 еeњnj -c
 жžоo чč
 зzпp цdz
 иiрr шš
 

Serbo-Croatian Transliteration

Back to the top.