October 28, 2023 | Време читања: 4 минута

Linguistic Families and the Serbian Language Among Them

Linguistic Families and the Serbian Language Among Them

Linguistic families are like vast, sprawling language clans, with each language representing one of its members. Just as all languages have evolved from a common root, within language families, different dialects and pronunciations emerge. Over time, these dialects become increasingly distinct until they become different enough to be called separate languages. The process is alive and ongoing and still continues.

Indo-European Language Family

The relationship between linguistic families and their members can be compared to a family tree. For example, the Serbian language is a part of the Slavic linguistic family, and within the Slavic linguistic family, there are many different dialects and languages. The kinship between the Serbian language and other Slavic languages can be compared to the kinship within a larger language family. This is the case with the Germanic or Romance language families, which have originated from Latin. Within the Slavic family, the Serbian language is closely related to languages such as Croatian and Bosnian, while people from Niš and Piroćanci can easily communicate with Bulgarians and Macedonians, even without a dictionary. 

indoevropski jeziciИндоевропски језициSimilar to how languages develop from dialects, differences within language families grow over centuries. This occurs due to small differences in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation, which accumulate over time. Sometimes, new ways of expression develop in specific dialects, while words and structures that exist in all dialects become more common in one dialect and less common in another. For instance, the more frequent use of the future tense “ću uraditi” in the northern parts of our country with the infinitive, while in the southern regions, the infinitive is almost regularly replaced by the construction “ću da uradim” or in dialect: “ću uradim.”

Additionally, borrowing words from other languages can lead to changes in vocabulary. For example, the Serbian language has a rich vocabulary that is partly borrowed from the Turkish language, making it unique compared to other Slavic languages. One example can illustrate this. The renowned novel by Andrić, when translated into other languages, is titled “The Bridge On the Drina,” while, as we all know, the actual title is “Na Drini ćuprija,” where Ivo Andrić deliberately used the Turkish word “ćuprija” to emphasize the nearly 500 years of Ottoman presence in these regions.

How similar is Serbian to other Slavic languages?

Let’s examine the similarity between Slavic languages and the Serbian language within this language family. Just as Latin dialects evolved into various Romance languages, Slavic dialects have evolved into various Slavic languages.

Slovenski jezici
Словенски језици


Old Slavic, the precursor to today’s Slavic languages, emerged within the Indo-European language group. Although it may seem that there are no significant similarities between Germanic, Romance, and Slavic languages, a deeper etymological and phonological analysis reveals incredible similarities. Here’s a linguistic example of similarity with Germanic languages. In German, a child is called “kinder,” while in Old Slavic, the same word was “čendo” (the Old Slavic “en” has changed to “e” in the Serbian version, so today we say “čedo”). If we consider that the transformation of “k” before “e” into “č” is due to palatalization, we can clearly see the common origin of this term. Similarities within the same language group are much more significant. Let’s look at Slavic languages. This means that in all Slavic languages, you will be able to find shelter, water, and a piece of bread without any problems.


A Small Language and Its Place in the Global Context

Biblical legend says that people united to build a tower that would reach God. However, we know that their audacity, ignorance of human boundaries, led to the perpetual mingling of peoples and languages and the inability to communicate easily.


Linguistic barriers today can sometimes be stumbling blocks and grounds for misunderstanding. However, we are much more inclined to view dialectal and linguistic diversity as linguistic wealth and cultural potential. In this context, the Serbian language, as part of the South Slavic group of Slavic languages, has much to offer. Even if we exclude words that are widely accepted globally and have entered the largest world languages from Serbian (such as “vampire” and “paprika”), let’s not forget that there are other things that connect people. It’s not said in vain: “Rakija connecting people,” and no, you don’t need to translate. Rakija has also become part of the world’s lexicon thanks to the small Serbian language.”