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news 12 Dec 17

Montenegrin Language Granted International Recognition

After a nine-year struggle, Montenegrin has been officially recognised by the International Organization for Standardization as a separate language from Serbian.

Dusica Tomovic
The Montenegrin alphabet has two more letters than Serbian. Photo: BIRN.

The authorities in Montenegro said on Monday that the country has been granted an international ‘ISO’ code for the Montenegrin language by the International Organization for Standardization, the global standard-setting body.

The National Library of Montenegro ‘Djurdje Crnojevic’, which led the nine-year process before the International Organization for Standardization’s Technical Committee ISO 639-2, which is based at the Library of Congress in Washington, said the code for the Montenegrin language will be CRN.

The name of the language in English and French will be Montenegrin, with the only difference in pronunciation. 

The National Library said it had been a long "battle" to get the international code for the Montenegrin language.

Montenegrin is now officially separate from the Serbian language, which is used by the majority of people in the country.

The dean of the recently-founded Faculty of the Montenegrin Language, Adnan Cirgic, said that December 11 should be declared a national ‘day of the Montenegrin language’ because it is one of the most important days for the the country’s literature.

"The international code for the Montenegrin language ends speculation that Montenegrin is not a language, that it is a dialect or another national language," Cirgic told Montenegrin daily Dnevne novine.

There has been a dispute over the status of the Serbian language in independent Montenegro since 2007, a year after the country split from Serbia, when it adopted a new constitution that named the official language as Montenegrin, much to the annoyance of the Serb community.

The Montenegrin language was official in the country's education system in 2011, although the majority of people use the Serbian language.

At the last census in 2011, 36 per cent said that they spoke the Montenegrin language and 44 per cent of citizens said they spoke the Serbian language.

After months of stalemate, the Montenegrin government and opposition leaders agreed in September 2011 that the academic subject in the country’s educational system will be entitled ‘Montenegrin – Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian language and literature’, which was seen as a compromise in favour of the large Serbian community in the country.

The curriculum for schools remained almost the same, with the addition of the new Montenegrin alphabet which contains 32 letters, both in Latin and Cyrillic script, compared to Serbian, which has 30 letters.

But Serbian opposition parties, NGOs and academics have alleged that there is discrimination against the Serbian language and the Cyrillic script in schools since 2011.

The dispute has continued ever since, and a new row erupted in June, when for the first time since World War II, students in primary and secondary schools received their ‘Luca’ diplomas - named after a poem by the 19th century Montenegrin ruler and poet Njegos - printed in the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic.

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