Gaj's Latin Alphabet

Gaj's Latin Alphabet

Gaj's Latin alphabet is a variant of the Latin alphabet devised by Ljudevit Gaj, in his 1830 book, "Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskog pravopisanja" ("A short primer of Croatian-Slavic orthography"). It is the only script of the Croatian and Bosnian standard languages in current use, and one of the two scripts of the Serbian standard language. The script was also one of two official scripts used for the Serbo-Croatian language prior to the demise of Yugoslavia. A slightly modified version is also used as the script for the Slovenian language.

It consists of thirty upper and lowercase letters:

The original Gaj's alphabet contained a digraph <Dj>, which was later replaced by the letter <Đ>.


Note that <>, , and are considered to be single lettersndash they are digraphs. This means that:
* In dictionaries, "njegov" comes after "novine", in a separate "NJ" section after the end of the "N" section, and "bolje" comes after "bolnica", and so forth.
* In vertical writing (such as on signs), , , are nevertheless written horizontally, as a unit. For instance, if "mjenjačnica" ('Bureau de Change') is written vertically, appears on the fourth line (but note and appear separately on the first and second lines, respectively, because contains two letters, not one). In crossword puzzles, , , each occupy a single square.=

* In cases where words are written with a space between each letter (such as on signs), each of these letters is written together. For instance: "M J E NJ A Č N I C A".

* In cases where only the initial letter of a word is capitalized, only the first of the two component letters is capitalized: "Njemačka" and not "NJemačka". In Unicode, the form "Nj" is referred to as "titlecase", as opposed to the uppercase form "NJ", representing one of the few cases where titlecase and uppercase differ. Uppercase would be used if the entire word was capitalized: "NJEMAČKA".


The Croatian Latin was mostly designed by Ljudevit Gaj, who modelled it after Czech, Slovak and Polish, and invented Lj/lj, Nj/nj and Dž/dž. In 1830 in Buda he printed the book "Kratka osnova horvatsko-slavenskog pravopisanja" ("Brief basics of the Croatian-Slavonic orthography"), which was the first common Croatian orthography book. It was not the first ever Croatian orthography work, as it was preceded by works of Rajmund Đamanjić (1639), Ignjat Đurđević and Pavao Ritter Vitezović. The Croats had previously used the Latin alphabet, but some of the specific sounds were not uniformly represented.

Gaj followed the example of Pavao Ritter Vitezović and the Czech orthography, making one letter of the Latin script for each sound in the language. His alphabet mapped completely on Serbian Cyrillic which was standardized by Vuk Karadžić a few years before. Đuro Daničić added the letter <Đ/đ>.


In the 1990s, there was a general confusion about the proper character encoding to use to write text in Latin Croatian on computers.

* An attempt was made to apply the 7-bit "YUSCII" (later adapted to CROSCII, sometimes jokingly called "žabeceda" ("žaba"=frog, "abeceda"=alphabet, because ASCII @, sorting before A, encodes Ž)), which included the five letters with diacritics at the expense of five non-letter characters ( [, ] , {, }, @), but it was ultimately unsuccessful. Other short-lived vendor-specific efforts were also undertaken.
* The 8-bit ISO 8859-2 (Latin-2) standard was developed by ISO, but
* MS-DOS introduced 8-bit encoding CP852 for Central European languages, and
* Microsoft Windows spread yet another 8-bit encoding called CP1250, which had a few letters mapped one-to-one with ISO 8859-2, but also had some mapped elsewhere.
* Apple uses yet another ancoding.
* EBCDIC also has Latin-2 encoding, [ Code Page 01153] .

The preferred character encoding for Croatian today is either the ISO 8859-2, or the Unicode encoding UTF-8 (with two bytes or 16 bits necessary to use the letters with diacritics). However, one can still find programs and, more importantly, databases that use CP1250, CP852 or even CROSCII, the former still sometimes being considered de-facto standard.

The Gaj alphabet for Slovene language

Since the early 1840s, Gaj's alphabet was increasingly used for the Slovene language. In the beginning, Slovene authors who treated Slovene as a variant of Serbo-Croatian (such as Stanko Vraz) most commonly used it, but it was later accepted by a large spectrum of Slovene-writing authors. The breakthrough came when the Slovene conservative leader Janez Bleiweis started using Gaj's script in his journal "Kmetijske in rokodelske novice" ("Peasant's and Artisan's News"), which was read by a wide public in the countriside. By 1850, Gaj's alphabet (known as "gajica" in Slovene) became the only official Slovene alphabet, replacing three other writing systems which circulated in the Slovenian Lands since the 1830s: the traditional one, called "bohoričica" (after its inventor, Adam Bohorič), and the two innovative proposals by the Peter Dajnko (the "dajnčica") and Franc Serafin Metelko (the "metelčica").

The Slovene version of Gaj's alphabet differs from the Croatian one in the following traits:
* the Slovene alphabet doesn't have the characters <Ć> and <Đ>; the sounds these letters represent are not present in the Slovene language;
* the voiced postalveolar fricative (represented as ) is not present in the Slovene language either, however it is used for some borrowed words, e.g.: "džungla" ('jungle') or "Madžarska" ('Hungary');
* in the Slovenian variant, the digraphs , and are treated as two separate letters and represent separate sounds (e.g. the word polje is pronounced IPA|/polje/ in Slovenian, as opposed to IPA|/poʎe/ in Croatian). The Slovene keyboard is the same as the Croatian keyboard, with the <Ć> and <Đ> present, even though they are not used in Slovene.

Differences with the Czech, Slovak and Polish versions

* Lacks the accented letters (á, é, í, ĺ, ó, ŕ, ú, ý), palatised consonants (ď, ľ, ň, ř, ť) and other special characters (ě, ô, ů, etc..) found in Czech and Slovak.
* The Polish ą, ę, ń, ó, ś, ł, ź, ż are not used.
* the Letters Q, W and Y and diagraph CH are used only in foreign words.
*The digraph Lj translates Slovak ľ. Nj is the equivalent of Polish ń and Czech and Slovak ň. The unique đ matches the Polish dź, while dž matches dż.

See also

* Slovene alphabet

External Links

* [ Omniglot]

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