Zeta–Raška dialect

The Zeta–Raška dialect (Serbo-Croatian: Zetsko–raški dijalekat / Зетско–рашки дијалекат) is a dialect of Štokavian / Serbo-Croatian.[1] Its prevalence is mostly in southern Montenegro and parts of the historical region of Raška in Serbia.[2] It is spoken mainly by local ethnic Serbs, Montenegrins, Bosniaks and Muslims.[3]

Map of Shtokavian sub-dialects, according to Pavle Ivić (1988 book). The Prizren-Timok dialects are shown in three colors in the southeastern corner.
Petar II Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro (1813-1851) wrote his famous poem The Mountain Wreath in Zeta-Raška dialect


Zeta–Raška dialect is found mostly in the southern half of Montenegro. At its westernmost boundary, speakers of the dialect can be found along the Adriatic Sea from Ulcinj at its southernmost point to the town of Perast near Kotor in the north, where it borders with the Eastern Herzegovinian dialect. This border runs roughly northeast toward Grahovo and further east to Kolašin. The border continues northeast toward Bijelo Polje and crosses into Serbia near the town of Brodarevo and meets the Ibar river near Sjenica. The border continues east, just south of Sjenica, into Ibarski Kolašin (North Kosovo), where it borders the Kosovo–Resava dialect. The Zeta–Raška dialect then veers south toward Leposavić, reaching the vicinity Kosovska Mitrovica before continuing westward across Mokra Gora and Žljeb back into Montenegro. Upon re-entry into Montenegro, the dialectal border continues through the Prokletije mountains and straddles along the entire Montenegrin border with Albania.[4]

Enclaves of the Zeta–Raška dialect are scant. One enclave is in Petrovo Selo near Kladovo by the Đerdap Gorge in northeastern Serbia. Another enclave is in Vrakë, a region near Shkodër in northern Albania. The dialect is also spoken in Peroj, a town in Istria, northwestern Croatia.[4]


-a ending for masculine active past participleEdit

In the standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian, certain verbs carry the -ao ending for the active past participle in the masculine gender. However, depending on the speaker, this ending is either contracted to -a (-ā in official Montenegrin orthography) or -ä (phoneme explained below) in the Zeta–Raška dialect. Thus, words like mogao and rekao are pronounced as mogā / mogä and rekā / rekä. This type of contraction is not the usual norm for Štokavian speakers, as it is primarily elsewhere found in Croatian seaside vernaculars.[citation needed] Moreover, this characteristic is not present in all areas of the Zeta–Raška dialect. In certain peripheral areas, the active past participle is not contracted to either -ā or -ä and pronounced fully. In other areas, such as Paštrovići in Budva and Zupci in Bar, speakers contract the masculine active past participle from -ao to -o, such as in mogo and reko (tonal mȍgō, rȅkō).[5] This type of contraction of the active past participle considered the norm among Štokavian speakers.[citation needed] In certain parts of the dialectal region, namely Broćanac and Pješivci, the contraction the masculine active past participle from -ao to -o takes on a further step, where speakers add a v in the coda position, giving dov from davao and prodov from prodavao (tonal dȏv, prȍdōv).[5]

Presence of /æ/Edit

Many vernaculars in southern and southeastern Montenegro have a distinct phoneme, characterized as a sound between /a/ and /e/, which is unusual for Štokavian speakers. The phoneme, transcribed here as ä, can be pronounced as either /ɛ/ or /æ/, depending on the region. This feature is characteristically a reflex of Proto-Slavic ь and ъ (see examples below), but can also form by analogy by the speaker. This phoneme in syllable-final position becomes nasalized by speakers found along the border with Albania, notably rekän and zatekän (standard rekao and zatekao, respectively).[6]

Vernacular Pronunciation Standard Proto-Slavic
dän /d̪æn̪/ dan *dьnь
dänäs /d̪æn̪æs̪/ danas *dьnьsь
dugačäk /d̪ugat͡ʃæk/ dugačak *dьlgъčъkъ
gladän /glad̪æn̪/ gladan *gladьnъ
säd /s̪æd̪/ sad *sьda

Yat reflexesEdit

The Zeta–Raška dialect follows the Ijekavian reflex of yat, where ě (ѣ) in Proto-Slavic became either ije, je or e, depending on length and position.

Long yat reflexEdit

Words with a long yat reflex became pronounced as disyllabic -ije- in middle positions. Examples include bijelo (*bělo), snijeg (*sněgъ), vrijeme (*vrěmę).[5]

This transformation was largely ignored by ethnic Bosniaks living in Podgorica and Plav-Gusinje, who followed an Ikavian reflex of yat. Ikavian is another reflex of yat where ě (ѣ) in Proto-Slavic would become -i- in almost all positions. Notably, instead of normal Ijekavian reflexes of yat, like mlijeko and sijeno, speakers in these regions would instead say mliko and sino.[5]

Aside from disyllabic -ije-, speakers in Mrkojevići region near Bar have multiple long yat reflexes.[5] One reflex is -je-, which is a long yat reflex typically found among Bosnian and Croatian Ijekavian speakers. Another is -e-, which is typically found among Ekavian speakers in Serbia and elsewhere.

Secondary ijekavisms, also known as hyperijekavisms, are widespread in the dialectal region. Examples include botijega (botega), kosijer (kosir), pancijer (pancer), but also drijevo and pokrijeva (pokriva).[5]

Short yat reflexEdit

Words with a short yat reflex become transformed as either -je-, -e- or -i-, depending on length and position.[5]

The transformation of the short yat reflex in a word to -je- creates an iotified vowel. This forces the consonant that comes into contact with the iotified vowel to become either partially or completely palatalized. In the Zeta–Raška dialect, dental consonants such as d, s, t and z become completely palatalized into đ, ś, ć and ź, respectively, before an iotified vowel. In standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian (except Montenegrin), these dentals would merely be partially palatalized, i.e. dj, sj, tj and zj respectively.

Iotation Vernacular Standard BCS Ijekavian
-dje--đe- đevojka, poneđeljak djevojka, ponedjeljak
-sje--śe- śetiti, śekira sjetiti, sjekira
-tje--će- lećeti, šćeti letjeti, htjeti
-zje--źe- źenica zjenica

This iotation is present even in words that do not have a short yat reflex, namely koźetina (kozjetina), iźelica (izjelica) and kiśelo (kisjelo - hyperijekavism).

Iotation of -je- continues in labial consonants such as b, f, m, p and v where they undergo complete palatalization before an iotified vowel. Due to the iotation of labial consonants, the short yat reflex may become transformed into either -je- or -lje- as is common in many vernaculars found in the dialectal region. Such examples include: mjesec / mljesec (tonal mjȅsēc / mljȅsēc), pjesma / pljesma (tonal pjȅsma / pljȅsma) and vjera / vljera (tonal vjȅra / vljȅra).[5]

Short yat transforms into -e- before r, especially where the Proto-Slavic prefixes *pre- and *prě- are merged into pre-, a characteristic common in Ekavian but not in Ijekavian. Examples include: prevoz and prelaz (standard Ijekavian forms: prijevoz and prijelaz). Other examples that follow this trend are gorelo, ređe, rešenje, starešina, among others, but it is common to hear their Ijekavian counterparts (gorjelo, rjeđe, rješenje, starješina) throughout the dialectal region. Ekavian is more present in vernaculars closer to the Serbian border, namely Rožaje and Novi Pazar-Sjenica, where they are under the influence of literary Serbian, which is strictly Ekavian in Serbia. Moreover, Ekavian is also widespread in vernaculars in Crmnica and Mrkojevići near Bar.[7]

Short yat transforms into -i- before consonants j and lj, examples: biljeg, grijat and vijavica. Short yat also transforms into -i- before vowel o, usually seen in verbs where the masculine active past participle in Proto-Slavic ends in *-ěl (later forming Proto-Western South Slavic *-ěo). Examples for this transformation include htio, vidio and želio, which is standard in Ijekavian reflexes. However, it is not uncommon to hear htjeo / sćeo, viđeo (> vidjeo) and željeo respectively. Another example is the adjective cio, an unusual contraction of cijel. Its Ekavian counterpart is ceo (from *cělъ) where the -l in coda position transformed into -o, and similarly in Ikavian cio, where it is a contraction of *cil. Here, cio is not an Ikavian borrowing, but rather both Ijekavian and Ikavian reflexes form cio.

Lack of phoneme /h/ ~ /x/Edit

Certain areas of the Zeta–Raška dialectal region preserved the phoneme /h/ while others either dropped it completely or replaced it with other consonants. Areas where /h/ was preserved are Old Montenegro (specifically Riječka nahija, Lješanska nahija and parts of Katunska nahija (Bjelice, Ćeklići, Njeguši)) and Paštrovići, as well as by ethnic Bosniaks near Bihor, Novi Pazar and Sjenica.[8]

In areas where /h/ was dropped, such as Bar, Bjelopavlići, Kuči, Mrkojevići, Piperi and Zupci, speakers would replace /h/ with either /k/, /g/ (trbuge > trbuhe), /j/ (kijat(i) > kihat(i), Mijajlo > Mihailo) or /v/ (muva > muha).[8] Ironically, some of these forms became part of standard Montenegrin and Serbian, notably kijati and muva, while their original forms kihati and muha can be found in standard Bosnian and Croatian.

Palatalization of /l/ into /lʲ/Edit

The alveolar lateral approximant, or /l/, is softened (palatalized) to /lʲ/ in certain vernaculars found in the dialectal region. This characteristic is most present in Bjelopavlići (partially), Bratonožići, Crmnica, Kuči, Mrkojevići, Novi Pazar, Paštrovići Plav-Gusinje and Rijeka Crnojevića. Examples include: aprīl' /apri:lʲ/, dal'ȅko /d̪alʲêko̞/ and kol'a᷈č /ko̞lʲât͡ʃ/.[8] This characteristic may be due to influence of Northern Albanian dialects present along the border with Montenegro.


  1. ^ Ивић 1956, p. 157-174.
  2. ^ Okuka 2008a, p. 170-197.
  3. ^ Okuka 2008b, p. 351-369.
  4. ^ a b Okuka 2008a, p. 170.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Okuka 2008a, p. 172.
  6. ^ Okuka 2008a, p. 171.
  7. ^ Okuka 2008a, p. 172-173.
  8. ^ a b c Okuka 2008a, p. 173.


  • Ивић, Павле (1956). Дијалектологија српскохрватског језика: Увод и штокавско наречје (1. ed.). Нови Сад: Матица српска.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Okuka, Miloš (2008a). Srpski dijalekti. Zagreb: Prosvjeta.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Okuka, Miloš (2008b). "Zetsko-raški dijalekat srpskog jezika". Зборник Института за српски језик САНУ. 1. pp. 351–369.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit