Monday, April 21, 2014

Language Profile: Slovak

This week, we're taking a brief look at Slovak, a member of the Slavic language family. Unsurprisingly, Slovak is the official language of Slovakia. It is also spoken in the Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania, the United States, and many other countries.

Kriváň, a beautiful mountain in Slovakia
Slovak is closely related to other Slavic languages, especially Czech. Due to their similarities, the two languages comprise a language continuum. Most dialects of Slovak and Czech are mutually intelligible, and standard Slovak is quite similar to literary Czech. However, there are many phonetic, grammatical, and lexical differences between Slovak and Czech. A prime example is the fact that the months of the year are of Latin origin in Slovak, while they are of Slavic origin in Czech.

The vocabulary of Slovak has been influenced by many languages over the years, including German, English, Latin, Hungarian, and Romanian. For example, the English word "weekend" was borrowed by Slovak, where it became víkend. German Farbe, meaning "color", is the nearly-identical farba in Slovak, while Hungarian teve ("camel") became Slovak t'ava. Words from Romanian include baci, the word for "shepherd", which became bača in the Slovak language.

Slovak is written using a Latin script. It also employs the use of four diacritics: the acute accent, the circumflex, the umlaut, and the caron, seen on letters such as č and ž in Slovak.