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Language, Alphabet and Cultural Identity - The Serbian Case

Language, Alphabet and Cultural Identity - The Serbian Case

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Published by registry33
Language, Alphabet and Cultural Identity - The Serbian Case
Language, Alphabet and Cultural Identity - The Serbian Case

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Published by: registry33 on May 16, 2013
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08/27/2013

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Ass. Prof. Zorica Tomic, PhDBelgrade University,Faculty of Philology
LANGUAGE, ALPHABET AND CULTURAL IDENTITY:THE SERBIAN CASEAbstract:
Serbian Cyrillic script is one of the main cultural values of Serbian people, notonly as their national alphabet, but also as one of the main graphic forms of Serbianspirituality. The history of Serbian Cyrillic script can be understood as a history of Serbian identity struggle and affirmation of Serbian culture. The biggest masterpieces of Serbian culture are written and printed on Cyrillic script. That is why giving up the use of Cyrillic can be interpreted as abandoning one of the most important parts of Serbianintangible heritage.At the same time, wide and parallel use of Latin alphabet and its presencewithin Serbian culture can be seen as the real sign of Serbian fundamental and deepopenness towards the vibrant and challenging intercultural communication with theworld.
Key words: language, alphabet, cultural identity, Cyrillic script, Latin alphabet,cultural heritage
If we accept the basic difference between categories of 
culture
and
civilisation,
already described in theory (Tomic, Z., 2001.), it follows thatlanguage is the fundamental mean of human communication while thealphabet is the main communicative mean of civilisation. In that sense,
 
 
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linguistic base
and
cultural history
are two equal and important factors,upon which is based the difference between
language
and
alphabet 
.The final phase of alphabetisation completed by the Greeks got itsrealisation within two most widely spread alphabets -
 Latin
and
Cyrillic.
 Both alphabets are used in Serbia, where Cyrillic has almost a millenniumlong tradition, while Latin alphabet entered Serbian cultural space relativelylate, less than a century ago.The development of Serbian literacy was deeply connected withthe great cultural turning point in the 9th century, when the Slavs begun practicing the divine mass in Old Slavic language. Moravian ruler Rastislav(846-870) asked Byzantine emperor Michael III to send Slavic speakingChristian missionaries to Moravia. Even though Christianity was alreadyaccepted in Moravia, Rastislav, understanding the need for deeper unitywithin the Slavic community, comprehended the great importance of sermonin native language.On the other side, wisely projecting his political interests towardsthe Slavic people of the Balkans, Byzantine emperor approved of themission thus making a visionary act which started the history of Slavicliteracy. “Old Slavic was added to the languages which were considered asholy and then suitable for sermon (Greek, Latin and Hebrew). Twomissionaries, Thessalonica brothers (Constantine Cyril and Method) werechosen for the mission. They are considered to be the founders of Slavicliteracy and literature” (Cigoja, B.,2008.).With their assistants, Cyril and Method accepted Rastislav`sinvitation and in 863 went to Moravia (which is today a part of SoutheastCheck republic) in order to preach sermons in native language, and later on,to spread the influence of Byzantium and lessen the influence of German
 
 
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 bishops and pilgrims. During that mission, Constantine, who got the monk name of Cyril, had to design the letters of the new alphabet. The newalphabet was based on the Greek alphabet. He formed new letters for thevocals of Slavic language which did not exist in Greek. In the 19th century,Slavic linguists gave the name
Glagolic script 
to the new alphabet
.
 Besides the invention of the first Slavic alphabet adjusted to theSlavic vocals, Cyril and Method translated selected parts of Gospel into theSlavic language. By then, the Old Slavic language was established as thefirst Serbian literature language. From the New Testament they translatedselected parts of Gospel and the Acts of Apostles which became the SelectedGospel and the Selected Acts of Apostles. They also translated the Psalms of the Old Testament. Cyril and Method named the language of thesetranslations Slavic. In contemporary science the accepted term is Old ChurchSlavic, since that language was not colloquial, but only used in liturgy andtranslations of Christian texts written in Greek.CYRILLICCyrillic is the second Slavic alphabet which was invented at the beginning of the 10th century. Even though there are no exact facts about theinventors of Cyrillic alphabet, we can assume that it was done by one of thedisciples of Cyril and Method. In spite of persecutions, one group of their disciples reached Preslav, the historic Bulgarian capital. It is of mainimportance that the Bulgarian state got the right to preach sermons in OldSlavic language, and that is why the disciples of Cyril and Method were ableto continue their mission there.In the first phase of their literacy Serbs used both
Cyrillic
and
Glagolic script,
in spite of the fact that it was not an economic solution.

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