Why Is Learning Serbian Writing So Important?

November 10, 2020

The Serbian language belongs to the South Slavonic language group, alongside Croatian, Macedonian, Slovenian, and Bulgarian. It is a part of the larger Slav language group (which includes Russian, Belorussian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, and Slovak).

When it comes to Serbian writing, the language reformer Vuk Karadžić (1787–1864) laid the foundations for the modern Serbian language. He revised the alphabet with a new style of phonetic spelling with the maxim “Write as you speak”.

Spelling and pronunciation are very easy in Serbian because words are written according to phonetic principles. Each letter represents one sound, each one is pronounced separately and each word is spelled as it is pronounced.

Serbian Language At A Glance

Native name:Srpski jezi (Latin Alphabet) Српски језик (Cyrillic Letters)
Number of speakers:About 12 million
Language family:Indo-European    
South Slavic              
Serbian language
Spoken in:Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, and Macedonia
Writing system:Serbian Cyrillic, Serbian Latin
First written:11th century
Official language in:Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (co-official), and Montenegro (in official use)
Recognized minority language in:serbian writing  Holy Mountain in Greece
  Croatia (regional)
  North Macedonia (regional)
  Romania (regional)
serbian writing Czech Republic

History Of The Serbian Alphabet

The Glagolitic alphabet was originally used to write Serbian from the 11th century. It was later replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet, and the modern Serbian Cyrillic alphabet was devised in 1814 by the Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić. Meanwhile, the Serbian Latin alphabet was designed by Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj in 1830. Serbian is currently written in both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, which are both officially recognized, although Cyrillic script was made the official script of Serbia's government in 2006. Literate Serbians are able to read and write their language in both scripts, and media organizations typically choose to use one or the other.

Up to the mid 19th century, there was no standard written form of Serbian, but there was extensive literature. In 1850, a group of Serbian and Croatian writers and linguists decided to create a standard written form based on the widely-used Štokavian dialect. The modern Serbian literary standard developed from this written form, which was the official language of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 1918 and 1991. After Yugoslavia broke up in 1991, separate written and spoken languages began to emerge in the different countries that made up the former Yugoslavia.

Serbian contains many loan words from Greek, Turkish (in the central regions), and German (in Vojvodina), and continues to borrow new words from various languages. It is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin.

Serbian Alphabet

Learning the Serbian alphabet is very important because its structure is used in everyday conversation. Without it, you will not be able to say words properly even if you know how to write those words. Also, it would help your language learning if you master Serbian grammar basics.

The better you pronounce a letter in a word, the more understood you will be in speaking the Serbian language.

Below you can find a table showing the Serbian alphabet and how it is pronounced in English, and finally examples of how those letters sound if you place them in a word.

Cyrillic AlphabetLation VersionSoundPronunciation Example
А аA/a/a as in car
Б бB/b/b as in bat
В вV/ʋ/v as in verb
Г гG/ɡ/g as in game
Д дD/d/d as in dig
Ђ ђĐ/dʑ/đ as in jack
Е еE/ɛ/e as in let
Ж жŽ/ʒ/ž as in pleasure
З зZ/z/z as in zest
И иI/i/i as in east
Ј јJ/j/j as in year
К кK/k/k as in cut
Л лL/l/l as in love
Љ љLj/ʎ/lj as in million
М мM/m/m as in mice
Н нN/n/n as in nice
Њ њNj/ɲ/nj as in onion
О оO/ɔ/o as in autmn
П пP/p/p as in pick
Р рR/r/r as in Fritz
С сS/s/s as in sound
Т тT/t/t as in time
Ћ ћĆ/tɕ/ć as in church
У уU/u/u as in shoot
Ф фF/f/f as in fit
Х хH/x/h as in heaven
Ц цC/ts/c as in cats
Ч чČ/tʃ/č as in chalk
Џ џ/dʒ/dž as in gin
Ш шŠ/ʃ/š as in shut

Serbian Cyrillic Alphabet (ћирилица)

On the chart above, you can see the Cyrillic script for Serbian in printed and cursive styles, with the names of the letters, Latin alphabet, and their IPA transcriptions.

Serbian Latin Script (latinica)

Sample Texts

Sample text in Serbian in the Cyrillic Alphabet

Сва људска бића рађају се слободна и једнака у достојанству и правима. Она су обдарена разумом и свешћу и треба једни према другима да поступају у духу братства.

Serbian Cyrillic Alphabet (Cursive)

Sample text in the Cursive version of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet.

Sample text in Serbian in the Latin Script

Sva ljudska bića rađaju se slobodna i jednaka u dostojanstvu i pravima. Ona su obdarena razumom i svešću i treba jedni prema drugima da postupaju u duhu bratstva.

Translation to English

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Final Thoughts

If you're trying to learn the Serbian Alphabet, you will find some useful resources including a course about pronunciation, and the sound of all the letters to help you with your Serbian grammar. Try to concentrate on the lesson and memorize the sounds. Also, don't forget to check the rest of our lessons listed on Learn Serbian. Enjoy the rest of the blog.

If you want to learn the Serbian language, Ling App can help you. It enables you to learn languages in an interesting and fun way.

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