Slovene language

Slovene language

Infobox Language
nativename=slovenski jezik
states=Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and emigrant groups in various countries
region=Central Southern and Southeastern Europe
speakers=2.4 million
fam4=South Slavic
fam5=Western South Slavic
lc1 =
ld1 = Resian dialect
ll1 = Resian dialect
nation=Slovenia, European Union
Regional or local official language in: Austria, Hungary, Italy
agency=Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Slovene-speaking areas

Slovene or Slovenian ("slovenski jezik" or "slovenščina", not to be confused with "slovenčina") is a South Slavic language spoken by approximately 2.4 million speakers worldwide, the majority of whom live in Slovenia. Slovene is one of 23 official and working languages of the European Union.

Standard Slovene is the national language that evolved from the Central Slovene dialects in the 18th century and consolidated itself through the 19th and 20th century. While distinct regional varieties descended from the older rural dialects still exist, the spoken and written language is uniform and standardized. Some dialects differ considerably from the standard language in grammar and vocabulary. Though not facing imminent extinction, such dialects have been in decline during the past century, despite the fact that they are well researched and their use is often encouraged by local authorities.

The distinctive characteristics of Slovene are dual grammatical number and two accentual norms, one characterized by pitch accent. The basic word order of Slovene is Subject Verb Object. Slovene has a T-V distinction: second-person plural forms can be used for individuals as a sign of respect. Also, Slovene and Slovak are the two modern Slavic languages whose names for themselves literally mean "Slavic" ("slověnьskъ" in old Slavonic).


Alongside Croatian and Serbian, Slovene is an Indo-European language belonging to the Western subgroup of the South Slavic branch of the Slavic languages. It transitions to the Kajkavian and Čakavian dialect of Croatian, but is less close to the Štokavian dialect, the basis for the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian standard language.Greenberg, Marc L., "A Short Reference Grammar of Standard Slovene," (2006) University of Kansas.]


Early history

Like all Slavic languages, Slovene traces its roots to the same proto-Slavic group of languages that produced Old Church Slavonic. The earliest known examples of a distinct, written Slovene dialect are from the Freising manuscripts, known in Slovene as "Brižinski spomeniki". The consensus estimate of their age is between 972 and 1093 (most likely in the later years of the range). These religious writings are among the oldest surviving manuscripts in any Slavic language.

Literary Slovene emerged in the 16th century thanks to the works of Reformation activists Primož Trubar, Adam Bohorič and Jurij Dalmatin. During the period when present-day Slovenia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German was the language of the elite, and Slovene was the language of the common people. During this time, German had a strong impact on Slovene, and many Germanisms are preserved in contemporary colloquial Slovene. Many Slovene scientists before the 1920s also wrote in foreign languages, mostly German, the "lingua franca" of science at the time.

The cultural movements of Illyrism and Pan-Slavism brought words from Serbo-Croatian and Czech into the language. For example, Josip Jurčič, who wrote the first novel in Slovene, published in 1866, used Serbo-Croatian words in his writing.

Recent history

During World War II, when Slovenia was divided between the Axis Powers of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Hungary, the occupying powers suppressed the Slovene language. The Germans were particularly emphatic, issuing propaganda suggesting that German-speaking Slovenes would be treated equally with native-born Germans.

Following World War II, Slovenia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Slovene was one of the official languages of the federation. On the territory of Slovenia, it was commonly used in most areas of public life. One important exception was the Yugoslav army where Serbo-Croatian was used exclusively even in Slovenia. National independence has revitalized the language: since 1991, when Slovenia gained independence, Slovene has been used as an official language in all areas of public life. It also became one of the official languages of the European Union upon Slovenia's admission in 2004.

Slovenes often assert that their language is endangered,Fact|date=July 2008 despite the fact that it now has more speakers than at any point in its history.Fact|date=July 2008 The British linguist David Crystal said, in an interview in the summer of 2003 for the newspaper Delo:

"No, Slovene is not condemned to death. At least not in the foreseeable future. The number of speakers, two million, is big. Welsh has merely 500,000 speakers. Statistically, spoken Slovene with two million speakers comes into the upper 10 per cent of the world's languages. Most languages of the world have very few speakers. Two million is a nice number: magnificent, brilliant. One probably would think this number is not much. But from the point of view of the whole world, this number has its weight. On the other hand, a language is never self-sufficient. It can disappear even in just one generation ..."

Geographic distribution

The language is spoken by about 2.4 million people, mainly in Slovenia, but also by Slovene national minorities in Venetian Slovenia and other parts of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy (more than 100,000), in Carinthia and other parts of Austria (25,000). It is also spoken in Croatia, especially in Istria, Rijeka and Zagreb (11,800-13,100), in southwestern Hungary (6,000), in Serbia (5,000), and by the Slovene diaspora throughout Europe and the rest of the world (around 300,000), particularly in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia and South Africa.)


Slovene has many dialects, with different grades of mutual intelligibility. Linguists generally agree that there are about 48 dialects. Pronunciation differs greatly from area to area, and literary language is mainly used in public presentations or on formal occasions.


Slovene has a phoneme set consisting of 21 consonants and 8 vowels, and practices reduction of unstressed vowels.


Older analysis of Slovene concluded that it features phonemic vowel length, but more recent studies have rejected this statement for the majority of speakers. The current analysis is that stressed vowels are long while unstressed vowels are short. All vowels can be either stressed or unstressed. However, unstressed /e/ and /o/ are restricted to a few grammatical words like "bo" "will", an auxiliary verb for the future tense.


All voiced obstruents are devoiced at the end of words unless immediately followed by a word beginning with a vowel or a voiced consonant. IPA|/ʋ/ has several allophones depending on context:
*Before a vowel: IPA| [ʋ]
*At the end of a syllable or before a consonant: IPA| [u]
*At the beginning of a syllable before a voiced consonant: IPA| [w]
*At the beginning of a syllable before a voiceless consonant: IPA| [ʍ]

The preposition "v" is always bound to the following word; however its phonetic realization follows the normal phonological rules for IPA|/ʋ/.


Like the closely-related Serbo-Croatian (to which it is mutually intelligible to an extent), Slovene uses diacritics or accent marks to denote what is called "dynamic accent" and tone. Standard Slovene has two varieties, tonal and non-tonal. The diacritics are almost never used in the written language, except in the few minimal pairs that are already mentioned.

Dynamic accent marks lexical stress in a word as well as vowel duration. Stress placement in Slovene is predictable compared to the East Slavic languages and Bulgarian: any long vowel is automatically stressed, and in words with no long vowels, the stress falls to the final syllable. The only exception is schwa, which is always short, and can be stressed in non-final position. Some compounds, but not all, have multiple stress. In the Slovene writing system, dynamic accent marks may be placed on all vowels, as well as IPA|/ɾ/ (which is never syllabic in Standard Slovene, but is used for schwa + r sequences, when in consonantal environment); for example, "vrt" ('garden') stressed as "vŕt".In short, stress can theoretically fall on any syllable. In practice, the second or third syllable from the end are commonly stressed.

Dynamic accentuation uses three diacritic marks: the acute ( ´ ) (long and narrow), the circumflex ( ^ ) (long and wide) and the grave ( ` ) (short and wide).

Tonal accentuation uses four: the acute ( ´ ) (long and high), the inverted breve (Unicode| ̑ ) or the circumflex ( ^ ) (long and low), the grave ( ` ) (short and high) and the double grave ( `` ) (short and low), marking the narrow or with the dot below ( ̣ ).



T-V distinction

Slovene, much like the other Slavic languages (except Polish), Baltic languages, German, Dutch and most Romance languages, uses two forms of 'you' for formal and informal situations. Informal "ti" is comparable to the archaic English "thou" and is used in common situations; that is, when speaking to one's peers or inferiors; formal "vi" is comparable to the archaic English "ye" as it is used in formal situations such as when speaking to one's superiors, generally any adult acquaintances, all adults who are in a higher position at work, and so forth. As with many other languages that make a T-V distinction, the formal form is treated grammatically as the second-person plural form (e.g. "boš delal(-a)", 'thou wilt work' informal) vs ("boste delali", 'you will work' formal).

Foreign words

Foreign words used in Slovene are of various types depending on the assimilation they have undergone. The types are:
* "sposojenka" (loan word)ndash fully assimilated; e.g. "pica" ('pizza').
* "tujka" (foreign word)ndash partly assimilated, either in writing and syntax and/or in pronunciation; e.g. "jazz", "wiki".
* "polcitatna beseda ali besedna zveza"ndash partly assimilated, either in writing and syntax and/or in pronunciation; e.g. "Shakespeare".
* "citatna beseda ali besedna zveza"ndash kept as in original, although pronunciation may be altered to fit into speech flow; e.g. "first lady".

There are no definite or indefinite articles as in English ("a", "an", "the") or German ("der", "die", "das", "ein", "eine", "ein"). A whole verb or a noun is described without articles and the grammatical gender is found from the word's termination. It is enough to say "barka" ("a" or "the barge"), "Noetova barka" ('Noah's ark'). The gender is known in this case to be feminine. In declensions, endings are normally changed; see below. If one should like to somehow distinguish between definiteness or indefiniteness of a noun, one would say "(prav/natanko/ravno) tista barka" ('that (exact) barge') for "the barge" and "neka/ena barka" ('one barge') for "a barge". Another indicator is in the ending of the adjective accompanying the noun "rdeči šotor" ('exactly that red tent or for a special (red) type of tent') or "rdeč šotor" ('a red tent').


Writing system

This alphabet ("abeceda") was derived in the mid 1840s from an using the same Latin characters made by national reviver and leader Ljudevit Gaj (1809&ndash;1872) for Serbo-Croatian (and all its variants) and the alphabet is called "gajica", patterned on the Czech pattern of the 1830s). Before that IPA|/s/ was, for example, written as Unicode|<ʃ>, Unicode|<ʃʃ> or <ſ>, IPA|/tʃ/ as Unicode|, , Unicode| or , IPA|/i/ sometimes as as a relic from now modern Russian 'yeri' (ы), IPA|/j/ as , IPA|/l/ as , IPA|/ʋ/ as , IPA|/ʒ/ as Unicode|<ʃ>, Unicode|<ʃʃ> or Unicode|<ʃz>.

The writing itself in its pure form does not use any other signs, except, for instance, additional accentual marks, when it is necessary to distinguish between similar words with a different meaning. When diacritics are not used, the orthography under-differentiates the phonemes: IPA|/e/, IPA|/ɛ/ and IPA|/ə/ (all written e) and IPA|/ɔ/ and IPA|/o/ (both written o). Note that these are usually not written and the reader is expected to gather the meaning of the word from the context. For example:

* "gòl" ('naked') vs. "gól" ('goal'),
* "jêsen" ('ash (tree)') vs. "jesén" ('autumn'),
* "kót" ('angle') vs. "kot" ('as'),
* "med" ('between') vs. "méd" ('honey'),
* "polovíca" ('half (of)') vs. "pôl" ('expresses a half an hour before the given hour') vs. "pól" ('pole'),
* "prècej" ('at once', archaic) vs. "precéj" ('a great deal (of)'),


Proper Slovene orthography and grammar are sanctioned by the Orthographic Commission and the Fran Ramovš Institute of Slovenian Language, which are both part of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts ("Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti", SAZU). The newest reference book of proper Slovene orthography (and to some extent also grammar) is "Slovenski pravopis" ("Slovene Orthography"). The latest printed edition was published in 2001 (reprinted in 2003 with some corrections) and contains more than 130,000 entries. In 2003, an electronic version was published. The official dictionary of modern Slovene language, which is also prepared by SAZU, is called "Slovar slovenskega knjižnega jezika" (SSKJ; in English "Dictionary of the Standard Slovene Language"). It was published in five books by "Državna založba Slovenije" between the years 1970 in 1991 and contains more than 100,000 entries and sub-entries in which the stress, grammar marks, common associations of words and different qualificators are included. In the 1990s, an electronic version of the dictionary was published and is available online.


Other sources

* International Phonetic Association (1999) "Handbook of the International Phonetic Association" ISBN 0-521-63751-1
* [ SEELRC Reference Grammar Network - "A Short Reference Grammar of Standard Slovene", in PDF format with indexed links]

External links

* [ Centre for Slovene as a Second/Foreign Language]


* [ 600 M words corpus of Slovenian FidaPLUS]
* [ 200 M words corpus of Slovenian Nova beseda]
* [ Slovene-English Parallel Corpus]


* [ Slovene - English Dictionary]
* [ Dictionary of Slovene literary language] Sl icon

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