The Notion of Diasystem in the Central South Slavic Linguistic Area

Juhani Nuorluoto
University of Helsinki

The Central South Slavic linguistic area which a decade ago was known as Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian, has during the break-up of Yugoslavia split into three nationalizing standard languages - Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian all of which are based on the very same main dialect, Neoštokavian (in two slightly different forms).

The notion of diasystem is rare in general linguistics whereas it was relatively frequently used in Yugoslav dialectology. It used to cover all the Serbo-Croatian dialects - also those non-standard - to emphasize their common genetic origin and belonging to one single language.

The objective of this paper is to investigate to what extent the notion is nowadays used. In view of the separatist and unifying function of a standard language dialects basically can be defined in view of standard languages. Still, the notion of diasystem continues to be used in the very same function as previously, i.e. dialects such as Cakavian, Kajkavian or Torlak not only refer to Croatian or Serbian dialects, respectively. In regard to the fact that standard languages are rather nationalizing, this circumstance appears to be slightly odd.

The author argues that the notion of diasystem continues its existence until the generation that introduced it in the spirit of Yugoslavism, does exist. Whether the notion itself survives after that, depends on circumstances which are not transparent by now. The author also discusses the necessity of the notion diasystem in general.