"our language"

Victor A. Friedman vfriedm at MIDWAY.UCHICAGO.EDU
Mon Dec 23 23:34:05 UTC 2002

In response to Björn Wiemer's query,

According to Mefküre Mollova, who reviewed Pokrovskaja's grammar of
Gagauz arguing that it was not a language separate from Turkish (the
Gagauz are Christians living in the Black Sea region of what is now
Bulgaria-Romania-Moldova-Ukraine whose Turkic language is generally
considered to belong to the Oghuz branch but has some Kipchak
features), the Gagauz refer to their language as türkchemiz 'our

Also, speakers of the former Serbo-Croatian often referred to their
language as "nash jezik" in the old days and nowadays do so to avoid
having to choose one of the many possible names plus/minus all the
attendant implications.

  Macedonians also use various forms of 'our' to refer to their
language (e.g. zboruva po-nashinski 'one speaks our-ian [lit. in our
fashion]')-- in the Macedonian dialect of Boboshtica and Drenovjane
near Korcha in Albania kaj nas 'like us'.  These usages date from the
period before modern national consciousness, when one's primary
source of identity was religion, not language.  Although some
Macedonians did refer to their language as bugarski (or blgarski,
etc., depending on the dialect) 'Bulgarian' or srpski 'Serbian' by
the mid-nineteenth-century some were using makedonski 'Macedonian',
but most referred to it with some form of "our"  In those days,
Macedonian-speaking Muslims called themselves "Turks" (turchin, pl.
turtsi)  and Macedonian-speaking Christians referred to themselves as
Kaurin (pl. Kauri) from dialectal Turkish for 'infidel' (Eng.
giaour).  In isolated villages, this usage still occurs.  The
identities (and literary languages that go with them) of the Balkans
today emerged during the course of the 19th century.
Although Macedonian had low prestige vis-a-vis Serbian and Bulgarian
in the 19th century -- and even today Bulgarian linguists continue to
claim that Macedonian is a dialect of Bulgarian (they also claim all
of southern Serbia), and the use of "nash" could be correlated with
low prestige for Slavic vis-a-vis Turkish and Greek (but not Albanian
and Aromanian), it is arguably also correlated with the use of
religion rather than language as the basis of identity.
In Albanian, Gjuha jonë 'our language' is the name of an language
pedagogy journal, but Albanians of Albania (and adjacent regions)
always refer to their language as shqip, which probably comes from
'[speak] clearly' (the comparison with shqiponj 'eagle' is a folk
Cf. also
Herson-Finn, Viktoria S.  1996.  What is Nasˆ [=Nash]:  Toward a
Theory of Ethnolect in the South Slavic Dialect Continuum.  Ph.D.
dissertation.  The Ohio State University.
On Macedonian language and identity see
Friedman, Victor. A. The Modern Macedonian Standard Language and Its
Relation to Modern Macedonian Identity. in The Macedonian Question:
Culture, Historiography, Politics, ed. by Victor Roudometoff.
Boulder, CO: East European Monographs. 2000. 173-206.

Victor Friedman

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