Some common Slavic languages:

West Slavic:

East Slavic:

South Slavic:

A number of Slavic languages, most notably those of the East Slavic branch and some of those of the South Slavic branch, are written in the Cyrillic script. Old Church Slavonic is written in the Glagolitic script, from which the Cyrillic script is probably derived. All the others are written in the Latin script. Notably, one of the major distinctions between Serbian (Serbo-Croatian as spoken in the east---primarily Serbia) and Bosnian and Croatian (Serbo-Croatian as spoken in the west---primarily Croatian in Croatia and Bosnian in most of Bosnia-Hercegovina) is that the first is written in Cyrillic and the last two in Latin.

Slavic languages typically have rather complex case systems compared to many Indo-European languages. Macedonian and Bulgarian, though, have mostly replaced their system of declension with the use of prepositions. Many Slavic languages have a dual number, in addition to singular and plural. Finally, in many Slavic languages verbs come in pairs---a perfective verb, which denotes the completed action, and an imperfective verb, which indicates an incomplete action; that is, such languages are hybrid aspectual languages.

The Slavic languages belong to the satem branch of the Indo-European language family. `Satem', after the Avestan word for `hundred', means that the Proto-Indo-European palatovelar consonant *k' (not labiovelar *kw) tends to become a sibilant (s or a similar sound). The other members of the palatovelar series (*g' and *g'h) likewise became sibilants. Some examples:

PIE root                ok'to- k'erd-  g'r̥əno-     ghel-
meaning                 eight  heart   corn    gold, yellow-green

English  (Germanic)*    eight  heart   corn    gold     yellow
German   (Germanic)     acht   Herz    Korn    Gold     gelb
Latin    (Italic)       octo   cor     granum  **       helvus
Irish    (Celtic)       ocht   croí    **      **       **
Greek    (Hellenic)     oktō   kardia  **      chrusos  chlōros

Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan)   aSTan  śrad-   **      hiraNya  hari
Bosnian  (S.Slavic)     osam   srce    zrno    zlato    žut
Polish   (W.Slavic)     osiem  serce   ziarno  złoto    żołty
Slovak   (W.Slavic)     osem   srdce   zrno    zlato    žlty
Russian  (E.Slavic)     vosem' serdtse zerno   zoloto   zhyoltyy
  • * English is grammatically Germanic, but borrows a lot of vocabulary from French. The English words shown are all Germanic in origin.
  • ** I know of no native words that are obviously cognate to to the PIE root.
A principal branch of the Indo-European family of languages spoken in most of eastern Europe, much of the Balkans, parts of central Europe, and the northern part of Asia.

The Slavic languages are generally divided into three branches. East Slavic includes Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian, spoken in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. South Slavic is further divided into Western and Eastern subgroups. The Western subgroup is composed of the Serbo-Croatian languages (Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian), and Slovenian, spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Slovenia, and adjacent regions. The Eastern subgroup consists of Bulgarian, spoken in Bulgaria and adjacent regions, and Macedonian, spoken in Macedonia and the adjacent part of Greece. West Slavic includes Czech in the Czech Republic, Slovak in Slovakia, Lusatian in Germany, and Lekhitic, which consists of Polish and related dialects.

Slavic languages in the east and southeast are written in the Cyrillic alphabet. In the west, Roman Catholic Slavs use the Roman alphabet. Serbo-Croatian is written in Cyrillic by Serbs and Montenegrins and in Roman by Croats.

Slavic is most closely related to the Baltic languages as both are descended from Proto-Balto-Slavic.

Slavic languages are part of the Balto-Slavic family of Indo-European languages. They constitute three major linguistic groups: Western, Eastern, and Southern.

Western Slavic Languages

Eastern Slavic Languages

Southern Slavic Languages

As for the alphabet, the traditionally Catholic Slavic nations use the Latin alphabet (usually with diacritics because Slavic languages have more than 26 sounds), while the traditionally Orthodox nations use the Cyrillic alphabet developed by the students of Cyrill and Methodius as a simplification of the glagolitic alphabet created by St. Cyrill.


The Serbian and Croatian are usually listed together as Serbo-Croatian because the differences are smaller than those between various dialects of the English language. The main distinction is that the Serbians are traditionally Orthodox and use the Cyrillic alphabet, while the Croatians are traditionally Catholic and use the Latin alphabet.

Moravian is not codified as other languages are. It is an interesting transition between Czech and Slovak, which changes gradually: In Western Moravia it is almost Czech, in Eastern Moravia it is almost (Western) Slovak.

Slav"ic (?), a.




The group of allied languages spoken by the Slavs.


© Webster 1913.

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