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Slavic languages
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Slavic languages

The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages) are the languages of the Slavic peoples. They are a group of Indo-European languages spoken in most of Eastern Europe, much of the Balkans, parts of Central Europe, and the northern part of Asia.

Table of contents
1 Branches
2 History
3 Detailed list with SIL and ISO 639-2 codes
4 See also


Scholars divide the Slavic languages into three branches:

Map of Slavic languages in eastern Europe

The tripartite division of the Slavic languages does not take into account the spoken dialects of each language. Of these, certain so-called transitional dialects and hybrid dialects often bridge the gaps between different languages, showing similarities that are not apparent when Slavic literary (i.e., standard) languages are compared.

There are, however, enough differences existing between the various Slavic dialects and languages to make communication between Slavs of different nationalities difficult, but not impossible. Within the individual Slavic languages, dialects may vary to a lesser degree, as in Russian, or to a much greater degree, as in Slovenian. Modern mass communication, however, has helped to minimize variation in all the Slavic languages.


Slavic languages descend from a dialect of Proto-Slavic, their parent language, which developed from a language that was also the ancestor of Proto-Baltic, the parent of the Baltic languages. It is believed that the "Urheimat" of the Proto-Balto-Slavic, this ancestral language, was spoken in the territories surrounding what is today known as Lithuania at some time after the Indo-European area had been separated into different dialect regions (ca. 3000 BC). There are at least 289 words shared by Slavic and Baltic speakers which could have came from that hypothetical language. The process of separation of Proto-Slavic speakers from Proto-Baltic speakers occurred around 1000 BC. Proto-Baltic-Slavic earlier developed from Proto-Baltic-Germanic-Slavic, which is documented by around 164 words.

In the opinion of linguists, probably even in X–XII century all Slavs spoke generally the same language, with very slight differences.

Some linguists maintain however, that the Slavic group of languages is different from the neighboring Baltic group (Lithuanian, Latvian, and the now-extinct Old Prussian). The Baltic language speakers once lived in a much larger area along the Baltic Sea and south. Starting by 600 AD Slavic language speakers gradually spread and took over large areas of Baltic settlements. At the same time they are recorded as taking over portions of Greece. (The first documented attempt at conquest of Baltic speakers by Slavic speakers was recorded in the year 997 AD by Adalbert of Prague.) Similarities in grammar and vocabulary are explained by this group of linguists as a result of this Slav migration into the Baltic speaking areas and the subsequent proximity of the two groups.

Detailed list with SIL and ISO 639-2 codes

The following tree for the Slavic languages is based on http://www.ethnologue.com/show_family.asp?subid=656. In ISO 639-2 the code sla is used in a general way for slavic languages not included in one of the other codes.

West Slavic languages:

South Slavic languages: East Slavic languages: Transitional There is also a planned language called Slovio that is based on Slavic languages, and intended to be easily understood by people who speak at least one Slavic language.

See also