Gaj's Latin alphabet (Serbo-Croatian: Gajeva latinica / Гајева латиница, pronounced [ɡâːjěva latǐnitsa]), also known as abeceda (Serbo-Croatian Cyrillic: абецеда, pronounced [abetsěːda]) or gajica (Serbo-Croatian Cyrillic: гајица, pronounced [ɡǎjitsa]), is the form of the Latin script used for writing Serbo-Croatian and all of its standard varieties: Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian.

Gaj's Latin alphabet
Gajeva latinica
Script type
Time period
early 19th century – present
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Slovene alphabet
Montenegrin Latin alphabet
Macedonian Latin alphabet
subset of Latin
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The alphabet was initially devised by Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj in 1835 during the Illyrian movement in ethnically Croatian parts of Austrian Empire. It was largely based on Jan Hus's Czech alphabet and was meant to serve as a unified orthography for three Croat-populated kingdoms within the Austrian Empire at the time, namely Croatia, Dalmatia and Slavonia, and their three dialect groups, Kajkavian, Chakavian and Shtokavian, which historically utilized different spelling rules.

A slightly modified version of it was later adopted as the formal Latin writing system for the unified Serbo-Croatian standard language per the Vienna Literary Agreement. It served as one of the official scripts in the unified South Slavic state of Yugoslavia alongside Vuk's Cyrillic alphabet.

A slightly reduced version is used as the alphabet for Slovene, and a slightly expanded version is used for modern standard Montenegrin. A modified version is used for the romanization of Macedonian. It further influenced alphabets of Romani languages that are spoken in Southeast Europe, namely Vlax and Balkan Romani.

Letters edit

The alphabet consists of thirty upper and lower case letters:

Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
A B C Č Ć D Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a b c č ć d đ e f g h i j k l lj m n nj o p r s š t u v z ž
IPA Value
/a/ /b/ /t͡s/ /t͡ʃ/ (/t͡ʂ/) /t͡ɕ/ /d/ /d͡ʒ/ (/d͡ʐ/) /d͡ʑ/ /e/ /f/ /ɡ/ /x/ /i/ /j/ /k/ /l/ (/ɫ/) /ʎ/ /m/ /n/ /ɲ/ /o/ /p/ /r/ /s/ /ʃ/ (/ʂ/) /t/ /u/ /v/ /z/ /ʒ/ (/ʐ/)
Gaj's Latin alphabet omits 4 letters (q,w,x,y) from the ISO Basic Latin alphabet.

Gaj's original alphabet contained the digraph ⟨dj⟩, which Serbian linguist Đuro Daničić later replaced with the letter ⟨đ⟩.

The letters do not have names, and consonants are normally pronounced as such when spelling is necessary (or followed by a short schwa, e.g. /fə/). When clarity is needed, they are pronounced similar to the German alphabet: a, be, ce, če, će, de, dže, đe, e, ef, ge, ha, i, je, ka, el, elj, em, en, enj, o, pe, er, es, eš, te, u, ve, ze, že. These rules for pronunciation of individual letters are common as far as the 22 letters that match the ISO basic Latin alphabet are concerned. The use of others is mostly limited to the context of linguistics,[1][2] while in mathematics, ⟨j⟩ is commonly pronounced jot, as in the German of Germany.[a] The missing four letters are pronounced as follows: ⟨q⟩ as ku or kju, ⟨w⟩ as dublve, duplo v or duplo ve, ⟨x⟩ as iks, and ⟨y⟩ as ipsilon.

Letters š, ž, č and ⟨dž⟩ represent the sounds [ʂ], [ʐ], [tʂ] and [dʐ], but often are transcribed as /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/ and /dʒ/.

Digraphs edit

Digraphs , lj and nj are considered to be single letters:

  • In dictionaries, njegov comes after novine, in a separate ⟨nj⟩ section after the end of the ⟨n⟩ section; bolje comes after bolnica; nadžak (digraph ⟨dž⟩) comes after nadživjeti (prefix nad-), and so forth.
  • If only the initial letter of a word is capitalized, only the first of the two component letters is capitalized: Njemačka ('Germany'), not NJemačka. In Unicode, the form ⟨Nj⟩ is referred to as titlecase, as opposed to the uppercase form ⟨NJ⟩, representing one of the few cases in which titlecase and uppercase differ. Uppercase is used only if the entire word was capitalized: NJEMAČKA.
  • In vertical writing (such as on signs), ⟨dž⟩, ⟨lj⟩, ⟨nj⟩ are written horizontally, as a unit. For instance, if ulj ('oil') is written vertically, ⟨lj⟩ appears on the second line. In crossword puzzles, ⟨dž⟩, ⟨lj⟩, ⟨nj⟩ each occupy a single square.
  • If words are written with a space between each letter (such as on signs), each digraph is written as a unit. For instance: U LJ.

Origins edit

Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj

The Serbo-Croatian Latin alphabet was mostly designed by Ljudevit Gaj, who modelled it after Czech (č, ž, š) and Polish (ć), and invented ⟨lj⟩, ⟨nj⟩ and ⟨dž⟩, according to similar solutions in Hungarian (ly, ny and dzs, although dž combinations exist also in Czech and Polish). In 1830 in Buda, he published the book Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskog pravopisanja ("Brief basics of the Croatian-Slavonic orthography"), which was the first common Croatian orthography book. It was not the first ever Croatian orthography work, as it was preceded by works of Rajmund Đamanjić (1639), Ignjat Đurđević and Pavao Ritter Vitezović. Croats had previously used the Latin script, but some of the specific sounds were not uniformly represented. Versions of the Hungarian alphabet were most commonly used, but others were too, in an often confused, inconsistent fashion.

Gaj followed the example of Pavao Ritter Vitezović and the Czech orthography, making one letter of the Latin script for each sound in the language. Following Vuk Karadžić's reform of Cyrillic in the early nineteenth century, in the 1830s Ljudevit Gaj did the same for latinica, using the Czech system and producing a one-to-one grapheme-phoneme correlation between the Cyrillic and Latin orthographies, resulting in a parallel system.[3]

Đuro Daničić suggested in his Rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika ("Dictionary of Croatian or Serbian language") published in 1880 that Gaj's digraphs ⟨dž⟩, ⟨dj⟩, ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ should be replaced by single letters : ⟨ģ⟩, ⟨đ⟩, ⟨ļ⟩ and ⟨ń⟩ respectively. The original Gaj alphabet was eventually revised, but only the digraph ⟨dj⟩ has been replaced with Daničić's ⟨đ⟩, while ⟨dž⟩, ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ have been kept.[4]

Correspondence between Cyrillic and Latin alphabets edit

The following table provides the upper and lower case forms of Gaj's Latin alphabet, along with the equivalent forms in the Serbo-Croatian Cyrillic alphabet and the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) value for each letter. The letters do not have names, and consonants are normally pronounced as such when spelling is necessary (or followed by a short schwa, e.g. /ʃə/).:

Cyrillic Latin IPA value
А а A a /ä/
Б б B b /b/
В в V v /ʋ/
Г г G g /ɡ/
Д д D d /d/
Ђ ђ Đ đ //
Е е E e /e/
Ж ж Ž ž /ʒ/
З з Z z /z/
И и I i /i/
Ј ј J j /j/
К к K k /k/
Л л L l /l/
Љ љ Lj lj /ʎ/
М м M m /m/
Cyrillic Latin IPA value
Н н N n /n/
Њ њ Nj nj /ɲ/
О о O o /ɔ/
П п P p /p/
Р р R r /r/
С с S s /s/
Т т T t /t/
Ћ ћ Ć ć //
У у U u /u/
Ф ф F f /f/
Х х H h /x/
Ц ц C c /ts/
Ч ч Č č //
Џ џ Dž dž //
Ш ш Š š /ʃ/

Computing edit

In the 1990s, there was a general confusion about the proper character encoding to use to write text in Latin Croatian on computers.

  • An attempt was made to apply the 7-bit "YUSCII", later "CROSCII", which included the five letters with diacritics at the expense of five non-letter characters ([, ], {, }, @), but it was ultimately unsuccessful. Because the ASCII character @ sorts before A, this led to jokes calling it žabeceda (žaba=frog, abeceda=alphabet).
  • Other short-lived vendor-specific efforts were also undertaken.[which?]
  • The 8-bit ISO 8859-2 (Latin-2) standard was developed by ISO.
  • MS-DOS introduced 8-bit encoding CP852 for Central European languages, disregarding the ISO standard.
  • Microsoft Windows spread yet another 8-bit encoding called CP1250, which had a few letters mapped one-to-one with ISO 8859-2, but also had some mapped elsewhere.
  • Apple's Macintosh Central European encoding does not include the entire Gaj's Latin alphabet. Instead, a separate codepage, called MacCroatian encoding, is used.
  • EBCDIC also has a Latin-2 encoding.[5]

The preferred character encoding for Croatian today is either the ISO 8859-2, or the Unicode encoding UTF-8 (with two bytes or 16 bits necessary to use the letters with diacritics). However, as of 2010, one can still find programs as well as databases that use CP1250, CP852 or even CROSCII.

Digraphs ⟨dž⟩, ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ in their upper case, title case and lower case forms have dedicated Unicode code points as shown in the table below, However, these are included chiefly for backwards compatibility with legacy encodings which kept a one-to-one correspondence with Cyrillic; modern texts use a sequence of characters.

code point
DŽ U+01C4
Dž U+01C5
dž U+01C6
LJ LJ U+01C7
Lj Lj U+01C8
lj lj U+01C9
Nj Nj U+01CB
nj nj U+01CC

Usage for Slovene edit

Since the early 1840s, Gaj's alphabet was increasingly used for Slovene. In the beginning, it was most commonly used by Slovene authors who treated Slovene as a variant of Serbo-Croatian (such as Stanko Vraz), but it was later accepted by a large spectrum of Slovene-writing authors. The breakthrough came in 1845, when the Slovene conservative leader Janez Bleiweis started using Gaj's script in his journal Kmetijske in rokodelske novice ("Agricultural and Artisan News"), which was read by a wide public in the countryside. By 1850, Gaj's alphabet (known as gajica in Slovene) became the only official Slovene alphabet, replacing three other writing systems that had circulated in the Slovene Lands since the 1830s: the traditional bohoričica, named after Adam Bohorič, who codified it; the dajnčica, named after Peter Dajnko; and the metelčica, named after Franc Serafin Metelko.

The Slovene version of Gaj's alphabet differs from the Serbo-Croatian one in several ways:

  • The Slovene alphabet does not have the characters ⟨ć⟩ and ⟨đ⟩; the sounds they represent do not occur in Slovene.
  • In Slovene, the digraphs ⟨lj⟩ and ⟨nj⟩ are treated as two separate letters and represent separate sounds (the word polje is pronounced [ˈpóːljɛ] or [pɔˈljéː] in Slovene, as opposed to [pôʎe] in Serbo-Croatian).
  • While the phoneme /dʒ/ exists in modern Slovene and is written ⟨dž⟩, it is used in only borrowed words and so ⟨d⟩ and ⟨ž⟩ are considered separate letters, not a digraph.

As in Serbo-Croatian, Slovene orthography does not make use of diacritics to mark accent in words in regular writing, but headwords in dictionaries are given with them to account for homographs. For instance, letter ⟨e⟩ can be pronounced in four ways (/eː/, /ɛ/, /ɛː/ and /ə/), and letter ⟨v⟩ in two ([ʋ] and [w], though the difference is not phonemic). Also, it does not reflect consonant voicing assimilation: compare e.g. Slovene ⟨odpad⟩ and Serbo-Croatian ⟨otpad⟩ ('junkyard', 'waste').

Usage for Macedonian edit

Romanization of Macedonian is done according to Gaj's Latin alphabet[6][7] with slight modification. Gaj's ć and đ are not used at all, with and ǵ introduced instead. The rest of the letters of the alphabet are used to represent the equivalent Cyrillic letters. Also, Macedonian uses the letter dz, which is not part of the Serbo-Croatian phonemic inventory. As per the orthography, both lj and ĺ are accepted as romanisations of љ and both nj and ń for њ. For informal purposes, like texting, most Macedonian speakers will omit the diacritics or use a digraph- and trigraph-based system for ease as there is no Macedonian Latin keyboard supported on most systems. For example, š becomes sh or s, and becomes dzh or dz.

Keyboard layout edit

The standard Gaj's Latin alphabet keyboard layout for personal computers is as follows:


See also edit

Sources edit

  • Ljiljana Jojić (2003). Pravopisni priručnik - dodatak Velikom rječniku hrvatskoga jezika (in Croatian).
  • Vladimir Anić; Josip Silić (1987). Pravopisni priručnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika (in Croatian and Serbian).

Notes edit

  1. ^ The lettername in Austrian German is /jeː/ rather than /jɔt/, cf. German alphabet. This is remarkable because Ljudevit Gaj was a citizen of the Kingdom of Croatia, then part of the Austrian Empire.[citation needed]

References edit

  1. ^ Žagarová, Margita; Pintarić, Ana (July 1998). "O nekim sličnostima i razlikama između hrvatskoga i slovačkoga jezika" [On some similarities and differences between Croatian and Slovakian]. Jezikoslovlje (in Croatian). Faculty of Philosophy, University of Osijek. 1 (1): 129–134. ISSN 1331-7202. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  2. ^ "Ortografija" (PDF). Jezične vježbe (in Croatian). Faculty of Philosophy, University of Pula. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  3. ^ Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G., eds. (2003). The Slavonic Languages. London: Taylor & Francis. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-203-21320-9. Retrieved 23 December 2013. Following Vuk's reform of Cyrillic (see above) in the early nineteenth century, Ljudevit Gaj in the 1830s performed the same operation on Latinica, using the Czech system and producing a one-to-one symbol correlation between Cyrillic and Latinica as applied to the Serbian and Croatian parallel system.
  4. ^ Maretić, Tomislav (1899). Gramatika i stilistika hrvatskoga ili srpskoga književnog jezika (in Croatian). Retrieved 13 April 2023.
  5. ^ "IBM Knowledge Center". Archived from the original on 2022-11-09. Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  6. ^ Lunt, Horace G. (1952). Grammar of the Macedonian Literary Language. Skopje.
  7. ^ Macedonian Latin alphabet, Pravopis na makedonskiot literaturen jazik, B. Vidoeski, T. Dimitrovski, K. Koneski, K. Tošev, R. Ugrinova Skalovska - Prosvetno delo Skopje, 1970, p.99

External links edit