by Egon FEKETE
Functioning of different official languages (for example in local administrative units) would prevent mutual communication both between various local administrative units and between those units and state and federal administration, unless all state institutions (federal, state, regional, local) were obliged to correspond with the local authorities in minority languages or in local dialect, given that the choice of the official language of any locality is a matter of choice for its officials. Of course, individuals are given the right, if they don't use the official language (Serbian), to use their mother tongue, but the state institutions cannot be given the right to publish their decisions, laws, legal acts and regulations only in unofficial languages. Namely, we are of the opinion that the principle of protection of freedoms and rights of a man and citizen, including minorities, does not justify the consequence according to which official multilingualism would demand multilingual state administration and multilingual official communication of the administration. I would say that a citizen of a state has the obligation to use the language used by a majority of inhabitants of his state, just as it makes sense that the language of state administration, the official language, is the language that is used by a majority of population in the state. Not only because of principles, but because of very pragmatic reasons.
Departure from that principle would imply, for example, that the federal (or state) institutions are set aside as a special, separate state institution, with their own communication rules, linguistically incompatible with territories with other linguistic rules (the Tower of Babel principle).
Actually, it is far from certain that various assertions of linguistic uniqueness of a particular locale are indeed true. This is, however, not a linguistic question, because the science about language cannot prove that new languages have been created from the former, so-called Serbo-Croatian language simply because of the break up of the former Yugoslavia and creation of independent states. True, new names for the language have been introduced, for example Serbian, Croatian, Bosniak/Bosnian, and some intellectuals (still not officials) advocate inauguration of another language - Montenegrin. The recent news is that the local authorities in Novi Pazar demand (officially) that besides the Cyrillic alphabet and the Serbian language, the Roman script and "Bosnian language" also be introduced.
In connection with these tendencies and ideas, we would like to make at least two points. First, it is frequently said that every nation has the right to call its language anything it wants, usually based on the name of the nation. That right, indeed, is undisputed. However, it is doubtful that a simple change of a name is sufficient to create a new language. Not only the linguistics, but also daily spoken practice, fail to confirm that. We can indeed call our language (if that is good) anything we want, but that does not imply that we have overnight changed the language we speak.
A change of language requires not only a change of its name but also a change (fundamental) of the whole linguistic system. And, obviously, we all still use the same spoken language. Certain (typical) differences between spoken idioms do not justify, from the point of view of the linguistic science, the creation of a new language; these differences are usually of the varietal type, and differences that are characteristics of other languages as well (different dialects, for example), but usually do not justify classification of different varieties as separate languages. Therefore, the claim of the advocates of the linguistic break up that (quote) "name implies content" does not stand. Namely, facts indicate just the opposite. Name does not imply content, but content does imply name. And as far as the linguistic "content" is concerned, hardly anything has changed.
Secondly, another argument of the advocates of linguistic break up is that (quote) "a nation cannot use, express itself, using somebody else's language" (for example Montenegrins cannot speak the Serbian language). Evidence that this assertion is also not true can be found in the examples of Austrians (speak German, but are not German) or the Swiss (speak four languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch), let alone examples of other countries (for example Spanish speaking countries in Latin America) which use shared "somebody else's" languages, for example Spanish or English. Given that, there is probably no need to address the claim that "if in Montenegro the Serbian language is the official state language, than Montenegrins must be Serbs".
Another related assertion is that "a nation cannot be free if it is not permitted to use its own language". Let us add to this - of course, if it does have a unique language, and if someone prevents it from using that language. As far as we know, today no one is preventing anyone from speaking any language he or she wants. However, it would be rather difficult to try to speak a non-existent language!
In conclusion: the purpose of language is above all communications. Creation of artificial linguistic barriers and insistence on local differences only causes difficulties in communication, animosity and cultural disintegration, which is contrary to contemporary social and even political philosophy of mutual interconnectedness of the human race, while it agrees with individualist segregation.
The first opinion, relatively speaking, of Serb intellectuals and writers is that Montenegrins, according to them, are a part of the Serb nation and therefore it is senseless to talk about changing the name of the Serbian language, let alone changes in the linguistic standard.
The best known representative of a different school of thought is Vojislav Nikcevic, at one point a professor of Slovenian literature, and for several years already, a professor of the Montenegrin literature at the department for Serbian language and literature of the School of Philosophy in Niksic. Neglecting to a certain extent his basic profession, Nikcevic has for decades been fighting the battle for the Montenegrin language, the traces of which he finds in the distant past, the old Slavonic spoken by the ancient Slavs before their arrival in the Balkans! In his grammar Write as you speak (1993) he gives rules for writing and "pressing" books. Nikcevic bases his work on Herder's idea that language equals nation. That idea, i.e. that all those who speak the same language belong to a single nation, Nikcevic turns on its head and concludes that, since the Montenegrin nation exists, there must be a separate Montenegrin language. Here are only some elements introduced by Nikcevic in his new language: a sound corresponding to Italian zz; sounds produced by merging sounds sj and zj - actually artifacts of ijekavian dialect that haven't been included in the standard language; Nikcevic claims that the already existing sound dj is actually a now phoneme in certain words, such as djevojka [girl](!); archaic grammatical forms such as mojijeh [mojih in standard language]; localisms such as bizza (a dog, mutt). Bizarre nature of these examples explains why Nikcevic does not have many followers, while his work, even among those who share his opinion regarding the name of the language, is material for numerous jokes (for example: Time machine, year 2013, in central Podgorica, Nikcevic digs up the 48th letter of the alphabet! [the standard alphabet has 30 letters, for thirty phonemes]).
The loudest camp are the proponents of the third school of thought gathered around the DANU, PEN, Matica Crnogorska, Montenegrin Literary Magazine etc. Interpreting Herder's ideas just like Nikcevic, they believe that nothing needs to be modified (except the so-called hyper-ijekavian words such as prijevoz, prvijenstvo) apart from, but as soon as possible, the name of the language in the constitution and the state mandated school program. The basic argument goes roughly like this: "If all nations from the former Yugoslavia named their language according to their name, why should we preserve somebody else's name?" Therefore, the debate has nothing to do with linguistics. Arguments directed at laymen usually appeal to their emotions, either positive ("ourselves, alone, on our own land"), or negative ("we must resist greater Serbian hegemony"). A repulsion against ekavian dialect [spoken in most of Serbia] is being created. This goes so far that one translator stated that he is unable to read books written by a writer, whom he otherwise considers for a part of his Montenegrin tradition, only because they were originally written in the ekavian dialect [the only difference between two dialects is that a phoneme yat from old Slavonic was replaced by ij in ijekavian, and e in ekavian; for example, pretty is lijepo in ijekavian, and lepo in ekavian, while white is bijelo in ijekavian, and belo in ekavian]. Perhaps the most drastic example is related to the current president of the Montenegrin parliament (otherwise a member of the Liberal Party of Montenegro [a party advocating independence for Montenegro], which is irrelevant in this context, but important as far as attitude towards her is concerned) who speaks the ekavian dialect, which is interpreted as an insult and attack on Montenegrin identity and statehood by these circles (and Nikcevic).
The striking characteristic of this debate is total absence of experts. There are two important reasons for that. First, Montenegrin linguists, despite everything, do not see anything worthy of discussion in this case. The second reason is only seemingly paradoxical. The media do not believe that the attitude of the linguists is relevant at all. Experts, just like laymen, get only one vote in the elections or in an independence referendum. When the vote results come in, we shall know, at least for a while, who is right.