Faced with the negative social, cultural and economic consequences of political manipulations of language in the current language policies in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, we the undersigned issue the following
DECLARATION ON THE COMMON LANGUAGE
The answer to the question whether a common language is used in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia is affirmative.
This is a common standard language of the polycentric type – one spoken by several nations in several states, with recognisable variants, such as German, English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and many others. This fact is corroborated by Štokavian as the common dialectal basis of the standard language, the ratio of same versus different in the language, and the consequent mutual comprehensibility.
The use of four names for the standard variants – Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian – does not imply that these are four different languages.
Insisting on the small number of existing differences and on the forceful separation of the four standard variants causes numerous negative social, cultural and political phenomena. These include using language as an argument justifying the segregation of schoolchildren in some multiethnic environments, unnecessary „translation“ in administration or the media, inventing differences where they do not exist, bureaucratic coercion, as well as censorship (and necessarily also self-censorship), where linguistic expression is imposed as a criterion of ethnonational affiliation and a means of affirming political loyalty.
We, the undersigned, hold that
- the fact that a common polycentric language exists does not question the individual right to express belonging to different nations, regions or states;
- each state, nation, ethnonational or regional community may freely and independently codify its own variant of the common language;
- all four currently existing standard variants enjoy equal status, insofar as none of them can be considered a langage, the rest being variants of that language;
- polycentric standardisation is the democratic form of standardisation that is closest to actual language use;
- the fact that what is involved is a common polycentric standard language enables its users to name it as they wish;
- the standard variants of the polycentric language exhibit differences in linguistic and cultural traditions and practices, in the use of alphabets, in lexical stock, and on other linguistic levels; this may be demonstrated, inter alia, by the different standard variants of the common language in which this Declaration will be published and put to use;
- the standard, dialectal and individual differences do not justify forced institutional separation; on the contrary, they contribute to the great richness of the common language.
Therefore we, the undersigned, call for
- abolishing all forms of linguistic segregation and discrimination in educational and public institutions;
- discontinuing the repressive and needless practices of language separation that are harmful to the speakers;
- terminating the rigid definition of the standard variants;
- avoiding the superfluous, senseless and costly „translations“ in legal proceedings, administration and public information media;
- the freedom of individual choice and respect for linguistic diversity;
- linguistic freedom in literature, the arts and the media;
- the freedom of dialectal and regional use;
- and finally, the freedom of „mixing“, mutual openness and interpenetration of different forms and expressions of the common language, to the benefit of all its speakers.