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Slovak language

The Slovak language (Slovenčina, Slovenský jazyk):

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 and Word Order
5 Morphology:
6 Vocabulary:
7 History:
8 Relation to other languages
9 Main Differences to the Czech language:
10 Dialects:
11 Related 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.

Pronunciation and Spelling

Particular characters:
b, d , f, h, l, k, m, n, p, x are pronounced (more or less) like in normal English pronunciation
ia, ie, iu, ô [i.e. uo] are diphthongs, i.e. both elements are pronounced “together” and the first one is almost a Slovak j (for ia, ie, iu) and almost an English w (for ô)

a – u in cut
á – a in father (long a)
ä - e in set (or in archaic pronunciation like a in fat)
c – ts in its
č - ch in child
ď - approx. British d in during, dew
dz - approx. d+z (voiced c; like the Italian „zz“ in organizzare)
dž - j in John (voiced č)
e – e in set
é – ai in fair (long e)
g – g in go
ch – Scottish ch, e.g. in Loch Ness (approx. like German ch, Russian x)
i – i in sit
í – ee in need (long i)
j – y in yes
ľ - approx. l in lurid (like "gli..." in Italian or "ll" in European Spanish)
ĺ – approx. lll
ň - approx. n in new (like French gn or Spanish ń)
o – o in odd
ó – aw in saw, a in ball (long o)
r - rolled r like in Italian, Scottish, Bavarian (and like a Spanish r that is not before a vowel and not at the beginning of the word, e.g. in color)
ŕ – approx. rrr (approx. like Spanish rr in zorro)
s – s in save
š - sh in she
ť - approx. t in tutor
ô - approx. wo in wonder
q – like Slovak kv
u – u in put
ú - oo in choose (long u)
v – v in very (but before a consonant or at the end of a word like the w in window)
y - like Slovak i
ý – like Slovak í (long y)
z – z in zone
ž - s in pleasure (like French j in journal or g in général)
w – like Slovak v

In addition, the following rules hold:


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.

Syntax and Word Order

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 works today
Dnes tam otvára obchod ten veľký človek = It is the big man who works 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 we are 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):

see also Slovak declension

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, . . . (1000) tisíc, . . . (1100) tisícsto, . . . (2000) dvetisíc, . . (100000) stotisíc, . . . (1. 000. 000) milión, . . .

Verbs (Slovesá):

Verbs have three major conjugations distinguishing 3 persons and 2 numbers (singular and plural) – just like in English.

There are several conjugation paradigms- like in most European languages. Here is the conjugation of some randomly chosen verbs (the forms are given in the order: I – you (sg) – he/she/it – we – you (pl) – they ):

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

Subject (personal) pronouns are often omitted unless they are emphatic - like in Italian or Spanish, unlike in Russian or English.

The infinitive always ends in -ť (see e.g. the above examples).

The English continuos form (i. e. to be . . . ing) is expressed by a change in the stem of the verb or by removing the prefix (note however that this statement is a strong simplification). The non-continuous version is called a perfective verb and the continuous version an imperfective verb. Example: :to hide = skryť, to be hiding = skrývať

There are only 2 past tenses. Both are formed analytically. Examples for two verbs (note that the continuous form is considered a separate verb in Slavic languages):

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

There is only 1 future tense. For imperfective verbs, it is formed analytically, for perfective verbs it is identical with the present tense. Example:
skryť (to hide) : skryjem (I will hide / I will have hided)
skrývať (to be hiding) : budem skrývať (I will be hiding)

There are 2 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 hided)
skrývať (to be hiding) : skrýval by som (I would be hiding), bol by som skrýval (I would have been hiding)

The passive voice is formed either like in English (to be + past participle) or like in Romance languages (using the reflexive pronoun sa):
skryť (to hide): je skrytý (he is hided); sa skryje (he is hided)
skrývať (to be hiding): je skrývaný (he is being hided); sa skrýva (he is being hided)

The active present participle (= that is. . . ing ) is formed using the suffixes –úci/ -iaci / - aci
skryť (to hide) : skryjúci (that is hiding)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrývajúci (that 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 (= that was . . . ing) was formed using the suffix –vší, but is not used anymore today

The passive participle (= . . . ed) is formed using the suffixes -ný / -tý / -ený:

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

The verbal noun (= the . . . ing) is formed using the suffix –ie:
skryť (to hide): skrytie (the hiding)
skrývať (to be hiding): skrývanie (the continuous hiding)

Adverbs (Príslovky):

Are usually formed by replacing the adjective ending by 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) is always associated with the genitive case)

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

They work more or less like in the English language.


See: Common phrases in different languages To be continued. . .


see History of the Slovak language

Relation to other languages

The Slovak language arose directly from the Proto-Slavic language independently on other Slavic languages (see History).

The present-day Slovak language is closely related to both the Polish and the Czech language. The difference between Slovak and Czech is approximately the same as that between Italian and Spanish, except that nowadays the Czechs and the Slovaks have more common words due to their long historic coexistence especially within Czechoslovakia. The Slovak is related to Czech especially in written form (because the Slovak literary language has taken over 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 both Czech and Polish without a translator. In general, it can be stated that during the existence of Czechoslovakia (and especially of a common television), the 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 opposit direction).

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) Hungarian language and it has only borrowed a few (maybe 20) words from the Hungarian language, although Slovakia was part of Hungary from the 11th century to 1918. On the contrary, the Hungarian language borrowed a lot of words from the Slovak language (and the South 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. . . )

Main Differences to the Czech language:


The spoken Slovak language consists of a large number of dialects that can be divided in 3 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.

Related links

External links