Slovak language

Slovak language

Infobox Language
nativename="slovenčina, slovenský jazyk"
states=Slovakia, United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Serbia, Hungary etc.
region=Central Europe
speakers=over 6 million
fam3=West Slavic
agency=Slovak Academy of Sciences (The Ľudovít Štúr Linguistic Institute)

The Slovak language ("slovenčina", "slovenský jazyk", not to be confused with "slovenščina"), sometimes referred to as "Slovakian" (which is incorrect), is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Slavic languages (together with Czech, Polish, Silesian, Kashubian and Sorbian). Slovak is mutually intelligible with Czech.

Slovak is spoken in Slovakia (by 5 million people), the United States (500,000), the Czech Republic (320,000), Hungary (20,000), Northern Serbia (60,000), Romania (22,000), Poland (20,000), Canada (20,000), Australia, Austria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia (5,000) and elsewhere.


Slovak uses a modification of the Latin alphabet. The modifications include the four diacriticals (ˇ, ´, ¨, ^; see Pronunciation) placed above certain letters.

The lexicographic ordering of the Slovak alphabet is very similar to that of English: A B C D DZ E F G H CH I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z. The complete alphabet, however, allows for characters with diacritics (the character with diacritics always comes after the same character without diacritics) and is as follows: a á ä b c č d ď dz dž e é f g h ch i í j k l ľ ĺ m n ň o ó ô p q r ŕ s š t ť u ú v w x y ý z ž. Note that dz, dž and ch are considered single letters and that ch follows the h (not the c). The letters "q", "w", "x" are only used in loanwords, never in native Slovak words.

The names of the letters (like in English ey, bee, cee, dee …) are: a (á), á (dlhé á), ä (prehlasované á; á s dvoma bodkami, široké e), bé, cé, čé, dé, ďé, dzé, džé, e (é), é (dlhé é), ef, gé, há, chá, i (í), í (dlhé í), jé, ká, el, eľ, dlhé el, em, en, eň, o (ó), ó (dlhé ó), ô (ó s vokáňom), pé, kvé, er, dlhé er, es, eš, té, ťé, u (ú), ú (dlhé ú), vé, dvojité vé, iks, ypsilon (ý), dlhé ý, zet, žet (for pronunciation see below)

The characters are divided as follows:
*Vowels are: a á ä e é i í o ó y ý u ú (+ r ŕ l ĺ).
*Diphthongs are: ia, ie, iu, ô.
*Consonants are: b c č d ď dz dž f g h ch j k l ľ ĺ m n ň p q r ŕ s š t ť v w x z ž. The consonants r, l, ŕ, ĺ are considered vowels in certain cases (see Pronunciation).

All vowels, but none of the specific consonants (that is no č, ď, ľ, ĺ, ň, ŕ, š, ť, ž) are available within the Latin-1 encoding.


The primary principle of Slovak spelling is the phonemic principle, "Write as you hear". The secondary principle is the morphological principle: forms derived from the same stem are written in the same way even if they are pronounced differently. An example of this principle is the assimilation rule (see below). The tertiary principle is the etymological principle, which can be seen in the use of "i" after certain consonants and of "y" after other consonants, although both "i" and "y" are pronounced the same way. Finally there is the rarely applied grammatical principle, under which, for example, there is a difference in writing (but not in the pronunciation) between the basic singular and plural form of masculine adjectives, for example "pekný" (nice – sg.) vs "pekní" (nice – pl.), both pronounced [IPA|pekniː] .

Most foreign words receive Slovak spelling immediately or after some time. For example, "weekend" is "víkend", "software" is "softvér" (but some 15 years ago was spelled the English way), and "quality" is spelled "kvalita" (possibly from Italian "qualità"). Personal and geographical names from other languages using Latin alphabets keep their original spelling, unless there is a fully Slovak form for the name (for example "Londýn" for "London").

Slovak orthography has changed many times. One of the most important changes was after World War II when "s" began to be written as "z" where pronounced as [z] in prefixes, for example "smluva" into "zmluva", "sväz" into "zväz". (That is, the phonemic principle has been given priority over the etymological principle in this case.)

The Slovak alphabet (minus the vowel diacritics) is often used to transcribe Ukrainian or Russian into the Latin alphabet.Fact|date=December 2007

The Slovak language has distinctive palatalization. Among the Slavic languages that do not use the Latin alphabet, Slovak is the closest to Rusyn and then to Ukrainian and Russian. Many Slovak words are familiar to Rusyn speakers and to a much lesser extent, Ukrainian speakers.

*á-Type Verbs - rhythmic law

*í-Type Verbs - rhythmic law

*e-Type Verbs - (typically -Cnuť)

*ie-Type Verbs - -nieť

*Irregular Verbs

*Subject personal pronouns are omitted unless they are emphatic.

*Non-continuous time is indicated with a perfective verb and the continuous version with an imperfective verb which is formed on the perfective stem. These are considered separate lexemes. Example: :to hide = skryť, to be hiding = skrývať

*Historically, there were two past tenses. Both are formed analytically. One of these is not used in the modern language, being considered dated and/or grammatically incorrect. Examples for two related verbs::skryť (to hide) : skryl som (I hid / I have hidden); bol som skryl (I had hidden):skrývať (to be hiding): skrýval som (I was hiding); bol som skrýval (I had been hiding)

*There is one future tense. For imperfective verbs, it is formed analytically, for perfective verbs it is identical with the present tense. Examples::skryť (to hide) : skryjem (I will hide / I will have hidden):skrývať (to be hiding) : budem skrývať (I will be hiding)

*There are two conditional forms. Both are formed analytically from the past tense::skryť (to hide) : skryl by som (I would hide), bol by som skryl (I would have hidden):skrývať (to be hiding) : skrýval by som (I would be hiding), bol by som skrýval (I would have been hiding)

*The passive voice is formed either as in English (to be + past participle) or as in Romance languages (using the reflexive pronoun 'sa')::skryť (to hide): je skrytý (he is hidden); sa skryje (he is hidden):skrývať (to be hiding): je skrývaný (he is being hidden); sa skrýva (he is being hidden)

*The active present participle (=which is is formed using the suffixes –úci/ -iaci / - aci:skryť (to hide) : skryjúci (which is hiding):skrývať (to be hiding): skrývajúci (which is being hiding)

*The gerund (=by/when is formed using the suffixes –úc / -uc / –iac/-ac:skryť (to hide): skryjúc (by/when hiding):skrývať (to be hiding): skrývajúc (by/when being hiding)

*The active past participle (= which was was formerly formed using the suffix –vší, but is no longer used.

*The passive participle (= ...ed (adj.)) is formed using the suffixes -ný / -tý / -ený::skryť (to hide): skrytý (hid):skrývať (to be hiding): skrývaný (being hidden)

*The 'verbal noun' (= the is formed using the suffix –ie::skryť (to hide): skrytie (the hiding):skrývať (to be hiding): skrývanie (the continuous hiding)

Adverbs (Príslovky)

Adverbs are formed by replacing the adjectival ending with the ending –o or –e/-y. Sometimes both –o and -e are possible. Examples::vysoký (high) – vysoko (highly):pekný (nice) – pekne (nicely):priateľský (friendly) – priateľsky (in a friendly manner):rýchly (fast) – rýchlo / rýchle (quickly)

The comparative/superlative of adverbs is formed by replacing the adjectival ending with a comparative/superlative ending -(ej)ší or –(ej)šie. Examples::rýchly (fast)– rýchlejší (faster) – najrýchlejší (fastest):rýchlo (quickly) – rýchlejšie (more quickly) – najrýchlejšie (most quickly)

Prepositions (Predložky)

Each preposition is associated with one or more grammatical cases. The noun governed by a preposition must appear in the case required by the preposition in the given context.Example::from friends = od priateľov Priateľov is the genitive case of priatelia. It must appear in this case because the preposition od (=from) always calls for its objects to be in the genitive.:throughout the square = po námestí (locative case):past the square = po námestie (accusative case)Po has a different meaning depending on the case of its governed noun.


Relationships to other languages

The Slovak language is a descendant of Proto-Slavic language, itself a descendant of Proto-Indo-European. It is closely related to the other West Slavic languages. In particular, Slovak is very closely related to the Czech language. It has been influenced by many languages, including Czech, Polish, German, and Hungarian.

The Slavic language varieties tend to be closely related, and have had a large degree of mutual influence, due to the complicated ethnopolitical history of their historic ranges. This is reflected in the many features Slovak shares with neighboring language varieties. Standard Slovak shares high degrees of mutual intelligibility with many Slavic varieties. Despite this closeness to other Slavic varieties, there is significant variation among Slovak dialects. In particular, eastern varieties differ significantly from the standard language, which is based on central and western varieties.

Most dialects of Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible; the two are sometimes considered to be poles of a dialect continuum. The two varieties have a long history of interaction and mutual influence well before the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. The written form is very close to the Czech one, but there are phonetic and vocabulary differences. Literary Slovak shares significant orthographic features with Czech, as well technical and professional terminology dating from the Czechoslovakian period.

Eastern Slovak dialects are less intelligible with Czech; they differ structurally from Czech and from other Slovak dialects, and contact between speakers of Czech and speakers of eastern dialects is limited. However, Eastern Slovak dialects have some intelligibility with Rusyn, but both lack technical terminology and upper register expressions. Polish and Sorbian also differ from Czech and Slovak in upper registers, but non-technical and lower register speech is readily intelligible. There is also some mutual intelligibility with spoken Polish, however Polish orthography is very different; Rusyn orthography is even further, as it, like Ukrainian, uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

In addition to vocabulary common to the Slavic languages of the region, significant non-Slavic elements have been incorporated into the Slovak lexicon. Slovak went through long periods of close contact with both Hungarian and German. Both languages have left their mark on Slovak vocabulary. Hungarian loanwords in Slovak include: "paprika," Slovak "paprika", Hungarian "paprika"; "whip," Slovak "korbáč", Hungarian "korbács"; and "dragon", Slovak "šarkan", Hungarian "sárkány". [ [ Magyar Nyelvőr – Pacsai Imre: Magyar–szlovák kulturális és nyelvi kapcsolat jegyei ] ] German loanwords include "coins," Slovak "mince", German "münzen"; "to wish", Slovak "vinšovať", German "wünschen"; and "color," Slovak "farba", German "Farbe". []


There are many varieties of Slovak. These may be divided in four basic groups:
*Eastern Slovak dialects (in Spiš, Šariš, Zemplín and Abov)
*Central Slovak dialects (in Liptov, Orava, Turiec, Tekov, Hont, Novohrad, Gemer and the historic Zvolen county)
*Western Slovak dialects (in remaining Slovakia: Kysuce, Trenčín, Trnava, Nitra, Záhorie)
*Lowland (dolnozemské) Slovak dialects (outside Slovakia in the Pannonian Plain in Serbian Vojvodina, and in southeastern Hungary, western Romania, and the Croatian part of Syrmia)

The fourth group of dialects is often not considered a separate group, but a subgroup of Central and Western Slovak dialects (see e.g. Štolc, 1968), but it is currently undergoing changes due to contact with surrounding languages (Serbian, Romanian and Hungarian) and long-time geographical separation from Slovakia (see the studies in "Zborník Spolku vojvodinských slovakistov", e.g. Dudok, 1993).

For an external map of the three groups in Slovakia see [ here] .

The dialect groups differ mostly in phonology, vocabulary and inflection. Syntactic differences are minor. Central Slovak forms the basis of the present-day standard language. Not all dialects are fully mutually intelligible. It may be difficult for an inhabitant of the Slovak capital Bratislava (in western Slovakia) to understand a dialect from eastern Slovakia.

The dialects are fragmented geographically, separated by numerous mountain ranges. The first three groups already existed in the 10th century. All of them are spoken by the Slovaks outside Slovakia (USA, Canada, Croatian Slavonia, Bulgaria and elsewhere) and Central and Western dialects form the basis of the Lowland dialects (see above).

The western dialects contain features common with the Moravian dialects in the Czech Republic, the southern central dialects contain a few features common with South Slavic languages, and the eastern dialects a few features common with Polish and the East Slavonic languages (cf. Štolc, 1994). Lowland dialects share some words and areal features with the languages surrounding them (Serbian, Hungarian and Romanian).


*Dudok, D. (1993) Vznik a charakter slovenských nárečí v juhoslovanskej Vojvodine [The emergence and character of the Slovak dialects in Yugoslav Vojvodina] . "Zborník spolku vojvodinských slovakistov" 15. Nový Sad: Spolok vojvodinských slovakistov, pp. 19-29.

*Musilová, K. and Sokolová, M. (2004) Funkčnost česko-slovenských kontaktových jevů v současnosti [The functionality of Czech-Slovak contact phenomena in the present-time] . In Fiala, J. and Machala, L. (eds.) "Studia Moravica I" ("AUPO, Facultas Philosophica Moravica" 1). Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci, pp. 133–146.

*Nábělková, M. (2003) Súčasné kontexty slovensko-českej a česko-slovenskej medzijazykovosti [Contemporary contexts of the Slovak-Czech and Czech-Slovak interlinguality] . In Pospíšil, I. – Zelenka, M. (eds.) "Česko-slovenské vztahy v slovanských a středoevropských souvislostech (meziliterárnost a areál)". Brno: ÚS FF MU, pp. 89–122.

*Nábělková, M. (2006) V čom bližšie, v čom ďalej... Spisovná slovenčina vo vzťahu k spisovnej češtine a k obecnej češtine [In what closer, in what further... Standard Slovak in relation to Standard Czech and Common Czech] . In Gladkova, H. and Cvrček, V. (eds.) "Sociální aspekty spisovných jazyků slovanských". Praha: Euroslavica, pp. 93–106.

*Nábělková, M. (2007) [ Closely related languages in contact: Czech, Slovak, "Czechoslovak"] . "International Journal of the Sociology of Language" 183, pp. 53-73.

*Sloboda, M. (2004) Slovensko-česká (semi)komunikace a vzájemná (ne)srozumitelnost [Slovak-Czech (semi)communication and the mutual (un)intelligibility] . "Čeština doma a ve světě" XII, No. 3–4, pp. 208–220.

*Sokolová, M. (1995) České kontaktové javy v slovenčine [Czech contact phenomena in Slovak] . In Ondrejovič, S. and Šimková, M. (eds.) "Sociolingvistické aspekty výskumu súčasnej slovenčiny" ("Sociolinguistica Slovaca" 1). Bratislava: Veda, pp. 188–206.

*Štolc, Jozef (1968) "Reč Slovákov v Juhoslávii I.: Zvuková a gramatická stavba" [The speech of the Slovaks in Yugoslavia: phonological and grammatical structure] . Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Slovenskej akadémie vied.

*Štolc, Jozef (1994) "Slovenská dialektológia" [Slovak dialectology] . Ed. I. Ripka. Bratislava: Veda.

External links

* [ The Dictionary of the Slovak language (1960s; the biggest Slovak monolingual dictionary; Slovak Academy of Sciences) + Short Slovak Language Dictionary (monolingual; last edition; Slovak Academy of Sciences) ]
* [ Slovak National Corpus (Slovak Academy of Sciences)]
* [ SLEX - Online version of Short Slovak Language Dictionary]
* [ Slovak Alphabet and Pronunciation]
* [ Few basic tips on speaking Slovak]
* [ Map of Slovak Dialects]
* [ A short English-Czech/Slovak-Japanese phraselist(Renewal)] incl. sound file

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