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Distribution of the Čakavian dialect.
Chakavian dialect (Čakavian; Croatian: čakavski, proper name: čakavica or čakavština) is a dialect of the Croatian language. The name of the dialect stems from the interrogatory pronoun for "what", which is "ča" (or "ca") in Čakavian. Čakavian is nowadays spoken mainly at northeastern Adriaticmarker: in Istriamarker, Kvarnermarker Gulf, in most Adriatic islands, and in the interior valley Gacka, more sporadically in the Dalmatian littoral and central Croatiamarker.

Today, it is spoken entirely within Croatia's borders, as well as by the Croats in Northern Burgenlandmarker (in Austria and in Hungary) is also mostly Čakavian, with few small islets of Čakavian dialect speakers in Hungary (most eastern Čakavians are there).

The most archaic Čakavian archidiom Gan-Veyãn is still partially spoken at Baškamarker in the island of Krkmarker.


Čakavian is the oldest written Croatian dialect that had made visible appearance in legal documents - as early as 1275 ("Istrian land survey") and 1288 ("Vinodol codex"), the predominantly vernacular Čakavian is recorded, mixed with elements of Church Slavic. Archaic Čakavian can be traced back to 1105 in Baška tablet. All these and other early Čakavian texts up to 17th century are mostly written in Glagolitic alphabet.

Initially, the Čakavian dialect covered a much wider area than today including about 2/3 of medieval Croatiamarker: the major part of central and southern Croatia southwards of Kupa and westwards of Una river, as well as western and southwestern Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker. During and after the Ottoman intrusion and subsequent warfare (15th-18th centuries), the Čakavian area has become greatly reduced and in Croatian mainlands it is recently almost replaced by Štokavian; so it is now spoken in a much smaller coastal area, than indicated above.

As expectable, in more than nine centuries Čakavian has undergone many phonetic, morphological and syntactical changes chiefly in turbulent mainlands, and less in isolated islands. Yet, contemporary dialectologists are particularly interested in it since it has retained the old accentuation system characterized by a Proto-Slavic new rising accent and the old position of stress, and also numerous Proto-Slavic and some Proto-Indo-European archaisms in its vocabulary.

Area of use

Čakavian in its actual use is the rarest Croatian dialect being spoken only by 12% Croats. It is now mostly reduced in southwestern Croatia along eastern Adriatic: Adriatic islands, and sporadically in mainland coast, with rare inland enclaves up to central Croatia, and minor enclaves in Austria and Montenegro.
  • The majority of Adriatic islands are Čakavian, except the easternmost ones (Mljetmarker and Elafitimarker); and easternmost areas of Hvar and Brač, as well as area around city of Korčulamarker on the island of Korčulamarker.
  • Its largest mainland area is the subentire Istriamarker peninsula, and coastal valley Vinodolmarker; minor coastal enclaves occur sporadically in Dalmatian mainland around Zadarmarker, Biogradmarker, Splitmarker, and in Pelješacmarker peninsula.
  • Within Croatian inlands, its major area is Gacka valley, and minor enclaves occur in Pokupje valley and Žumberak hills, northwards around Karlovacmarker.
  • Čakavians out of Croatia: minor enclave of Bigova (Trašte) at Boka Kotorskamarker in Montenegro, refugees before Turks in Burgenlandmarker (eastern Austria) and SW Slovakia, and recent emigrants in North America (chiefly at New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Vancouver).


The basic phonology of Chakavian, with representation in Gaj's Latin alphabet and IPA, is as follows:

Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar


p   b
t   d
k   g
s   z
š   ž




The Čakavian dialect is divided along several criteria. According to the reflex of the Common Slavic phoneme yat */ě/, it is categorized as:

  1. Ekavian (northeastern Istria, Rijeka and Bakar, Cres island): */ě/ > /e/
  2. Ikavian-Ekavian (islands Lošinj, Krk, Rab, Pag, Dugi, mainland Vinodol and Pokupje): */ě/ > /i/ or /e/, according to Jakubinskij's law
  3. Ikavian (southwestern Istria, islands Brač, Hvar, Vis, Korčula, Pelješac, Dalmatian coast at Zadar and Split, inland Gacka): */ě/ > /i/
  4. Ijekavian (Lastovo island, Janjina in Pelješac): */ě/ > /je/ or /ije/

Obsolete literature commony refers to Ikavian-Ekavian dialects as "mixed", which is a misleading term because yat reflex was governed in them by proven Meyer-Jakubinskij's law.

According to their prosodical (accentual) features, Čakavian dialects are divided into following groups:

  1. dialects with "classical" Čakavian three-accent system
  2. dialects with two accents
  3. dialects with four accents similar to that of Štokavian speeches
  4. dialects with four-accent Štokavian system
  5. dialects mixing traits of the first and the second group

Using a combination of accentual and phonological criteria, Croatian dialectologist Dalibor Brozović divided Čakavian dialect system into 6 (sub)dialects:

Name Reflex of Common Slavic yat Distribution
Buzet dialect Ekavian (closed e) Northern Istria
Southwest Istrian dialect Ikavian Western Istria
Northern Čakavian Ekavian Northeast Istria, Istra, Kastav, Rijeka, Cres
Middle Čakavian Ikavian-Ekavian Dugi otokmarker, Kornatimarker, Lošinjmarker, Krkmarker, Rabmarker, Pag, Vinodolmarker, Ogulinmarker, Brinje, Otočacmarker, Duga Resamarker
Southern Čakavian Ikavian Korčulamarker, Pelješacmarker, Bračmarker, Hvarmarker, Vis, Šoltamarker, outskirts of Splitmarker and Zadarmarker
Southeastern Čakavian jekavski Lastovomarker, Janjina on Pelješac, Bigova on the south of Montenegro

There is no unanimous opinion on the set of traits a dialect has to possess, to be classified as Čakavian (rather than its admixture with Štokavian or Kajkavian); the following traits were mostly proposed:

  • interrogatory pronoun is "ča" or "zač" (in some islands also "ca" oz "zace");
  • old accentuation and 3 accents (mostly in ultima or penultima);
  • phonological features that yield /a/ for Old Slavic phonemes in characteristic positions: "language" is jazik (or zajik) in Čakavian and jezik in Štokavian;
  • "j" replacing the Štokavian "đ" (dj): for "between", Čakavian meju, Štokavian među;
  • "m" shifts to "n" at the end of words: standard Croatian volim ("I love"), sam ("I am"), selom ("village" - Instrumental case) become Čakavian volin, san, selon.
  • in conditional occur specific prefixes: bin-, biš-, bimo-, bite-, bis
  • contracted or lacking aorist tense;
  • some subdialects on island of Pag have kept the archaic form of imperfect

Non-palatal tsakavism

Besides the usual Čakavian (with typical pronoun "ča"), in some Adriatic islands and in eastern Istra is spoken also another special variant lacking most palatals, with other parallel deviations called "tsakavism" (cakavizam):
  • Instead of palatal "č" is always sibilant "ts" (c): pronouns ca and zac (or ce and zace).
  • Instead of palatals š (sh) and ž (zh) are sibilants s and z (or transitive sj and zj).
  • Instead of đ (dj), lj and nj are the simple d, l and n (without jotation).
  • Frequent diphthongs instead of simple vowels: o > uo, a > oa, e > ie, etc.
  • Yat (jat): besides usual short i (or e) also is presented longer y (= ue).
  • Appertaing is often noted by possessive dative (rarely adjective nor genitive)
  • Vocative is mostly lacking and replaced ny a nominative in appellating construction.
  • Auxiliary particles are always before the main verb: se- (self), bi- (if), će- (be).

The largest area of tsakavism is in eastern Istra at Labin, Rabac and nearby dozen villages; minor mainland enclaves are towns Bakar and Trogir. Tsakavism is also frequent in Adriatic islands: part of Lošinj and nearby islets, Baška in Krk, Pag town, west parts of Brač (Milnamarker), Hvar town, and subentire Vis with adjacent islets, etc.

Čakavian literary language

Since Čakavian was the first Croatian dialect to emerge from the Church Slavic matrix, both literacy and literature in this dialect abound with numerous texts - from legal and liturgical to literary: lyric and epic poetry, drama, novel in verses, as well as philological works that contain Čakavian word-stock. Čakavian was the main public and official language in medieval Croatia from 13th to 16th century.

Monuments of literacy began to appear in the 11th and 12th centuries, and artistic literature in the 15th. While there were two zones of Čakavian, northern and southern (both mainly along the Adriatic coast and islands, with centres like Senj, Zadar, Split, Hvar, Korčula), there is enough unity in the idiom to allow us to speak of one Čakavian literary language with minor regional variants. This language by far surpassed the position of a simple vernacular dialect and strongly influenced other Croatian literary dialects, particularly Štokavian: the first Štokavian texts like the Vatican Croatian Prayer Book, dated to 1400, are transcriptions from a Čakavian original. The early Štokavian literary and philological output, mainly from Dubrovnikmarker (1500-1600) up to Džore Držić, was essentially a mixed idiom Štokavian-Čakavian, mostly similar as now Yekavian-Čakavian of Lastovo and Janjina.

The most famous early Čakavian author is Marko Marulić in 15th/16th century. Also, the first Croatian dictionary, authored by Faust Vrančić, is mostly Čakavian in its form. The tradition of Čakavian literary language had declined in the 18th century, but it has helped shape standard Croatian language in many ways (chiefly in morphology and phonetics), and Čakavian dialectal poetry is still a vital part of Croatian literature.

The most prominent representatives of Čakavian poetry in the 20th century are Vladimir Nazor and Drago Gervais. At the end of the 1980ies in Istria there began a special sub-genre of pop-rock music "Ča-val" (Cha wave); artists that were part of this scene used the Čakavian dialect in their lyrics, and often fused rock music with traditional Istra-Kvarnermarker music.

Recent studies

Due to its archaic nature, early medieval development, and impressive corpus of vernacular literacy, the typical Čakavian dialect has attracted numerous dialectologists who have meticulously documented its nuances, so that Čakavian was among the best described Slavic dialects, but its atypical tsakavism was partly neglected and less studied. The representative modern work in the field is Čakavisch-deutsches Lexikon, vol. 1.-3, Koeln-Vienna, 1979-1983, by Croatian linguists Hraste and Šimunović and German Olesch.

Croatian Academy of Sciences and Artsmarker is currently engaged to edit a multivoluminous dictionary of the Čakavian literary language, based on the wealth of literature written in Čakavian. So far one published more than forty dictionaries of local Čakavian tongues, the largest among them including more than 20,000 words are from Split town, Gacka valley, islands Brač and Vis, Baška in Krk, Beli in Cres, etc.

Other recent titles include Janne Kalsbeek's work on The Cakavian Dialect of Orbanici near Zminj in Istria, as well as Keith Langston's Cakavian Prosody: The Accentual Patterns of the Cakavian Dialects of Croatian.

Čakavian media

During Yugoslavia in 20th century, the archaic Čakavian was mostly restricted in private communication, poetry and folklore. By the recent regional democratizing and cultural revival from 1990ies, Čakavians partly regained their former half-public positions chiefly in Istra peninsula and coastal towns, being now presented there in some modern public media e.g.:
  • New special project Čakavian Wiki -encyclopaedia or WikiCha on internet (Čakavian Wikislavia), started from autumn 2007 in site:, and some double pages also in
  • Biannual periodical "Čakavska rič" (Čakavian word), with 34 annual volumes, published from 1967 by the Literal Association ('Književni krug') in Split city.
  • Annual periodical Pannonische Jahrbuch with dozen volumes partly in Čakavian of Burgenland Croats, published from 1994 by Pannonisches Institut in Gutterbach (Burgenland, Austria).
  • Annual periodical 'Vinodolski zbornik' with dozen volumes published in Crikvenica, including different texts in the local Čakavian of Vinodol valley.
  • A major perpetual program in the Čakavian of Dalmatia is given by the Urban television in Split city. Other minor half-Čakavian media with temporary Čakavian contents include also the local radio programs in towns Split and Rijeka, and Krk island radio, etc.


  • Ča je, je, tako je vavik bilo, ča će bit, će bit, ma nekako će već bit! (mainland half-Čakavian)

  • Čakavian 'Paternoster' of Adriatic islanders (bold = Čakavian stress): Elatjaće ky vaneh nebah, senay elamy urudba tvoja, nay ariva una carmada tvoja tar naybi utemba tvoja koti va nebah osce vaneh tlah. Sey noas pohlib seydni naydas nami danaske tarnay laškas nami une darzi nase koti mye laškamo darznikon nasin, osce nayne pejas noas vane uocani, lehnay bukšas noas ud seyh hudobih. Vasye vykoj vykov, Amen.




  • J. Božanić: Čakavska rič, vol. 1.- 32., Književni krug Split.
  • J. Hamm, M. Hraste, P. Guberina: Govor otoka Suska. Hrvatski dijalektološki zbornik 1, Zagreb 1956.
  • M. Hraste, P. Šimunović, R. Olesch: Čakavisch-deutsches Lexikon, Band I-III, Köln-Wien, 1979 - 1983.
  • J. Kalsbeek: The Cakavian Dialect of Orbanici near Zminj in Istria. Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998. 608 pp
  • M. Kranjčević: Ričnik gacke čakavšćine. Čakavski sabor, Otočac 2003.
  • K. Langston: Cakavian Prosody: The Accentual Patterns of the Cakavian Dialects of Croatian. Bloomington: Slavica 2006. 314pp
  • I. Lukežić: Trsatsko-bakarska i crikvenička čakavština. Izdavački centar Rijeka, Rijeka 1996.
  • B. Matoković-Dobrila: Ričnik velovaroškega Splita, Denona, Zagreb 2004.
  • A. Roki-Fortunato: Libar Viškiga jazika. Libar Publishing, Toronto 1997.
  • P. Šimunović: Rječnik bračkih čakavskih govora, Brevijar, Supetar 2006.
  • Z. Turina, A. Šepić-Tomin: Rječnik čakavskih izraza - područje Bakarca i Škrljeva, Riječko književno i naučno društvo, Rijeka 1977.
  • N. Velčić: Besedar Bejske Tramuntane. Čakavski sabor i Adamić d.o.o, Cres-Lošinj 2003.
  • M. Yoshamya: Glossaries of east Kvarner (Baška, Rab, Vinodol) - dictionary, grammar and culture, vol. 1: 1224 p., ITG - Zagreb 2005

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