Variations: Traditional NW Dialects


If you would really like to learn dialects in Croatia, a separate course or textbook would be needed. So far, nobody has written something like it, but it can be done. (Maybe I’ll find some time one day?) So consider this a lightweight overview.


Suza za zagorske brege:

V jutro dišeče gda bregi su spali
a mesec još zajti ni štel
potiho sem otprl rasklimanu lesu
i pinklec na pleča sem del

It’s hopeless to look into standard dictionaries. But you can ask someone who natively speak that dialect, or someone who understands it, and luckily for you – I happen to understand it. These are the verbs from the lines above:

deti (dene) perf. put
dišati (diši) smell (pleasantly)
otprti (otpre) perf. open
spati (spi) sleep
šteti (hoče) want

The verbs corresponding to standard doći (...) perf. come, naći perf. find, zaći perf. ??? etc. have a bit different forms:

dojti (dojde, došel, došla) perf. come
najti (najde, našel, našla) perf. find
zajti (zajde, zašel, zašla) perf. set (Sun and Moon)

The adjective dišeči is present adjective of dišati (diši), so it means pleasant-smelling, i.e. fragrant.

The lines above translate as:

In a fragrant morning when hills were sleeping
And the Moon was still unwilling to set
I quietly opened the rickety gate
And put the bag on my back

The song continues:

Stara je mati išla za menom
nemo vu zemlu gledeč
Ni mogla znati kaj zbirem vu duši
i zakaj od včera nis rekel ni reč

In that dialect, instead of lj, there’s l: zemla ground, earth, country instead of zemlja, prijatel friend instead of prijatelj.

This song, like others in this chapter, is fully examined in the Examples section below.

biti be this dialect standard
pres-1 sem sam
neg. pres-1 nis nisam
neg. pres-3 ni nije

Note that spati (spi) sleep is archaic in most parts of Croatia today, but the verb zaspati (zaspi) inch. fall asleep was clearly derived from it many centuries ago.

Dobro mi došel prijatel
vu stari zagorski dom
budi kak doma vu vlastitoj hiži
tu pri pajdašu si svom

Vre je stara hiža ova
al još navek tu stoji
nemreš srušit ovog krova
taj se ničeg ne boji

The fourth line has an interesting construction:

pri + DL = std. kod¨ + G

You’ve probably noticed interesting stress in present tense forms of some verbs: stoji he/she/it stands and boji se² he/she/it is afraid. Such stress is impossible in standard Croatian, but it can be guessed from it.

Verbs which have an underline – i.e. the fixed stress – in present tense forms in the standard stress scheme will have fixed stress one one syllable to the right in this (and many other) dialects:

verb standard “old” dialects
be afraid of boji se² boji se²
hold drži drži
stand stoji stoji

Why the form sem instead of sam? Why e in rekel vs rekla? To answer these questions, a bit of history.

Roughly 1100 years ago, before any of the today dialects (and languages) in the Slovenia-to-Serbia area were differentiated, there were two more vowels, usually written today as ə and ě.

For example, the pres-1 of biti be was səm, while the word for wind was větər. Many words had these vowels: pəs dog, məgla fog, stəza path etc. The past-m of reći perf. say was rekəl. The adjective beautiful was běl, and it should was trěba. We don’t know how they were exactly pronounced (and it likely varied by region) but we’re sure they existed, since old writings have special letters for them.

And then, in many dialects, the system got simpler. These vowels merged with other vowels, but it happened differently in different regions. In most dialects, ə changed to a, but in the area around today Zagreb it changed to ě.

So after ə was gone, we had ě left, and that precisely that vowel changed into either a plain e (giving rise to the Ekavian prounciation), or i (in Ikavian areas), and even into either ije or je. The last option happened in many parts of Croatia and most of Bosnia, and that was taken as the basis of Standard Croatian.

But something else happened in most Kajkavian areas: there, the ě usually remained a separate vowel to this day. The word for wind is actually větěr (the unstressed ě is pronounced often like e in English the), while e.g. the e in the word pet five is pronounced somewhat like a in English bad or e in English bed.

To illustrate this, here are these two words pronounced by a native, Kajkavian speaker from a village near Zagreb:

pet  ▶  five
devet nine
pěs dog
větěr  ▶  wind

However, these two sounds are often spelled the same, and that gives the impression that Kajkavian is Ekavian, but it’s not. However, historically, Kajkavian in towns such as Zagreb, Samobor and Varaždin was Ekavian.

But these were all songs in traditional styles, often sung by people in traditional costumes (of course, it was all dress-up: both songs were originally sung on the Krapina Festival by Vice Vukov, who was born in Šibenik, where a completely different dialect is spoken, and local folk costumes look completely different).

There was the Krapina festival, but it had a very local... MIK... even more local... Only Split festival.

↓ Examples (click to show)

5 Easy Croatian: Variations: Traditional NW Dialects UNDER CONSTRUCTION! PLEASE BE PATIENT :) If you would really like to learn dialects in Croatia, a separate course or textbook would be ne...

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