75 SE-Čakavian and I-Štokavian

We arrive at two dialects that are mixing quite often, and most of the times it's hard to tell if a speech is more Čakavian or Štokavian. And we find some nice songs!


Both dialects have just i for the 'yat' and are therefore called ikavski ("ikavian"). Therefore, dite, mliko, lipo, svit, cvit, vrime, mriža, srića... {dijëte, mlijëko, lijëpo, svijët, cvijët, vrijëme, mrëža, srëća...}.

The two dialects are spoken in two areas: SE-čakavian is spoken in western and southern Istria (refugees from the Turkish wars moved there some 500 years ago) and in Dalmatia, on all islands except the most southern ones (Mljet and further down south) and on the mainland west from the Neretva river (this means that Dubrovnik uses another dialect), and inland up to Central and Western Bosnia. Also, there are some long-time-ago settlers in Slavonia and Northern Vojvodina (in Serbia) around Subotica, and some others near Zagreb.

In Dalmatia, there is a opposition between the islands and the mainland. There are names for people "inland" or "further inland" (Vlaj) and "coastal" or "islanders" (Bodul). This means that people inland call everyone on the coast and islands Boduli, and people on the mainland coast call only the islanders Boduli; the opposite holds for the name Vlaj. The names are often used as mild insults. Everything can be shown schematically (and simplified) like this:

islands, some coastal townsmost coastal townsSplit, coastal areahills, inland
SE-čakavian + some i-štokaviani-štokavian + some SE-čakaviani-štokaviani-štokavian
ča, bil/bi, san ča, bija, sanšta, bija, sanšta, bio, sam

I have shown variation in the "Final L Rule", and the 1st pers. sg. säm. More or less on islands and along the coast, there is final -n vs. the final -m in the Standard.

The most widespread version of the "Final L Rule" is that any final l is changed to a or ja. This is most visible in past participles:

bija, gledā, mislija, učija, pisā vs. Std. bio, gledao, mislio, učio, pisao

The grammar is a mix of čakavian and štokavian, but nowadays štokavian features prevail on the mainland (but maybe still use ča "what"), while čakavian is still used on the islands. There are some exceptions, for example some songs from the mainland use čakavian to sound more archaic or poetic. An example is Projdi vilo written and sung by Zlatan Stipišić (known as Gibonni):

Projdi vilo mojin verson
Niz kadene od sarca mog

Jubav išće tilo jako
Nosin brime od žeje moje

Ti zanesi dite moje
Moje ime od karvi moje

(Zlatan Stipišić)

Obviously čakavian forms — projdi (imperative of projdem), verson (ins. of vers "verse"), jubav etc. with some interesting forms: sarce, karv instead of srce "heart", krv "blood" etc. Stress patterns are also čakavian (moje is stressed on the last syllable, etc.)

Vila is an interesting concept: it's something like a "fairy", a powerful being looking like a beautiful girl. The term is much revered in the traditional Croatian culture, some old organizations have it in their name, many songs use it: this is a powerful mythical being, not just a creature from tales for children.


A major part of Croatian songs make use of some mix of these two dialects. For instance, an example of contemporary Dalmatian pop, Ditelina s četiri lista "Four-leaf clover", is fully štokavian; and Dalmatino povišću pritrujena is written in an intentionally archaic čakavian (more about the song later):

You can hear how the singer in Dalmatino (left) pronounces moja with the stress on the first syllable. Otherwise a lot of words, especially Venetian loans, are similar. The past participles are posidija, zalija, etc. And you can hear only čakavian in the other song (on the right, but I cannot understand it all without a dictionary!)

One more example is Nostalgična by TBF, an example of Split dialect:

Local dialects in Dalmatia are often called by locals simply "Dalmatian". As we see it's not so simple. Most Dalmatians are really proud of their dialect, one can hear it quite often on TV, there is a big music production and songs using these dialects are popular through the whole former Yugoslavia. There is a lot of local patriotism as well, as indicated by popular songs named:

Probably the most revered one is the quite archaic-sounding Dalmatino povišću pritrujena "Dalmatia, burdened by history" -- I have already shown it, compared with Ditelina s četiri lista. It was written by the father of already mentioned Zlatan Stipišić. All those songs are often sung on football matches, in celebrations, etc. Look for them on the YouTube™

A tradition of Dalmatia is klapa (a capella) singing. A lot of klapa performances can be found on YouTube™. They sing mostly traditional songs, and easily fill football stadiums.

In Istria

I-Čakavian is spoken in Western and Southern Istria as well, again with a lot of Štokavian mix. Songs by Gustafi illustrate them:

  Kadi su ta vrata kroz ka san pasa
Ja bin se torna
Kadi san prije bija kad san bija ja
Kad te nis pozna

Kadi su ti žuti lasi
Ke čeka san i gleda hi z daleka
I sve se ruši, sve se ruši
Sve z vragon gre bez nje
Ma ja san tu

(Edi Maružin)

One can hear many characteristic words: kadì "where", lasi "hair", nis {nisäm}, and -a in past part m.: bija, čeka, gleda {bio, čekao, gledao}. Characteristic čakavian words like bin (cond.) and gre are found. Interestingly, the sound is quite different: Istria is quite far away from Dalmatia.

Čud je lit pasalo
Ja i Ana smo bili skupa
To se znalo
Ja san volija Anu, a Ana mene
Ja san volija piti i naokolo hoditi
Ana je bila prava i doma stala
Ana mi je sebe dala
. . . .
Forši i sad moja mala
Prid vratima stoji
Gleda u daljinu
A nideri ninega ni

(Edi Maružin)

Some words: forši "maybe", pensan "think, suppose", pasan "pass", čud "a lot", etc. Observe more southern features: prid "in front" {prëd}, lit gen. pl. "year" {ljëto "summer"} and so on.

Simply put, this dialect in Istria has a lot of words and accents similar to NW Čakavian, but grammar and endings are quite similar to ones in south, in Dalmatia.

It's interesting that there's a lot of similarity between Istria and Dalmatia: there's a song Ja sän Istrijan "I am Istrian", and despite being much smaller than Dalmatia — 200 000 and some inhabitants, vs. 800 000 in Dalmatia — Istria has own flag and an official anthem...

Observe how both regions are actually small in absolute terms.

[incomplete. grammar details still missing.]

Warning. Although the Dubrovnik area is considered to be within Dalmatia, a quite different dialect is spoken there.

Updated 2013-03-08


Anonymous said...

Fenomenalni članci, pohvale autoru! I to ne samo za ove o čakavskom nego i za cijeli blog :) Pozdrav

Joan Semone said...

Dear Daniel - - - Thank you SO much for explaining the concept behind the “Vila.” I had wondered why Gibonni and Edi Šegota (of Klapa Cambi) delivered such dramatic, impassioned performances about a seemingly silly, lightweight topic. Now I have a much greater appreciation for “Projdi Vilo,” which I liked on the sonic level but didn’t fully understand. Your information took me on an internet excursion of Slavic mythology, which ended in my buying an e-book on the topic. You give us so much more than grammar lessons here! I really appreciate the culture notes – especially the music videos – ‘watch every one. Puno, puno hvala! - - - br, Joan

E said...

Are the differences in dialect also found in spelling? For example, would a Dalmatinac write "lipo" or the standard spelling, or would it depend on the situation (formal vs. informal)?

And just to confirm, all 'yat' sounds (designated by a 'ë') are pronounced as 'i' in Ikavian?

Daniel, you should be nominated for some sort of national award for spreading Croatian culture. For having a relatively small number of speakers worldwide and being a difficult language, Croatian doesn't have many English resources for those trying to learn it. In my view, you've done more with this blog than most government officials. Great job!

Daniel N. said...

It would depend on the situation, in formal situations they would tend to switch to standard language (lijepo) and also write it that way. But some would use dialectal forms even in semi-formal situations, e.g. when discussing with a teacher, or with a professor at a university.

Basically all yat sounds/sequences (ë, jë, ijë) are pronounced i. Of course some people can mix some standard words with dialect and so on.

The main reason why I explain dialects is that when you go to an internet forum you will see a lot of dialect. If you turn on a Croatian radio you will hear a lot of dialect.

I am looking forward to improve my blog, currently I'm making a major upgrade of most entries. All suggestions are welcome! lp Daniel

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