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The former seems to have more speakers, while the latter seems to possess the elder history.

Slovak said to be a West Slavic language, while Slovene seems to belong to the South Slavic group (reputedly having some traits shared with the West Slavic languages).

Are they mutually intelligible? To which degree? Which dialects of Slovene resemble Slovak language the most?

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    It's a bit like asking what's the exact relations between Swedish and Swiss German. They related, but not that closely, and English speakers might confuse them because they start with the same letters. I would imagine Slovene and Slovak speakers would claim their languages are mutually unintelligible and would talk directly to each other in English but if in each others' countries would still understand quite a lot of what people around them are saying. Slovak has a much closer relative in Czech, and Slovene has a much closer relative in Serbocroatian. – hippietrail Jun 22 '13 at 1:22
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    It should be said, though, that Slovenian and the Croatian dialect of Kajkavian, on the one hand, and certain dialects of Slovak, on the other, represent the last vestiges of a linguistic transitional zone between South Slavic and West Slavic, which were, after all, geographically contiguous until the Magyar conquest of the Pannonian basin in the 9th century CE. Certainly, any speaker of Štokavian (i.e., the vast majority of speakers of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian) will find Slovenian and Kajkavian strikingly "West Slavic" in feel, in comparison with their own speech. – Branimir Ćaćić Jun 22 '13 at 5:18
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    [blasted editing limitations] It would perhaps be better to say that Slovenian and Kajkavian (the transitional dialect of Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian with Slovenian) are still quite distinctly "West Slavic" in many ways compared to the rest of South Slavic. – Branimir Ćaćić Jun 22 '13 at 5:25

12 Answers 12

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Bluntly, Slovak and Slovenian have nothing in common other than being both Slavic languages. No more than Slovak or Serbian or Slovak and Ukrainian. This is a question driven by superficial similarity in their names which I'm sure members of both nations are thoroughly sick of.

On the other hand, it is true that Czechs and Slovaks will perceive Slovenian as less alien than Serbian from which we could possibly make some tentative conclusions. But that still doesn't make them mutually intelligible nor is there any meaningful basis for comparison other than the name.

  • What about the dialect chain mentioned by Branimir? – Manjusri Jun 24 '13 at 7:33
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    @Manjusri, on that note, here's a scholarly article (uu.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:327261/FULLTEXT01) claiming that it's Central Slovak and Kajkavian specifically that perhaps best preserve traces of the former linguistic continuum between South Slavic and West Slavic (before the Magyar conquests). In general, though, any links specifically between certain Slovak dialects on the one hand and Kajkavian and Slovenian on the other are going to be deep and subtle, and not meaningfully relevant to questions of mutual intelligibility... – Branimir Ćaćić Jun 25 '13 at 2:00
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    ... And again, as @DominikLukes points out, the similarity of the relevant ethnonyms is completely and utterly irrelevant. In short, there's absolutely nothing here that would make Slovak and Slovene particularly mutually intelligible compared to any other choice of West Slavic and South Slavic language. – Branimir Ćaćić Jun 25 '13 at 2:01
  • ... "nor is there any meaningful basis for comparison" what? ... yes there is ... in many many ways. There is nothing that keeps one from comparing the Western, Eastern and Southern Slavonic languages at all. They may not be mutually intelligible, but that's not the same as not comparable. – 0xC0000022L Jul 4 '13 at 23:52
  • "Bluntly, Slovak and Slovenian have nothing in common other than being both Slavic languages." You are not telling the truth Dominik. Check my answer for more examples why you are wrong. – Derfder Jul 12 '13 at 9:13
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I am Slovenian, and here's my perspective:

To me, Slovak and Czech languages are very similar - in fact, I wouldn't be able to tell them apart.

Among all the Slavic languages, the one that's the easiest to understand for a Slovenian is Croatian language. Not Slovak!

Are they mutually intelligible? To which degree?

Only to the degree that all Slavic languages are somewhat mutually intelligible. Just like all Germanic languages are somewhat mutually intelligible. For example, Dutch and German.

Check the tree of Slavic languages - you can see that Slovenian and Slovak are in very different branches. The name similarity comes from the word Slavic -- "Slovanski" (Slovenian), "Slovansky" (Slovak, Czech)

  • Dutch and German are much closer (in intelligibility and otherwise) than, say, German and English. – robert Jan 13 '14 at 17:31
  • Yes, that is true. But modern English is not a true Germanic languages. Old English was a Germanic language, but then there was too much influence from Spanish and French, so English is somewhere half-way between Germanic and Romance. – Marjeta Jan 14 '14 at 15:09
  • I agree that English has lots of (mainly lexical) influence from French. But still, German and Dutch are very close, and German differs less from Dutch than from most almost all contemporary national Germanic languages. – robert Jan 14 '14 at 18:40
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There are some similarities between Slovenian and Slovak, but even more similarities between some so-called Kajkavian dialects in northern Croatia (which are overall similar to Slovenian) and Central Slovak dialects (which are the basis of Standard Slovak).

It's first -me in 1st pers. pl, Kajkavian imame "we have".

There are overall similarities between Slovak and South Slavic dialects (including Slovene, of course). One similarity is -m in 1st pers. sg. of most verbs, just compare forms of "I bake":

  • Czech peču
  • Russian пекy
  • Slovak pečem
  • Slovene, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian pečem

Next, there are overall similarities between Southern Slavic and Czech/Slovak. Compare:

  • Polish król
  • Russian корoль
  • Slovak kráľ
  • Slovene, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian kralj

Here the difference between Slovak and South Slavic languages is just in spelling: Slovak ľ is spelled as lj in the South, and southern spellings don't show that a is long (it is), while the Slovak spelling shows it.

There are more similarities, in phonetic development, etc.

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I am Slovak: I think there are two sides you need to be aware of before you consider whether they are similar; for me reading Slovene makes it and Slovak seem similar and I can manage to understand it enough to see the context and point of conversation. But listening to it? I would say that that is where the "it's not similar" arises. I cannot understand Slovene without their "subtitles". Say I was in a cafe and a pair were speaking Slovene on a nearby table(I can hear them properly). I would, like many, be able to straight away sense it has a Slavic "homely" feeling - all the similar sounds that Slavic words have. Then I would concentrate and see what they're talking about. I would get a frustrated because I somehow cannot understand and after realizing that it is not Slovak or Czech(easy for Slovaks to understand Czech, not so much vice versa) I would try to see what language it is according to how well I understand the words really and from what I know of their typical sounds.

Order of best understanding (listening only):

  1. Slovak
  2. Czech
  3. Sorbian
  4. Polish
  5. Russian
  6. Croatian
  7. Bosnian
  8. Ukrainian
  9. Serbian
  10. Belorussian(Losing understanding of context from this language onwards)
  11. Slovenian
  12. Macedonian
  13. Bulgarian

This is the basic order for me personally. If the speaker has a 'deep' sounding voice, it makes it massively easier to understand (still not past Belorussian though). - One more thing that should be noted, I have not learned Russian before(many people were forced to learn fluent Russian in Slovak schools in the past). From the list, one can tell that it is not easy for me to understand South Slavic languages, and East Slavic ones vary. REMEMBER this is listening to people speaking without looking at them only!

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My parents were both born in the U.S. but their parents came from different parts of Slovakia. Some relatives married into other groups. From the various words I heard spoken as a child it is obvious that there are many similarities between the various Slavic languages. The interposition of the Magyars, Germans, Turks and others between the groups over the generations have obviously made an impact. But, I find it fascinating that the Slovaks call they language "Slovensky" so this cannot be a mere coincidence. I believe the Slavic languages are more close to Sanskrit than any Germanic, Celtic or Romance language as their speakers were late comers to Europe (Sarmatian, Alans, other Indo-Aryan speakers. It would be great to find the real connections.

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The most obvious common feature of Slovene and Slovak is that they kept the original old name for their ethniques.

"Slovo" means "word" in all Slavic (sic!) languages. The old Slavs called themselves "Slověni" and that means those speak a language we understand. The others were "Němci" (the mute) which means "Germans" today (more or less in all slavic languages). Both Slovaks and Slovenes just kept their original all-slavic name.

Read from Proglas: " Togo že radi slyšite, Slověne, si: Darъ bo jestъ otъ Boga sь danъ," The "Slověne" does not mean today's Slovenes it means Slavs!

The female memeber of the Slovak nation is "Slovenka", and the name of the Slovak language is "Slovenský jazyk" so that is even closer to the old name than the male "Slovák".

Please do not draw the wrong conclusion that people were speaking "old Slovak" in Great Moravia, that is a complete nonsense raised by some Slovak nationalists.

Other than that the Slovene belongs to the Southern Slavic branch and the Slovak to the Western Slavic branch. For me as a Czech it is much easier to understand Slovak, but the intelligibility is still somewhat increased by hearing and reading it more often than e.g. Slovene. Small Czech children can have problems understanding Slovak.

  • Right... except that the origin of the word "Slované" in the word "word" (slovo) is just one of the theories. It is equally possible that it comes from "sláva" which is "fame" or "glory" – the Slavs are the famous people. The appraisal looks less flattering from the viewpoint of the Western languages because it's no accident that the word "slave" looks similar to "Slavs": the Slavs were considered the canonical example of enslaved people, people who belong to someone else. Something similar is true for Bohemia and gypsies' lifestyle. Bulgarians and "buggers" are linguistic relatives, too. – Luboš Motl Aug 12 '15 at 16:23
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Slovene shows sporadic examples of features that are typically considered "West Slavic", and are therefore closer to Slovak than to standard Croatian/Serbian/etc. For example,

  • Slovene noč "night", but nocoj "tonight" (compare Slovak noc "night")

  • Slovene dan "day", but teden "week" (originally "this day"), compare Slovak deň "day"

These kinds of features are more common in dialectal Slovene than in the standard language, but I don't know how the particular dialects compare with each other in this respect.

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Okay, I'm too late commenting there. I'm not going to point out how some people wrote some words incorrectly in their examples.

I'm a native Slovak and obviously Czech is the closest to me. I can't really understand Slovenian. I can understand it better than Croatian for example, thanks to the fact that Slovenian uses more international words, just like Slovak. But in fact I think I wouldn't be able to differ Slovenian from Croatian.

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I am by no means an expert of either languages but it seemed to me to the root problem is the confusion of the words. The Slovaks call their language Slovenský which just happens to be similar to the word Slovenian.

In my view, hence the confusion.

The Slovaks call their language Slovenský, but it has no direct connection to Slovenian language, they don't even share borders together.

  • I agree, but that's not an answer to the question. – Colin Fine Mar 28 '15 at 22:38
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I do believe that they have similarities other than those based on Slavic roots. Even though they belong to different subgroups of Slavic languages i.e. West and South respectively, they are geographically close which might have contributed to closer relationship between the two languages

Apart from the point, I'd like to add that these are the only two Slavic languages, and peoples as well, whose names are derived from word "Slavic". Therefore, in a way, they call themselves Slavs, even though they might have different words to denote Slavs in general.

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I am Czech/Slovak (parents from both countries) and I can best understand Polish, then Ukrainian and Russian and only then Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian.

The reason for that is that Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia were always in one "pack" while Yugoslavia was separated by Hungary and Romania from the others. Therefore you have more Italian words in Slovenian and even more "exotic" in Serbo-Croatian.

And it's because of the arrival of Hungarian tribes in around 900-1000 A.D. to this region. They separated these Slavic tribes and therefore the different "outcome" in the end. Of course, I am generalizing this geo-linguistic issue, it is much more complicated in reality.

@Dominik Lukes: Bluntly, Slovak and Slovenian have nothing in common other than being both Slavic languages.

Sorry Dominik, but this statement is completely wrong!

We have a lot of common words and even more word-roots.

Some examples:

EN              | SK         | SL
----------------+------------+------------
Slovak language | Slovenčina | Slovenščina
(he/she/it) is  | je         | je
to talk         | hovorit    | govorit
car             | auto       | avto
chin            | brada      | brada
function        | funkcia    | funkcija
eye             | oko        | oko
arm             | ruka       | roka
finger          | prst       | prst
brother         | brat       | brat
sister          | sestra     | sestra
newspaper       | časopis    | časopis
window          | okno       | okno

Btw. check this ([y and i] and [ä and e] are pronounced basically the same in Slovak):

one     | jedna | ena
two     | dva   | dva
three   | tri   | tri
four    | štyri | štiri
five    | päť   | pet
six     | šesť  | šest
seven   | sedem | sedem
eight   | osem  | osem
nine    | deväť | devet
ten     | desať | deset

If you still want to say that "Slovak and Slovenian have nothing in common other than being both Slavic languages" after these basic number comparison showcase, you are simply being ignorant to the facts.

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    To really make a point that Slovak and Slovenian have something in common other than both being Slavic you really need to compare words that are close between Slavic and Slovenian but not in some other Slavic language. Otherwise your evidence is the same evidence that would prove Slovak and Slovnenian have something in common because they are both Slavic languages. – hippietrail Jul 12 '13 at 13:31
  • Coming a bit late but still. You could make a similar list of Russian and Slovak. In fact, the numbers will be almost identical except 1 and 5 but certainly mutually intelligible. All that proves is that they are both Slavic languages. They also share a certain history of revival movements that was marked by a period of explicit borrowing which is where I think the similarity of 'časopis' comes from which is (I think) a Czech innovation to replace the German 'Zeitschrift'. – Dominik Lukes Nov 19 '13 at 8:47
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    Derfder, you have shown nothing that argues against Dominik Lukes' statement. – Colin Fine Oct 12 '14 at 23:18
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    Your word lists do not prove anything. In Russian you would have (latinized): ja, govorit', avto, boroda (beard), funkcija, oko, ruka, perst, brat, sestra, okno. – Anixx Jul 30 '15 at 3:43
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Slovenian language is one of smallest group of Slav's languages. Anyway, our language is very old and have the greatest cases of simillarity with sanskrit, specially rig-veda one. There are quite good linguistic proofs. Beside this there are NO proofs in writings of old historians, that Slovenians (Venets, Slaves, Slovenets,...) came in 6th a.d., even more, for Croats and Serbs are good documented comming. So I beleive, that Slovenes are part of very old culture of Europe, as Poles, Chechs, Slovaks. We have all Slovan language, but I see Slovak language very simillar.

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    aghnimīḷe purohitaṃ yajñasya devaṃ ṛtvījam | hotāraṃ ratnadhātamam || aghniḥ pūrvebhirṛṣibhirīḍyo nūtanairuta | sa devāneha vakṣati || aghninā rayimaśnavat poṣameva dive-dive | yaśasaṃ vīravattamam || aghne yaṃ yajñamadhvaraṃ viśvataḥ paribhūrasi | sa iddeveṣu ghachati || (Since Slovenian is so close to Vedic I am sure you will have no difficulty reading this.) – fdb Oct 10 '14 at 15:04

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