The primary language of Slovakia. A Western Slavic language. Has a rather complex grammar, similar to Greek and Sanskrit (just the grammar, not the vocabulary). An Indo-European language.

Also spoken in parts of Hungary, former Yugoslavia, Austria, Czech Republic, and United States of America (the latter, especially in the first half of the 20th Century).

Very similar to Czech, and sharing the same alphabetic conventions, even to I and Y being pronounced the same except that I palatalizes some previous consonants.

Letters peculiar to Slovak are Ä, now pronounced the same as E; L-hook for a palatal L; Ô pronounced WO; and L-acute and R-acute for long syllabic resonants. These long L and R are the last survivors in Indo-European languages of rare sounds believed to have been in the ancestral Proto-Indo-European.

Here are the Unicode numbers for the letters that can't be expressed in HTML (extracted from my Using Unicode in HTML):

Č  Č   č  č   C-hacek
Ď  Ď   ď  ď   D-hook
Ĺ  Ĺ   ĺ  ĺ   L-acute
Ľ  Ľ   ľ  ľ   L-apostrophe
Ň  Ň   ň  ň   N-hacek
Ŕ  Ŕ   ŕ  ŕ   R-acute
Š  Š   š  š   S-hacek
Ť  Ť   ť  ť   T-hook
Ž  Ž   ž  ž   Z-hacek

Slovak is a Slavic language (Indo-European/Balto-Slavic/Slavic/West Slavic/Slovak) spoken today mainly in Slovakia by about 5.5 million speakers, as well as some people in the United States and other Central and Eastern European countries, though not as commonly as Czech. Its closest relatives are Czech and Sorbian (which is all but extinct, if not completely dead already), as well as Polish (due to different spelling conventions the languages look less related in print). Czech and slovak are pretty much mutally intelligible, though they have been moving apart since the 1993 breakup of Czechoslovakia. Slovak has some palatalization, like most Slavic languages, though to a lesser extent than in say, Russian. It also has contrastive vowel length, which is lost in many modern Indo-European languages. It is also one of the last Indo-european languages where the syllabic liquids 'l' and 'r' can be contrastive in length. It is grammatically very similar to Polish and Czech.

The written record of Slovak can be dated to the 15th Century, though no widely accepted literary standard was accepted until the 19th Century. It enjoyed a literary boom in the period between 1918 and 1938 (after the formation of the independent Czechoslovakia and before the takeover by Nazi Germany thanks to the appeasement policy of the Allies), though it wasn't always recognized as a separate language by the Czech majority.

The alphabet has 46 letters, most of which are modified versions of Latin letters, similar to their usage in Czech. Here is the alphabet of Slovak, including the letter and its IPA value:

  • A a ... á ... /a/, like English 'father'
  • Á á ... dlhé á ... /a:/, a long 'a'
  • Ä ä ... a z dvoma botkami ... /æ, ε/, like English 'bat' or 'bet',/li>
  • B b ... bé ... b /b/
  • C c ... cé ... /ts/, like German 'z'
  • Č č ... čé ... /tš/, like an English 'ch' but not aspirated
  • D d ... dé ... /d/
  • Ď ď ... ďé ... /j/, a real voiced palatal stop, which is something in between a /d/ and a /g/, not merely a palatalized /d/ like in the Russian дядя 'uncle' /djadja/, and not like in the affricate /dž/, as in the English 'jot' /džat/, but a real palatal stop.
  • Dz dz ... dzé ... /dz/, like English 'adze'
  • Dž dž ... džé ... /dž/, like English 'j' in 'jazz'
  • E e ... é ... /ε/, kind of like the English 'met'
  • É é ... dlhé é ... /ε:/, a long 'e'
  • F f ... ef ... /f/
  • G g ... gé ... /g/, only found in loanwords, since all originally Slavic 'g's have gone to 'h' as they have in some other Slavic languages including Ukrainian.
  • H h ... há ... /'h/, from the original Slavic /g/, it sounds like a more guttural 'h' than the one in English, and is also voiced. It is not /γ/, which is the fricative of /g/, but a voiced /h/. To the linguists out there, it is a voiced glottal fricative
  • Ch ch ... chá ... /x/, like the 'ch' in German acht 'eight' or like a Scot saying 'loch'. Also like Russian x, as in xopoшo 'good/well' ('khorosho').
  • I i ... í ... /I/, it's like the English 'miss,' but it softens / palatizes the preceding consonant. A 't' followed by 'i' is pronounced as 'ť', a 'd' is 'ď,' and an 'n' is 'ň.' Other letters will undergo spelling changes to mark this (i.e. 'r' will change to 'ř ' in written and spoken Czech)
  • Í í ... dlhé í ... /i:/, it's like the English 'seat', but without the offglide, and the same palatization rules apply as for 'i'.
  • J j ... jé ... /j/, like the English 'y' in 'yes'
  • K k ... ká ... /k/, like in English, but not aspirated
  • L l ... el ... /l/, and it can be syllabic, as in Plzeň
  • Ĺ ĺ ... dlhé el ... /l:/, a long 'l' sound which can be syllabic
  • Ľ ľ ... mäke el ... /λ/, a palatal lateral, like Castillian Spanish 'll' as in ella 'she, her' or as in the 'lli' in English 'million'. It's also similar to the 'soft л' of Russian in words like бoльшой 'big' (bol'shoy)
  • M m ... em ... /m/
  • N n ... en ... /n/
  • Ň ň ... eň .../ñ/, like the Spanish letter 'ñ'
  • O o ... o ... /o/, as in English, but without the /w/ offglide (the Czech diphthong 'ou' actually sound slike the English 'o' in 'mow' and 'row')
  • Ó ó ... dlhé ó ... /o:/, a long 'o'
  • Ô ô ... o z vokáňom ... /ŭo, wo/, this is the stymological equivalent of the Czech ů, and is pronounced sort of like the 'uo' in Italian uomo 'man'.
  • P p ... pé ... /p/, as in English, but not aspirated
  • Q q ... qé ... /kv/, not a very common letter in Czech, usually only in loanwords
  • R r ... er ... /r/, the tap or the trill so common in other European languages (NOT in English), and it can be syllabic, as in Brno.
  • Ŕ ŕ ... dlhé er ... /r:/, a long 'r' which can be syllabic
  • S s ... es ... /s/
  • Š š ... eš ... /š/, like the 'sh' in English
  • T t ... té ... /t/, as in English but not aspirated
  • Ť ť ... mäke té ... /c/, a true palatal stop, somewhere between 't' and 'k'. It is not like the Russian /tj/ as in тëтя /tjotja/ 'aunt', or the 'ch' sound of English (/tš/), but a true palatal stop, and it is not aspirated.
  • U u ... ú ... /u/, as in English 'to,' withouth the /w/ offglide
  • Ú ú ... dlhé ú ... /u:/, a long 'u'
  • V v ... vé ... /v/
  • W w ... dvojité vé ... /v/, an uncommon letter, usually only in loanwords
  • X x ... iks ... /ks/ also an uncommon letter, and also only really found in loanwords
  • Y y ... ipsilon ... /I/, like the 'i' in English 'bit'. It does not palatalize preceding consonants like 'i' does.
  • Ý ý ... dlhé ipsilon ... /i:/, a long 'y,' which doesn't palatalize preceding consonants like 'í' does.
  • Z z ... zet ... /z/
  • Ž ž ... žet ... /ž/, like the 's' in 'pleasure' or the Russian 'ж' ('zh', as in 'Zhivago')

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