Slovenian Language: The Introduction

Slovenian is the national language of the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenian minorities in Austria, Italy and Hungary. It is also spoken by Slovenian immigrant groups in USA, Canada, South America and Australia. Slovenian speaking territory between Austria in the north, Hungary and Croatia to the east and south, and Italy to the west reaches further west than any other Slavic group, in the past as far as the hinterland of Venice.

Slovenia has a population of 2 million. There are a further half a million speakers of Slovenian outside its borders and around the world.

One of the Slavic family of languages, Slovenian is most closely related to Croatian and Serbian. It is usually grouped together with the South Slavic languages. It is however distinguished from them, in that it has retained archaic proto-Slavic features and lexical characteristics, which indicate a greater age and a strong lexical relationship with the north Slavic type (Bezlaj). For instance, the linguistically rare dual number still in use today links Slovenian to the Lusatian Slavic, the supine to Czech, the genitive case in the negative form to Balto-Slavic group. Unlike Serbian and Croatian, Slovenian is characterized by a great number of dialects - about 50 dialects and subdialects - which indicates its greater age.

The language presented in grammars and taught in schools and universities is known as Contemporary Standard Slovenian. It is the language of educated Slovenes and is used in all forms of artistic endeavour and in the media. More than anything else, Slovenian language has kept the Slovenian nation alive and united as a culture over centuries of suppression. Despite many attempts to destroy it, it is alive and dynamic today.

Slovenian is grammatically complex with six cases for nouns, adjectives and pronouns, three genders and four verb tenses. In addition to singular and plural, Slovenian has something rare in linguistics the dual number: not only reka (river) and reke (rivers), but also dve reki (two rivers). The matters become very complex when one considers special endings for gender, numbers and different classes of nouns.

The script is Roman and there are only 25 letters, the specialty being s, c z with a caron a small "v" on top of each (in Slovenian "little roof") on top, which indicates sh, ch, and zh sounds.

Like English, there are different values for vowels. For instance, vowels "o" and "e" may be stressed or unstressed, long or short, open or closed, with further subtle variations in the pronunciation. One learns by listening closely and repeating words. The exact values are not indicated, apart from course-books and dictionaries and that is often only an approximation.

Slovenian has free stress, i.e. it may fall on any syllable of a word. Furthermore, once established, the place of stress may be non-mobile, i.e. remain on the same syllable throughout any inflections and changes, or it may be mobile. However, this happens less frequently.

 Aleksandra Ceferin, Thezaurus (Melbourne 2000)