(natively, the term Slovene is preferred, however the language is more well known under Slovenian)
Slovenian (Slovene) is a South Slavic language spoken as a native language by nearly two million citizens of Slovenia. It is also spoken in significant enclaves in Austria, Italy, and Hungary, as well as smaller emmigrant communities in the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Argentina, and Australia.
The language is first notable for its remarkable diversity of dialects over a small area (20,000 sq. kilometers). There are over fifty distinct dialects of Slovenian, many of which are not mutually comprehensible without some significant difficulty. To bridge the gap, a standard language called Contemporary Standard Slovene has developed, and is taught throughout school systems and universities in Slovenia. Based off the dialect of the capitol city Ljubljana with compromising contributions from the Upper and Lower Carniola areas, Contemporary Standard Slovene is a partially artificial language. It does not bear even a resemblence with any standard dialect including the modern Ljubljana dialect (unlike similar wide-use compromise dialects like Hochdeutsch) and its grammatic rules preserve several complicated constructs that have long since weakened or completely died out in spoken colloquial Slovenian. Nonetheless, it is still used on formal occasions and as a written standard for publications across Slovenia.
The Slovenian language in both its standard and dialect forms is characterized by a highly inflectional grammar. Nouns and adjectives are declined according to gender, number, and function in the sentence; verbs conjugate with respect to aspect, person, number, gender, tense, mood, and voice. Pronunciation standards at one time were tonemic in a similar fashion to languages such as Swedish, Norwegian, and Lithuanian. Distinctions between a high pitch rising-falling contour, low pitch rising contour, and level tone are still present in rural archaic dialects, however the majority of spoken language and standard Slovenian both use a non-tonemic stress/length system that has replaced the old tones. Unlike Danish, which made a similar transition, non-tonemic Slovenian does not make use of glottal stops.
Slovenian began from the fractionalization of proto-Slavonic in the ninth and tenth centuries. The earliest written documents of Slovenian as an individual language were recorded between 972 and 1039 CE. Most writing in Slovenian after this period was religious in nature, including many Reformation documents, and used a mixture of upper Carniolan and inner Carniolan characteristics. Ljubljana began to have further influence of writing during the Counter-Reformation, but other dialects continued to make their presence known for local publications. A turning point came in 1808 when Jernej Kopitar published Grammatic der slavischen Sprache in Krain, Kärnten und Steyermark (Grammer of the Slavic language in Krain, Karnten, and Steiermark), which sought to unify and purify the Slovenian language of borrowed German words. Combining elements of the Upper and Lower Carniolan dialects with standard Ljubljanan at the time, this document served as the basis for the formation of Contemporary Standard Slovene. Word borrowing from this point on turned to Serbo-Croat and other Slavonic languages. Another purification crusade went through during the late 1800s to rid the language of old and new Serbo-Croat borrowings with old Slovenian used as a source instead, but with the merging of Slovenia into Yugoslavia in 1918, these efforts mostly came to nothing with a new flood of Serbo-Croat words.
The Slovenian alphabet goes as follows. Certain diacritics are used to indicate long and short vowel forms in dictionaries, however they are not used in standard Slovenian writing.
Herrity, Peter. Slovene: A Comprehensive Grammar. London: Routledge, 2000.