A (Very Brief) Guide to Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian Pronunciation

Serbian Newspaper Politika, 11 April 1913
Serbian Newspaper Politika, 11 April 1913

Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book I: Yasamin takes place in Eastern Europe, a crossroads of cultures and languages. Much of the present-day action of the novel is set in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and there are several characters with Bosnian or Croatian names, including Ibrahim Zorić, Josip Basiljević, his ancestor Sebastijan, and Dom Marin Pavlović. In addition, many of the place names are in Bosnian, Croatian, or Serbian, including Novi Sad, Banja Luka, Lastovo, Dubrovnik, and Medveđa.

Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian all belong to the South Slavic group of languages. They used to be considered one language, Serbo-Croatian, before the Yugoslav Civil War. Since then, they are considered three separate languages for political reasons, and the speakers of each have taken steps to differentiate their language from the other two, though they are all still mutually intelligible for the most part. Serbian is written with the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet while Croatian and Bosnian are written with the Latin alphabet, but because they all used to be one language, there is a direct one-to-one correspondence between the letters in each.

The letters are pronounced pretty much the same as in English with the exception of the following:

  • c as in the ts in cats
  • č as in the ch in church
  • ć similar to the ch in choose but softer
  • dž as in the j in joke
  • đ similar to the j in juice but softer
  • h as in the ch in Bach
  • j as in the y in yellow
  • lj similar to the lli in million
  • nj similar to the ni in onion
  • š as in the sh in ship
  • ž as in the z in azure

Another fun fact is that r and l can be “vowels” in that they can occur in a syllable by themselves, leading to words like trg (“square”) and vrh (“peak”).

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