You have now some basic knowledge of Croatian, and you are going to enjoy some popular Croatian tune you discovered on YouTube™. To your surprise, it contains some strange words and forms.
You look up the lyrics and find words that are not in your pocket dictionary. Then you look them up in an online dictionary, but it does not help either! What is going on?
Chances are, you picked up a song that's not in Standard Croatian, but in a dialect – language particular to some region (this is a bit confusing, since any language is particular to a region; what is called a ‘language’, and what ‘dialect’ is simply a matter of convenience; also, dialects are usually not used by governments). There are many dialects, but there's a big group of them, that have a characteristic i sound, and are therefore called Ikavian.
Ikavian dialects are usually found on islands and coast, cities Split and Zadar, but also inland, and in parts of Istria.
Simply said, where Standard Croatian has ije or je, they have i. For example (I've listed only nominatives and infinitives):
|dvije two (f)||dvi|
|gdje where||di / gdi|
There's no change for verbs that have -ije in their pers-3 and the -i- comes from the infinitive, such as:
piti (pije) drink
brijati (brije) shave
Verbs having infinitives in -jeti in Standard Croatian have -i- in all forms and appear regular in Ikavian; this includes the Ikavian version of razumjeti understand:
razumiti understand |
| regular verbs
There are a couple of words where just the Standard e is changed to i:
|prestati (prestane) perf. stop||pristati (pristane)|
|rezati (reže) impf. cut||rizati (riže)|
|sreća happiness, luck||srića|
|trebati impf. need/should||tribati|
|usred in the middle of||usrid|
Ikavian pristati stop looks like another verb from the same family, meaning consent, agree – prefixes pre- and pri- have merged in Ikavian!
This applies to some other verbs as well, so instead of jesti eat, there's jisti.
Perhaps confusingly, this applies also to the negative present tense of the verb imati have and to indefinite pronouns/adjectives like neki and nešto:
|nemaš pres-2 you don't have||nimaš|
|neki adj. some||niki|
Many Ikavian dialects also have specific past-m forms: instead of -o, they have -a and -ja:
|biti (je² +) be||bio||bija|
When the past-m in Standard Croatian ends in -ao, in such dialects it ends in only -a. When other vowels are found before the final -a, some people write just -a, other -ja, so you will see both bia and bija.
Many such dialects are spoken on the Adriatic coast or near it, but not all dialects on the coast are Ikavian.
Furthermore, most coastal dialects, be Ikavian or not, have another interesting feature: in verb and case endings, where Standard Croatian has -m, they have -n instead:
|biti (je² +) be||sam||san|
For nouns and adjectives (example for the instrumental case):
|moj my||m, n||mojim||mojin|
This change affects only word-final m's: endings -mo (pres-1pl) or -ma (DLI-pl) aren't affected.
There's another feature that doesn't completely overlap with the change from -m to -n: loss of lj. Instead, such dialects have usually just j:
|ljudi m pl. people||judi|
|ljubav f love||jubav|
There are some specific constructions used today in Split and the surrounding area. The most common is:
u¨ + G (Split area) = std. kod¨ + G
Therefore, you often hear and read u nas instead of kod nas for at our place, here (i.e. German bei uns).
Furthermore, there are a lot of specific words in Dalmatia (this list is by no means exhaustive, there are many hundreds specific words):
sat clock, hour
tanjur plate (to eat from)
Many of these words also appear in the Northern Adriatic, i.e. in the Rijeka area and Istria. One of the main differences is that Split area consistently uses the Standard stress system, with all shifts, etc. while in Rijeka, the 'western' stress prevails.
Use of Ikavian is very widespread in Split and surrounding areas in everyday communication. A lot of local musicians produce music with Ikavian words. There are even novels and newspaper columns written in Ikavian. There are movies and ‘telenovelas’ with a lot of Ikavian forms. Since such songs and ‘telenovelas’ are quite popular in countries of former Yugoslavia, everyone understands a bit of Ikavian, despite it having no official status anywhere. (There's a small population in Northern Serbia, called Bunjevci, which is – controversially – sometimes considered a separate ethnic group in Serbia, and their language is Ikavian. They have primary schools in Ikavian.)
The difference Ikavian vs. Standard Croatian is similar to e.g. difference between Standard Serbian and Standard Croatian. However, bear in mind that there are dialects in Croatia that much more divergent, to the point of being barely understandable, having specific sounds, case forms, and so on! They will be described in A8 Dialects.
Finally, Ikavian is far from homogeneous. What is spoken on islands would be very different than what is spoken inland. Generally, on islands and smaller towns, you'll see larger difference from the Standard and more specific forms.
There's one more difference that is completely independent of Ikavian, but some Ikavian dialects, including Dalmatian hinterland, have it: loss of h. It was replaced by either v or j, depending on the surrounding sounds, or simply lost, e.g. in the beginning of the word (I have listed only nominatives):
|hladan adj. cold||
snaha son's wife||
suh adj. dry||
Today, most people in Split – especially when they speak privately – don't have h in most words. This produces, with other differences described above, e.g. past forms tija and tila, corresponding to Standard htio and htjela.This loss also happened in large parts of Bosnia and whole Serbia (however, Standard Serbian has restored h at the beginning of words, so it's hladan and suv in Standard Serbian.)
There are also Ekavian dialects, where all changes are similar to ones described above, but have e instead of i (lep, etc.). They prevail in Serbia, and the Standard Serbian in Serbia is Ekavian. You can find more about Ekavian in A9 Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin.
This overview of Ikavian was intentionally brief and light; there are whole books written about various dialects, mostly dictionaries of local speech for some town or region. Unfortunately, little is available online.
Please don't think ‘Ikavian’ equals ‘Dalmatian’. For example, Dubrovnik is a city in Dalmatia, but the dialect spoken there is very different from one spoken in Split, and by no means Ikavian.