čakavica / čakavština
Native to Croatia, a few in Slovenia (Račice, Kozina)
Ethnicity Croats, Slovenes
Native speakers
ca. 660,000 (2001)
Standard forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog chak1265[1]

Distribution of Chakavian

Chakavian or Čakavian /æˈkɑːviən/, /ə-/, /-ˈkæv-/ (Serbo-Croatian: čakavski [tʃǎːkaʋskiː],[2] proper name: čakavica or čakavština [tʃakǎːʋʃtina],[3] own name: čokovski, čakavski, čekavski) is a dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language spoken by a minority of Croats. It has a low mutual intelligibility with Shtokavian.[4] There is much internal diversity, to the point where intelligibility between the northern and southern varieties of Chakavian is low.[4] All three main Serbo-Croatian dialects are named after their most common word for "what?", which in Čakavian is ča or ca. Chakavian is spoken mainly in the northeastern Adriatic: in Istria, Kvarner Gulf, in most Adriatic islands, and in the interior valley of Gacka, more sporadically in the Dalmatian littoral and central Croatia.

Chakavian was the basis for the first literary standard of the Croats. Today, it is spoken almost entirely within Croatia's borders, apart from the Burgenland Croatian in Austria and Hungary and a few villages in Slovenia.


Chakavian is the oldest written Serbo-Croatian dialect that had made a visible appearance in legal documents—as early as 1275 (Istrian land survey) and 1288 (Vinodol codex), the predominantly vernacular Chakavian is recorded, mixed with elements of Church Slavic. Many of these and other early Chakavian texts up to 17th century are mostly written in Glagolitic alphabet.

Initially, the Chakavian dialect covered a much wider area than today, about two thirds of medieval Croatia: the major part of central and southern Croatia southwards of Kupa and westwards of Una river, as well as western and southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina. During and after the Ottoman invasion and subsequent warfare (15th–19th centuries), the Chakavian area became significantly reduced. On the Croatian mainland it has recently been almost completely replaced by Shtokavian. It is therefore now spoken in a much smaller coastal area than indicated above.

As expected, in over nine centuries Chakavian has undergone many phonetic, morphological and syntactical changes chiefly in the turbulent mainlands, but less in isolated islands. Yet, contemporary dialectologists are particularly interested in it since it has retained the old accentuation system characterized by a Proto-Slavic new rising accent (neoacute) and the old position of stress, and also numerous Proto-Slavic and some Proto-Indo-European archaisms in its vocabulary.

Area of use

Chakavian in its actual use is the least spoken Serbo-Croatian dialect, being spoken only by 12% Croats. It is now mostly reduced in southwestern Croatia along the eastern Adriatic: Adriatic islands, and sporadically in the mainland coast, with rare inland enclaves up to central Croatia, and minor enclaves in Austria and Montenegro.


The basic phonology of Chakavian, with representation in Gaj's Latin alphabet and IPA, is as follows:

Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m
Plosive p   b
p   b
t   d
t   d
k   ɡ
k   g
Affricate ts    
Fricative f    
s   z
s   z
ʃ   ʒ
š   ž
Approximant ʋ
Trill ɲ


The Chakavian dialect is divided along several criteria. According to the reflex of the Common Slavic phoneme yat */ě/, there are four accents:

  1. Ekavian accent (northeastern Istria, Rijeka and Bakar, Cres island): */ě/ > /e/
  2. Ikavian–Ekavian accent (islands Lošinj, Krk, Rab, Pag, Dugi, mainland Vinodol and Pokupje): */ě/ > /i/ or /e/, according to Jakubinskij's law
  3. Ikavian accent (southwestern Istria, islands Brač, Hvar, Vis, Korčula, Pelješac, Dalmatian coast at Zadar and Split, inland Gacka): */ě/ > /i/
  4. Ijekavian accent (Lastovo island, Janjina in Pelješac): */ě/ > /je/ or /ije/

Obsolete literature commonly refers to Ikavian–Ekavian dialects as "mixed", which is a misleading term because the yat reflexes were governed by Jakubinskij's law.

According to their tonal (accentual) features, Chakavian dialects are divided into the following groups:

  1. dialects with the "classical" Chakavian three-tone system
  2. dialects with two tonic accents
  3. dialects with four tonic accents similar to that of Shtokavian dialects
  4. dialects with four-tonic Shtokavian system
  5. dialects mixing traits of the first and the second group

Using a combination of accentual and phonological criteria, Croatian dialectologist Dalibor Brozović divided Chakavian into six (sub)dialects:

Name Reflex of Common Slavic yat Distribution
Buzet dialect Ekavian (closed e) Northern Istria
Southwestern Istrian Ikavian Western Istria
Northern Chakavian Ekavian Northeast Istria, Istra, Kastav, Rijeka, Cres
Middle Chakavian Ikavian–Ekavian Dugi otok, Kornati, Lošinj, Krk, Rab, Pag, Vinodol, Ogulin, Brinje, Otočac, Duga Resa
Southern Chakavian Ikavian Korčula, Pelješac, Brač, Hvar, Vis, Šolta, outskirts of Split and Zadar
Southeastern Chakavian Ijekavian Lastovo, Janjina on Pelješac, Bigova on the south of Montenegro
Chakavian dialect in Istria, by D. Brozović
  buzetski ili gornjomiranski
  jugozapadni istarski

There is no unanimous opinion on the set of traits a dialect has to possess to be classified as Chakavian (rather than its admixture with Shtokavian or Kajkavian); the following traits were mostly proposed:

Non-palatal tsakavism

Besides the usual Chakavian (with typical pronoun "ča"), in some Adriatic islands and in eastern Istra another special variant is also spoken which lacks most palatals, with other parallel deviations called "tsakavism" (cakavizam):

The largest area of tsakavism is in eastern Istra at Labin, Rabac and a dozen nearby villages; minor mainland enclaves are the towns Bakar and Trogir. Tsakavism is also frequent in Adriatic islands: part of Lošinj and nearby islets, Ist, Baška in Krk, Pag town, the western parts of Brač (Milna), Hvar town, and subentire Vis with adjacent islets.

The first two features are similar to mazurzenie in Polish, where it is present in many dialects, and tsokanye, occurring in the Old Novgorod dialect of Old East Slavic.

Chakavian literary language

Since Chakavian was the first Serbo-Croatian dialect to emerge from the Church Slavic matrix, both literacy and literature in this dialect abound with numerous texts - from legal and liturgical to literary: lyric and epic poetry, drama, novel in verses, as well as philological works that contain Chakavian vocabulary. Chakavian was the main public and official language in medieval Croatia from 13th to 16th century.

Monuments of literacy began to appear in the 11th and 12th centuries, and artistic literature in the 15th. While there were two zones of Čakavian, northern and southern (both mainly along the Adriatic coast and islands, with centres like Senj, Zadar, Split, Hvar, Korčula), there is enough unity in the idiom to allow us to speak of one Chakavian literary language with minor regional variants. This language by far surpassed the position of a simple vernacular dialect and strongly influenced other Serbo-Croatian literary dialects, particularly Shtokavian: the first Shtokavian texts such as the Vatican Croatian Prayer Book, dated to 1400, exhibit numerous literary Chakavianisms. The early Shtokavian literary and philological output, mainly from Dubrovnik (1500–1600) up to Džore Držić, was essentially a mixed Shtokavian–Chakavian idiom, mostly similar to the Jekavian Chakavian of Lastovo and Janjina. Chakavian literature uses many words of Latin, Dalmatian, and Italian origin due to the numerous contacts with these languages.

The most famous early Chakavian author is Marko Marulić in 15th/16th century. Also, the first Croatian dictionary, authored by Faust Vrančić, is mostly Chakavian in its form. The tradition of the Chakavian literary language had declined in the 18th century, but it has helped shape the standard Croatian language in many ways (chiefly in morphology and phonetics), and Chakavian dialectal poetry is still a vital part of Croatian literature.

The most prominent representatives of Chakavian poetry in the 20th century are Vladimir Nazor and Drago Gervais. At the end of the 1980s in Istria there began a special subgenre of pop-rock music "Ča-val" (Cha wave); artists that were part of this scene used the Chakavian dialect in their lyrics, and often fused rock music with traditional Istra-Kvarner music.

Recent studies

Due to its archaic nature, early medieval development, and impressive corpus of vernacular literacy, the typical Chakavian dialect has attracted numerous dialectologists who have meticulously documented its nuances, so that Chakavian was among the best described Slavic dialects, but its atypical tsakavism was partly neglected and less studied. The representative modern work in the field is Čakavisch-deutsches Lexikon, vol. 1.-3, Koeln-Vienna, 1979–1983, by Croatian linguists Hraste and Šimunović and German Olesch.

The Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts is currently engaged in editing a multivolume dictionary of the Chakavian literary language, based on the wealth of literature written in Chakavian. More than forty dictionaries of local Chakavian varieties have been published, the largest among them including more than 20,000 words are from locations such as Split town, Gacka valley, Brač and Vis islands, Baška in Krk, and Beli in Cres.

Other recent titles include Janne Kalsbeek's work on The Cakavian Dialect of Orbanici near Zminj in Istria, as well as Keith Langston's Cakavian Prosody: The Accentual Patterns of the Cakavian Dialects of Croatian.

Location map of dialects in Croatia and areas in BiH with Croat majority. Chakavian in blue.
Distribution of Chakavian, Kajkavian, and Western Shtokavian before migrations. Chakavian in blue.

Chakavian media

In Yugoslavia during the twentieth century, the archaic Chakavian was mostly restricted in private communication, poetry and folklore. Through the recent regional democratizing and cultural revival starting in the 1990s, Chakavians partly regained their former half-public positions chiefly in the Istra peninsula and coastal towns, being now presented there in some modern public media, for example:



  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Chakavski". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. "Hrvatski jezični portal (1)". Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  3. "Hrvatski jezični portal (2)". Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  4. 1 2 Mutual intelligibility of languages in the Slavic family


External links

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