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History of the Slovak language

This is a tabular history of the Slovak language. See also History of Slovakia.

Table of contents
1 Early History
2 Standardization:
3 Modern History

Early History

;around 500: arrival of the Slavs on the territory of Slovakia

;6th – 7th century: Phonological differentiation within the uniform Slavic language (Proto-Slavic) begins and it also occurs on the territory of Slovakia. For some results of this differentiation, see 9th century.

;9th century: Nitrian principality (till 833) in Slovakia and Great Moravia (833-?907) in Slovakia and Moravia.A dialect exists in central Slovakia that has changed the Proto-Slavic groups –ort-, -olt- in rat-, lat- (as in today standard, Slovak language), e. g. in the name of the Great Moravian prince Rastislav (in Czech Rostislav). Furthermore, the Proto-Slavic –dj-, -tj- has changed to –dz- , -c- (this happened well before the 9th century):

; early 10th century: The Slovak language arises from the language of the Sloviene (i. e. the Slavic inhabitants of Great Moravia, present-day Hungary, Slovenia and Slavonia) in the form of several Slovak dialects, after the Magyars (Hungarians) have destroyed Great Moravia (c.907), settled in present-day Hungary, separated the West from the South Slavs, and temporarily subjugated southern parts of Slovakia (most of the remaining Slovakia will become part of Hungary till the end of the 11th century). In the 10th century, the Slovak dialects are already divided in the three present-day groups (West, Central and Eastern Slovak dialects). Note that the rise of the Slovak language, just as that of other Slavic language, could be shifted back (even) to the 6th and 7th century, but the general consensus of opinion of Slavic linguists is that it was only in the 10th century that the Slavic languages were different enogh to define them as separate languages.

; 10th – early 19th century: Latin is used as the administrative, liturgical and literary language in Hungary (incl. Slovakia). The common people speak Slovak dialects.

; 13th – 14th century: Slovak burghers and yeomen start to use the Slovak dialects as administrative languages (together with Latin).The Slovak language consolidates after centuries of quick development.

; 14th century: The written Czech language starts to penetrate to Slovakia through Czech clergy teaching in capitular schools.

; 15th century – 16th century: Slovak continues to be used for administrative purposes. The written Czech language is also used (together with Latin) by certain Slovaks for certain purposes (correspondence, certain contracts, religious texts adressed to common people etc. ), but it mostly contains many Slovak elements, and texts written by people with no higher education are always written in Slovak. The reasons for the use of the Czech language are: the absence of a uniform Slovak language standard due to an absence of a Slovak state (whereas the Czech was a more or less standardized language), the fact that it is easier to learn then Latin for Slovaks, studies of many Slovaks at the University of Prague, the influence of the campaigns of the Czech Hussites and of John Giskra in Slovakia, and the temporary conquest of Moravia by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. In the 16th century, a Cultured Western Slovak, Cultured Central Slovak and a Cultured Eastern Slovak language start to arise (their use will intesify in the 18th century).

; 17th century – 18th century: The Lutheran Protestants use the Czech language (since late 16th century; as a liturgical language even till the early 20th century) in the religious sphere, the Catholics the western Slovak language (Cultured Western Slovak, Jesuit Slovak) based on the language used by the educated people from the region of Trnava where the important Jesuit University of Trnava was founded in 1635, and in the profane sphere (especially in the towns) the Slovak language more or less influenced by the Czech is used even in written documents, often with a chaotic orthography. But even the above-mentioned Protestants have replaced many Czech sounds by Slovak ones (e. g. ř by r, ě by e, au by ú, ou by ú etc. ). In eastern Slovakia, a Slovakized standard Polish language is used sometimes (besides Czech, Slovak and Latin) for the same purposes and reasons as the Czech language is used in the remaining Slovakia. Of course, the Latin language continues to be used, especially in state administration. As for politics, many Czech Protestant emigrants came to Slovakia in the late 16th century and especially after the Battle at the White Mountain (1620). After a successful recatholization, however, Slovakia became a largely Catholic country again in the 18th century.

; 1680’s – 18th century: After the defeat of the Turks near Vienna, many Slovaks gradually emigrate to the “Lower Lands“, i.e. to the territories in present-day Hungary, Serbia (later to Croatia and Bulgaria), and Romania depopulated after the Turkish occupation. They have preserved their particular Slovak dialects till today.


; 17th century - 1750: Major efforts to establish Slovak as the standard language emerge. For example, in his The Czech Grammar (1603, Prague), Vavrinec Benedikt from Nedožery incites the Slovaks to deepen their knowledge of their Slovak language. Also, Matej Bel in the introduction to the Gramatica Slavico-Bohemica (1745, Bratislava) of Pavol Doležal compares the Slovak language with other outstanding cultured languages. Literary activity in the Slovak language flourishes during the second half of the seventeenth century and continues into the next century.

; 1763: Romuald Hadvabný of Červený Kláštor proposes a detailed (West Slovak) language codification in his Latin-Slovak Dictionary with an outline of the Slovak grammar

;1783: The first adventure novel in Slovak - the René Mládenca Príhody a Skúsenosti - is published by Jozef Ignác Bajza in the western Slovak language

; 1787: Anton Bernolák, a Catholic priest (died 1813), publishes his Dissertatio philologico-critica de litteris Slavorum (Bratislava), in which he codifies a Slovak language standard based on the West Slovak language of the University of Trnava, but containing also some central Slovak elements (e. g the ľ and many words). The language is often called the Bernolák language. Bernolák will continue his codification work in other books in the 1780’s and 1790’s and especially in his huge six-volume Slovak-Czech-Latin-German-Hungarian Dictionary (published only 1825 –1927). This is the first successful establishment of a Slovak language standard. Bernolák’s language will be used by Slovak Catholics (esp. by the writers Juraj Fándly and Ján Hollý), but the Protestants will still write in the Czech language (in its old form used in Bohemia till the 17th century).

; 1843: Young Slovak Lutheran Protestants, led by Ľudovít Štúr, decide to establish and discuss the central Slovak dialect as the new Slovak language standard (instead of both Bernolák’s language used by the Catholics and the Czech language used by older Slovak Lutheran Protestants). The new language is also accepted by some users of the Bernolák language led by Ján Hollý (see also 1851), but is initially critisized by the older Lutheran Protestants led by Ján Kollár (died 1852). This language has been used till today as the standard Slovak language (see 1852). It will be officially declared the new language standard in August 1844. The first Slovak grammar of the new language will be published by Ľudovít Štúr in 1846. For details see Ľudovít Štúr.

; 1844: The Hungarian Diet of Bratislava replaces the Latin language (used since the Middle Ages) with the Hungarian language as the official language of Hungary (including Slovakia).

; 1851: Advocates of the Štúr language (1843) and of the Bernolák language (1787) agree on a common language standard, which is basically identical with the Štúr language, except that the orthography is changed from an phonologic one to an etymological one (e. g. introduction of y instead of i in some words, writing de, te etc. without a caron etc. ) and some concessions are made to Bernolák’s followers (e. g. past participle ending –l instead of –ou; introduction of ľ). Most of these changes were proposed by the Slovak linguist Martin Hattala in 1850 and then officially established by him in 1852 in the scientific Slovak grammar “Krátka mluvnice slovenská” [A Concise Slovak Grammar]. This language version is used till today, except for minor language reforms in 1902, 1931, 1940, 1953 and 1991

Modern History

; 1870’s: After the establishment of Austria-Hungary (1867), the Hungarian government prohibits the only three Slovak high schools in Hungary (founded in the 1860’s) in 1874-1875, and a strong Magyarisation begins in Hungary.

; 1907: With the Apponyi Laws, the Hungarian government officially turns all Slovak (and German) basic schools into Hungarian ones and the Slovak (and German) language is allowed to be taught one hour in the week as a foreign language.

; 19181992 (except WWII) : With the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918, the Slovak language is saved from a probable extinction (see 1907) and becomes an official language for the first time in history (along with the Czech language). At the same time, the language (especially the vocabulary) is strongly influenced by the Czech language. This holds mainly for the initial years of Czechoslovakia, when many Czech teachers and clerks were active in Slovakia (since Slovaks educated in the Slovak language were missing) and when missing Slovak professional terminology had to be created, as well as for the period after WWII, when most TV programs were broadcasted in the Czech language.

; 19591968: The six-volume Dictionary of the Slovak Language is published

; 1993: Czechoslovakia splits into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Slovak language becomes the official language of Slovakia. Further developments with respect to the Czech language remain to be seen, because close cultural and educational contacts did not disappear after 1992 and, for economic reasons, there are even more books written in the Czech language in the Slovak market then before 1990.