Variations: Zagreb, Rijeka, Other Western Cities

I will describe specifics of the language currently spoken in western cities in Croatia – actually, northwestern and western cities, including Zagreb, the biggest city in Croatia. This speech is also quite well known to people in the surrounding area, and they usually use it in some circumstances (they use their home dialect at home and among friends).

Dialects from the wider Zagreb area are usually known as ‘Kajkavian’, and they are quite different from the standard Croatian. The dialects were named after the pronoun kaj what, used in that areas (compare it to the standard Croatian što). The colored areas on this rough map have (or had until very recently) this word for what in the local speech (or a very similar word):

The darker area is roughly where, besides the word kaj, there’s another feature: the word for wind has two same vowels, it’s veter  ▶ . Many other words have e where there’s a in standard Croatian in the whole kaj-area, such as megla fog, pes dog, steza path, and so on, but veter vowels are specific for the darker areas.

(The Kajkavian sound clips are provided by a speaker from a village in the darker shaded area.)

Kajkavian dialects have many interesting features and they could be considered a language on their own (actually, most dialects in Croatia can be considered languages – the difference is only in their social and political status; such issues will be explored later). Only a small number of these features appear in Zagreb speech today.

The first feature is, of course, the word kaj what, and words derived from it:

nekaj something
nikaj nothing
zakaj why

Another characteristic common in Zagreb today is the negative present tense of the verb moći (...) can; instead of e.g. ne može, it’s only one word: pres-3 is nemre, and it changes like a regular verb!

Then, the future tense is formed with the present of the verb (bude) and the past form of the verb, but the verb (bude) has additional, shortened present tense forms. This table lists both verbs in the present tense:

    (bude)       ne + moći (...)
sing. plur. sing. plur.
1st bum bumo nemrem nemremo
2nd buš bute nemreš nemrete
3rd bu buju nemre nemreju

The pres-3pl ending of these verbs is -eju, compared to standard Croatian -u. This applies to other verbs with pres-3 in -e as well.

Also, the past-m forms have simpler forms, only in -l (or -el, after a consonant):

verb past-m past-f
watch gledal gledala
think mislil mislila
say rekel rekla

These are characteristic features in speech in Zagreb; some are very common, others are rare today; not all of them are generally Kajkavian:

used always

very rare
‘western pronunciation’
di where
kaj what, zakaj why...
specific negative pres-3 of can: nemre
forms bum, buš...
past-m forms in -l
specific forms, e.g. zeti (zeme) perf. take, I menom
Ekavian forms, e.g. deca children

The language spoken in Rijeka, the third biggest city in Croatia, is similar to Zagreb in many aspects. The following features are common to both Zagreb and Rijeka, and can be called ‘western pronunciation’:

1. Use of ‘western stress’. For instance, the verb dolaziti will be stressed on the second syllable.

2. No distinction in pronunciation of č vs. ć and đ vs. , and no distinction in vowel length.

3. Infinitives without the final -i all the time.

4. Yes/no questions where unstressed forms are used as stressed, and simply put at the first position:

Si ga vidio? Did you see him?

Se bojiš? Are you afraid?

The Standard Croatian stressed form of si is jesi, while the particle se² cannot be used like that in Standard Croatian at all!

5. There are some specific words often used in both Zagreb and Rijeka, for example (the standard form is on the right):

di where :: gdje

Adverbs ending in a vowel without the final vowel. Besides examples like sad / sada, found in many places, there will be words like (Standard forms are on the right):

ak if :: ako
kak how :: kako
tak so :: tako

Specific words (some of them are common in certain other regions as well):

niš nothing :: ništa

(the rest is coming soon...)

↓ Examples (click to show)

5 Easy Croatian: Variations: Zagreb, Rijeka, Other Western Cities I will describe specifics of the language currently spoken in western cities in Croatia – actually, northwestern and western cities, includ...

↓ Add Your Comment (click here)

← Previous