Proposed general model for Serbo-Croatian continuum

John Cowan cowan at
Thu Nov 21 20:13:57 CET 2013

Michael Everson scripsit:

> Well, between Goran, Miloš, and John, can a certain model be
> hammered out?

After the usual amount of thinking and muddling, here are my current

0.  We aren't going to get a solution all at once, and should plan ahead
but proceed incrementally.

1.  The two subtags on the table are necessary for handling Standard
Serbian, and should go through first.  Whether we spell them "ekavn"
and "ijekavn" or "ekavsk" and "ijekavsk" needs to be decided.  I believe
either will be satisfactory and Michael should just pick one.

The prefix should be specified as 'sr', or possibly all of 'sr',
'sr-Latn', 'sr-Cyrl'.  (As a reminder, this means "definitely meaningful
with Standard Serbian, may be meaningful with other languages", and the
list can be extended later.)

2.  We should delay the "Serbo-Croatian in the wider sense" varieties,
namely Kajkavian, Chakavian, Torlakian, and palaeo-Shtokavian, to see what
the RA does with Kajkavian.  If it goes through as a 639-3 code element,
then appropriate people can use the ISO 639-3 process to get the others
tagged similarly.  I believe this approach is correct and hope the RA
will agree.

If the RA doesn't go along, we should plan to tag these four as variants
with a prefix of 'sh', as anything narrower would be incorrect.  Their
dialect varieties (notably Burgenland Croatian, a variety of Chakavian
spoken in Austria) can and should wait until we see what the RA does.

3.  There remain the non-standard varieties of neo-Shtokavian,
"Serbo-Croatian in the narrower sense".  Wikipedia identifies four major
subvarieties that I think are suitable for tagging: Bosnian-Dalmatian,
Dubrovnik, Shumadija-Vojvodina, and Eastern Herzegovinian, which is now
spoken far and wide and is the variety that encompasses all the standard
languages (in its Ijekavian form, in the case of Serbian).

I very tentatively propose ikavn/ikavsk, dubrovn/dubrovsk, ekavn/ekavsk,
and ijekavn/ijekavsk for these, with a neutral prefix of 'sh'.  I think
this works fine if the RA approves the languages in point 2, which will
implicitly narrow 'sh' to exclude them.  If it does not, the use of
these subtags is slightly more problematic, as there are (e.g.) Ekavian,
Ikavian, and Ijekavian varieties of Chakavian.  Stacked variant subtags
would handle this, but less transparently.

It was impossible to inveigle           John Cowan <cowan at>
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 
Into offering the slightest apology
For his Phenomenology.                      --W. H. Auden, from "People" (1953)

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