kajkavica, kajkavština
Native to Croatia
Standard forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog kajk1237[1]

Kajkavian /kˈkɑːviən, -ˈkæ-/ (Kajkavian noun: kajkavščina; Shtokavian adjective: kajkavski [kǎjkaʋskiː],[2] noun: kajkavica or kajkavština [kajkǎːʋʃtina])[3] is a dialect of the Serbo-Croatian spoken by Croats in Central Croatia,[4] Gorski Kotar[5] and northern Istria.[note 1][6][7] However, Kajkavian being a dialect of Serbo-Croatian is a theory claimed by Croatian institutions close to Croatian government like Institute for Croatian language and linguistics, for which they have not presented scientific evidence. Notable Croatian linguists consider Kajkavian to be a language in its own right, with its own established dialects and documented literature. Croatian linguist Stjepan Ivšić has used Kajkavian vocabulary and accentuation, which significantly differs from that of Serbo-Croatian, as evidence.[8] Moreover, there is a common agreement among linguists that Kajkavian does not belong to the Shtokavian group of dialects as Serbo-Croatian does, but that it is more closely related to neighboring Slovene language with which it shares considerable amount of vocabulary. Furthermore, there is no clear demarcation between Slovene dialects and Kajkavian. Thus, it has low mutual intelligibility with Shtokavian, on which Croatia's standard language is based.[9][10] Linguist Josip Silić, one of the main creators of standardisation of Croatian language, also regards Kajkavian as a language of its own, having different morphology, syntax and phonology from official Croatian language.[11][1] As of 2015, historic Literary Kajkavian has a separate language ISO 639-3 code – kjv. Kajkavian literary language does not belong to Serbo-Croatian since it does not belong to the hbs-macrolanguage. Active attempts are being made by some organizations to widen its recognition and status, which has thus far included introduction of elective school subjects in Kajkavian in some parts of Croatia as well as the creation of the aforementioned ISO code.[12]

The term Kajkavian stems from the interrogative pronoun kaj (what). The other main dialects of Serbo-Croatian also derive their name from their reflex of the interrogative pronoun.[13][14] However, the pronouns are only general pointers and do not serve as actual identifiers of the respective dialects. Certain Kajkavian dialects use the interrogative pronoun ča, the one that is usually used in Chakavian. The pronouns these dialects are named after are merely the most common one in that dialect.

Outside Croatia's northern most regions, the dialect is also spoken in Austrian Burgenland and a number of enclaves in Hungary along the Austrian and Croatian border and in Romania.[15] Although speakers of Kajkavian are primarily Croats, and Kajkavian is considered a dialect of Serbo-Croatian, its closest relative is the Slovene language, followed by Chakavian and then Shtokavian. Kajkavian is part of a dialect continuum with Slovene and Chakavian.[16]


Historically, the classification of Kajkavian has been a subject of much debate regarding both the question of whether it ought to be considered a dialect or a language, as well as the question of what its relation is to neighboring speeches. Since at least the early to mid-20th century, Kajkavian has been conventionally classified as a Serbo-Croatian dialect.

Autonyms used throughout history by various Kajkavian writers have been manifold, ranging from Slavic (slavonski, slovenski, slovinski) to Croatian (horvatski) or Illyrian (illirski).[17][18] The naming went through several phases, with the Slavic-based name initially being dominant. Over time, the name Croatian started gaining ground mainly during the 17th century, and by the beginning of the 18th century, it had supplanted the older name Slavic. The name also followed the same evolution in neighboring Slovene Prekmurje, although there the name Slovene-Croatian (slovensko-horvatski) existed as well.[19] The actual term Kajkavian (kajkavski) is today accepted by its speakers in Croatia.

The problem with classifying Kajkavian within South Slavic stems in part from its structural differences from neighboring Shtokavian speeches as well as its historical closeness to Slovene speeches. Some Slavists maintain that when the separation of Western South Slavic speeches happened, they separated into four divergent groups — Shtokavian, Chakavian, Kajkavian and Slovene.[20] As a result of this, throughout history Kajkavian has often been categorized differently than today. It was considered by many to be either a separate node altogether or a node categorized together with Slovene (then under a different name, Kranjski). Furthermore, no isoglosses exist that would separate all Slovene speeches from all Serbo-Croatian speeches. Nor do innovations exist common to Kajkavian, Chakavian, and Shtokavian that would separate them from Slovene.[20][21]


The Kajkavian speech area is bordered in the northwest by the Slovene language and in the northeast by the Hungarian language. In the east and southeast it is bordered by Shtokavian dialects roughly along a line that used to serve as the border between Civil Croatia and the Habsburg Military Frontier. Finally, in the southwest it borders Chakavian along the Kupa and Dobra rivers.[22] It is thought that historically these borders extended further to the south and east. For example, the eastern border is thought to have extended at least well into modern-day Slavonia to the area around the town of Pakrac. Some historical toponyms suggest a slightly larger extent.[23]

The capital Zagreb has historically been a Kajkavian-speaking area, and Kajkavian is still in use by its older and to a lesser extent younger population. Modern Zagreb speech has been under considerable influence of Shtokavian.[24] The vast intermingling of Kajkavian and standard Shtokavian in Zagreb and its surroundings has led to problems in defining the underlying structure of those speeches. As a result, many of the urban speeches (but not rural ones) have been called either Kajkavian koine or Kajkavian–Shtokavian rather than Kajkavian or Shtokavian.[25] Additionally, the forms of speech in use exhibit significant sociolinguistic variation. Research suggests that younger Zagreb-born speakers of the Kajkavian koine tend to consciously use more Kajkavian features when speaking to older people, showing that such features are still in their inventory even if not used at all times.[26] However, the Kajkavian koine is distinct from Kajkavian as spoken in non-urban areas, and the mixing of Shtokavian and Kajkavian outside of urban settings is much rarer and less developed. The Kajkavian koine has also been named Zagreb Shtokavian by some.[25]

As a result of the previously mentioned mixing of dialects, various Kajkavian features and characteristics have found their way into the standard Shtokavian (standard Croatian) spoken in those areas. For example, some of the prominent features are the fixed stress-based accentual system without distinctive lengths, the merger of /č/ and /ć/ and of /dž/ and /đ/, vocabulary differences as well as a different place of stress in words.[27] The Zagreb variety of Shtokavian is considered by some to enjoy parallel prestige with the proscribed Shtokavian variety. Because of that, speakers whose native speech is closer to the standard variety often end up adopting the Zagreb speech for various reasons.[28]

Kajkavian is closely related to Slovene and to Prekmurje Slovene in particular.[29] Higher amounts of correspondences between the two exist in inflection and vocabulary. The speakers of the Prekmurje dialect are Slovenes and Hungarian Slovenes who belonged to the Archdiocese of Zagreb during the Habsburg era. They used Kajkavian as their liturgical language, and by the 18th century, Kajkavian had become the standard language of Prekmurje.[30] Moreover, literary Kajkavian was also used in neighboring Slovene Styria during the 17th and 18th centuries, and in parts of it, education was conducted in Kajkavian.[31]

As a result of various factors, Kajkavian has numerous differences compared to Shtokavian:

In addition to the above list of characteristics that set Kajkavian apart from Shtokavian, research suggests possible a closer relation with Kajkavian and the Slovak language, especially with the Central Slovak dialects upon which standard Slovak is based on. As modern-day Hungary used to be populated by Slavic-speaking peoples prior to the arrival of Hungarians, there have been hypotheses on possible common innovations of future West and South Slavic speakers of that area. Kajkavian is the most prominent of the South Slavic speeches in sharing the most features that could potentially be common Pannonian innovations.[50]

Some Kajkavian words bear a closer resemblance to other Slavic languages such as Russian than they do to Shtokavian or Chakavian. For instance gda seems to be at first glance unrelated to kada, however when compared to Russian когда, Slovene kdaj, or Prekmurje Slovene gda, kda, the relationship becomes apparent. Kajkavian kak (how) and tak (so) are exactly like their Russian cognates and Prekmurje Slovene compared to Shtokavian, Chakavian, and standard Slovene kako and tako. (This vowel loss occurred in most other Slavic languages; Shtokavian is a notable exception, whereas the same feature in Macedonian is probably not due to Serbo-Croatian influence because the word is preserved in the same form in Bulgarian, to which Macedonian is much more closely related than to Serbo-Croatian.) [51]

History of research

Linguistic investigation begun during 19th century, although the research itself often ended in non-linguistic or outdated conclusions. Since that was the age of national revivals across Europe as well as the South Slavic lands, the research was steered by national narratives. Within that framework, Slovene philologists such as Franc Miklošič and Jernej Kopitar attempted to reinforce the idea of Slovene and Kajkavian unity and asserted that Kajkavian speakers are Slovenes.[52][52] On the other hand, Josef Dobrovský also claimed linguistic and national unity between the two groups but under the Croatian ethnonym.[52][53]

The first modern dialectal investigations of Kajkavian started at the end of the 19th century. The Ukrainian philologist A. M. Lukjanenko wrote the first comprehensive monograph on Kajkavian (titled Kajkavskoe narečie meaning The Kajkavian dialect) in Russian in 1905.[54] Kajkavian dialects have been classified along various criteria: for instance Serbian philologist Aleksandar Belić divided (1927) the Kajkavian dialect according to the reflexes of Proto-Slavic phonemes /tj/ and /dj/ into three subdialects: eastern, northwestern and southwestern.[55]

However, later investigations did not corroborate Belić's division. Contemporary Kajkavian dialectology begins with Croatian philologist Stjepan Ivšić's work "Jezik Hrvata kajkavaca" (The Language of Kajkavian Croats, 1936), which highlighted accentual characteristics. Due to the great diversity within Kajkavian primarily in phonetics, phonology, and morphology, the Kajkavian dialect atlas features a large number of subdialects: from four identified by Ivšić to six proposed by Croatian linguist Brozović (formerly the accepted division) all the way up to fifteen according to a monograph by Croatian linguist Mijo Lončarić (1995).

Area of use

Bilingual Kajkavian/German street sign in Zagreb:
Kamenita Vulicza / Stein Gaſſe

Kajkavian is mainly spoken in northern and northwestern Croatia. The mixed half-Kajkavian towns along the eastern and southern edge of the Kajkavian-speaking area are Pitomača, Čazma, Kutina, Popovača, Sunja, Petrinja, Martinska Ves, Ozalj, Ogulin, Fužine, and Čabar, including newer Štokavian enclaves of Bjelovar, Sisak, Glina, Dubrava, Zagreb and Novi Zagreb. The southernmost Kajkavian villages are Krapje at Jasenovac; and Pavušek, Dvorišče and Hrvatsko selo in Zrinska Gora (R. Fureš & A. Jembrih: Kajkavski u povijesnom i sadašnjem obzorju p. 548, Zabok 2006).

The major cities in northern Croatia are located in what was historically a Kajkavian-speaking area, mainly Zagreb, Koprivnica, Krapina, Križevci, Varaždin, Čakovec. The typical archaic Kajkavian is today spoken mainly in Hrvatsko Zagorje hills and Međimurje plain, and in adjacent areas of northwestern Croatia where immigrants and the Štokavian standard had much less influence. The most peculiar Kajkavian dialect (Baegnunski) is spoken in Bednja in northernmost Croatia. Many of northern Croatian urban areas today are partly Štokavianized due to the influence of the standard language and immigration of Štokavian speakers.

Other southeastern people who immigrate to Zagreb from Štokavian territories often pick up rare elements of Kajkavian in order to assimilate, notably the pronoun "kaj" instead of "što" and the extended use of future anterior (futur drugi), but they never adapt well because of alien eastern accents and ignoring Kajkavian-Čakavian archaisms and syntax.

Kajkavian phonetics

Vowels: /a/, /ɑ/, /ɛ/, /e/, /ə/, /i/, /ɔ/, /o/, /u/
consonants: /b/, /ts/, /tʃ/, /d/, /dz/, /dʒ/, /f/, /ɡ/, /ɦ/, /x/, /j/, /k/, /l/, /ʎ/, /m/, /n/, /ɲ/, /p/, /r/, /r̝/, /s/, /ʃ/, /t/, /v/, /z/, /ʒ/

Letter or digraph IPA Example Translation
a /a/ Kaj bum? What should I do?
a /ɑ/ Ja grem v Varaždin. I'm going to Varaždin.
b /b/ Kaj buš ti, bum i ja. Whatever you'll do, I'll do it too.
c /ts/ Čuda cukora 'ma v otem kolaču. There's a lot of sugar in this cake.
č /tʃ/ Hočeš kaj ti povedam? Would you like me to tell you?
d /d/ Da l' me ljubiš? Do you love me?
dz /dz/ Pogledni dzaj za hižom! Look behind the house!
/dʒ/ Kda nam pak dojde to vreme, kda pemo mi v Meimurje? When will we go to Medjimurje again?
e /ɛ/ Moje srčeko ne m're bez tebe! My heart cannot go on without you!
e /e/ Moj Zagreb tak imam te rad! My Zagreb, I love you so much!
e /ə/ Ja sem Varaždinec! I'm a Varaždinian!
f /f/ Cveti! Cveti, fijolica lepa! Blossom! Blossom, beautiful violet!
g /ɡ/ Smrt po vse nas dojde! Na koncu, v grabi smo vsi. Death comes for us all, in the end we are all in our graves!
h /ɦ/ Ljubim tve čobice mehke. I love your tender lips.
h /x/ Naj se hurmati, kak nekšni hrmak. Quit fooling around like a buffoon.
i /i/ Kdo te ima? Whom do you have?
ie /jɛ/ Liepa moja, daj mi se osmiehni, ker ti imaš najliepši osmieh na svietu. My beauty, give me a smile because you have the most beautiful smile in the world.
j /j/ Hej, haj, prišel je kraj, nikdar več ne bu dišal nam maj. Hey, hey, the end has come, to us may, never again would it smell.
l /l/ Ja sem včera v Zagrebu bil, kda sem dimo išel, solzicu sem pustil. Yesterday I was in Zagreb, and when I went home I had tears in my eyes.
lj /ʎ/ Tak malo dobroga, v življenju tu se najde. There is so little good to find in life.
m /m/ Prosim te kaj mi oprostiš. Please forgive me.
n /n/ Znaš kaj? – Nikaj! You know what? – Nothing!
nj /ɲ/ Ja samo nju ljubim. I love only her.
o /ɔ/ Idemo na morje? Are we going to the sea?
o /o/ Ja sem samo Tvoj. I'm only for you.
p /p/ Upam se, da me još imaš rada. I hope you still love me.
r /r/ Vjutro se ja rano 'stanem, malo pred zorju. I woke up early in the morning, a little before dawn.
r /r̝/ Prešlo je prešlo, puno ljet. Many years have passed.
s /s/ Popevke sem slagal, i rožice bral. Songs I composed, and roses I picked.
š /ʃ/ Ja bi ti štel kušlec dati. I would like to give you a kiss.
t /t/ Kajti: kak bi bilo da nebi nekak bilo, nebi bilo nikak, ni tak kak je bilo. Because: how would it be if it wouldn't be like this, it would be nohow, and not like this as it is.
u /u/ Nikdar ni tak bilo da ni nekak bilo, pak ni vesda ne bu da nam nekak ne bu. Never had been that has not been nothing and nohow, so it will never be that somehow would it not be.
v /v/ Vrag te 'zel! The Devil has taken you away!
z /z/ Zakaj? – Morti zato? Why? – Maybe because?
ž /ʒ/ Kde delaš? – Ja delam na železnici. Zakaj pitaš? Where are you working? – I'm working on the railroad. Why do you ask?

Kajkavian literary language

A picture of the 1850 edition of the Kajkavian periodical Danica zagrebečka

Writings that are judged by some as being distinctly Kajkavian can be dated to around the 12th century.[56] The first comprehensive works in Kajkavian started to appear during the 16th century at a time when Central Croatia gained prominence due to the geopolitical environment since it was free from Ottoman occupation. The most notable work of that era was Ivanuš Pergošić's Decretum, released in 1574. Decretum was a translation of István Werbőczys Tripartitum.

At the same time, many Protestant writers of the Slovene lands also released their works in Kajkavian in order to reach a wider audience, while also using some Kajkavian features in their native writings. During that time, the autonym used by the writers was usually slovinski (Slavic), horvatski (Croatian) or ilirski (Illyrian).[57]

After that, numerous works appeared in the Kajkavian literary language: chronicles by Vramec, liturgical works by Ratkaj, Habdelić, Mulih; poetry by Ana Katarina Zrinska, and a dramatic opus by Tituš Brezovački. Kajkavian-based are important lexicographic works like Jambrešić's "Dictionar", 1670, and the monumental (2,000 pages and 50,000 words) Latin-Kajkavian-Latin dictionary "Gazophylacium" (including also some Chakavian and Shtokavian words marked as such) by Ivan Belostenec (posthumously, 1740). Miroslav Krleža's poetic work "Balade Petrice Kerempuha" drew heavily on Belostenec's dictionary. Kajkavian grammars include Kornig's, 1795, Matijević's, 1810 and Đurkovečki's, 1837.

During that time, the Kajkavian literary language was the dominant written form in its spoken area along with Latin and German.[58] Until Ljudevit Gaj's attempts to modernize the spelling, Kajkavian was written using Hungarian spelling conventions.[59] Kajkavian began to lose its status during the Croatian National Revival in mid-19th Century when the leaders of the Illyrian movement opted to use the Shtokavian dialect as the basis for the future South Slavic standard language, the reason being that it had the highest number of speakers. Initially, the choice of Shtokavian was accepted even among Slovene intellectuals, but later it fell out of favor.[59] The Zagreb linguistic school was opposed to the course that the standardization process took. Namely, it had almost completely ignored Kajkavian (and Chakavian) dialects which was contrary to the original vision of Zagreb school. With the notable exception of vocabulary influence of Kajkavian on the standard Croatian register (but not the Serbian one), there was very little to no input from other non-Shtokavian dialects.[60] Instead, the opposite was done, with some modern-day linguists calling the process of 19th-century standardization an event of "neo-Shtokavian purism" and a "purge of non-Shtokavian elements".[28]

Early 20th century witnessed a drastic increase in released Kajkavian literature, although by then it had become part of what was considered Croatian dialectal poetry with no pretense of serving as a standard written form. The most notable writers of this period were among others, Antun Gustav Matoš, Miroslav Krleža, Ivan Goran Kovačić, Dragutin Domjanić and Nikola Pavić.

Kajkavian lexical treasure is being published by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in "Rječnik hrvatskoga kajkavskoga književnoga jezika"/Dictionary of the Croatian Kajkavian Literary Language, 8 volumes (1999).

Later, Dario Vid Balog, actor, linguist and writer translated the New Testament in Kajkavian.[61]

Below are examples of the Lord's Prayer in the Croatian variant of Shtokavian, literary Kajkavian and a Međimurje variant of the Kajkavian dialect.

Standard Croatian Literary Kajkavian Međimurje-Kajkavian

Oče naš, koji jesi na nebesima,
sveti se ime tvoje,
dođi kraljevstvo tvoje,
budi volja tvoja,
kako na nebu tako i na zemlji.
Kruh naš svagdanji daj
nam danas
i otpusti nam duge naše,
kako i mi otpuštamo dužnicima našim,
i ne uvedi nas u napast,
nego izbavi nas od zla.

Otec naš, koj si na nebesi,
sveti se ime tvoje,
dojdi kralestvo tvoje,
budi vola tvoja,
kak na nebu tak i na zemli.
Kruha našega vsagdašnega dej
nam denes.
I otpusti nam duge naše,
kak i mi otpuščamo dužnikom našim,
i ne vpelaj nas vu skušavanje,
nego oslobodi nas od zla.

  1. ^ Vilmos Harangozó: Ruža nebeska, Molitve i popevke, Szombathely February 2, 1993.

Japek naš ki si v nebesaj,
nek se sveti ime Tvoje,
nek prihaja cesarstvo Tvoje,
nek bo volja Tvoja,
kakti na nebi tak pa na zemlji.
Kruhek naš vsakdaneši daj
nam denes
ter odpuščaj nam duge naše,
kakti i mi odpuščamo dužnikom našim,
ter naj nas vpelati v skušnje,
nek zbavi nas od vsakih hudobah.

Location map of Serbo-Croatian dialects in Croatia and areas in BiH with Croat majority. Kajkavian in purple.
Distribution of Chakavian, Kajkavian and Western Shtokavian before migrations. Kajkavian in yellow.

Vocabulary comparison

What follows is a comparison of some words in Kajkavian, Shtokavian/Croatian and Slovene along with their English translations. Kajkavian is lexically much closer to Slovene than to official Shtokavian Croatian, which is another argument that Kajkavian can not be a dialect of Serbo-Croatian. The Kajkavian words are given in their most common orthographic form. Shtokavian words are given in their standard Croatian form. In cases where the place of accent or stress differs, the syllable with the stress or accent is indicated in bold. Words that are the same in all three are not listed. Loanwords are also not listed.

Kajkavian Slovene Shtokavian English
kaj kaj što what
k/teri kateri koji which
reč beseda riječ word
več več više more
povedati povedati kazati to say, to tell
gda kdaj/ko kada when, ever
nigda nikoli nikada never
vse vse sve all
iti iti ići to go
tu tukaj tu here
gde kje gdje where
negde nekje negdje somewhere
vleči vleči vući to tug, to drag
obleči obleči odjenuti to dress
otiti oditi otići to leave, to go
dete otrok dijete child
deska deska ploča board
leto leto godina year
imeti imeti imati to have
vekši večji veći bigger, larger
bolši boljši bolji better
razmeti razumeti razumjeti to understand
zdiči dvigniti dignuti to lift, to raise
črlen rd crven red
črn črn crni black
bel bel bijeli black
gorši slabši gori worse
pes pes pas dog
narediti narediti uraditi to do
pisec pisec pisac writer
iskati iskati tražiti to search
boleti boleti boljeti to hurt
broj število broj number
igrati igrati igrati to play
vrnuti vrniti vratiti to return
hiža hiša kuća house
včera včeraj jučer yesterday
zaprti zapreti zatvoriti to close, to shut
delati delati raditi to work
vre že već already
komaj komaj jedva barely
veha veja grana branch
pozoj zmaj zmaj dragon
jajce jajce jaje egg
človek človek čovijek hu/man
megla megla magla fog
dešč dež kiša rain
žganica žganje rakija brandy

Kajkavian media

During Yugoslavia in the 20th century, Kajkavian was mostly restricted to private communication, poetry and folklore. With the recent regional democratizing and cultural revival beginning in the 1990s, Kajkavian partly regained its former half-public position chiefly in Zagorje and Varaždin Counties and local towns, where there is now some public media e.g.:



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  1. The Kajkavian speech of northern Istria is conventionally called Kajkavian but the features that differentiate it from neighboring Chakavian are not strictly or distinctly Kajkavian nor are those speech forms located in continuum with any other Kajkavian speech in Croatia. They have features common to both Slovene across the border as well as Kajkavian elsewhere.



Further reading

External links

Look up Category:Kajkavian Serbo-Croatian in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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