South Slavic languages

The South Slavic languages are one of the primary divisions of the Slavic languages. Spoken across the Balkan Peninsula, they historically constituted a dialect continuum and to this day, neighbouring languages are often very, very similar. Running from west to east, the South Slavic languages are:

  • Slovenian (or Slovene), with 2.5 million speakers
  • Serbo-Croatian, with 21 million speakers
    • the Shtokavian dialect is by far the most-spoken, and is the dialect codified into various national standards (Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin)
    • the Kajkavian dialect is spoken by some in north-central Croatia, and is arguably a transitional variety between Slovenian and the other Serbo-Croatian dialects
    • the Chakavian dialect is spoken by about 80,000 people along Croatia’s coastline.
  • Torlakian, a transitional dialect between Shtokavian and Bulgarian, with ~1.5 million speakers
  • Bulgarian, with 8 million speakers
  • Macedonian, with ~2 million speakers

Particularly the eastern South Slavic languages – Bulgarian, Macedonian and Torlakian – are part of, and heavily influenced by, the Balkan sprachbund. Serbo-Croatian is also part of the sprachbund, but shares fewer features with the other sprachbund members.