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Slovene Language

Slovene or Slovenian (''slovenski jezik'' or ''slovenščina'', not to be confused with ''Slovak'' or ''slovenčina'') is a South Slavic language spoken by approximately 2.4 million speakers worldwide, the majority of whom live in Slovenia. Slovene is one of the 23 official and working languages of the European Union.

Standard Slovene

Standard Slovene is the national language that evolved from the Central Slovene dialects in the 18th century and consolidated itself through the 19th and 20th centuries. While distinct regional varieties descended from the older rural dialects still exist, the spoken and written language is uniform and standardized. Some dialects differ considerably from the standard language in grammar and vocabulary. Though not facing imminent extinction, such dialects have been in decline during the past century, despite the fact that they are well researched and their use is not discouraged by the authorities. Notable exceptions are the Prekmurje dialect, which is one of the few Slovene dialects in Slovenia still widely used by all strata of the local population, and some Slovene dialects in Italy, most notably the Resian dialect.

The distinctive characteristics of Slovene are dual grammatical number, two accentual norms, one characterized by pitch accent, and abundant inflection (a trait shared with many Slavic languages). Although Slovene is basically a SVO language, word order is very flexible, often adjusted for emphasis or stylistic reasons. Slovene has a T-V distinction: second-person plural forms are used for individuals as a sign of respect. Also, Slovene and Slovak are the two modern Slavic languages whose names for themselves literally mean "Slavic" (''slověnьskъ'' in old Slavonic).


Alongside Croatian and Serbian, Slovene is an Indo-European language belonging to the Western subgroup of the South Slavic branch of the Slavic languages. It is close to the Kajkavian and Čakavian dialects of Croatian, but is further from the Štokavian dialect, the basis for the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian standard language.Greenberg, Marc L., ''A Short Reference Grammar of Slovene,'' (''LINCOM Studies in Slavic Linguistics'' 30). Munich: LINCOM, 2008. ISBN 3-89586-965-1


Early history

Like all Slavic languages, Slovene traces its roots to the same proto-Slavic group of languages that produced Old Church Slavonic. The earliest known examples of a distinct, written Slovene dialect are from the Freising Manuscripts, known in Slovene as ''Brižinski spomeniki''. The consensus estimate of their date of origin is between 972 and 1093 (most likely before 1000). These religious writings are among the oldest surviving manuscripts in any Slavic language.

Literary Slovene emerged in the 16th century thanks to the works of Reformation activists Primož Trubar, Adam Bohorič and Jurij Dalmatin. During the period when present-day Slovenia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German was the language of the elite, and Slovene was the language of the common people. During this time, German had a strong impact on Slovene, and many Germanisms are preserved in contemporary colloquial Slovene. Many Slovene scientists before the 1920s also wrote in foreign languages, mostly German, the ''lingua franca'' of science at the time.

The cultural movements of Illyrism and Pan-Slavism brought words from Serbo-Croatian and Czech into the language. For example, Josip Jurčič, who wrote the first novel in Slovene, published in 1866, used Serbo-Croatian words in his writing.

Recent history

During World War II, when Slovenia was divided between the Axis Powers of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and Hungary, the occupying powers attempted to suppress the Slovene language.

Following World War II, Slovenia became part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Slovene was one of the official languages of the federation. On the territory of Slovenia, it was commonly used in most areas of public life. One important exception was the Yugoslav army where Serbo-Croatian was used exclusively even in Slovenia. National independence has revitalized the language: since 1991, when Slovenia gained independence, Slovene has been used as an official language in all areas of public life. It also became one of the official languages of the European Union upon Slovenia's admission in 2004.

Slovenes often assert that their language is endangered, despite the fact that it now has more speakers than at any point in its history. British linguist David Crystal said, in an interview in the summer of 2003 for the newspaper ''Delo'':

Geographic distribution

The language is spoken by about 2.4 million people, mainly in Slovenia, but also by Slovene national minorities in Venetian Slovenia and other parts of Friuli-Venezia Giulia in Italy (more than 100,000), in Carinthia and other parts of Austria (25,000). It is also spoken in Croatia, especially in Istria, Rijeka and Zagreb (11,800-13,100), in southwestern Hungary (3-5,000), in Serbia (5,000), and by the Slovene diaspora throughout Europe and the rest of the world (around 300,000), particularly in the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia and South Africa.


Slovene has many dialects, with different grades of mutual intelligibility. Linguists generally agree that there are about 48 dialects. Pronunciation differs greatly from area to area, and literary language is mainly used in public presentations or on formal occasions. The Prekmurian dialect and Resian dialect have been standardized.


Slovene has a phoneme set consisting of 21 consonants and 8 vowels, and practices reduction of unstressed vowels.


Slovene has an eight-vowel system (/a/, /e/, /ɛ/, /ə/, /i/, /o/, /ɔ/, /u/) in comparison to the five-vowel system in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian and Macedonian. Older analyses of Slovene concluded that it features phonemic vowel length, but more recent studies have rejected this statement for the majority of speakers. The current analysis is that stressed vowels are long while unstressed vowels are short. All vowels can be either stressed or unstressed. However, unstressed and are restricted to a few grammatical words like ''bo'' ('will'), an auxiliary verb for the future tense.


Slovene has 21 distinctive consonant phonemes. Conditional allophones are shown in parentheses.

All voiced obstruents are devoiced at the end of words unless immediately followed by a word beginning with a vowel or a voiced consonant. In consonant clusters, voicing distinction is neutralized and all consonants assimilate the voicing of the rightmost segment. In this context, and may occur as voiced allophones of and , respectively (e.g. ''vŕh drevésa'' ). has several allophones depending on context:
*Before a vowel:
*At the end of a syllable or before a consonant:
*At the beginning of a syllable behind a voiced consonant:
*At the beginning of a syllable behind a voiceless consonant:

The preposition ''v'' is always bound to the following word; however its phonetic realization follows the normal phonological rules for .


Like the closely-related Serbo-Croatian, Slovene uses diacritics or accent marks to denote what is called "dynamic accent" and tone. However, as in Serbo-Croatian, use of such accent marks is restricted to language textbooks and linguistic publications. Standard Slovene has two varieties, tonal and non-tonal. The diacritics are almost never used in the written language, except in the few minimal pairs that are already mentioned.

Dynamic accent marks lexical stress in a word as well as vowel duration. Stress placement in Slovene is predictable compared to the East Slavic languages and Bulgarian: any long vowel is automatically stressed, and in words with no long vowels, the stress falls to the final syllable. The only exception is schwa, which is always short, and can be stressed in non-final position. Some compounds, but not all, have multiple stress. In the Slovene writing system, dynamic accent marks may be placed on all vowels, as well as (which is never syllabic in Standard Slovene, but is used for schwa + r sequences, when in consonantal environment); for example, ''vrt'' ('garden') stressed as ''vŕt''.
In short, stress can theoretically fall on any syllable. In practice, the second or third syllable from the end are commonly stressed.

Dynamic accentuation uses three diacritic marks: the acute (´) (long and narrow), the circumflex (^) (long and wide) and the grave (`) (short and wide).

Tonal accentuation uses four: the acute (´) (long and high), the inverted breve () or the circumflex (^) (long and low), the grave (`) (short and high) and the double grave (``) (short and low), marking the narrow or with the dot below ( ̣).



T-V distinction

Source: Wikipedia