History of the Serbian Language

Serbian is a South-Western Slavic language. It belongs to the family of Indo-European languages. Serbian, like all Slavic languages, derives from the Old Church Slavic language. Its modern version is, in fact, based on the Stokavian dialect. Serbian is spoken by more than 12 million people, thus ranking around the 63rd position in the world. Serbian has two script standards, Latin and Cyrillic, both aiming to achieve maximum proximity between the written and spoken language.


Serbian is a Slavic language of the Indo-European linguistic family. Within the family, it belongs to the South-Western Slavic branch. Deriving from Old Church Slavic, as all Slavic languages to a different extent, Serbian is based on the Stokavian dialect. The former standard defined the language as Serbo-Croatian, which later split into Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian.

Official Language

Serbian is the official language of Serbia. Due to its close relationship with other languages in the region and the former standard language of Serbo-Croatian, Serbian is also official in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and at a regional level in Macedonia. Serbian is also spoken by Serbian ethnic minorities in neighbouring countries, emigrants' communities and in the former republics of Federal Yugoslavia.


Serbian has its most significant varieties spoken by the Serbian ethnic communities in neighbouring countries which were once part of Federal Yugoslavia. Some of the most considerable dialects within the national borders of Serbia are the Torlakian and Ekavian dialects.

Brief History

Serbian derived from Old Church Slavic. This language was common for most Slavic people in the 9th to 11th Centuries. After that stage, most of the languages started differentiating from each other, mainly due to historical factors.

Serbian was not differentiated from Croatian until later in time. Along all of their histories, both languages have been interacting, though today they are not fully mutually intelligible.

As Croatian didn’t manage to stabilize itself, the former Yugoslavia based its linguistic standard mainly on Serbian. Serbo-Croatian became a standard for the countries of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia.

In modern times, after the collapse of the Communist regime in the Eastern bloc and the gradual dissolution of Yugoslavia, Serbian has been rejected by all of the former Yugoslavian states. It is today the official language of Serbia and Montenegro, having only groups of speakers in the other former republics of the union.

Did you know?

The Serbian language gained its popularity only with the formation of Yugoslavia. In the past, it often tended to unite with Croatian, at a linguistic or political level.

Serbian uses two standards of writing, Cyrillic and Latin. The Latin version was adopted by Vuk Karaddjic in the 19th Century. Both graphical systems tend to establish maximum proximity between the spoken and written language, or proclaiming the principle ‘Read what you write’.