Write the way you vote, look the way you think

A nice bit of niche employment for instrumental academics is the opportunity, every few decades or as political conditions call for it, to pretend to reteach people their language in a way they are certain to ignore. The latest publicly sanctioned effort is the guidebook to the Croatian language edited by Sanda Ham, Stjepan Babić and Milan Moguš, superseding the 1994 edition by Babić, Finka and Moguš.

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Like James Joyce, dr Sanda Ham revels in the openness of language

By decision of the Ministry of Education, every schoolchild must keep track of what these three people imagine is most consistent with national traditions this year. Styles are getting narrower. This year, you can say podatci but not podaci, and pogrješka but not pogreška. All the more reason for an increasing number of people to say ne ću (but not neću) and teach their children the language of some other country.


Anonymous said...

Džabe im sve, još uvijek se i jedni i drugi i treći i četvrti savršeno razumiju. A od zadiranja u jezičko tkivo, nešto će se primiti, nešto neće. Eto, niko živ ne kaže ni "vrtolet" ni "zrakomlat," a ipak riječi "uradak" i "glede" redovno nalazim u npr. "BH Danima" u neironičnom kontekstu.

filologanoga said...

If you ever need to explain the "da se vlasi ne dosete" proverb to somebody, you can use this as an example. Babić & Ham (the papers imply that Moguš, who is --- I think --- not well at the moment, is in this more or less by default) insist on "podatci" and "strjelica", and, at the same time, say that this is not meant to be a symbol of the NDH (it should represent greater exclusively-Croatian orthographic tradition. Without connotations with the NDH? In a pig's eye!

filologanoga said...

By the way, Eric, baš si zločest!

Eric Gordy said...

You mean the photo? It was irresistible.
I do sometimes think about comparisons to English, though, which also has a good deal of variation but these are usually not codified. In the US (where yes, we can make ourselves completely incomprehensible to British people if we want to, but generally we dont want to), this is a political decision having to do with ideological conceptions of equality -- BUT, the class and regional origins of different language patterns are easily recognisable to everyone, and i te kako used against people in everyday interaction. An effort to set out the details of an "official" language would probably invite the same kind of ridicule and condemnation, but it also might offer people a way of access to "cultural capital."

filologanoga said...

Well, the official Croatian way surely promotes equality --- but it is equality of ignorance (a bit Orwellian?): having to unlearn my hard-to-come-by ortographic skills/habits, I become equal to somebody learning it for the first time.
The "tradition" notion is also problematic (loved your previous definiton of it, BTW) --- how do you resurrect a tradition? I mean, once it is gone, it's gone --- and gone because its place is taken by another. A kod nas je sve toliko tradicionalno da imamo čak i "prvu tradicionalnu" priredbu, izložbu itd.

Eric Gordy said...

The "ignorance" point seems to be shared -- have a look at the reactions in today's Novi listhttp://www.novilist.hr/Default.asp?WCI=Rubrike&WCU=285928612863285A2863285A28582858285D28632893289D2894289C286328632859285B285828612858285A28632863286328592863R

Nobody appears to be buying the argument that the new pravopis is not political, and in addition peopole are arguing that it decreases flexibility and chooses options (like ne ću) that are neither widely used nor appealing.

Eric Gordy said...

Uzgred receno, if anybody wants to learn to speak Bostonian, they can pick up the basics here: