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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-Voivodina (80,000, ancient ethnic minority), Romania (22,000, ancient ethnic minority), Poland (20,000), Canada (20,000, emigrants), Australia (emigrants), Austria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Croatia (5,000) 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'.
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", "w" are only used in loan words, never in native or naturalized 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:
Vowels are: a á ä e é i í o ó y ý u ú.
Diphthongs are: ia, ie, iu, ô.
Consonants are: b c č d ď dz dž f g h ch j k l ľ ĺ m n ň p q r ŕ s š t ť v w x z ž. The consonants r, l, ŕ, ĺ are considered vowels in some cases (see Pronunciation).
Pronunciation and spelling
The Slovak language has distinctive palatalization.
The accent (stress) in standard language is always on the first syllable of a word (or on preposition, see below). It is however different in some dialects. The eastern dialects, for example, have penultimate stress, which does not contribute to their intelligibility with standard Slovak. Some of the north-central dialects have a weak stress on the first syllable, which becomes stronger and "moves" to the penultima in some kinds of sentences. 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 byť (to be) are, as a rule, not stressed.
Prepositions are pronounced together with the following word, unless the words are long (four syllables or more) or the preposition stands at the very beginning of a sencence.
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). Long vowels are about two 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 either palatalization or change of alveolar fricatives into post-alveolar, in informal Slovak linguistics often called just "palatalization". Only 8 consonants can bear a caron, i.e. not all “normal” consonants have a "carroned" counterpart:
- In printed texts, the caron is printed in two forms: (1) č, dž, š, ž and (2) ľ,ď,ť (looking more like an apostrophe), but this is just a convention. In handwritten texts, it always takes the form (1).
- Phonetically, there are two forms of "palatalization": ľ,ň,ď,ť are palatals, while the č, dž, š, ž are post-alveolar fricatives.
- To accelerate writing, a rule has been introduced that the frequent character combinations ňe, ďe, ťe, ľe, ňi, ďi, ťi, ľi, ňí, ďí, ťí, ľí must be written ne, de, te, le, ni, di, ti, li, ní, dí, tí, lí (i.e. without the caron). In other words ne, de, te, le, ni, di etc. are pronounced as if there were a caron above the consonant. There are, however, exceptions to this rule:
- foreign words (e.g. telefón is pronounced with a hard t and a hard l)
- the following old Slavic words: ten (that), jeden (one), vtedy (then) are pronounced with hard t and d
- nominative masculine plural endings of pronouns and adjectives do not "soften" preceding n, d, t, l (e.g. tí odvážni mladí muži , the/those brave young men)
- short e in adjectival endings that is, actually (morphonemically), long é shortened by the "rhythmical rule" (see below) does not "soften" preceding n, d, t, l (e.g. krásne stromy /kraːsnɛ.../, beautiful trees, c.f. zelené stromy /zɛʎɛnɛː.../, green trees)
ľ is nowadays by many speakers esp. from western Slovakia pronounced as a non-palatalized l, esp. in li, le where the caron is not written. The officially correct pronunciation of li, le as palatalized is already frequently perceived as marked (either as a trait of middle and eastern dialect, or as a feature of language zealots). (An analogous tendency occurs in European Spanish, where however the ll is pronounced like English y instead of l.)
In addition, the following rules hold:
- When a voiced consonant having a voiceless correspondent (i.e. b, d, ď, dz, dž, g, h, z, ž) stands at the end of the word before a pause, it is pronounced as a voiceless consonant (i.e. p, t, ť, c, č, k, ch, s, š, respectively), e.g. pohyb is pronounced /pohip/, prípad is pronounced /priːpat/
- When "v" stands at the end of the syllable, it is pronounced as non-syllabic u (bilabial approximant /u̯/), with the exception of the position before "n" or "ň", e.g., kov /kou̯/ (metal), kravský /krau̯skiː/ (cow - adjective), but povstať /pofstac/ (uprise) because the v is not at the end of the syllable (po-vstať), hlavný /hlavniː/ because "v" stands before "n" here
- 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 /otaːska/, vzchopiť sa is pronounced /fsxopiʦːa/. This rule applies also over the word boundary, e.g. prísť domov /priːzɟ domou̯/ (to come home), viac jahôd /vi̯aʣjahu̯ot/ (more strawberries). Voiced counterpart of "ch" /x/ is /ɣ/.
- 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 in the same word, i. e. the following syllable must be made short (in writing and pronunciation) (this rule has implications for the formation, declension (e. g. žen-ám but tráv-am) and conjugation (e. g. nos-ím but súd-im) of words; there are several exceptions to this rule; this rule is typical of the literary Slovak language (not existing in the closely related Czech, or some Slovak dialects).
Slovak linguists do not usually use IPA for phonetic transcription (neither for the Slovak language, nor for other common languages), but rather their own system based on the Slovak alphabet. In the following table, pronunciation of each grapheme is given in this system as well as in IPA and SAMPA.
Some additional notes (transcriptions in IPA unless otherwise stated):
- pronunciation of ä as /ć/ is already archaic (or dialectical) but still considered correct by some linguistic authorities, another standard pronunciation today is /ɛ/
- "r" and "l" can be syllabic phonemes /r̩/ and /l̩/, which leads to words like "vlk", "prst", "štvrť", "krk".
- "ch" normally unvoiced /x/ can have voiced /ɣ/ as allophone as a result of phonetic assimilation.
- The sound group or graphemic group -ou (at the end of words) is pronounced /ou̯/ but is not considered a separate diftong, nor grapheme respectively (unlike ch, dz, dž). Its phonematic interpretation is /ov/.
- ia, ie, iu form diphthongs /i̯a/ /i̯ɛ/ /i̯u/ in native Slovak words, but glides in foreign and loan words.
- m has allophone /ɱ/ in front of labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/.
- n in front of (post)alveoral fricatives has and allophone written as /n̶/ in Slovak phonemic transcription - this phoneme is however treated by IPA (and SAMPA) as full allophone and therefore has no other transcription except /n/.
- n can be /ŋ/ in front of velar plosives /k/ /g/
- /f/ can be voiced /f̬/ as a result of phonetic assimilation
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.
- 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 at the end of the syllable approx. as w in window, see above)
- 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
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:
- Speváčka spieva. (The+woman+singer is+singing.)
- (Speváčk-a spieva-0, where -0 on is a third person singular ending)
- Speváčky spievajú. (The+woman+singers are+singing.)
(Speváčk-y spieva-j-ú, where -ú is a third person plural ending, -j- is a hiatus sound)
- My speváčky spievame. (We the+woman+singers are+singing.)
- (My speváčk-y spieva-me, where -me is the first person plural ending)
- An adjective, pronoun and partly also a numeral agrees in person, gender and case with the noun it refers to. (See Slovak declension) – just like in most Slavic languages
- An adjective always precedes the corresponding noun — as in English, unlike in Polish and Romance languages. Botanic or zoological terms are exceptions (for example, mačka divá, litterally "cat wild", Felis silvestris).
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; veľky´ = 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 (as in English) and the word order is not completely arbitrary. For example, in the above example, the following combinations are not possible:
- Ten otvára veľký človek tam dnes obchod.
- Obchod človek tam ten veľký dnes otvára. ...
And the following, for instance, are not likely to occur:
- Otvára ten veľký človek tam dnes obchod.
- Obchod ten veľký človek dnes tam otvára. ...
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
See: 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, . . . (1 000) tisíc, . . . (1 100) tisícsto, . . . (2 000) dvetisíc, . . (100 000) stotisíc, . . . (1 000 000) milión, . . .
See also: Slovak declension
- 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
- The infinitive always ends in -ť (see e.g. the above examples).
- The English continuous 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 two past tenses. Both are formed analytically. The latter, however, is not used in the modern language and is considered dated and/or grammatically incorrect. Examples for two verbs (note that the continuous form is considered a separate verb in Slavic languages):
- 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)
- There is only one future tense. For imperfective verbs, it is formed analytically, for perfective verbs it is identical with the present tense. Examples:
- skryť (to hide) : skryjem (I will hide / I will have hid)
- skrývať (to be hiding) : budem skrývať (I will be hiding)
- There are two 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 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)
- The active present participle (=which is ...ing) is formed using the suffixes –úci/ -iaci / - aci
- skryť (to hide) : skryjúci (which is hiding)
- skrývať (to be hiding): skrývajúci (which 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 (= which was ...ing) was formerly formed using the suffix –vší, but is no longer used.
- The passive participle (= ...ed (adj.)) is formed using the suffixes -ný / -tý / -ený:
- skryť (to hide): skrytý (hid)
- skrývať (to be hiding): skrývaný (being hid)
- 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 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)
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 observers 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:
- the Czech language [western neighbor of Slovakia]
- the Polish language [northern neighbor of Slovakia], e. g. the use of the prefix pre-, use of the consonant dz, and some vocabulary (teraz, pivnica)
South Slavic languages (especially Slovene and Croatian); this connection is due to the fact that the territory of present-day Hungary was inhabited by the Sloviene (see Great Moravia) before the Hungarians settled there in the 10th century, thus bringing about the rise of the Slovaks and Slovenians and of the corresponding languages
East Slavic languages [eastern neighbors of Slovakia; a Ruthenian/Ukrainian minority lives in northern eastern Slovakia]
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 (sk: stôl, hu: asztal), window (sk: oblok, hu: ablak), male sheep, brother (sk: brat, hu: barát), dear, dinner (sk: obed, hu: ebéd), supper, street (sk: ulica, hu: utca), book, coat (sk, hu: kabát), pub, cherry, basket, key, Wednesday (sk: streda, hu: szerda), Thursday, Friday, German, shepherd (sk: pastier, hu: pásztor), prince, king (sk: kráľ, hu: király), servant, Christian, pagant, angel, miller (sk: mlynár, hu: molnár), smith sk: kováč, hu: kovács, 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 main differences between standard Slovak and Czech.
- Slovak graphemes that do not exist in the Czech language are ä, ľ, ŕ, ĺ and ô (see Pronunciation). Czech graphemes that do not exist in the Slovak language are: ř and ě.
- Slovak has the following phonemes which Czech does not have: /dz/, /dž/, /ľ/, /ŕ/, /ĺ/, /ä/ (this one only in higher-style standard Slovak, or some dialects), and the diphtongs /ia/, /ie/, /iu/, /ô/; and on the contrary, Czech has /ř/ and the diphtong /ou/, which Slovak does not have.
- Czech uses peculiar pitch contour, not present in Slovak (or Moravian dialects).
- The Slovak, unlike Czech, uses palatalization more frequently (i.e., is phonetically “softer“)
- The phonetic assimilation and a kind of "liaison" are much stronger in the Slovak language
- The Slovak grammar:
- is somewhat simpler (i.e. more regular) than Czech literary language grammar, since the present-day Slovak language standard has been codified only in the 19th century. However the colloquial Czech makes some more simplifications, especially merging case suffixes.
- has different declension and conjugation endings and paradigms
- has 6 morphological cases (see Slovak declension) - the vocative (officially not considered a separate grammatical case anymore) is almost lost, while the Czech vocative is well alive
- Basic Slovak vocabulary is partly different, partly identical, partly very similar to the Czech language, and a few (almost) identical words have different meaning. The differences are mostly of simple historical origin (e.g. the word hej mentioned below was used in Great Moravia). As for professional terminology, except for biology (esp. all names of animals and plants), the Czech terminology was mostly taken over (in Slovakized form) for practical reasons. The Czech-Slovak Dictionary of Different Terms (1989, Prague) contains some 11.000 entries (without professional terminology):
- Examples of basic different words are: to speak (SK hovoriť – CZ mluvit), yeah (SK hej – CZ jo), if (SK ak – CZ jestli, jestliže, -li), Good bye (SK Dovidenia – CZ Nashledanou), January (SK január – CZ leden), cat (SK mačka – CZ kočka), to kiss (SK bozkať – CZ líbat), now (SK teraz – CZ teď, nyní), goods (SK tovar – CZ zboží) etc.
- Examples of typical small differences: endings (SK -cia, -dlo, -ť, -om – CZ -c(i)e, -tko, -t, -em), expressions (SK treba, možno – CZ je třeba, je možné / je možno), prepositions (SK na – CZ k, pro) . . .
- Examples of words with different meanings : SK topiť (to melt) – CZ topit (to heat), SK horký (bitter) – CZ horký (hot) . . .
- The Czech language has no equivalents for many Slovak words and vice versa. Examples of no Czech equivalents: prepositions (popod, ponad, sponad. . . ), verbs (ľúbiť, povynechávať, skackať, siakať,. . . ), nouns (kúrňava, kaštieľ, hoľa, grúň). . ., pronouns (dakto, voľakto, henten,. . . ) etc.
- The Czech language does not have the Rhythmical Rule (see Pronunciation)
- Slovak uses the passive voice formed like in English less than the Czech, and prefers the passive voice formed using the reflexive pronoun sa (like in Romance languages) instead
- Slovak has hundreds of dialects, while in the Czech Republic, many dialects have disappeared, especially in the Bohemian part of the Czech Republic.
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 some dialects of western Slovak can be considered fully mutually intelligible with the Czech language, with which Slovak borders in the west. 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, Croatia, Bulgaria and elsewhere). 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 Polish and the East Slavonic languages. However, historically, Slovak dialects arose as varieties of the autonomous Slovak language and they arose neither from the Czech, nor from the Polish, nor from the Ukrainian language.
Some interesting information:
- the longest more-or-less "normal" word that can be formed is "najneskomercionalizovateľnejšieho" (or "najneskomercionalizovateľnejšiemu"), or even "najneskomercionalizovávateľnejšieho" (the last one means: the least commercializable [adjectivised verb in the accusative case, imperfective aspect])
- the longest consonant cluster is found in the compound word "štvrťvzžblnknutie", it is however rather artificial. But compounds like "štvrťprst", "štvrťzmrd", "štvrťžblnknutie" and similar sound natural. Longest frequent consonant cluster found in Slovak National Corpus seems to be in word "štvrťstoročný" and derivates.
- the most frequent words found in Slovak National Corpus are these:
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)
- the most frequent verbs are byť (to be), mať (to have), môcť (can), povedať (to say)
- Slovak for "no" is nie /ɲiɛ/, Slovak for "yes" is áno /aːno/.