Slovak, or Slovakian, is derived from the Czech-Slovak language, and belongs to the Indo-European language family. Specifically, it belongs to the West Slavic group of languages, which includes Czech, Polish, Silesian, Kashubian and Sorbian. The word Slovak should not be confused with the word Slovene, which is a South Slavic language, also called Slovenian. These languages have all had a mutual influence on each other, due to their ethnopolitical history.
The history of the Slovak language is complex, though most of the important linguistic developments occurred around the 18th century, when the language was standardized, and the first dictionary produced. The other historical landmark is in 1993, when Czechoslovakia split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. This is when the Slovak language became the official language of Slovakia. Due to Slovakia and the surrounding countries sharing much history together, all of the languages in this area have affected each other.
The Slovak language is spoken by around 7 million people worldwide. Around 5 million of these people live in Slovakia itself, with around 1 million in the United States. The final million Slovak speakers live around the world, in the Czech Republic, Serbia, Ireland, Romania, Poland, Canada, Hungary, Croatia, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria and Ukraine. As you can see, most of the speakers live within Central Europe, as it is here that the language originated from.
There are several different dialects within the Slovak language, though they can be categorized into four main groups: Eastern Slovak, Central Slovak, Western Slovak and Lowland. The dialects are related to the areas that they represent, with the border between East and West being around the Zvolen county. The lowlands are situated outside Slovakia in the Pannonian Plain in Serbia, in South East Hungary, and in Western Romania.
This last group is sometimes not considered to be a separate official group at all, as there are many features that can be categorized within the Central and Western dialects. However, due to the fact that these dialects have developed outside of the country of Slovakia itself, it can be seen that they may sound similar, but have evolved quite differently.
The Slovak language uses a Latin alphabet with diacritics. These are markings on the letters that show a change in pronunciation or tone, though the Latin alphabet is still recognizable. These four diacritics are the acute mark, the circumflex, the umlaut and the caron. In the Slovak language, the acute mark indicates a long vowel, the circumflex turns an o into a diphthong, the umlaut turns an a into an ae, and the caron indicates palatization. Palatization is where the tongue touches the roof of the mouth much more when you speak.
The language itself is highly phonemic. The tones that you hear when they are spoken will be phonetically written down. Sometimes this means that the words, as with many Indian languages, for example, when written in English, can have multiple spellings. The importance aspect to the Slovak language is how the words are pronounced.
Because of this, most of the words that have made their way into the Slovak language tend to receive a Slovak spelling, either straight away or after some years of its usage. For example, the word “software” is spelled “softvér”, because in the Slovak language, this is how it is pronounced.
Why Learn The Slovak Language?
The country of Slovakia has had much political turmoil in the past hundred years, though the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was relatively peaceful, and it is not somewhere that many people think to travel to. However, the country now has a high-income economy, and its citizens have a high standard of living. Slovakia is a naturally beautiful country to visit, and some of the million tourists a year choose this destination for its stunning natural landscapes. Learning the Slovak language can help you to navigate your way around this cold and very beautiful country.