Ljudevit Gaj bigraphy, stories - Linguists

Ljudevit Gaj : biography

8 August 1809 - 20 April 1872

Ljudevit Gaj ( 8 August 1809 – 20 April 1872), was a Croatian linguist, politician, journalist and writer. He was one of the central figures of the pan-Slavist Illyrian Movement.


He married 26-year-old Paulina Krizmanić, niece of an abbott, in 1842 at Marija Bistrica. They had five children: daughter Ljuboslava, and sons Velimir, Svetoslav, Milivoje, and Bogdan.

Linguistic legacy

The Latin alphabet used in the Croatian language is credited to Gaj's Kratka osnova Hrvatskog pravopisa. The Latin alphabet (gajica) is also used for Serbian when written in Latin, the Cyrillic counterpart is called vukovica, after contemporary linguist Vuk Karadžić. The Slovenian alphabet, introduced in the mid-1840s, is also a variation of Gaj's Latin alphabet (the only difference is the lack of the letters ć and đ).



Ljudevit Gaj or Ludwig Gay was born in Krapina (then in the Varaždin County, Kingdom of Croatia, (Austria-Hungary)), on August 8, 1809. His father Johann Gay was a German immigrant from Hungarian Slovakia, and his mother was Juliana née Schmidt, the daughter of a German immigrant arriving in the 1770s.Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945), Vol. 2, by Balázs Trencsényi and Michal Kopeček

Orthography and Other Work

Gaj started publishing very early; his 36-page booklet on stately manors in his native district, written in his native German, appeared already in 1826 as Die Schlösser bei Krapina.

In Buda in 1830 Gaj's Latin alphabet was published ("Brief Basics of the Croatian-Slavonic Orthography"), which was the first common Croatian orthography book (after the works of Ignjat Đurđević and Pavao Ritter Vitezović). The book was printed bilingually, in Croatian and German. The Croatians used the Latin alphabet, but some of the specific sounds were not uniformly represented. Gaj followed the example of Pavao Ritter Vitezović and the Czech orthography, using one letter of the Latin script for each sound in the language. He used diacritics and the digraphs lj and nj.

The book helped Gaj achieve nationwide fame. In 1834 he succeeded where fifteen years before Đuro Matija Šporer had failed, i.e. obtaining an agreement from the royal government of the Habsburg Monarchy to publish a Croatian daily newspaper. He was known as an intellectual leader thereafter. On 6 January 1835, Novine Horvatske ("The Croatian News") appeared, and on 10 January it got the literary addition Danicza horvatzka, slavonzka y dalmatinzka ("The Croatian, Slavonian, and Dalmatian Daystar"). It was a big progress in realising the idea of marking the Croatian literature as unique. The "Novine Horvatske" were printed in Kajkavian dialect until the end of that year, while "Danica" was printed in Shtokavian dialect along with Kajkavian.

In early 1836 the publications' names were changed to Ilirske narodne novine ("The Illyrian People's News") and Danica ilirska ("The Illyrian Morning Star") respectively. This was because historians at the time hypothesised Illyrians had been Slavic and were the direct forefathers of the present-day South Slavs.

Aside from all this Gaj was a writer also. The most popular poem of that time was "Još Horvatska ni propala" ("Croatia is not in ruin yet"), written in 1833.

Gaj, an ethnic German by decsent, never considered himself specifically a Croat, but rather Illyrian (a contemporary term for South Slavs in general).


Gaj died in Zagreb Kingdom Croatia, (Austria-Hungary) in 1872 at the age of 62.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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