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Slovak language
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Slovak language

Slovak (Slovenčina)
Spoken in: Slovakia, USA, Czech Republic and elsewhere
Region: --
Total speakers: more than 6 million
Ranking: Not in top 100.
Official status
Official language of: Slovakia (and European Union from May 1, 2004)
Regulated by: Slovak Academy of Sciences (The Ľudovít Štúr; Linguistic Institute)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 sk
ISO 639-2(B) slo
ISO 639-2(T) slk

The Slovak language (slovenčina, slovenský jazyk) is an Indo-European language, more precisely a West Slavic language (together with mainly the Czech, Polish, and Sorbian languages).

Slovak is spoken in Slovakia (by 5 million people), the USA (500.000, emigrants), the Czech Republic (320.000, due to former Czechoslovakia), Hungary (110.000, ancient ethnic minority), Serbia (80.000, ancient ethnic minority), Romania (22.000, ancient ethnic minority), Poland (20.000), Canada (20.000, emigrants), Australia (emigrants), Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia, Russia and some other countries.

The correct American English adjective for the language, people, and culture of Slovakia is 'Slovak;' Slovak belongs to the 'Slavic' group of languages. British usage employs 'Slovakian' for the American 'Slovak' and uses 'Slavonic' where the American usage is 'Slavic'.

Table of contents
1 Alphabet
2 Pronunciation and spelling
3 Orthography
4 Syntax
5 Morphology
6 Vocabulary
7 History
8 Relations to other languages
9 Differences between the Slovak and Czech language
10 Dialects
11 Trivia
12 See also
13 External links


The Slovak language uses a modified Roman (Latin) alphabet. Modified means that it uses four types of diacritical marks (ˇ, ´, ¨, ^; see Pronunciation) placed above some letters.

The lexicographic ordering of the Slovak alphabet is very similar to the English alphabet: 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" and "w" are only used in loan words, never in native Slovak words.

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

The characters are divided as follows:

Pronunciation and spelling

The Slovak language has distinctive

The accent (stress) in standard language is always on the first syllable. It is however different in many dialects. The eastern dialects, for example, have penultimate stress, which does not contribute to their intelligibility with official Slovak. 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 to be are not stressed (officially at least).

Prepositions are pronounced together with the following word (officially at least).

The acute mark (in Slovak dĺžeň, i.e. prolongation mark) indicates the long pronunciation of the character below it, e.g. í = approximately iii . The acute can be above all vowels and only above the 2 consonants "l" and "r" (strictly speaking, the r and l are called vowels then, because in Slovak r and l can function either as a vowel (long or short) – a so-called syllabic r,l - or as a consonant, although they are pronounced the same way in both cases). Long vowels are 2-3 times longer than corresponding normal (i.e. short) vowels, the long l or r should have an even longer pronunciation. Note that the acute mark has nothing to do with accent in the Slovak language.

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

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

The caron (in Slovak mäkčeň, i.e. palatalization mark or softening mark) indicates the soft pronunciation (i.e. palatalization) of the character (always a consonant) below it. Only 8 consonants can bear a caron, i.e. not all “normal” (i.e. hard) consonants have a soft counterpart:

In addition, the following rules hold:
  1. When a voiced consonant having a voiceless correspondent (i.e. b,d,ď, dz, dž, g, h, v, z, ž) stands at the end of the word, it is pronounced as a voiceless consonant (i.e. p, t, ť, c, č, k, ch, f, s, š, respectively), e.g. pohyb is pronounced [pohyp], prípad is pronounced [prípat]
  2. 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, e.g. otázka is pronounced [otáska], vzchopiť sa is pronounced [fschop…]
  3. The rhythmical rule: A long syllable (i. e. a syllable containing á, é, í, ý, ó, ú, ŕ, ĺ, ia, ie, iu, ô) cannot be followed by another long syllable, i. e. the following syllable must be made short (in writing and pronunciation) (this rule has implications for the formation, declension (e. g. ženám but trávam) and conjugation (e. g. nosím but súdim) of words; there are several exceptions from this rule; this rule is typical of the Slovak language (not existing in Czech, for example)).

Official transcriptions

Slovak linguists do not use IPA for phonetic transcription, but rather their own system. In the following table, pronunciation of each grapheme is given in this system as well as in IPA and SAMPA.

grapheme IPA SAMPA transcr.
a a a a
á a: á
ä ć, ɛ {, E ä, e
b b b b
c ʦ ts c
č ʧ tS č
d d d d
ď ɟ J\\ ď
dz ʣ dz ʒ
ʤ dZ ǯ
e ɛ E e
é e: é
f f f f
g g g g
h ɦ h\\ h
ch x x x
i I I i
í i: í
j j j j
k k k k
l l l l
ĺ lː̩ l=: ĺ̥
ľ ʎ L ľ
m m m m
n n n n
ň ɲ J ň
o o o o
ó o: ó
ô u̯o U_^O ŭo
p p p p
q kv kv kv
r r r r
ŕ rː̩ r=: ŕ̥
s s s s
š ʃ S š
t t t t
ť c c ť
u u u u
ú u: ú
v v v v
w v v v
x ks ks ks
y I I i
ý i: í
z z z z
ž ʒ Z ž

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

Intuitive transcription for English speakers

Following list shows approximate pronunciation for English speakers:

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, i.e. 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.


The primary principle of Slovak spelling is the phonetic principle (i. e. “Write as you hear”) – as opposed to the English spelling where the etymological principle is primary. The secondary principle is the morphological principle (i. e. all forms derived from the same stem are written 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, e. g. pekný (nice – sg) vs. pekní (nice-pl.).

Most foreign words receive Slovak spelling immediately or after some time, e.g. weekend is "víkend", software is “softvér” (but some 15 years ago spelled the English way), and quality is spelled "kvalita". However, personal and geographical names keep their original spelling, unless there is a fully Slovak form for the name (e.g. Londýn for London) or they are originally written in non-Latin characters – such as Arabic or Chinese – of course.


The main features of Slovak syntax are: The word order is relatively free (unlike in English or French), because – as opposed to English – the strong inflection of the words enables to identify the role of a word (subject, object, predicate, etc.) regardless of its placement within the sentence. The relatively free word order enables the Slovaks (just like other Slavs) to use the word order to convey information on which information is considered most important or new: Constituents with old information precede constituents with new information, or those that carry most emphasis. Examples:
Ten veľký človek tam dnes otvára obchod = The big man opens a store there today. (Ten = The; veľký = big; človek = man; tam = there; dnes = today; otvára =opens ; obchod = store)
Ten veľký človek dnes otvára obchod tam = It is there that the big man opens a store today
Dnes tam otvára obchod ten veľký človek = It is the big man who opens a store there today
Obchod tam dnes otvára ten veľký človek = As for the store, it is opened there by the big man
However, the normal order is Subject-Verb-Object (like in English) and the word order is not completely arbitrary . For example, in the above example, the following combinations are not possible:
Otvára veľký človek tam dnes obchod.
Obchod ten veľký človek tam dnes otvára. . . .


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.

Nouns (Podstatné mená)

See: Slovak declension

Adjectives (Prídavné mená)

See: Slovak declension

Pronouns (Zámená)

See: Slovak declension

Numerals (Číslovky)

The basic formation of Slovak numerals is like in 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 (e. g. 21 = dvadsaťjeden (i. e. literally „twentyone“)).

The numerals are: (1) jeden, (2) dva, (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, . . . (1 000 000) milión, . . .

See also: Slovak declension

Verbs (Slovesá)

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

skryť (to hide) : skryl som (I hid / I have hid); bol som skryl (I had hid)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrýval som (I was hiding); bol som skrýval (I had been hiding)

skryť (to hide) : skryjem (I will hide / I will have hid)
skrývať (to be hiding) : budem skrývať (I will be hiding)

skryť (to hide) : skryl by som (I would hide), bol by som skryl (I would have hid)
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 hid); sa skryje (he is hid)
skrývať (to be hiding): je skrývaný (he is being hid); sa skrýva (he is being hid)

skryť (to hide) : skryjúci (which is hiding)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrývajúci (which is being hiding)

skryť (to hide): skryjúc (by/when hiding)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrývajúc (by/when being hiding)

skryť (to hide): skrytý (hid)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrývaný (being hid)

skryť (to hide): skrytie (the hiding)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrývanie (the continuous hiding)

Adverbs (Príslovky)

Adverbs are usually formed by replacing the adjectival ending with the ending –o or sometimes –e / -y(sometimes both –o an d-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)

Prepositions (Predložky)

They 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)

Conjunctions (Spojky), Particles (Častice), Interjections (Citoslovce)

They work more or less like 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 ...at 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 ...


See also: Common phrases in different languages, Slovak lexicon


See: History of the Slovak language

Relations 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. Some observeres compare the difference between Slovak and Czech to that between Italian and Spanish. Others prefer to compare it to the differences between Scandinavian languages, or between German dialects or differences between English and Scots language. Generally, it can be said that while the vocabulary (especially the professional one) is quite similar, and the used spelling almost the same, the declension, conjugation and pronunciation are different.

Nowadays the Czechs and the Slovaks have more common words due to their long historic coexistence especially within the now-defunct country of Czechoslovakia. The Slovak is related to Czech especially in written form (because the Slovak literary language spelling has been inspired by the Czech spelling), but differs from it both phonetically and grammatically. However, the Slovak did not arise from the Czech language (neither from the Old nor from the Middle Czech) and the Czech language started to penetrate to Slovakia only in the 14th century. Adult educated Slovaks are able to understand Czech and to some extent Polish and Sorbian without a translator. In general, it can be stated that during the existence of Czechoslovakia (and especially of a 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. 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 disappear with a part of the youngest generation (and this is definitively the case with the Czech children in the opposite direction).

Basically, the standard Slovak is mutually intelligible with Czech (a bit more with literary Czech than with colloquial) and shares much of professional terminology with it, eastern Slovak dialects are mutually intelligible with standard Slovak, but less with Czech, 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:

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 (i. e. northern central Slovak) language, not necessarily for the dialects (see Dialects).

Slovak is not related to the (non-Slavic, non-Indoeuropean) Hungarian language. 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 a civilized life (e. g. the words for: table, window, male sheep, brother, dear, dinner, supper, street, book, coat, pub, cherry, basket, key, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, German, shepherd, prince, king, servant, Christian, pagant, angel, miller, smith, county, county border, county leader. . . )

Differences between the Slovak and Czech language

Linguistically, the Czech and Slovak languages form a Language continuum, eastern Slovak dialects then blend into the Rusyn language. Czech exists in two (not speaking about Moravian dialects) different forms, literary Czech and colloquial Czech. 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 differences between standard Slovak and Czech.


The spoken Slovak language consists of a large number of dialects that can be divided in three basic groups:
They differ mostly in phonology, inflection and vocabulary. 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 e. g. 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 western Slovak can be considered fully mutually intelligible with the Czech language. The dialects are fragmented geographically, separated by numerous mountain ranges (Slovakia is a mountainous country). The above three groups already existed in the 10th century. All the three dialect groups are also spoken by the Slovaks living outside Slovakia (in Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria). 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 the Polish and the East Slavonic languages. However, historically, Slovak dialects arose as autonomous languages and they arose neither from the Czech, nor from the Polish, nor from the Ukrainian language.


Some interesting information:

a (and) v (in) sa (oneself- reflexive pronoun) na (on/at) je (is) že (,that) s (with) o (about) z(from) aj (also) to (it) do (into) ako (as/like)

See also

External links