4. National Language and its Standardization

4.1 Standardization Efforts

The name of the language is still a major issue in Montenegro. In the latest Constitution it is called Serbian language.[1] A new Constitution is being written at the moment, and one of hotly debated issues is the name of the language. The draft of the new constitution calls the official language “Montenegrin”, which is opposed by the Serbian but also other parties, which propose different terminologies.

In the 2003 census, about 21 percent of the population of Montenegro declared “Crnogorski” (Montenegrin) as their mother tongue.

The official situation is ambivalent. Former prime-minister Milo Đukanović declared his open support for the formalization of the Montenegrin language by declaring himself a speaker of the Montenegrin language in an interview with the Belgrade daily Politika in October 2004. Official Montenegrin government communiqués are today given in English and Montenegrin on the government’s webpage, and the native language version of the government webpage is called Crnogorski. The official web page of the President of Montenegro states that it is provided in a “Montenegrin-Serbian version” (Crnogorsko-srpska verzija). All these official websites use for their native language section the Latin alphabet and not the Cyrillic, which is the traditional alphabet of Serbian. In 2004 Ministry of Education changed the name of the language of instruction in all elementary and high schools from “Serbian” to “Mother Tongue (Serbian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Bosnian)”.

Several intellectuals promote the standardization of a separate Montenegrin literary language, most notably the linguist Vojislav Nikčević. The non-governmental cultural-scientific institutions Doclean Academy of Science and Arts, Montenegrin PEN center, Matica Crnogorska (established at the beginning of the 1990s) also support this effort, as well as some individual members of the state-run Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts.

4.2 Institutes for the national language

Institut za crnogorski jezik i jezikoslovlje (Institute for Montenegrin language and linguistics)

Institut za crnogorski jezik i jezikoslovlje (Institute for Montenegrin language and linguistics)in Cetinje supports the idea of a Montenegrin language. The Institute publishes books promoting the existence of Montenegrin, and in 2004 also organized an international conference on this topic (“Norma i kvalifikacije crnogorskog jezika”, “Norm and Qualifications of the Montenegrin Language”).

Institut za jezik i književnost «Petar II Petrovic Njegoš» at the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts

In contrast, the Institut za jezik i književnost «Petar II Petrovic Njegoš» at the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts supports the idea that the spoken idiom of the Montenegrins belongs to the Serbian language. In May 2007, the “Petar II Petrović Njegoš” Institute for Language and Literature and the Institute for East European and Oriental Studies in Oslo jointly organized the conference “The Language Situation in Montenegro - Norm and Standardization”, where many controversies erupted over the question of the existence of a Montenegrin language.

4.3 Major textbooks (grammar of the xy language, dictionary): titles, year of publication

  • Nikčević, Vojislav: Crnogorski pravopis s rjecnikom (Montenegrin Orthography with Dictionary). Podgorica 1997.

  • Nikčević, Vojislav: Crnogorska gramatika (Montenegrin Grammar). Cetinje 2001

  • Nikčević, Vojislav: Crnogorski jezik. Geneza, tipologija, razvoj, strukturne odlike, funkcije. Od artikulacije govora do 1360. godine (The Montenegrin Language: Genesis, Typology, Development, Structural Differences, Functions. From the Articulation of the Idiom to 1360). 2 vols. Cetinje 1993 and 1997.



[1] Article 9 of the current constitution, adopted by the Montenegrin parliament in 1992, declares: “In Montenegro Serbian language of the iekavian dialect will be the official language. Cyrillic and Latin alphabets shall be deemed to be equal.”