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.
Scholars divide the Slavic languages into three branches:
- South Slavic, which is further split into Western and Eastern subgroups. The Western subgroup is composed of the Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian, languages spoken in Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, and adjacent regions. The Eastern subgroup consists of Bulgarian in Bulgaria and adjacent areas, and Macedonian in Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania.
- West Slavic, which includes Czech in the Czech Republic and Slovak in Slovakia, Upper and Lower Sorbian in Germany, and Lekhitic (Polish and related dialects, Kashubian, Polabian, Obodrits).
- East Slavic, including Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian.
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 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 happened 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
, 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.
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:
- Sorbian Section - also known as Wendish
- Lower Sorbian - (SIL Code, WEE; ISO 639-2 code, wen)
- Upper Sorbian - (SIL Code, WEN; ISO 639-2 code, wen)
- Lekhitic Section
- Polish - (SIL Code, PQL; ISO 639-1 code, pl; ISO 639-2 code, 'pol'\) (NOTE: The counterintuitive SIL code "PQL" is correct; "POL" is used for the Polci language of Nigeria)
- Kashubian - (SIL Code, CSB; ISO 639-2 code, sla)
- Slovincian - an extinct dialect of Kashubian
- Polabian - extinct - (SIL Code, POX; ISO 639-2 code, sla)
- Czech-Slovak Section
- Czech - (SIL Code, CZC; ISO 639-1 code, cs; ISO 639-2(B) code, cze; ISO 639-2(T) code, ces)
- Knaanic or Judeo Slavic - extinct - (SIL Code, CZK; ISO 639-2 code, sla)
- Slovak - (SIL Code, SLO; ISO 639-1 code, sk; ISO 639-2(B) code, slo; ISO 639-2(T) code, slk)
East Slavic languages:
- Western Section
- Slovenian - (SIL Code, SLV; ISO 639-1 code, sl; ISO 639-2 code, slv)
- Serbo-Croatian - (SIL Code, SRC; ISO 639-1 codes, bs, hr and sr; ISO 639-2 codes, bos; ISO 639-2(B) codes, scr and scc; ISO 639-2(T) codes, hrv and srp)
- Romano-Serbian - (SIL Code, RSB; ISO 639-2 code, sla)
- Eastern Section
- Macedonian - (SIL Code, MKJ; ISO 639-1 code, mk; ISO 639-2(B) code, mac; ISO 639-2(T) code, mkd)
- Bulgarian - (SIL Code, BLG; ISO 639-1 code, bg; ISO 639-2 code, bul)
- Old Church Slavonic - (SIL Code, SLN; ISO 639-1 code, cu; ISO 639-2 code, chu)
- Belarusian (alternatively Belarusan, Belarussian, Belorussian) - (SIL Code, RUW; ISO 639-1 code, be; ISO 639-2 code, bel)
- Belarusan is the form recognized by the United States State Department, ethnologue.com and the Rosetta Project.
- Ukrainian - (SIL Code, UKR; ISO 639-1 code, uk; ISO 639-2 code, ukr)
- Russian - (SIL Code, RUS; ISO 639-1 code, ru; ISO 639-2 code, rus)
- Rusyn - (SIL Code, RUE; ISO 639-2 code, sla)
There is also a planned language
that is based on
and easily understandable to persons speaking at least one Slavic language.