Slovak language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in: Slovakia, United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania, Hungary etc. 
Region: Central Europe
Total speakers: over 6 million
Language family: Indo-European
  West Slavic
Official status
Official language of: Slovakia, Vojvodina, European Union
Regulated by: Slovak Academy of Sciences (The Ľudovít Štúr Linguistic Institute)
Language codes
ISO 639-1: sk
ISO 639-2: slo (B)  slk (T)
ISO 639-3: slk

Slovak (slovenčina, slovenský jazyk) is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Slavic languages (together with Czech, Polish and Sorbian). Slovak is especially close to Czech.

Slovak is spoken in Slovakia (by 5 million people), the United States (500,000, emigrants), the Czech Republic (320,000, due to former Czechoslovakia), Hungary (20,000, ancient ethnic minority), Northern Serbia-Vojvodina (60,000, descendants of earlier settlers during the Habsburg rule), Romania (22,000, old ethnic minority), Poland (20,000), Canada (20,000, emigrants), Australia (emigrants), Austria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia (5,000) and some other countries.


[edit] Alphabet

A technical note for users of the English wikipedia: All Slovak vowels, but no Slovak-specific consonants (that is no č, ď, ľ, ĺ, ň, ŕ, š, ť, ž) are available within the Latin-1 encoding.

Slovak uses a modification of the Roman (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" are only used in loan words, never in native or naturalized 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), 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, ou.
  • 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).

[edit] Pronunciation and spelling

The Slovak language has distinctive palatalization.

The accent (stress) in standard language is always placed on the first syllable of a word (or on the preceding preposition, see below). However, this is not the case in certain dialects. The eastern dialects, for example, have penultimate stress, which at times makes them difficult for speakers of Standard Slovak to understand. Some of the north-central dialects have a weak stress on the first syllable, which becomes stronger and "moves" to the penultimate in certain cases. The stress is weaker than the English or German or Russian accent, but stronger than the French one. Monosyllabic conjunctions, monosyllabic short personal pronouns and auxiliary verb forms of the verb byť (to be) are, as a rule, not stressed.

Prepositions are pronounced in conjunction with the following word, unless the words are long (four syllables or more) or the preposition stands at the very beginning of a sentence.

The acute mark (in Slovak "dĺžeň", that is prolongation mark) indicates the lengthing of the quantity of the vowel it modifies, for example í = approximately ii. The acute can be above all vowels and only above the 2 consonants "l" and "r" (which, in such cases, are considered vowels.) Long vowels are about twice as long as their short counterparts.

The circumflex ("vokáň") exists only above the letter "o" (and turns the o into a diphthong – see below).

The umlaut ("prehláska", "dve bodky" = two dots) is only used above the letter "a" (and turns the a into almost e – see below).

The caron (in Slovak "mäkčeň", i.e. a "palatalization mark" or "softener") indicates either palatalization or a change of alveolar fricatives into post-alveolar, in informal Slovak linguistics often called just "palatalization". Only 8 consonants can bear a caron, that is, not all "normal" consonants have a "caroned" counterpart:

  • In printed texts, the caron is printed in two forms: (1) č, dž, š, ž, ň and (2) ľ, ď, ť (looking more like an apostrophe), but this is just a convention. In handwritten texts, it always takes the form (1).
  • Phonetically, there are two forms of "palatalization": ľ, ň, ď, ť are palatalized consonants, while č, dž, š, ž are postalveolar affricates and fricatives.
  • To accelerate writing, a rule has been introduced that the frequent character combinations ňe, ďe, ťe, ľe, ňi, ďi, ťi, ľi, ňí, ďí, ťí, ľí must be written ne, de, te, le, ni, di, ti, li, ní, dí, tí, lí (that is without the caron). In other words ne, de, te, le, ni, di etc. are pronounced as if there were a caron above the consonant. There are, however, exceptions to this rule:
  1. foreign words (for example telefón is pronounced with a hard t and a hard l)
  2. the following old Slavic words: ten (that), jeden (one), vtedy (then) are pronounced with hard t and d
  3. nominative masculine plural endings of pronouns and adjectives do not "soften" preceding n, d, t, l (for example tí odvážni mladí muži /tiː odvaːʒni mladiː muʒi/, the/those brave young men)
  4. short e in adjectival endings that is, actually (morphonemically), long é shortened by the "rhythmical rule" (see below) does not "soften" preceding n, d, t, l (for example krásne stromy /kraːsnɛ.../, beautiful trees, c.f. zelené stromy /zɛlʲɛnɛː.../, green trees)
  • ľ is pronounced nowadays by many speakers, esp. from western Slovakia, as a non-palatalized l, esp. in li and le where the caron is not written. The officially correct pronunciation of li and le as palatalized is already frequently perceived either as a trait of middle and eastern dialect, or as a feature of language zealots. (A similar tendency occurs in yeísta Spanish, where however the palatal ll is pronounced like English j instead of λ.)

In addition, the following rules hold:

  1. When a voiced consonant having a voiceless correspondent (that is b, d, ď, dz, dž, g, h, z, ž) stands at the end of the word before a pause, it is pronounced as a voiceless consonant (that is p, t, ť, c, č, k, ch, s, š, respectively), for example pohyb is pronounced /pohip/, prípad is pronounced /priːpat/
  2. When "v" stands at the end of the syllable, it is pronounced as non-syllabic u (bilabial approximant /u̯/), with the exception of the position before "n" or "ň", for example, kov /kou̯/ (metal), kravský /krau̯skiː/ (cow - adjective), but povstať /pofstatʲ/ (uprise) because the v is not at the end of the syllable (po-vstať), hlavný /hlavniː/ because "v" stands before "n" here
  3. The assimilation rule: When voiced consonant(s) having a voiceless correspondent and voiceless consonant(s) meet in the word, all consonants of the group are pronounced as voiced if the last consonant is a voiced one, or as voiceless if the last consonant is a voiceless one, for example otázka is pronounced /otaːska/, vzchopiť sa is pronounced /fsxopitsːa/. This rule applies also over the word boundary, for example prísť domov /priːzdʲ domou̯/ (to come home), viac jahôd /vi̯adzjahu̯ot/ (more strawberries). The voiced counterpart of "ch" /x/ is /ɣ/.
  4. The rhythmical rule: A long syllable (that is a syllable containing á, é, í, ý, ó, ú, ŕ, ĺ, ia, ie, iu, ô) cannot be followed by another long syllable in the same word, that is the following syllable must be made short (in writing and pronunciation) (this rule has implications for the formation, declension (for example žen-ám but tráv-am) and conjugation (for example nos-ím but súd-im) of words; there are several exceptions to this rule; this rule is typical of the literary Slovak language (not existing in the closely related Czech, or some Slovak dialects).

[edit] Official transcriptions

Slovak linguists do not usually use IPA for phonetic transcription of their own language or others, but rather their own system based on the Slovak alphabet. Many English language textbooks, for example, make use of this alternative system of 'phonetic' transcription of English, a factor which contributes to some Slovaks developing a particular ('incorrect') pronunciation of certain English phonemes. In the following table, pronunciation of each grapheme is given in this system as well as in IPA and Kirshenbaum.

grapheme IPA Kirsh. transcr.
a a a a
á a: á
ä æ, ɛ &, E ä, e
b b b b
c ts͡ ts c
č t͡ʃ ts. č
d d d d
ď ɟ, dʲ d; ď
dz dz͡ dz ʒ
d͡ʒ dz. ǯ
e ɛ E e
é ɛː E: é
f f f f
g g g g
h ɦ h<?> h
ch x x x
i ɪ I i
í i: í
j j j j
k k k k
l l, l̩ l, l- l
ĺ l̩ː l-: ĺ̥
ľ ʎ, lʲ l; ľ
m m m m
n n n n
ň ɲ, nʲ n; ň
o ɔ O o
ó ɔː O: ó
ô u̯o uo ŭo
p p p p
q kv kv kv
r r, r̩ r, r- r
ŕ r̩ː r-: ŕ̥
s s s s
š ʃ s. š
t t t t
ť c, tʲ t; ť
u u u u
ú u: ú
v v v v
w v v v
x ks ks ks
y ɪ I i
ý i: í
z z z z
ž ʒ z. ž

Some additional notes (transcriptions in IPA unless otherwise stated):

  • Pronunciation of ä as [æ] is already archaic (or dialectical) but still considered correct by some linguistic authorities; the other standard pronunciation today is [ɛ].
  • r and l can be syllabic phonemes /r̩/ and /l̩/ and behave as vowels, i.e. they have their long phonemic counterparts /rː/ and /lː/ (written ŕ and ĺ), e.g., vlk (wolf), prst (finger), štvrť (quarter), krk (neck), bisyllabic vĺčavĺ-ča (wolfling), vŕbavŕ-ba (willow-tree), etc.
  • ch, normally the unvoiced [x], can have the voiced [ɣ] as an allophone as a result of phonetic assimilation.
  • The sound group or graphemic group -ou (at the end of words) is pronounced [ɔu̯] but is not considered a separate diphthong, nor grapheme respectively (unlike ch, dz, ). Its phonemic interpretation is /ov/.
  • ia, ie, iu form diphthongs /i̯a/ /i̯ɛ/ /i̯u/ in native Slovak words, but two monophtongs in foreign and loan words.
  • m has the allophone [ɱ] in front of the labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/.
  • n in front of (post)alveolar fricatives has an allophone written as /n̶/ in Slovak phonemic transcription; this is, however, an allophone of /n/.
  • n can be [ŋ] in front of the velar plosives /k/ and /g/.
  • f can be voiced [f̬] as a result of phonetic assimilation.

[edit] Intuitive transcription for English speakers

The following list shows a list of Slovak sounds and their approximate English equivalents:

The values of the characters b, d, f, h, l, k, m, n, p, x are approximately equal to their English counterparts. The vowel combinations ia, ie, iu, ô [pronounced appr. like uo] are diphthongs, that is both elements are pronounced "together" the first element is almost a Slovak j for ia, ie, and iu and almost an English w for ô.

  • au in cut
  • áa in father (long a)
  • äe in set (or in old-fashioned — but canonical — pronunciation like a in fat)
  • cts in its
  • čch in child
  • ď – approx. British d in during, dew
  • dz – approx. d+z (voiced c; very much like the Italian zz in organizzare or azzurro)
  • j in John (voiced č)
  • ee in set
  • éai in fair (long e)
  • gg in go
  • h - always pronounced; voiced, except if at the end of the word
  • ch – Scottish ch, for example in Loch Ness (like Russian х)
  • ii in sit
  • íee in need (long i)
  • jy in yes
  • ľ – approx. l in lurid (like gli... in Italian, lh in Portuguese or ll in non-yeista Spanish)
  • ĺ – approx. "ll"(long "L") - no known equivalents in other languages
  • ň – like French or Italian gn, Portuguese nh or Spanish ñ
  • oo in odd
  • óaw in saw, a in ball (long o)
  • r – "rolled r" like in Italian, Scottish, Bavarian (and like a Spanish r that is not before a vowel and not at the beginning of the word, for example in color)
  • ŕ – approx. Spanish rr in Zorro)
  • ss in save
  • šsh in she
  • ť – approx. the first t in tutor
  • ô – approx. wo in wonder (or like Italian uo in buono)
  • qqu is like Slovak kv; q does not occur elsewhere
  • uu in put
  • úoo in choose (long u)
  • vv in very (but at the end of the syllable approx. as the second w in window, see above)
  • y – like Slovak i
  • ý – like Slovak í (long y, as in eel)
  • zz in zone
  • žs in pleasure (like French and Portuguese j in journal/jornal or g in général/general)
  • w – like Slovak v

[edit] Orthography

The primary principle of Slovak spelling is the phonemic principle (that is "Write as you hear") – as opposed to the English spelling where the etymological principle is primary. The secondary principle is the morphological principle (that is, all forms derived from the same stem are written in the same way even if they are pronounced differently in reality) – the main example is the assimilation rule (see Pronunciation). 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. And 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 [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 (different sound). However, 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.)

[edit] Syntax

The main features of Slovak syntax are:

Speváčka spieva. (The+female+singer is+singing.)
(Speváčk-a spieva-0, where -0 is a third person singular ending)
Speváčky spievajú. (The+female+singers are+singing.)
(Speváčk-y spieva-j-ú, where -ú is a third person plural ending, -j- is a hiatus sound)
My speváčky spievame. (We the+female+singers are+singing.)
(My speváčk-y spieva-me, where -me is the first person plural ending)
and so forth.
  • An adjective, pronoun and partly also a numeral agrees in person, gender and case with the noun it refers to (see Slovak declension) – just like in most Slavic languages.
  • An adjective always precedes the corresponding noun – as in English, unlike in Polish and Romance languages. Botanic or zoological terms are exceptions (for example, mačka divá, literally "cat wild", Felis silvestris).

Word order in Slovak is relatively free (unlike in English or French), since the strong inflection of words enables the identification of the specific role of a word within the sentence (subject, object, predicate, etc.) regardless of its placement. This relatively free word order enables Slovaks (just as in most other Slavic languages) to make use the word order to impose emphasis conveying importance or novelty of themes in a sentence i.e. constituents relating to old information precede constituents with new information, or those that carry most emphasis.


Ten veľký muž tam dnes otvára obchod. = The big man opens a store there today. (ten = the or that; veľký = big; muž = man; tam = there; dnes = today; otvára = opens; obchod = store)
Ten veľký muž dnes otvára obchod tam. = It is there that the big man opens a store today.
Dnes tam otvára obchod ten veľký muž. = It is the big man who opens a store there today.
Obchod tam dnes otvára ten veľký muž. = As for the store, it is opened there by the big man.

However, the normal order is Subject-Verb-Object (as in English) and the word order is not completely arbitrary. For example, in the above example, the following combinations are not possible:

Ten otvára veľký muž tam dnes obchod.
Obchod muž tam ten veľký dnes otvára. ...

And the following, for instance, are not likely to occur:

Otvára ten veľký muž tam dnes obchod? = Is that big man opening the store there?
Obchod ten veľký muž dnes tam otvára.

This means that these senteces will not be gramaticaly correct, although they are "understandable".

[edit] Morphology

[edit] Articles (Členy)

There are no articles in the Slovak language. If it is really necessary to emphasize that the thing that one is talking about was already mentioned, the demonstrative pronoun ten (fem: tá, neuter: to) can be used in front of the noun.

[edit] Nouns (Podstatné mená)

See: Slovak declension

[edit] Adjectives (Prídavné mená)

See: Slovak declension

[edit] Pronouns (Zámená)

See: Slovak declension

[edit] Numerals (Číslovky)

The basic formation of Slovak numerals is similar to that of English: there are special words for 0-19 and for 20, 30 . . . 90, 100, 1000 etc. and the compound numerals (21, 1054) are simply combinations of these special words formed in the same order as their mathematical symbol is written (for example 21 = dvadsaťjeden (that is literally „twenty-one“)).

The numerals are: (1) jeden (jedno (neuter), jedna (feminine)), (2) dva (dve (neuter, feminine)), (3) tri, (4) štyri, (5) päť, (6) šesť, (7) sedem, (8) osem, (9) deväť, (10) desať, (11) jedenásť, (12) dvanásť, (13) trinásť, (14) štrnásť, (15) pätnásť, (16) šestnásť, (17) sedemnásť, (18) osemnásť, (19) devätnásť, (20) dvadsať, (21) dvadsaťjeden . . . ., (30) tridsať, (31) tridsaťjeden . . . (40) štyridsať, . . . (50) päťdesiat, . . . (60) šesťdesiat, . . . (70) sedemdesiat, . . . (80) osemdesiat, . . . (90) deväťdesiat, . . . (100) sto, (101) stojeden, . . . . (200) dvesto, . . . (300) tristo, . . . (900)deväťsto, . . . (1,000) tisíc, . . . (1,100) tisícsto, . . . (2,000) dvetisíc, . . (100,000) stotisíc, . . . (200,000) dvestotisíc, . . . (1,000,000) milión, . . . (1,000,000,000) miliarda, . . .

See also: Slovak declension

[edit] Verbs (Slovesá)

  • Verbs have three major conjugations distinguishing 3 persons and 2 numbers (singular and plural) – just like in English. There are several conjugation paradigms- like in most European languages. Here is the conjugation of some randomly chosen verbs (the forms are given in the order: I – you (sg) – he/she/it – we – you (pl) – they ):
to be (byť): som – si –je –sme –ste- sú
to have (mať): mám – máš –má –máme –máte –majú
to work (pracovať): pracujem – pracuješ –pracuje –pracujeme- pracujete – pracujú
to carry (niesť) nesiem – nesieš –nesie –nesieme – nesiete – nesú
to hide (skryť): skryjem – skryješ –skryje –skryjeme – skryjete - skryjú
  • The infinitive always ends in -ť (see for example the above examples).
  • The English continuous form (that is to be . . . ing) is expressed by a change in the stem of the verb or by removing the prefix (note however that this statement is a strong simplification). The non-continuous version is called a perfective verb and the continuous version an imperfective verb. Example: :to hide = skryť, to be hiding = skrývať
  • There are only two past tenses. Both are formed analytically. The latter, however, is not used in the modern language and is considered dated and/or grammatically incorrect. Examples for two verbs (note that the continuous form is considered a separate verb in Slavic languages):
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 only 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)
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)

[edit] Adverbs (Príslovky)

Adverbs are usually formed by replacing the adjectival ending with the ending –o or sometimes –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 adjective comparative/superlative ending - (ej)ší by the ending –(ej)šie. Examples:

rýchly (fast)– rýchlejší (faster) – najrýchlejší (fastest):rýchlo (quickly) – rýchlejšie (more quickly) – najrýchlejšie (most quickly)

[edit] Prepositions (Predložky)

These are used like in English except that, in addition, each single preposition is associated with a particular grammatical case and the noun following the preposition must take the ending of the case required by the preposition. Example:

from friends = od priateľov (priateľov is the genitive case of priatelia, because the preposition od (=from) always calls for its objects to be in the genitive case)

[edit] Conjunctions (Spojky), Particles (Častice), Interjections (Citoslovcia)

These work more or less as in the English language.

Note: The Slovak (and Czech) definition of particles has been taken from Russian linguistics. Although the English linguists subsume them under the conjunctions, interjections and other word types, they nevertheless work like in English. Examples of particles as they are understood by Slovak linguists are the English words (the text in the brackets gives a sentence as an example): Well (, what will we do?), yes, anyway, obviously, above all, not all, And ( what do you think?), But ( that is impossible!), so (, that's it!), hardly, really, most importantly, also, (what) the hell (is he doing?), actually, please, even, in sum, believe it or not, maybe, unfortunately, of course, I wonder where (you have been), in one word ...

[edit] Vocabulary

[edit] History

[edit] Relationships to other languages

The Slovak language arose directly from the Proto-Slavic language independently of other Slavic languages (see History).

The present-day Slovak language is closely related to the other west Slavic languages.

Nowadays the Czechs and the Slovaks have more common words due to their long historic coexistence and language standardization policies before but especially within the now-defunct country of Czechoslovakia. Slovak is most apparently related to Czech in written form (because the Slovak literary language spelling was inspired by Czech spelling), but differs from it both phonetically and grammatically. However, Slovak did not arise from the Czech language (neither from Old nor from Middle Czech) and the Czech language started to penetrate to Slovakia only in the 14th century. Adult Slovaks are able to understand Czech and to some extent Polish and Sorbian without a translator. As regards to Polish and Sorbian, the degree of understanding is highly dependent on the degree to which the individual has been exposed to these languages. Written Polish may look complicated to a Slovak due to its orthography — words which are pronounced similarly and often have the same meaning may look different in each language. In general, it can be stated that during the existence of Czechoslovakia (and especially due to common television), the spoken language has taken over many Czech words, idioms and some features of the syntax, and lost many typical Slovak expressions in turn (which was also due to the process of modernization). The future development after the split of Czechoslovakia (1993) remains to be seen, because close cultural and educational contacts did not disappear. Nowadays the ability to completely understand Czech, however, seems to slightly decrease with a part of the youngest generation (and to even greater extent with the Czech children in the opposite direction). Moreover, people who learn either Czech or Slovak as a foreign language, tend not to understand the other one.

Basically, the standard (literary) Slovak is mutually intelligible with Czech and shares much of professional terminology with it due to common language policy in terminology building in the period after the Second World War. Eastern Slovak dialects are mutually intelligible with standard Slovak for Slovaks (since standard Slovak is taught in school), but less with Czech, since the Czechs do not come into contact with these dialects very often (Eastern Slovaks in the Czech Republic use predominantly standard Slovak, or Czech, in communication with Czechs).

The Rusyn language is mutually intelligible with eastern Slovak dialects (but both lack professional terminology and higher style expressions). The Polish language and Sorbian languages are somewhat intelligible to both Slovak and Czech, but they have different professional terminology and higher style expressions — the more you keep your language style low and simple, the better you are understood.

The Slovak standard language holds a central position among Slavic languages: It has common features with:

  • the Czech language [western neighbor of Slovakia]
  • the Polish language [northern neighbor of Slovakia], for example the use of the prefix pre-, use of the consonant dz, and some vocabulary (teraz, now; pivnica, cellar)
  • South Slavic languages (especially Slovenian and the Kajkavian dialect of Croatian); this connection is due to the fact that the territory of present-day Hungary was inhabited by the Sloviene (see Great Moravia) before and for some time after the Hungarians settled there in the 10th century, thus allowing for language changes to spread from today's Slovakia (particularly its central parts) to Slovenia and Croatia or in the other direction.
  • East Slavic languages [eastern neighbors of Slovakia; a Rusyn and Ukrainian minority live in northern eastern Slovakia]

This central position makes it relatively easy for other Slavs to understand Slovak and vice-versa. Thus, Slovak provides a good starting point from which to branch off to any additional Slavic language. Note however that the above only holds for the standard (that is northern central Slovak) language, not necessarily for the dialects (see Dialects).

Slovak is not related to the (non-Slavic, non-Indo-European) Hungarian language. However, it borrowed words from Hungarian in the past as a result of being part of Hungary from the 11th century to 1918, but only a very low number of them is still used in literary language today. Traces of Hungarian loanwords remain in some dialects; they are usually words with a very specific meaning. On the contrary, according to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian language borrowed some 1200 words from the Slovak language (and 1000 from other Slavic languages), especially in the 10th century, when the nomadic Hungarians settled in present-day Hungary and had to take over basic vocabulary necessary for sedentary life, for example the words for:

  • basic objects: table (sk: stôl, hu: asztal), window (sk: oblok, hu: ablak), court (sk: dvor (u dvora), hu: udvar), street (sk: ulica, hu: utca), book (sk: kniha, hu: könyv), chimney (sk: komín, hu: kémény), tablecloth (sk: obrus, hu: abrosz), money (sk: peniaz, hu: pénz), brain (sk:mozog, hu:mozga) key (sk: kľúč, hu: kulcs), creek (sk: potok, hu: patak), pub (sk: krčma, hu: kocsma), roof (sk: strecha, hu: eszterha), room (old sk: soba, hu: szoba), flag (sk: záclona = curtain, hu: zászló), wax (sk: vosk, hu: viaszk), rock (sk: skala, hu: szikla), ore (sk: ruda, hu: rúd), sledge (sk: sane, hu: szán), shaft (sk: hriadeľ, hu: gerendély), gate (sk: brána, hu: borona), comb (sk: hrebeň, hu: gereben), pile (sk: hromada/stoh, hu: gramada/asztag), pail (sk: vedro, hu: vödör), swamp (sk: močiar, hu: mocsár), rainbow (old sk: daga, hu: donga), stick (sk: palica, hu: pálca), chain (sk: reťaz, hu: retesz), artery (sk: cieva, hu: cév), dinner plate, column, cupboard, carton, cod, duvet, basket, boiler, mine, seal, razor, axe, push bolt, brush, juice, hoop, skate, tip, cage, shovel, boat, argosy, oil, cup, pitcher, drinking glass, breast, spinal cord, trunk, fog, mound, bacon, cake, quark ...
  • days of the week: Wednesday (sk: streda, hu: szerda), Thursday, Friday...
  • religion: Christian (sk: kresťan, hu: keresztény), pagan (sk: pohan, hu: pogány), angel (sk: anjel, hu: angyal), hell (sk: peklo, hu: pokol), Christmas (old sk: karačún, hu: karácsony), baptise (sk: krstiť, hu: keresztel)...
  • state and government: ruling prince (sk: knieža, old hu: kenéz), king (sk: kráľ, hu: király), servant (sk: sluha, hu: szolga), county, county border, county leader...
  • clothing: cap (cloth; sk: čiapka, hu: sapka), coat (sk, hu: kabát), bonnet, robe, skirt...
  • animals: bear (sk: medveď, hu: medve), cat (sk: mačka, hu: macska), male sheep (sk: baran, hu: bárány), drake, capon, boar, pigeon, salmon, ass, bull, buffallo, mare, cock, rat, peacock, sable, turtle-dove, jay, sparrow, pike, otter, flea, moth, worm, tapeworm, herd, swarm, pincer, liver fluke ...
  • plants: cherry (sk: čerešňa/pl. čerešne, hu: cseresznye), cabbage, rye, maize, beet, carrot, cucumber, lentil, mushroom, maple, millet, poppy, raspberry, poplar, moss, straw...
  • military: valiant (sk: víťaz, hu: vitéz), struggle (sk: boj = fight, hu: baj), fight (old sk: harc, hu: harcz), camp (sk: tábor, hu: tábor), lance (sk: kopija, hu: kopja), rifle (sk: puška, hu: puska), platoon (sk: čata, hu: csata)...
  • professions: miller (sk: mlynár, hu: molnár), smith (sk: kováč, hu: kovács), cottar (sk: želiar, hu: zsellér), hunter (sk: poľovník, old hu: polovnyak ), ....
  • nations: German (sk: nemec, hu: német), Prussian, Valachian, Danube, Greek, Jewish
  • other: error (sk: chyba, hu: hiba), beast (sk: potvora, hu: patvar), to measure (sk: merať, hu: mér), neighbour (sk:sused, hu:szomszéd), brother (now, friend in Hu; sk: brat, hu: barát), pure (sk: pustý/pustá/pusté, hu: puszta), dear (sk: drahý/drahá/drahé, hu: drága), supper (sk: obed, hu: ebéd), legend (sk: bájka, hu: báj), grandchild ...

But origin of this words is mainly not Hungarian.

[edit] Differences between the Slovak and Czech languages

Linguistically, the Czech and Slovak languages form a language continuum, eastern Slovak dialects then blend into the Rusyn language. Czech exists in two different forms (excluding the Moravian dialects): literary Czech and colloquial Czech. The standard Slovak language is closer to literary Czech, especially in phonology and morphology. The differences between parts of the vocabulary of some Slovak dialects are rather big, comparable to the differences between standard Slovak and Czech. The description below sums the main differences between standard Slovak and Czech.

  • Slovak graphemes that do not exist in the Czech language are ä, ľ, ĺ, ŕ and ô (see Pronunciation). Czech graphemes that do not exist in the Slovak language are: ě, ř and ů.
  • Slovak has the following phonemes which Czech does not have: /ʎ/, /rː/, /lː/, /æ/ (this one only in higher-style standard Slovak, or some dialects), and the diphthongs /i̯a/, /i̯ɛ/, /i̯u/, /u̯o/; and on the contrary, Czech has /r̝/.
  • Czech uses peculiar pitch contour, not present in Slovak (or Moravian dialects).
  • The Slovak, unlike Czech, uses palatalization more frequently (that is, is phonetically "softer")
  • The phonetic assimilation and a kind of "liaison" are much stronger in the Slovak language
  • The Slovak grammar:
    • is somewhat simpler (that is more regular) than Czech literary language grammar, since the present-day Slovak language standard has been codified only in the 19th century. However the colloquial Czech makes some more simplifications, especially merging case suffixes.
    • has different declension and conjugation endings and paradigms
    • has 6 morphological cases (see Slovak declension) - the vocative (officially not considered a separate grammatical case anymore) is almost lost, while the Czech vocative is well alive
  • Some basic Slovak is similar to the Czech language, and a few (almost) identical words have different meaning. The differences are mostly of simple historical origin (for example the word hej mentioned below was used in Great Moravia). As for professional terminology, except for biology (esp. all names of animals and plants), the Czech terminology was mostly taken over (in Slovakized form) for practical reasons. The Czech-Slovak Dictionary of Different Terms (1989, Prague) contains some 11.000 entries (without professional terminology):
    • Examples of basic different words are: to speak (SK hovoriť – CZ mluvit), yeah (SK hej – CZ jo), if (SK ak – CZ jestli, jestliže, -li), Good bye (SK Do videnia – CZ Na shledanou), January (SK január – CZ leden), cat (SK mačka – CZ kočka), to kiss (SK bozkať – CZ líbat), now (SK teraz – CZ teď, nyní), goods (SK tovar – CZ zboží), he/she/it is not (SK nie je - CZ není) and so forth.
    • Examples of typical small differences: endings (SK -cia, -dlo, , -om – CZ -c(i)e, -tko, -t, -em), expressions (SK treba, možno – CZ je třeba, je možné / je možno), prepositions (SK na – CZ k, pro) . . .
    • Examples of words with different meanings : SK topiť (to melt) – CZ topit (to heat), SK horký (bitter) – CZ horký (hot) . . .
  • The Czech language has no equivalents for many Slovak words and vice versa. Examples of no Czech equivalents: prepositions (popod, ponad, sponad. . . ), verbs (ľúbiť, povynechávať, skackať, siakať,. . . ), nouns (kúrňava, kaštieľ, hoľa, grúň). . ., pronouns (dakto, voľakto, henten,. . . ) etc.
  • The Czech language does not have the Rhythmical Rule (see Pronunciation)
  • Slovak uses the passive voice formed like in English less than the Czech, and prefers the passive voice formed using the reflexive pronoun sa (like in Romance languages) instead
  • Slovak has hundreds of dialects, while in the Czech Republic, many dialects have disappeared, especially in the Bohemian part of the Czech Republic.

[edit] Dialects

The spoken Slovak language consists of a large number of dialects that can be divided in four basic groups:

Note: The fourth group of dialects is often not considered a separate group but a subgroup of Central and Western Slovak dialects. However, nowadays it differs from them to the extent that cannot be overlooked due to the contact with the surrounding languages (Serbian, Romanian and Hungarian) and long-time geographical separation from the territory of Slovakia, which lead to the emergence of idiosynratic linguistic features (cf. the studies in Zborník Spolku vojvodinských slovakistov and other sources).

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

The dialect groups differ mostly in phonology, vocabulary and inflection. The differences in syntax are minor. Modified Central Slovak forms the basis of the present-day standard language. Not all dialects are fully mutually intelligible. The differences between some Slovak dialects make it for example often impossible for an inhabitant of the Slovak capital Bratislava (in western Slovakia) to understand a person from eastern Slovakia. Also, at the dialect level, only some dialects of western Slovak can be considered fully mutually intelligible with the Czech language, with which Slovak borders in the west.

The dialects are fragmented geographically, separated by numerous mountain ranges (Slovakia is a mountainous country). The first three groups already existed in the 10th century. All of them are also 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 many 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. Lowland dialects share some words and pronunciation features with the languages surrounding them (Serbian, Hungarian and Romanian).

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Slovak language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Slavic languages and dialects
East Slavic Belarusian | Old East Slavic† | Old Novgorod dialect† | Russian | Rusyn (Carpathians) | Ruthenian† | Ukrainian
West Slavic Czech | Kashubian | Knaanic† | Lower Sorbian | Pannonian Rusyn | Polabian† | Polish | Pomeranian† | Slovak | Slovincian† | Upper Sorbian
South Slavic Banat Bulgarian | Bulgarian | Church Slavic | Macedonian | Old Church Slavonic† | Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Bunjevac, Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, Šokac) | Slavic (Greece) | Slovenian
Other Proto-Slavic† | Russenorsk† | Slavoserbian† | Slovio
Official languages of the European Union
Bulgarian | Czech | Danish | Dutch | English | Estonian | Finnish | French
German | Greek | Hungarian | Irish | Italian | Latvian | Lithuanian | Maltese
Polish | Portuguese | Romanian | Slovak | Slovenian | Spanish | Swedish
Source: European Union website