(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia)
Sava Mrkalj (1783–1833) was a Serbian linguist, grammarian, philologist, and poet known for his attempt to reform the Serbian language before Vuk Karadžić.
Mrkalj was born in the hamlet of Sjeničak in Kordun, at the time Military Frontier, Austrian Empire, now present-day Croatia. He attended high school in Zagreb, and graduated from Pest University with the degree of Humanitatis et Philosophiæ Doctor.
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 been created by Cyril and Methodius who had been made saints), 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.
Vuk Karadžić; Starac (Old Man); and a sonnet to Jeleni Dijaković na novu godinu (1828). He also translated some works of Horace. In all fairness, no man after Dositej Obradović and before Vuk Karadžić did so much for the Serbian language under trying times and circumstances.