Are Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrian the Same or Separate Languages?

Are Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrian the Same or Separate Languages?

Tatiana Osoblivaia


Language and Culture


If you've ever been to the Balkans or interacted with people from this region, you might have noticed that there are three languages spoken in the area. These languages are Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrin. But is it three separate languages or could they all be considered one? Let's take a closer look at these three Balkan tongues.


Short overview of connections between Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrian languages

Serbian and Croatian are very similar to each other in terms of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. They share more than 90% of their words and even have a shared writing system; both languages use the same Latin alphabet. This means that if someone speaks one language fluently, they should be able to understand the other language with little difficulty. However, there are some differences between the two languages. One difference is in pronunciation; for example, Serbian has an “h” sound that Croatians do not use. There are also differences in spelling conventions - some words may be spelled differently in Serbian than they are in Croatian - and certain dialects can also influence how words and phrases may differ between both languages.

Montenegrin is a bit more difficult to classify as either its language or simply a dialect of Serbian or Croatian. It shares many similarities with both of these languages but also has some distinct features that set it apart from them. For instance, Montenegrin uses a unique combination of vowel length and accentuation to differentiate between words (such as kuća vs kuca) whereas neither Serbian nor Croatian does this. Additionally, Montenegrin has adopted some loanwords from Albanian due to its proximity to Albania whereas Serbian and Croatian have not done this.

Similarities between Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrian 

Probably, you might have noticed that the languages spoken in Montenegro, Serbia, and Croatia are quite similar. They are all part of the same language family - the South Slavic languages. Despite their differences, the three languages have many similarities that make them easily recognizable to anyone who speaks one of them. Let's take a closer look at these similarities.

  • Writing System - The most obvious similarity between Montenegrin, Serbian, and Croatian is their writing system. All three languages use Latin-based scripts - Serbian uses both Cyrillic and Latin characters while Montenegrin and Croatian only use Latin characters- which makes them easier to read for people who speak other European languages such as English or German. This also makes it easier for people from different countries to communicate without having to learn a completely new language.
  • Vocabulary - Another similarity between these three languages is their vocabulary. While there are some differences between them (such as words with different meanings or pronunciations), most of their words are derived from the same root words and share similar meanings, making it easy for someone who speaks one of these languages to understand another one. For example, the word “apple” is “jabuka” in Croatian, “jabuska” in Serbian, and jabuča in Montenegrin - all three have identical pronunciations but slightly different spellings due to their respective writing systems.
  • Grammar - The grammatical structures of each language are also very similar; they all follow the same basic rules when it comes to conjugating verbs or forming sentences with nouns and adjectives. While there may be slight variations depending on which language you’re speaking (such as using masculine or feminine forms for certain words), overall, they are quite similar in terms of grammar usage.


As you can see, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Croatian share many similarities despite being distinct languages with unique characteristics of their own. From writing systems to vocabulary and grammar structures - these three South Slavic tongues have much more in common than meets the eye.


Differences between Serbian, Croatian and Montenegrian

While the three languages share many similarities, each language has its own set of characteristics that make it stand out from the other two. Let's take a closer look at how they differ from each other.


  • Serbian language

Serbian is spoken mainly in Serbia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina, and parts of Croatia. It is considered to be one of the most important languages in Eastern Europe due to its influence on neighboring countries like Bulgaria and Romania as well as its official status in Serbia. Serbian grammar follows a similar pattern to other Slavic languages with verb tenses being marked by endings rather than auxiliary verbs like English or French. Furthermore, nouns are declined based on gender and case which makes for an interesting challenge for learners of this language!


  • Croatian language

Croatian is spoken mainly in Croatia but also has speakers throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as parts of Italy and Austria. It shares many similarities with both Serbian and Slovenian due to its shared history with Yugoslavia although there are still subtle differences between them all. For example, while Croatian uses a Latin alphabet like Slovenian it also includes several letters not found elsewhere such as čćžšđ which can often throw people off! Additionally, pronouns vary depending on if you’re talking about someone familiar or formal so it’s important to pay attention to context when speaking this language!


  • Montenegrian language 

Montenegrian is spoken primarily in Montenegro. It does not have official status in any country but is currently being standardized by the Montenegrin Language Institute. It has been heavily influenced by Serbian over the years, but it still has some distinct features. For example, Montenegrians use a different letter order when writing out words than Serbians do. Additionally, some words used in Serbia aren’t used in Montenegro (and vice versa).

The debate over whether Serbian, Croatian, and Montenegrin are separate languages or just dialects of one language continues today among professional linguists and native speakers alike. Although there are certainly similarities between these three tongues - especially between Serbian and Croatian - there are also enough distinct features that make them each unique from one another as well. So, while it's impossible to give a definitive answer on whether they constitute one single language or three separate ones, hopefully, this article gave you a better understanding of what makes these Balkan tongues so fascinating.



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