[Foundation-l] Language subcommittee vs Montenegrin language - show time

Jon Harald Søby jhsoby at gmail.com
Sun Apr 15 20:40:47 UTC 2007

[As with Pathoschild, this message is not an official statement by the

On 4/14/07, Darko Bulatovic <mail at itam.ws> wrote:
> People,
> You shouldn't playing God game.
> I have told Gerard and others that I think that Montenegrins will have
> no objection to participate on one wikipedia on our language which cold
> be some mid-solution for all and named by full consensus, but Serbians,
> Croats, Bosnians have wish to develop their own language, and I in
> deepest insanity don't wish to oppose them. That is their right.
> Darko


Let me give you my two cents about the Montenegrin situation.

The linguistic situation in Montenegro today greatly reminds me of the one
that existed in Norway after 1814 (when Norway was transferred from Denmark
to Sweden, and got its own government). Prior to 1814, and for some time
after 1814, the written language in Norway was Danish. There was no argument
there. Although the spoken language was quite far removed from Danish,
Danish kept being the written language. However, because of the rise of
nationalistic movements, the written Danish used was slowly Norwegianized;
for example authors started using Norwegian-specific words like "fjell"
(mountain) instead of "bjerg", and sentence structures were slowly being
changed from Danish to Norwegian.

In 1905, Norway became independent of Sweden, and it was a strong period of
nationalism; everything Norwegian was glorified. The Norwegian language now
had gotten the two branches (though that is not as relevant here, so I'll
skip it). I think that around this time is when we can state that written
Norwegian is, in fact, a separate Norwegian language, and not a variety of

The reason for the controlled development of the language into something
unique was important for nationalism – it was very important to for the
people of a country that had been dependent of other countries for
centuries, to build a national identity, to create something unique that was
separate from the Danish.

The situation in Montenegro today is the same as that in Norway in 1905; the
country has been part of another country for a very long time, and its
people needs a national identity, and the development of a Montenegrin
language is one part of that. It is the right of the people of Montenegro to
have a unique language if that is what they want and need.

However, and I cannot stress this strongly enough, from a linguistic point
of view – which is the only point of view we can allow ourselves to have –
Montenegrin is still just a variety of Serbocroatian, just as Norwegian was
a variety of Danish in the 1800s (they, too, called it a language, while it
would be more accurately named a variety), and Wikipedia is not the place to
conduct language development. In my opinion, Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian,
are also varieties of Serbocroatian, and if it was up to me, these
Wikipedias would instead be one common project. In that case, there would
perhaps have been less content on that Wikipedia than there is on the three
of them combined today, but the inherent POV problems there are with these
projects would probably/hopefully have been much smaller. However, I am glad
that that is not our (the LSC's) responsibility; that would have made us
unpopular indeed.

On that final note, let me quote the first paragraph from GerardM's very
first mail to the rest of the subcommittee members right after its creation:

 "As you may understand from the stuff that went before, what a language
  committee is going to be can become really hot. There will be a lot of
  resentment by people who we will not want to give what they want (and
  when they want it)."

We are trying our best, but we cannot, unfortunately, satisfy everybody.

Jon Harald Søby

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