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Croat, Croatian, Serb, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Bosnian-Croatian

Both Croat and Croatian refer to the language and people of Croatia; Serbian refers to the language of Serbia, while Serb designates the people.

  • Serbs and Croats understand one another’s speech, but their alphabets are very different.
  • Lejla’s mother is a Serb, and her father is a Croat, but she is a Canadian.

In the former Yugoslavia, Croatian and Serbian were considered one language, called Serbo-Croatian or Serbo-Croat.

Today, largely because of the connection between language and national identity, there has been an effort to have Serbian and Croatian recognized as separate languages.

There certainly is some basis for this position. There are certain differences between the two languages in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. Moreover, they have separate writing systems: Serbian uses both the Cyrillic and the Roman alphabets, while Croatian uses the Roman alphabet exclusively. Deliberate changes have increased the differences: for example, there has been an effort in Croatian to replace foreign words with new words based on Croatian roots.

However, the two languages remain mutually intelligible, with only minor dialectical variations. For that reason, linguists (who focus on the spoken language) usually refer to the two languages, together with Bosnian, under the single name Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, or BCS.