Monday, September 01, 2003

Terminator 3: Serbo-Croatian Linguistic Chaos

I've just watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and made an interesting observation.

If you watch Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in Croatian cinemas, you would notice that the title is translated as Terminator 3: Pobuna strojeva. This is proper Croatian translation, using the same standard when the official language of Croatia used to be called "Western variant of Croatian or Serbian language" (until 1990s, for those not familiar with linguistic aspects of Croatian history).

If you watch official posters in Croatia, you'll notice different translation: Terminator 3: Ustanak mašina. This is translation you could expect in Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro.

It is obvious that the posters were made for the whole Serbo-Croatian language market, instead for Croatia only. And it isn't the first time that word "mašina" is used on Croatian posters.

2002 version of The Time Machine was also translated as Vremenska mašina in Croatian cinemas. In old times the proper translation would have been Vremenski stroj or Vremeplov (the word that could have been used both in Croatia and Serbia, without offending sentiments of linguistic purists).

I guess we are seeing market forces at work. In the early days after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, Serbia/Montenegro was under UN sanctions, and Bosnia was at war. That left only Croatia with more-or-less unaffected cinema and video distribution and Serbo-Croatian market. So, distribution rights for foreign films were sold to Croatia and Bosnia, but only Croatian firms had those rights, and, being under watchful eyes of Tudjman's regime, they had to use Tudjmanist Newspeak as the only proper form of Croatian language – purged of all words that might sound Serb or international ("mašina" for machine, "artiljerija" for "artillery").

These days, however, there aren't UN sanctions against Serbia, and pre-war distribution networks are more-or-less restored. Since Serbia happens to be the largest market, it is Serbian language that dominates, and distributors in Bosnia and Montenegro are pushing, just like in old Yugoslav days, for "neutral" variant of Serbo-Croatian language in order to cut costs.


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