The Serbian Cyrillic script was one of the two official scripts used to write the Serbo-Croatian language in Yugoslavia since its establishment in 1918, the other being Latin script (latinica). With the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbo-Croatian was divided into its variants on ethnic lines (as it had been in pre-Yugoslav times) and Cyrillic is no longer used officially in Croatia, while in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro the Serbian Cyrillic stayed the official constitutional script.
The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet (српска ћирилица) is an adaptation of the Cyrillic script for Serbo-Croatian, developed in 1818 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić. It is one of the two alphabets used to write standard modern Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin, the other being Latin.
In Serbia, Cyrillic is seen as being more traditional and has the official status (designated in the Constitution as the “official script”). In general use, the Latin alphabet dominates commercial and internet spheres, while Cyrillic dominates handwriting and educational spheres. As for native speakers, their preferences may differ from person to person depending on age, education and other factors.
The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet is built up by 24 letters from the Cyrillic script. A few letters (such as щ, ъ or я) were removed when Serbian Cyrillic was developed and one Latin letter (j) was added to it.
There were also five new letters: the ligatures Љ and Њ, together with Џ, Ђ, and Ћ were developed especially for the Serbian alphabet:
- Karadžić based the letters Љ and Њ on a design by Sava Mrkalj, combining the letters Л (L) and Н (N) with the soft sign (Ь).
- Karadžić based Џ on letter “Gea” in the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet.
- Ћ was adopted by Karadžić to represent the voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate (IPA: /tɕ/).
- Karadžić adopted a design by Lukijan Mušicki for the letter Ђ. It was based on the letter Ћ, as adapted by Karadžić.
Some further differences, Serbian Cyrillic has a from other Cyrillic alphabets:
- Serbian Cyrillic does not use several letters encountered in other Slavic Cyrillic alphabets. It does not use hard sign (ъ) and soft sign (ь), but the aforementioned soft-sign ligatures instead.
- It does not have Russian/Belorussian Э, the semi-vowels Й or Ў, nor the iotated letters Я (Russian/Bulgarian ya), Є (Ukrainian ye), Ї (yi), Ё (Russian yo) or Ю (yu), which are instead written as two separate letters: Ја, Је, Ји, Јо, Ју. Ј can also be used as a semi-vowel, in place of й.
- The letter Щ is not used. When necessary, it is transliterated as either ШЧ or ШТ.