It is based on the Shtokavian dialect, allows both Western and Eastern spoken variants, and uses both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabet. Differences from other versions include phonetic transcription of foreign names.
Serb literature emerged in middle ages, and included such works as Miroslavljevo jevandjelje (Gospel of Miroslav) in 1192 and Dušanov zakonik (Dušan's code). Little of secular medieval literature is preserved to date but what is shows that it was in accord with its time, for example,Serbian Alexandride, a book about Alexander the Great and a translation of Tristan and Isolde to Serbian.
At the end of 14th century, Serbia was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and for the next 400 years there was no possibility for creation of secular written literature. However, some of greatest literary works in Serbian come from this time in form of oral literature, its most notable form being Serbian epic poetry; it is known that Goethe was learning Serbian language because he wanted to read Serbian epic poetry in original. Written literature was produced only for religious uses in churches and monasteries, which held to Old Church Slavonic and, by the end of 18th century, the written literature became estranged from the spoken language. In early 19th century Vuk Stefanović Karadžić reformed the cyrillic alphabet by introducing the phonetic principle, as well as promoted the spoken language of the people into literary norm.