Is Serbian becoming Croatian?

Nationalist counter-reactions to feminist linguistics in Serbia

Authors

  • Simone Rajilic Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.25641

Keywords:

feminist linguistics in serbia, (non-)sexist language, nationalist language policy in the former yugoslavia, interferences of nationalism and anti-feminism in serbia

Abstract

The paper investigates how nationalism (which flourished since the disintegration of Yugoslavia) and Serbo-Croatian language unity is instrumentalised to block the debates on sexist language in Serbia. Serbian feminists criticise current language practices as being sexist by making women linguistically invisible or rather exclusively visible in stereotypical contexts with only little social prestige. They challenge the supposedly gender-neutrality of so called ‘masculine generics’ and demand a consistent use of gender-specific forms for females. On the contrary, traditional Serbian linguists deny any discriminatory language patterns claiming that nouns for males can be used for females as well because of the ‘nature’ or ‘spirit’ of the Serbian language. Beside those arguments known from similar debates which have been held for other languages, the Serbian anti-feminist discourses on gender and language are even specific: Several gender-specific female nouns are found not to be Serbian but Croatian and should therefore not be used in Serbia. The proposals of feminists for non-sexist language are even accused of endangering Serbian national integrity by turning the Serbian language into Croatian – ignoring the fact that Serbian and Croatian share most of their lexicon being successor languages of Serbo-Croatian.

Author Biography

Simone Rajilic, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Simone Rajilić MA is a research associate at the department of South Slavic linguistics and cultural studies of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany. She has studied South Slavic languages and Political Science in Frankfurt am Main, Potsdam, Berlin and Zadar (Croatia) and is currently preparing her PhD thesis on language and gender in Serbia. Simone Rajilić has published several articles on feminist linguistics in Serbia, and swearing and gender in Bosnia, and has co-edited the book Doing Gender, Doing the Balkans: Dynamics and Persistence of Gender Relations in Yugoslavia and the Yugoslav Successor States (Otto Sagner, 2012).

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Published

2017-06-20

How to Cite

Rajilic, S. (2017). Is Serbian becoming Croatian? Nationalist counter-reactions to feminist linguistics in Serbia. Gender and Language, 11(2), 204–226. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.25641

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