About Kaikavian language

Kaikavian language is Central-European, Slavic language with long written and spoken tradition.

According to linguists, it is being used for more than 1000 years by Kaikavians in northern Croatia, and as such is among the oldest languages of Europe. Its range today stretches from Pitomača in the east to Čabar and Fužine in the west, and from the village of Krapje in the south to the northern border of Croatia. As such, it is one of three main Croatian languages.
Kaikavians are Croatians, but their traditional language is different from standard Croatian, which is the official language. Beside Kaikavian, another Croatian language that differs from standard is Chakavian, which was actually the original Croatian language.

Today’s self name for Kaikavian language is Kajkavski, pronounced like Khay-khavs-key.

The unity of Kaikavian language and its dialects was first proved by famous linguist Stjepan Ivšič in his groundbreaking work “The language of Croatian Kaikavians” in 1936.

The ISO 639-3 language code for Kaikavian literary language is kjv. It was adopted on the initiative of Kaikavian Renaissance, and supported by distinguished academics.

Kaikavian is the main vehicle of rich Kaikavian culture, which is tied to one of the oldest cultural traditions in Europe as it emerged in 6th century. This is evident in traditional Kaikavian customs, mythology, songs, unbroken continuity of culture, and of course in the language itself. In all these areas there are significant, old Slavic elements that were preserved in Kaikavian and are not present to such extent in other Slavic languages and cultures, though there are parallels with Russian and Ukrainian languages and culture. As such, Kaikavian language is of precious value for Cultural Diversity in Croatia and also in Europe and whole humanity. It is the mother language of Kaikavians living in Croatia, in the region where Alpine hills traverse into Pannonian valley.

Kaikavian literary language was polyfunctional, normed and stylistically differentiated idiom and was based on Zagreber speech. Kaikavian literary language had the functionality of standard language in Croatia from 16th until the mid of 19th century1. It was used in all areas of life such as business, legal, and religious areas. Today is Kaikavian, although not a standard language, preserved in Kaikavian region in North Croatia in speech, and in older and contemporary Kaikavian literature.

Kaikavian language has its distinct grammar, orthography, and a system of accentuation2. There exists reach Kaikavian literature, and Kaikavian has it own dialects with its special vocals – diphtongues. As such Kaikavian is fully functional written and spoken language. However, written Kaikavian today is not used in domains other than poetry and rare novels. It is spoken only in informal domains but here it is also in continuous decline – language loss on lexical, grammar, morphology and accentuation levels has been happening since 1850., and it is happening right now.

Due to its absence from public schools in the last 150 years, Kaikavian is seriously endangered language, suffering loss of words, accents and grammar. Most written works in Kaikavian today are created by poets and writers. As of begin of 2014. Kaikavians are still not learning their mother language at school. Learning Kaikavian language in public education is not only a cultural need but fundamental human right, as declared by UNESCO. As such it is only a matter of time until Kaikavian will be introduced again into public schools.

Karta Kajkavskega jezíka

As it can be seen on the map, Kaikavian (dark green) is spoken and written from Gorski Kotar in the West to Podravina in the East, as well as in neighbouring areas Kaikavians in Hungary. In North it is spoken in Medjimorje and Zagorje continuing to Posavina in the South. Ancestors of Kaikavians settled down at the end of 6th century in Lower Pannonia, from Balaton lake in Hungary to the first slopes of Southern Alps (In Carolingian sources Pannonia Inferior). As already stated, until the middle of 19th ct. Kaikavian was official language in Croatia and was taught in schools. From 18th. ct. till 19th ct. it was known under the name “Horvatski” (which meant then “Croatian”)3,and it was also used in neighbouring, today Slovenian counties like Prekmurje, Prlekija, and even in Austrian Gradišče (Burgenland). Many still do not know that language used by Croats in Gradišče today is based also a lot on Kaikavian literary language. Kaikavian literary language persisted the longest in Medjimorje, where it was still taught in the 20th century until 1918. Later it was transmitted in speech and in books. But also in Medjimorje Kaikavian was removed from official use with its annexation to Yugoslavia. Despite of all these unfavourable circumstances, Kaikavian language is still alive and continues to be used and developed in 21. century – also in the virtual space. The dogma during Yugoslavian regimes was kept that  Kaikavian language is only “a peasant dialect” which is of course not true, because also Kaikavian aristocracy (PatačičOršič, Zrinski), scientists and some of the best Croatian writers like Krleža, Ivan Goran Kovačič i Fran Galovič created some of their best works in their mother tongue – Kaikavian language.

1. lecture at Zagreb University in then Croatian called Horvatski language (=Kaikavian), was held on 6.11.1832. by Matijaš Smodek. At this time Kaikavian was the main language in Zagreb and North Croatia. Taking this historic fact into account, it is more than strange that an official learning book from Zagreb University called “Slavenska poredbena gramatika4 by Milan Mihaljević does not even mention Kaikavian literary language, although it mentions many other extinct non-Slavic languages! Amazing how low some Balkanese so-called scholars can degrade scientific standards, and shameful that the University of Zagreb lets this happen in 21st century denying its own and Croatian history.


Kaikavian is Croatian language, much older than today’s standard Croatian, and as such it belongs not only to Kaikavians and Croatia, but also to universal heritage and whole humanity. Why is Kaikavian the main vehicle of Kaikavian culture? Without Kaikavian language there would be no unique Kaikavian folks songs from Medjimorje – “Medjimorske popevke, there would be no “Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh” by Krleža, no poems of Ivan Goran Kovačič from Gorski Kotar in his mother tongue Kaikavian and no Kaikavian poems of Fran Galovič from Podravina. Followingly there would be no Kaikavians. The famous band Cinkuši or singers Teta Liza and Gusti Dragsar could not perform their great music, and contemporary culture scene in Croatia would be much poorer! Without Kaikavians there would be no Kaikavian Art Naive, the only authentic modern fine art from Croatia that is acknowledged internationally; there would be even no “Illirian Movement”, without which Croatia as we know it would not exist – the movement was started in Kaikavian region by Kaikavians. There would be no Zrinski as we know them, since they adopted Kaikavian language after they had migrated to Kaikavian region (Slovenski orsag) and they supported Kaikavian as they become famous among Kaikavians.
So by knowing Kaikavian language you transmit and develop this unique European tradition of Kaikavians, which is really creative and rich and alive and important, progressing continuously from 6th. century!


First written sources in Kaikavian are dated around 1100. (Radho’s Bible5). The name of Kaikavian language went through few transitions:
1) first it was called Slovenski according to the name of the land Kaikavians inhabited – Slavonia/Slovenski orsag (Croatia was to the south of the Gvozd Mountain).
2) From the 18th. until the mid of 19th ct. it was called Horvatski – due to the  shift of noblemen from Croatia who lost all their properties to Turks and fled North to Kaikavian region of Slovenski orsag.
3) Finally from end of 19th ct. on it was named Kajkavski  – pronounced like “Khay-kavs-key”.

Unlike today’s standard Croatian language which belongs to Neo-Stokavian group of languages, Kaikavian language does not belong to Neo-Stokavian group (which consists of Serbian, Montenegro, Bosnian, and Stokavian Croatian dialects). Kaikavian is different – it is more similar to Slovene, but has also similar sources like Čakavian (Čakavski), another language spoken in Croatia. Some vernaculars spoken in neighbouring areas in Slovenia are similar to Kaikavian, because until the 18th century they developed together with Kaikavian or under the influence of Kaikavian language. These are Prekmurian, Prlekian, Porabian, vernacular of Halože and vernacular of Podčetrtek. Together with Kaikavian dialects in Croatia they form the dialect continuum from Kaikavian to today’s Slovene. Kaikavian also shares many characteristics in its development with Western-Slavic languages like Slovac or Czech. Although it underwent somehow different development, the connections to Slovac and Polish remained – it still has same diphtongues and many same words, unlike to Stokavian. Example: Future in Kaikavian “ja bu(de)m pisal” is constructed in the way like in Slovenian, Czech, Slovac and Polish language. Please notice the similarity between Kaikavian and Polish expression:

The famous words by Ljudevit von Gay:
Išče Horvatska nie zginula – gda mi živemo
were actually translated by him from a famous Polish song:
Ješče Polska nie zginela – kiedy my zyjemy.

First part of the sentence is almost identical in Polish and Kaikavian, and this similarity goes much further beyond common similarity of Slavic languages. Kaikavian language has its own system of accentuation with 3 stresses, its vocals/ diphthongs, and its own syntax and grammar by which it differs from Neo-Stokavian group but also from standard Slovene. Kaikavian was not included in current standard Croatian language6, which has its advantages, because thus it managed to preserve its uniqueness and its special characteristics, its originality and authenticity. On the other hand it is bad because as we already stated, Kaikavian is not taught at schools. The term dialect used for Kaikavian language was introduced in Yugoslavian times only to discredit Kaikavian language during the authoritarian regime and to remove it from teaching in schools. This is a situation that will change, since Kaikavians are very fond of its language and customs, they speak and sing in it even 150 years after it was abolished from official and public use, and they would like also others to learn it. Kaikavian is to some extent heterogeneous language due to variety in its dialects and accents. This varieties of Kaikavian accents were unified by Ivišič’s in his Fundamental Kaikavian Accentuation.  Below we present the main characteristics common to all or most Kaikavian dialects, a summary of what you should know about Kaikavian language.


You can download here a presentation about Kaikavian language. It is meant for public schools and universities, or for individual use: Kaikavian – main characteristics of Kakavian language.pdf

    • pronoun KAJ (kej, kuoj) – meaning “what”
    • first written words in Rado-bible at the end of 11th century
    • was official and literary language from 16th to mid of 19th century in the area what was first called Slovenski orsag from 11th ct. (Kaikavian Kingdom of Slavonia), since 18th ct. called Horvatski orsag (Horvatska – Kaikavian spoken Croatia)
    • was used on all levels in public communication: also in legal and business matters
    • from 16th to end of 19th rich development of Kaikavian literature with its centre Zagreb.
    • literature comparable with literature in the same Central-European cultural circle (Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia)
    • Translations from English, French, Latin and German into Kaikavian (e.g. John Milton‘s Paradise Lost)
    • after the removal of Kaikavian literary language from public institutions in the 19th. century, it continues to be spoken; writers and poets continue to write, but creation of literature much smaller
    • however some of the best literary works in Croatia were created in 20th century in Kaikavian, like “Ballads of Petrica Kerempuh” by Miroslav Krleža
    • today spoken and written in Croatia in Kaikavian region – North Croatia, from Gorski Kotar in the West to Podravina in the East.
    • also in some neighbouring areas in Hungary
    • written mostly by writers and poets
    • Kaikavian plays present in theatres
    • Kaikavian folk songs are performed in public (e.g. pentatonic Međimorje songs)
    • Kaikavian literary language has got ISO 639-3 code kjv at the begin of 2015
    • Besides the Portal of Kaikavian language there is also www.trnac.net in Kaikavian
    • The biggest Facebook page in Kaikavian dedicated to Kaikavian language & culture that is non-local & avant-garde is: http://www.facebook.com/Kajkavci
    • A Facebook group with 4.000 members in Kaikavian vernacular of Medjimorje exists (January 2014) Medjimorje dialect has kept most of Kaikavian literary language: http://www.facebook.com/groups/medimurski.recnik
    • In general is Kaikavian still underrepresented on the Internet
    • A scientific symposium is held every year in Krapina called “Kaikavian language, literature and culture through centuries” where historic and contemporary Kaikavian literature is discussed.
    • In Sv. Ivan Zelina there is a festival of contemporary Kaikavian literature every year called “KAJ v Zelini”, with contributions from all parts of Kaikavian region
    • But: Kaikavian is not equally present in public education and communication systems like Stokavian Croatian
    • very little of Kaikavian literature is presented in public education system
    • children are not learning Kaikavian at elementary nor at high-school
    • current goal in public education for native Kaikavian speakars is to have basic understanding of e.g. only few songs written in their native vernacular, not to learn to write or speak Kaikavian nor to learn about Kaikavian literary language
    • Kaikavian is incorrectly mentioned in public education as dialect of Croatian language, which contradicts linguistic reality (since Croatian is defined as standard Croatian language based on NeoŠtokavian dialect, to which Kaikavian does not belong).
    • A major campaign by Kaikavian Renaissance started in 2012 to revitalize and reintroduce Kaikavian language as an important asset for Cultural Diversity and as a vehicle of Kaikavian culture and tradition: several ongoing projects initiated, more on the way
    • Language self-name today is Kajkavski. It went through few transitions from “Slovenski” over “Horvatski” to todays “Kajkavski” (spelled like “khay-kavs-key”)
    • specific 3-accent system (   ̏,   ̑,   ̃ ) -> short, circumflex, acute
    • accent is often on penultima, possible also on ultima (bregóv, nogáj)
    • Dialects: Ivšič first proved unity of Kaikavian language in his work “Language of Croatian Kaikavians” (1936) describing 4 main Kaikavian dialect group based on their common accentuation There is also Kaikavian dialect of Gorski Kotar, which had a slightly different development from the other four. It can be divided in at least 2 main groups (Eastern and Western Gorski Kotar)
    • diphthongs (uo, oa, ie, ..)
    • alternation of phonemes k, g, h in the nominative plural, dative and locative cases does not occur:
      Kai: ruokaruoki, noganogi, svrhasvrhi (Croat. rukaruci, noganozi, svrhasvrsi). In other words, phonemes k, g, h do not change into c, z, s.
    • v- before -u i -o (vusnica, vugurekvuho, vulica, vuvogel)
    • j- before vowel (jogenj, joko, jana, jembrelo, Jambrovič)
    • No soft ć nor hard č but only middle hard č
    • Plural masculine in nominative case has short sufix –i (obloki, brodi, kabli); not –ovi
    • Only one future tense, like in Slovenian and West-Slavic languages (ja bu(de)m delal Kajkavskega portala)
    • Active verbal adjective in singular masculine in the 1st and 3rd person ends with -l unlike standard Croatian -o. (kai: joa sem delal – cro: ja sam radio)
    • Suffix for forming comparative and superlative adjectives is -š/i/a/e: liep, liepši, najliepši
    • Diminutive sufix for masculine singular is -ek or -ec, (plural -eki, -eci) unlike Stokavian -ić.
    • Supine with verb of motion (idi spoat = supine vs. liepo mi je spoati = infinitive)
    • No vocative case (same as nominative) → no palatalisation in declension (vuok idi v kraj!)
    • Plural in masculine genitive case has sufix -ov (dečecov, čuonov)
    • Plural in genitive case looses sufix  (leta → let, krave → krav; sela → sel).
    • Preserved distinction between dative, locative and instrumental cases (DLI-distinction: D k ženam, L pri ženah, I z ženami)
    • Plural 2nd person imperative has often sufix  –ete (budete)
    • Same sufix in acusative case for living creatures and things (imam rada kralja Ljudevita, imaš hamra?)
    • High degree of word borrowing from German and to a lesser degree from Hungarian and Latin.
    • Examples for German loanwords: flaša (Flasche), cukor (Zucker), hamer(Hammer), tancati (tanzen), feringe(Vorhänge), štienge (Stiege), cug (Zug), špancirati (spazieren), vanjkuš (Wangenkissen), štamperlin (Stamperl), kukarlin (Guckerle), kušnuti (küssen), nor (Narr), farof (Pfarrhof), cirkva (Kirche), meša (Messe)
    • Some Hungarian loanwords: harmica, pelda, jezero (=1000), kinč/iti, tovariš
    • Latin: cinkuš, plebanuš
    • Phoneme -e- could be older than comparabale Stokavian -a- (denes, veter, pekel vs. danas, vjetar, pakao)
    • There are at least 2 vowels for -e: closed e: pes, mesto; open e: ve, vezda, sedem, devet, neznam)
    • Syllabic /r/ is written/still spoken as -er (cvertje, černi, čerleni)
    • Preserved Proto-Slavic consonant group *čr- (črešnja)
    • open -e in Proto-Slavic sufix -me (ideme, očeme, živeme) instead of suffix –mo. Connection wih West-Slavic languages (e.g. Slovakian)
    • Preserved Proto-Slavic form *šč (puščati)
    • Proto-Slavic forms *stj i *skj manifest as  -šč (proščenje, klješča, piščalka, puščati, iščem, trešče (from treska)) -> like in oldest Church Slavonic manuscript Kiev Misal
    • Secondary group stəj is -stj (listjé, kostjú, smetjé), secundary zdəj is -zdj (grozdje)
    • Palatal rj (škarje/škoar(i)je, odgovarjati, zorja, morje)
    • Kaikavian is not “ekavian” language because Kaikavian has 4 reflexes of Slavic jat (ě) phoneme: ie, e, ei, i (e.g. brieg, breg, breig, brig7)
    • Kaikavian does not belong to (Neo-)Stokavian group of languages (like Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian). It forms a distinct dialectal group different from Stokavina. More similar to Slovenian & West-Slavic languages, with which it shares early development.
    • Dialects spoken in Slovenia in neighbouring regions Prekmurje, Prlekija, Porabje and Podčetrtek are similar to Kaikavian language, since they developed either in or in close contact with Kaikavian region till the end of 18th century.
    • Kaikavian has a huge word pool that we cannot present here: (najže, pelnica, vre, vezda, komaj, tijam, stopram, za‘ran, zorja, zutra, den, pondéljek, torek, srieda, četertek, petek, subóta, nedélja, ober čudaj cvetja večni okrepi živlenja, ..)

Here are some characteristics that are the same in Kaikavian and Western-Slavic languages like Slovac or Czech. We would to thank from our heart (serdce) to the people who most contributed to the living Kaikavian word: all Bednjanci, Zagorci, Gorani, Turopoljci, Prigorci, Podravci, Medjimorci, Varaždinci, Jaska, Samoborci, Vivodinski kraj, Moslavina, Posavci, Zagrepčanci, Kaikavian over Mura in Hungary and to all others who work through their talking and writing in everyday life on the progress of Kaikavian here and now – keep it doing!

1) Lewis, Štebih 2004: Nazivi za vrste riječi u hrvatskome kajkavskome Knjževnom jeziku (link & summary in German, full article in Croatian)
2) Stjepan Ivšić 1936: Jezik Hrvata Kajkavaca, JAZUZagreb.
3) Gerhard Neweklovsky 2006: Die südslawische Region / The South-Slavic area, Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of language and society, Vol. 3, 2nd edition, Ed.Ulrich Ammon, 2006. URL: http://books.google.hr/books?id=LMZm0w0k1c4C&pg=PA1824&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false
4) Milan Mihaljević 2002: Slavenska poredbena gramatika, 1. dio. Školska knjiga, Zagreb
 Josip Hamm 1952: Glose u Radonovoj bibliji, Slovo: časopis Staroslavenskoga instituta, No.1, Septermber 1952; (link & summary in French, full article in Croatian) There is a text about Rado’s Bible on Croatian Wikipedia, but incorrect/inconsistent (which appears to be a common rule for Croatian Wikipedia, not keeping international academic standards), it says that Rado’s Bible would be 1st source of Croatian language. On the other side it understands under Croatian language the standard Croatian Neo-Štokavian language, so this statement negates it self, because glosses are in Kaikavian language as shown by J. Hamm, and knowing that in Zagreb until the mid of 19th century Kaikavian was the common language, then is this statement on Wikipedia as serious as stating that Rado’s  bible was written by Njegoš.
6) Vienna Literary agreement 1850: Three representants from Croatia (an aristocrate – Kukuljevič, and two representatives of bourgeoisie – Mažuranič and Vlach Demeter who actively disliked Kaikavian) signed with representatives of Slovenia and Serbia (Vuk Karadžič), ignoring the right of Kaikavians on their own language, an agreement  that the “southern dialect” – Montenegrin Neo-Štokavian dialect – will be the new common Croato-Serbian language, and that in this language no other languages will be mixed (like Kaikavian or Čakavian). Thus came in Kaikavian North Croatia after Latin and German again a new language  but this time imported from out of Western European Tradition to which Kaikavians belong. In Slavonia there was Štokavian dialect, but it was Ikavian unlike the Montenegrin. This agreement was put into reality by declared Serbian nationalist Đuro Daničič, who was invited by JAZU/HAZU to create first Croat or Serbian dictionary, which he did. Of course he did not include Kaikavian words in it. Being ignorant of Kaikavian, he falsely thought that Kaikavian language belongs to Slovene. So called “Croatian Vukovians”, followers of Vuk Karadžič in Croatia further “refined” the new Croatian or Serbian language (basically Montenegrin or East-Hercegovinian vernacular) and brought it closer in tune with Vuk Draškovič’s ideas. Terms that they were missing they borrowed from Russian or Czech. The reason for this active word-borrowing was because Neo-Štokavian was not yet fully developed language like Kaikavian, and it missed words in many domains like medicine, business, sciences, philosophy and arts because of no existing tradition in these domains. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vienna_Literary_Agreement
7) Kaikavian Ikaivan dialect has reflex of “jat” in “i” and is spoken around Žumberak and Sutla in Zagorje. It is an authentic Kajkavian dialect and it was Kaikavian before these Kaikavan Ikavians settled down in the area they inhabit today. If they were not Kaikavian speakers, in their speech we would find at least traces of Štokavian or Čakavian accents. But there are no such traces, as already Ivšič showed, they have only Kaikavian accents! (except of course the newer Štokavian accents which are results of Stokavization in the last 100 years).
Sources: http://hr.metapedia.org/wiki/Kajkavska_ikavica Jozić, Virč, 2009Kajkavski ikavski govor Hrebine i kajkavski ekavski govor Kupljenova – Fonološke usporednice, Filologija, No. 53. (link & summary in English, full article in Croatian)