The Slovenia Times

On Reformation Day, Slovenia remembers literary language pioneers


Ljubljana - Slovenia is celebrating Reformation Day on 31 October, a public holiday remembering the religious, political and cultural movement in the 16th century. At the same time, Slovenians mark the birth of their literary language, remembering pioneer reformer Primož Trubar and Adam Bohorič, the author of the first Slovenian grammar.

Five hundred years have passed since the birth of Bohorič, who originates from Brestanica, and who worked as teacher in Krško and Ljubljana after finishing his education in Vienna and Wittenberg.

In Wittenberg, the Slovenian Protestant preacher and teacher was educated by the German Lutheran reformer Philip Melanchthon, who was also a theologian, philosopher and linguist.

Later on, Bohorič ran a private Latin school in Krško, with Jurij Dalmatin, the first translator of the Bible into Slovenian, being one of his students, and also headed a Protestant school in Ljubljana.

Bogdan Dolenc, a professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology, told the STA that the career paths of Bohorič and Trubar (1508-1586), the author of the first Slovenian language printed book, were very different.

Bohorič was not a priest, but a very educated teacher, but him and Trubar are close when it comes to care for education, both in terms of the broadest possible basic education and training of future preachers.

Both thought that only a carefully planned education will solidify the new faith among Slovenians, Dolenc said, adding that Trubar's care for general education is shown in the fact that all of his books in Slovenian are intended for "all Slovenians".

To his Catechismus, the first book published in Slovenian, Trubar added Abecedarium, a booklet for helping people learn the alphabet, to satisfy the need for reading, and later on he also discussed the need for writing.

This is how the idea of a Slovenian primary school was born, and later clearly defined in the book Church Order (1564). The idea was realised after 1561, when Trubar returned to Ljubljana, in the form of a Protestant school.

It is Bohorič who should be given the most credit for the development of the school, which pursued the demanding task of raising enough students to "expand the gospel in the new spirit".

Dolenc added that Trubar dedicated the bulk of his work to being in touch with believers, without looking for a selected audience, which he would be able to serve only with complex discussions in German and Latin, and not in Slovenian.

Him deciding to write in Slovenian was a consequence of the wish to tell the main theological truths to his compatriots in their own language and in an understandable manner.

According to Dolenc, the most important work by Bohorič, meanwhile, is the Slovenian grammar, which was printed in Wittenberg in the same year as Dalmatin's Bible (1584).

What makes the book important is that, even though it is written in Latin, after 30 years, Slovenia got a document proving its existence as a literary language, he adds.

Bohorič actually prepared the book as a kind of a publication accompanying Dalmatin's Bible, according to literary historian Kozma Ahačič, who also noted for the STA that Bohorič also helped and counselled Dalmatin compile and edit the book.

Ahačič, the head of the Slovenian Language Institute at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU), said that Bohorič's grammar book was based on the author's experience with language problems.

He relied on several sources, but mostly on Melanchthon's Latin grammar book, but Ahačič noted that the sources clearly showed that Bohorič's knowledge of grammar and lexicography was exceptional for that time.

The literary historian thinks that Bohorič's grammar book was important primarily as a symbolic act, because it actually did not have many readers and users as it was intended for the elite, which knew Latin.

It was thus intended for a handful of Slovenian intellectuals and foreign linguists, but as a symbol, it remains important to the present day, as it made Slovenian the ninth language in Europe with a modern grammar book, he added.

The Trubar-Bohorič-Dalmatin triangle is interesting as it is practically responsible for the entire development of the Slovenian language in the 16th century, said Ahačič, noting that Trubar had established Slovenian as a literary language.

Bohorič discovered the "wunderkind" Dalmatin, who was being encouraged by Slovenian protestants, headlined by Trubar, to prepare himself to translate the entire Bible into Slovenian already while he was studying.

In doing so, Dalmatin also made a huge shift, as his language is not the same as Trubar's, and represents a step further, as he belongs to the first generation of Slovenians who used the Slovenian literary language since their youth.

Ahačič added that Dalmatin's translation of the Bible had the principal influence in the development of Slovenian in the centuries to come, while Bohorič's grammar book gave the readers the "feeling of safety" in their own language.

The 500th anniversary of Bohorič's birth is being marked this year in Krško with a series of events presenting his role in the Slovenian cultural history, some of which have been hampered by the Covid-19 epidemic.

The main literary project paying tribute to Bohorič as part of the Year of Bohorič was the Reformers in Comic Strip publication, created by Ahačič, stand-up comedian Boštjan Gorenc Pižama and illustrator Jaka Vukotič.


More from Culture