Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Linguistic Gymnastics

If you ever want to learn Serbian, the good news is that it is a phonetic language: if you can read it, you can speak it and vice versa. The bad news is that is can be written using either the Latin or the Cyrillic alphabet so you may see signs in both scripts. For instance, Thank you can be written Hvala or Хвала. It can get very confusing when you have a map that uses the Latin alphabet but the street signs are all in Cyrillic. Then the even worse news is that Serbian extends both alphabets with extra letters that don't exist in the standard versions of either, such as Đ in the Latin script or Љ in the Cyrillic one. And then comes the practical question: what dictionary order is used? The Latin and Cyrillic alphabets have different dictionary orders so does it mean that when you buy a dictionary, the order the words are in depends on the alphabet it is published in? I'm not sure I want to know the answer.

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