Pre- and post-conflict language designations and language policies: Re-configuration of professional norms amongst translators of the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian languages

Jim Hlavac


This paper examines the reported actions and strategies of translators working in three closely related languages, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, which have recently undergone re-codification in countries that have greatly changed their language planning and language policy regulations. The legacy of former and unofficial designations such as ‘Serbo-Croatian’ or ‘Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian’ within the post-conflict situation is contextualised and translators’ decisionmaking processes and reported strategies in relation to language form and designation are examined. The paper seeks to demonstrate the explanatory power of Toury’s notion of norms as a framework to account for new regularities of practice. Texts identified to be different from their nominal code, or market requests to work from or into unofficial designations are now problematised and re-negotiated as secondary practices or a less commonly reported behaviour. The paper extends and applies the notion of norms to the social and occupational, macro-pragmatic role that translators occupy.

Table of contents

This paper examines pre- and post-1991 language designations and language policies in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (hereafter: SFRY) and the successor states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia respectively, and the re-negotiation of professional norms amongst translators of Bosnian, Croatian [ p. 239 ]and Serbian. The notion of norms (Toury 1978) is applied here to account for regularities of translation behaviour within a specific socio-cultural situation. Brief descriptions of the languages, their codification and the role of translation and translators in this are provided. Generalisations about language policy and translation practice up to 1991 are made which lead to a discussion on the role of conflict, declared (and perceived) nationality, linguistic separation and the ‘space’ that translators, working in re-codified languages, now occupy.

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