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Number of Speakers: 2.2 million
Key Dialects: Littoral; Upper, Inner, and Lower Carniolan; Northeast Styrian; Styrian; Carintian; Rovtarsko
Geographical Center: Republic of Slovenia
Slovenian is spoken in the Republic of Slovenia, formerly a constituent republic of Yugoslavia. About 2 million speakers are in Slovenia, with 100,000 in Italy ( Trieste and Gorizia in northeastern Italy), around 100,000 in the USA, and lesser numbers in Austria (45,000 in Corinthia, southwestern Austria), Hungary (less than 5,000), and numbers of emigres in Canada, Australia, and Argentina . The total is about 2.2 million speakers.
Slovenian is a Slavic language. It belongs to the South Slavic group of languages that include Old Church Slavonic, Serbian/Croatian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian. The modern South Slavic languages form a continuum of a series of mutually intelligible dialects. The two end points, Slovene and Bulgarian, are not mutually intelligible, but the transition between Serbian/Croation and Slovene is gradual and mutual intelligibility is moderate. It is most closely related to Serbian/Croatian, especially the Kajkavian dialect.
Slavic languages (with the Baltic languages--Latvian and Lithuanian) form a branch of the Indo-European language family. Other Slavic subgroups are West Slavic (Czech, Slovak, Polish, etc) and East Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian).
There is extensive dialectal variation with some problems of mutual comprehension among speakers of some variants. Eight regional variants are: Littoral, spoken in western Slovenia and in the eastern part of the Italian province of Friulia-Venezia Giulia; Inner Carniolan in the southwestern Slovenia and in Trieste, Italy, and environs; Upper Carniolan northwest of Ljubljana; Lower Carniolan southeast of Ljubljana; Rovtarsko,west of Ljubljana; Styrian and Northeast Styrian, both in eastern Slovenia; Carinthian, north central and northeastern Slovenia but mainly in the southern part of the Austrian province of Kärnten, and part of Italy. The literary dialect is based on the central dialects (mainly Lower Carniolan). The dialect spoken in Austria, an official regional language, is not in direct geographical contact with speakers in Slovenia , and is highly influenced by German.
Slovenian has an adapted Latin-based orthography. Diacritics are used to mark some consonantal and vocalic distinctions. Several guides to spelling or orthographic dictionaries have been published over the years.
Slovenian is a richly inflected language similar to other Slavic languages. Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns are inflected for three numbers (singular, plural, and dual), six cases (nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, and locative), and three genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter). There is little case syncretism, that is, case endings maintain their identity and do not merge. Adjectives are additionally inflected for definiteness. They also have comparative and superlative degrees of comparison. The dual number, e.g., "we two" versus just "we", is unique to Slovene among modern Slavic languages, having been lost in the others. Nouns have three declensional sets: -o stem nouns are almost all masculine and neuter; -a stems are typically feminine with a few masculines; and -i stem nouns are feminine. Pronouns are also inflected for all three numbers and all three persons. However, gender distinctions show up in the dual and plural in one case only. Demonstratives make three distinctions: this, that, and yonder.
Verbs are inflected for person, number (including the dual), and gender in three main conjugations. There is an aspectual opposition between imperfective and perfective forms. There is a simple present tense, while the past, future, and conditional are all formed with a conjugated form of the auxiliary "be" and a participle.
Subject-Object-Verb are neutral for sentence constituents. As in other Slavic languages, pragmatic considerations, and distinctions between topic (what the sentence is about, or old information) and focus (new information conveyed by the sentence) play a role.
Slovenian has seven long vowel phonemes and six short vowel phonemes. Stressed vowels can be long or short, but long vowels must be stressed. Slovenian also has pitch accent, where long vowels can be either falling or rising, but short vowels are typically falling. It has twenty-one consonants.
English and Serbian/Croatian are the two major sources of loans and loan expressions in Slovenian though attitudes about loans differ as do the degree of adaptation into the language.
ROLE IN SOCIETY
Slovenian is the official language of the Republic of Slovenia. Most Slovenians are bilingual in Serbian/Croatian, which is spoken in the former socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. The literary dialect unites all speakers of the various dialects, and its spoken variant is more widespread than several decades ago.
Slovenians, who look upon their own language as a cultural icon and national treasure, have been and are concerned about the impact of Serbian/Croatian on their own language. Nevertheless, Serbian/Croatian continues to wield influence and Slovenians do not hesitate to use it in other parts of the former Yugoslavia as well as in Slovenia itself when speaking with non-Slovenians.
Debates about linguistic purity--the influence of local dialectal variants and Serbian/Croatian, as well as style and form--are still common and are often aired in the public press. There is a Language Arbitration Tribunal which advises the public mainly through articles in newspapers and periodicals on the appropriate use of language.
There are numerous newspapers, periodicals, and books published in Slovenian.
Slovenes in adjoining countries have been under intensive pressure to assimilate, especially between the world wars, and this continues to the present in some places.
The earliest Slavic settlements in the area of modern Slovenia were in the 6th century, but since the early middle ages others have held political suzerainty including Germans, Italians, and Hungarians. Each had a linguistic influence on the area and this impeded the development of a common standard language.
Earliest extant texts, among them the Freising Fragments, date from around 1000. During the Reformation, Protestant reformers were instrumental in developing a written form thus beginning the process of codification and standardization. At this period a considerable amount of literature was produced. A Slovenian translation of the Bible appeared in 1584. With the success of the Catholic Counter-Reformation literary activity was curtailed but by the 19th century a literary standard was in place and actively promoted. Its dialectal base was mainly the regional variant spoken in Lower Carniolan, but features of other regional variants, especially Upper Carniolan, were incorporated. The modern period is marked by the publication of a normative grammar in 1809.
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