Restructuring Language: Turkisms and Westernisms in the Bosnian Media Since 1992

Masha Belyavski-Frank, DePauw University

Since the relatively recent creation of the Bosnian language from a regional variant of Serbo-Croatian, certain elements have been vital in the restructuring of the language. One of the most important of these is the use of Turkisms. A second is the ever-increasing usage of Westernisms, especially cognates from English.

Typically Turkisms (loan-words via Turkish) are used in colloquial speech and in the media in mainly in historical contexts. They are increasingly appearing in ever-broader contexts, spreading to mainstream media such as the daily Sarajevo newspaper Oslobodjenje. Methodology includes analysis of semantic contexts of Turkisms or Westernisms in a range of newspapers and magazines. I have compiled a list of fifty common Turkisms and their Slavic synonyms for contrastive analysis, and will discuss stylistic choices. In the example below Turkisms are in italics, and Westernisms in bold font.

1)            Nisu sudili nikome od Izetbegovićevih suradnika, jarana, ahbaba, rukovodilaca, vlastodjelilaca, humanitaraca, rodijaka. Sudili nisu jer bi morali procesuirati i sami sebe. (…) I živimo mirno i dostojanstveno, po pravdi i istini, po etničkim i vjerskim granicama podijeljeni na male pašaluke. Komada tri. Najmanje. U pašalucima begovati. U njima stotinjak begova sve civjeća bošnjačkog. Izniklog i zaljevenog tijekom deset najtežih. Za narod bezbeli. Za njih lagahnih, prosperitetnih i beričetnih. (Ramo Kolar. Oslobodjenje 12.8.2002 online pg 1) 

‘They didn't bring to trial Izetbegović's co-workers, friends, buddies, leaders, sharers of power, humanitarians, relatives. They didn't bring them to trial, for they would have had to put themselves through the (same) judicial process. (…) And we live peacefully and with dignity, according to truth and justice, according to the ethnic and religious boundaries divided into little fiefdoms [lit. ‘of a Pasha’]. In three parts [N.B.: referring to the restructured political areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina] At least… To live the easy life in these fiefdoms. In them are a group of one hundred lords [lit. ‘beys’], all the flower of the Moslem Bosnians. They have sprung up in the course of the last ten most difficult years which have gone by. (This) was really for the people. For them: the well-off, prosperous and plentifully endowed with wealth’.

We find several Turkisms normally found only in historical contexts: pašaluk (‘fiefdom’ or literally: ‘domain of a pasha’), begovati (‘to rule’ and figuratively ‘to lead an easy life’), and beg (‘bey’ or ‘lord’). In this op-ed piece on the massive corruption and lack of justice in the newly restructured federation, Turkisms are used in a deeply ironic sense, which conveys disillusionment with the administration. The choice of jaran ‘friend’ and ahbab ‘buddy’ here have a pejorative nuance in addition to the colloquial one, as in English ‘his pals’.

This sarcasm is also apparent in the final synonym for prosperous, beričetnih. Stylistically, it follows a Slavic word meaning ‘having it easy’, and a Western borrowing from English: prosperitetnih (‘prosperous’). With the nuances of all three synonyms the writer is indicating that in no aspect of life are the Bosnians prosperous and happy. The interplay among Slavic words, Westernisms, and Turkisms in the Bosnian media and their stylistic usage in ever-broader contexts are important markers of cultural and linguistic identity.