The Slovak language
( , slovenčina
to be confused with slovenščina
, or Slovenian
), is an Indo-European language
to the West Slavic languages
(together with Czech
, and Sorbian
spoken in Slovakia (by 5
million people), the United States (500,000), the Czech Republic (320,000), Serbia
Romania (22,000), Hungary (20,000),
Poland (20,000), Canada (20,000),
Australia, Austria, Ukraine, and
Slovak uses a modification of the Latin
. The modifications include the four diacritics
(ˇ, ´, ¨, ^; see Pronunciation) placed
above certain letters.
The primary principle of Slovak spelling is the phonemic principle
, "Write as you hear".
The secondary principle is the morphological
: 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
after other consonants, although both i
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
(nice – pl.), both pronounced .
Most foreign words
receive Slovak spelling
immediately or after some time. For example, "weekend" is spelled
, "software" - softvér
, "gay" -
(both not exclusively), and "quality" is spelled
(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
mark (in Slovak "dĺžeň",
"prolongation mark") indicates a long
, for example í = approximately /i:/. This mark may appear
on any vowel except "ä" (wide "e", široké "e" in Slovak). It may
also appear above the consonants "l" and "r" (which, in such cases,
are considered vowels).
("vokáň") exists only
above the letter "o." It turns the o into a diphthong
bodky" = two dots) is only used above the letter "a." It indicates
a raised vowel, almost an "e".
(in Slovak "mäkčeň", "palatalization
mark" or "softener") indicates either palatalization or a change of
alveolar fricatives into post-alveolar, in informal Slovak
linguistics often called just "palatalization". Eight consonants
can bear a caron. Not all "normal" consonants have a "caroned"
- 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 appears in
the first form.
- Phonetically, there are two forms of "palatalization": ľ, ň, ď,
ť are palatalized consonants, while
č, dž, š, ž are postalveolar affricates
- 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 are simply written ne, de, te, le, ni, di, ti,
li, ní, dí, tí, lí (that is without the caron). These
combinations are usually pronounced as if there were a caron above
the consonant. There are exceptions:
- # foreign words (for example telefón is pronounced
with a hard t and a hard l)
- # the following words: ten (that), jeden
(one), vtedy (then), teraz (now)
- # nominative masculine plural endings of pronouns and
adjectives do not "soften" preceding n, d, t, l (for example tí
odvážni mladí muži , the/those brave young men)
- # short e in adjectival endings, which is derived from long é
shortened by the "rhythmical rule" (see below), does not "soften"
preceding n, d, t, l (for example krásne stromy ,
beautiful trees, c.f. zelené stromy , green trees)
- ľ is nowadays pronounced by many speakers,
particularly from western Slovakia, as a non-palatalized
l, esp. in li and le where the caron is
not written. The palatalized pronunciation of li and
le as palatalized has become a middle and eastern dialect
feature, or as a sign of hypercorrectness.
In addition, the following rules hold:
- 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 ,
prípad is pronounced
- When "v" stands at the end of the syllable, it is pronounced as
non-syllabic u (bilabial approximant ), with the exception of the
position before "n" or "ň", for example, kov (metal),
kravský (cow - adjective), but povstať (uprise)
because the v is not at the end of the syllable
(po-vstať), hlavný because "v" stands before "n"
- The assimilation rule: Consonant clusters
containing both voiced and voiceless elements are entirely voiced
if the last consonant is a voiced one, or voiceless if the last
consonant is voiceless. For example, otázka is pronounced
, vzchopiť sa is pronounced . This rule applies also over
the word boundary, for example prísť domov (to come home),
viac jahôd (more strawberries). The voiced counterpart of
"ch" is .
- 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. This rule
has morphonemic implications: for example žen-ám but
tráv-am) and conjugation (for example
nos-ím but súd-im). There are several exceptions
to this rule. It is typical of the literary Slovak language, and
does not appear in Czech, or in some
One of the most important changes in Slovak orthography in the 20th
century was in 1953 when s
began to be written as
where pronounced in prefixes
, for example smluva
. (That is,
the phonemic principle has been given priority over the
etymological principle in this case.)
Slovak linguists do not usually use IPA for phonetic transcription
of their own language or others, but have their own system based on
the Slovak alphabet. Many English language textbooks make use of
this alternative system of 'phonetic' transcription, a factor which
probably 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 the IPA.
Some additional notes (transcriptions in IPA unless otherwise
- Pronunciation of ä as [æ] is already archaic
(or dialectical) but still considered correct by some authorities;
the other standard pronunciation today is .
- r and l can be syllabic and
and behave as vowels. When they are used in this manner, they may
be written with the acute accent (ŕ and
ĺ). e.g., vlk (wolf), prst
(finger), štvrť (quarter), krk (neck), bisyllabic
vŕba—vŕ-ba (willow-tree), etc.
- ch, normally the unvoiced [x], has a voiced
allophone resulting from assimilation .
- The graphic group -ou (at the end of words) is
pronounced but is not considered a separate diphthong. Its phonemic
interpretation is /ov/.
- ia, ie, iu
form diphthongs in native Slovak words, but two monophtongs in
foreign and loan words.
- m has the allophone in front of the
labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/.
- n in front of (post)alveolar fricatives has an
allophone written as in Slovak phonemic transcription.
- n can be [ŋ] in front of the velar plosives
/k/ and /g/.
- f can be voiced as a result of phonetic
The Slovak language has distinctive palatalization
) in the standard language is
always placed on the first syllable of a word (or on the preceding
preposition, see below). 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. Monosyllabic conjunctions,
monosyllabic short personal pronouns and auxiliary verb forms of
the verb byť
(to be) are, as a rule, not stressed.
form a single prosodic
unit with the following word,
unless the word is long (four syllables or more) or the preposition
stands at the beginning of a sentence.
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
- Speváčky spievajú. (The+female+singers
- (Speváčk-y spieva-j-ú; -ú is a third person plural ending, and
/j/ is a hiatus sound)
- My speváčky spievame. (We the+female+singers
- (My speváčk-y spieva-me, where -me is the first person plural
- and so forth.
- Adjectives, pronouns and numerals agree in person, gender and case with the noun to which it refers.
- Adjectives precedes their noun. Botanic or zoological terms are
exceptions (for example, mačka divá, literally "cat wild",
Felis silvestris), as is the naming of Holy Spirit (Duch
Svätý) in majority of churches.
Word order in Slovak is relatively free, since strong inflection
enables the identification of thematic role
(subject, object, predicate,
etc.) regardless of its placement. This relatively free word order
allows the use of word order in information structure
- Ten veľký muž tam dnes otvára obchod. = That big man
opens a store there today. (ten = that; veľký =
big; muž = man; tam = there; dnes =
today; otvára = opens; obchod = store) - The word
order is without emphasizing any specific detail, just general
- Ten veľký muž dnes otvára obchod tam. = That big man
is today opening a store there. - This word order emphasizes the
place (tam = there).
- Dnes tam otvára obchod ten veľký muž. = Today over
there a store is being opened by that big man. - This word order
focuses on the person who is opening the store (ten =
that; veľký = big; muž = man).
- Obchod tam dnes otvára ten veľký muž. = The store over
there is today being opened by that big man. - Depening on the
pronunciation the focus can be either on the store itself or on the
Subject-Verb-Object. Word order is not completely free.In the above
example, the following combinations are not possible:
- Ten otvára veľký muž tam dnes obchod.
- Obchod muž tam ten veľký dnes otvára. ...
The following are unlikely:
- Otvára ten veľký muž tam dnes obchod. (But when
understood as a question, this would be a correct word order, i.e.
"Is that big man opening the store there"?)
- Obchod ten veľký muž dnes tam otvára. (Only possible
in a poem or a similar style.)
There are no articles in the Slovak language. The demonstrative
pronoun ten (fem: tá, neuter: to) may be used in front of the noun
in situations where definiteness
Nouns, adjectives, pronouns
There are unique forms for 0-10. 11-19 are formed by the numeral
plus "násť." Compound numerals (21, 1054) are combinations of these
words formed in the same order as their mathematical symbol is
written (for example 21 = dvadsaťjeden, literally "twenty
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) dve
tristo,... (900)deväťsto,... (1,000) tisíc,... (1,100) tisícsto,...
tisíc,... (100,000) stotisíc,...
stotisíc,... (1,000,000) milión,...
- Verbs have three major conjugations. Three persons and two
numbers (singular and plural) are distinguished. There are several
- á-Type Verbs
|volať, to call
||Past Participle (masculine - feminine)
||volal - volala
- á-Type Verbs - rhythmic law
|bývať, to live
||býval - bývala
|vracať, to return
||vracal - vracala
|robiť, to do, work
||robil - robila
- í-Type Verbs - rhythmic law
|vrátiť, to return
||vrátil - vrátila
|vidieť, to see
||videl - videla
|kupovať, to buy
||kupoval - kupovala
- e-Type Verbs - (typically -Cnuť)
|zabudnúť, to forget
||zabudol - zabudla
- ie-Type Verbs - (typically -Vnuť)
|minúť, to spend, miss
||minul - minula
- ie-Type Verbs - -cť, -sť, -zť
|niesť, to carry
||niesol - niesla
|stučnieť, to carry (be fat)
||stučnel - stučnela
||byť, to be
||jesť, to eat
||vedieť, to know
- 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 =
- 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
- 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
- skrývať (to be hiding): je skrývaný (he is being hidden); sa
skrýva (he is being hidden)
- The active present participle (=which
is ...ing) 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 ...ing) 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 ...ing) was formerly formed using the suffix –vší, but is no
- 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 ...ing) is formed using the suffix
- skryť (to hide): skrytie (the hiding)
- skrývať (to be hiding): skrývanie (the continuous hiding)
Adverbs are formed by replacing the adjectival ending with the
ending –o or –e/-y. Sometimes both –o and -e are possible.
- 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
- rýchly (fast)– rýchlejší (faster) – najrýchlejší
(fastest):rýchlo (quickly) – rýchlejšie (more quickly) –
najrýchlejšie (most quickly)
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
Relationships to other languages
The Slovak language is a descendant of Proto-Slavic
language, itself a descendant of
is closely related to the other West Slavic languages
, primarily to
, but it also has some striking
similarities with other Slavic
, primarily the Southern Slavic languages and Old Church Slavonic
. It has been also
influenced by German
Slavic languages (except Czech)
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.
Eastern Slovak dialects have the greatest degree of mutual
intelligibility with Rusyn
of all the
Slovak dialects, but both lack technical terminology and upper
also differ quite
considerably 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 Rusyn
and even Russian
(in this order), although their
orthography, based on the Cyrillic
, is very different.
There are also similarities with the western Southern Slavic
languages, i.e. Croatian
and to a lesser degree Slovenian
stemming from the time before
the arrival of the Hungarians in Central Europe.
Slovak, due to its central location in Slavic Europe, is the Slavic
language, which is the most intelligible to other Slavs or with
their respective languages, and it is the closest West Slavic
language, as well as the closest language written in the Latin
alphabet, to Russian. This is in fact reflected in its name for
itself, slovenský jazyk
, which according to most writers
originally simply meant "the Slavic tongue" (the same applies to
the Slovene language
, which has a
similar name for its own language: slovenski jezik
Note: Jak sä maješ? in
Ukraine is often
considered to be a Polonized version of
greeting. In proper Ukrainian gramar it would have been
something like Jak maješ-sä?
||куповати (= kupovaty)
||купувати (= kupuvaty)
||Вітайте! (= vitajte!)
||Вітаю! (= vitaju!)
||рано (= rano)
||рано/ранок (= rano/ranok)
||rano / ranek
||Дякую (= ďakuju)
||Дякую (= ďakuju)
|How are you?
||Ako sa máš?
||Як ся маєш/маш? (= jak sä maješ/maš?)
||Як справи? (= jak spravy?) Як себе/ся маєш? (= jak
||Jak se máš?
||Jak się masz?
Most dialects of Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible
between Slovak and Czech languages
). Eastern Slovak dialects
are less intelligible with Czech; they differ from Czech and from
other Slovak dialects, and mutual contact between speakers of Czech
and speakers of the eastern dialects is limited.
Since the dissolution of
it has been allowed to use Czech in TV
broadcasting and - like any other language of the world - during
court proceedings (Administration Procedure Act 99/1963 Zb.). From
1999 to August 2009, the Minority Language Act 184/1999 Z.z., in
its section (§) 6, contained the variously interpreted unclear
provision saying that "When applying this act, it holds that the
use of the Czech language fulfills the requirement of fundamental
intelligibility with the state language" ; the state language is
Slovak and the Minority Language Act basically refers to
municipalities with more than 20% ethnic minority population (there
are no such Czech municipalities in Slovakia). Since 1 September
2009 (due to an amendment to the State Language Act 270/1995 Z.z.)
a language "fundamentally intelligible with the state language"
(i.e. the Czech language) may be used in contact with state offices
and bodies by its native speakers and documents written in it and
issued by bodies in the Czech Republic are officially
Slovak have a long history of interaction and mutual influence well
before the creation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Literary
Slovak shares significant
orthographic features with Czech
as well as technical and professional terminology dating from the
Czechoslovak period, but there are phonetic, grammatical and
German loanwords include "coins," Slovak mince
; "to wish", Slovak vinšovať
standard term: želať
), German wünschen
"color," Slovak farba
, German Farbe
There is a very low number of Hungarian loanwords
in Slovak. Examples
- "wicker whip" - Slovak korbáč (the name for "whip" is
bič and korbáč usually means only 1 particular
type of it—the "wicker whip") - Hungarian korbács
- "dragon/kite" - Slovak šarkan (rather rare,
drak is far more common in this meaning; šarkan
often means only "kite", esp. a small one that is flown for fun and
this term is far more common than drak in this meaning;
for the "dragon kite", the term drak is still used almost
exclusively) - Hungarian sárkány.
Official usage of Slovak language in
There are many varieties of Slovak. These may be divided in four
- Eastern Slovak dialects (in Spiš,
Šariš, Zemplín and Abov)
- Central Slovak dialects (in Liptov, Orava, Turiec, Tekov, Hont, Novohrad, Gemer and the historic
- 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
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
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
languages surrounding them (Serbian, Hungarian and Romanian).
- Magyar Nyelvőr – Pacsai Imre: Magyar–szlovák
kulturális és nyelvi kapcsolat jegyei
- 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,
- Musilová, K. and Sokolová, M. (2004) Funkčnost
česko-slovenských kontaktových jevů v současnosti [The
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Moravica I (AUPO, Facultas Philosophica Moravica 1).
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středoevropských souvislostech (meziliterárnost a areál).
Brno: ÚS FF MU, pp. 89–122.
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slovenčina vo vzťahu k spisovnej češtine a k obecnej češtine [In
what closer, in what further... Standard Slovak in relation to
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Sociology of Language 183, pp. 53–73.
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Pokračovanie príbehu. [Slovak and Czech in Contact:
Continuation of the Story]. Bratislava/Praha: Veda/Filozofická
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