(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia)
Sava Mrkalj (pronounced [sǎːʋa mr̩̂kaːʎ]) (1783–1833) was a Serbian linguist, grammarian, philologist, and poet known for his attempt to reform the Serbian language before Vuk Karadžić.
It was in 1805 in Pest that he began to devote himself to philological researches, inspired by the works of German philologist Johann Christoph Adelung and others who were working on language reforms. Mrkalj spoke fluent German, French, Greek and Hebrew. He is best known for attempting to reform the Serbian language before Vuk Stefanović Karadžić. In a publication titled Сало дебелога јера либо азбукопротрес / Fat of the Thick Yer, i.e. Alphabet Reshuffling (Buda, 1810), he proposed a simplification of the Serbian alphabet from forty-two to twenty-six letters. His contemporaries were poets and writers Lukijan Mušicki, Ivan Jugović, Sima Milutinović Sarajlija, Jeremija Gagić, Stevan Živković (Telemak), Pavle Solarić, and philologists Luka Milovanov Georgijević (1784–1828), Jernej Kopitar, Piotr Dubrovsky, and Johann Christoph Adelung. Mrkalj gave his support to Vuk and Kopitar during the Serbian Language Controversy, but retracted everything he wrote when he was threatened with defrocking.
His suggestion was considered radical and indeed blasphemous (since the original Cyrillic in use by the Serbian Orthodox Church at the time had allegedly been created by Cyril and Methodius), so Mrkalj received so much offensive criticism from the church hierarchy that he decided to be tonsured as a monk to prove his orthodoxy in 1811, but was so disappointed with the monastic life that he left the order in 1813. In 1817 he retracted his alphabet reform proposal in a publication titled: A Palinode (or Defense of the Thick Yer).
Later in life, Mrkalj became despondent and was hospitalised in Vienna mental hospital in 1827. Vuk Stefanović Karadžić came to visit him often. Mrkalj died in 1833.
By far the most significant evidence of Mrkalj's suggested reform appeared in 1810 in a slim volume anticipating Vuk Karadžić's orthographic reform by urging the adoption of a phonemic alphabet in Cyrillicand by prompting the use of the jekavian norm. His pamphlet had been severely criticized by the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church because Mrkalj proposed to simplify the traditional Slavonicalphabet for secular use by eliminating letters that took up too much space, were duplicates and superfluous, or simply stood for sounds not in the Serbian language. The clergy charged that dropping such letters would cause the modern orthography to come into "collision" with the Slavonic. Other linguists and philologists, like Vuk Karadžić and Jernej Kopitar, immediately came to his support, citing Russian spellings that correspond to Russian speech and not Slavonic. Mrkalj suggested, as Dositej Obradović had done in the eighteenth century, that Serbs keep the orthography of the church language separate from the living language they would use in their new, contemporary literature.
Of all the orthgraphical reforms proposed by such well-known Serbian writers as Dositej Obradović, Sava Tekelija, Lukijan Mušicki, Atanasije Stojković, Pavle Solarić, Vuk Karadžić favoured Sava Mrkalj's system the best. The principle underlying Mrkalj's system was one sound—one letter, which meant that every sound should be represented by one letter, and that each distinctive sound of the spoken language should have a letter corresponding to it alone.