Comparison of Slovak and Czech

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Linguistically, the Czech and Slovak languages form a language continuum, with the eastern Slovak dialects blending into the Rusyn language.

While most dialects of Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible, eastern Slovak dialects are less intelligible to speakers of Czech; they differ from Czech and from other Slovak dialects, and mutual contact between speakers of Czech and speakers of the eastern dialects is limited.

Czech exists in two forms (excluding local dialects): literary Czech and colloquial Czech. The standard Slovak language is closer to literary Czech, especially in phonology and morphology. The differences between parts of the vocabulary of some Slovak dialects are rather big, comparable to the differences between standard Slovak and Czech. The description below summarizes the main differences between standard Slovak and Czech.

  • Slovak graphemes that do not exist in the Czech language are ä, ľ, ĺ, ŕ, ô, dz, dž (see Pronunciation for Czech and Slovak language). Czech graphemes that do not exist in the Slovak language are: ě, ř and ů.
  • Slovak has the following phonemes which Czech does not have: /ʎ/, /rː/, /lː/, /æ/ (this one only in higher-style standard Slovak, or some dialects), and the diphthongs /i̯a/, /i̯e/, /i̯u/, /u̯ɔ/; and on the contrary, Czech has /r̝/.
  • Slovak, unlike Czech, uses palatal consonants more frequently (that is, is phonetically "softer"), but there are some exceptions. Slovak de, te, ne are usually pronounced as the Czech dě, tě, ně.
  • Phonetic assimilation and a kind of "liaison" are much stronger in the Slovak language
  • Slovak grammar:
    • is somewhat more regular than the grammar of literary Czech, since present-day standard Slovak wasn't codified until the 19th century.
    • has different declension and conjugation endings and paradigms
    • does not commonly use the vocative case, while the Czech vocative is still very much alive.
  • Some basic Slovak is similar to the Czech language, and a few (almost) identical words have different meanings. The differences are mostly of simple historical origin (for example the word hej mentioned below was used in Great Moravia). As for professional terminology, except for biology (esp. all names of animals and plants), the Czech terminology was mostly taken over (in Slovakised form) for practical reasons. The Czech-Slovak Dictionary of Different Terms (1989, Prague) contains some 11,000 entries (without professional terminology):
    • Examples of basic different words are: yeah (SK hej – CZ jo), if (SK ak – CZ jestli, jestliže, -li), Good bye (SK dovidenia – CZ nashledanou), cat (SK mačka – CZ kočka), to kiss (SK bozkať – CZ líbat), now (SK teraz – CZ teď, nyní), goods (SK tovar – CZ zboží), he/she/it is not (SK nie je - CZ není)
    • Examples of typical small differences: endings (SK -cia, -dlo, , -om – CZ -c(i)e, -tko, -t, -em), expressions (SK treba, možno – CZ je třeba, je možné / je možno)
    • Examples of words with different meanings : SK topiť (to melt/to drown)(could be same meanings, depends on region) – CZ topit (to heat/to drown), SK horký (bitter) – CZ horký (hot) but hořký (bitter)
  • The Czech language has no equivalents for many Slovak words and vice versa. Examples of no Czech equivalents: prepositions (popod, ponad, sponad), verbs (ľúbiť, povynechávať, skackať, siakať), nouns (kúrňava, kaštieľ, hoľa, grúň), pronouns (dakto, voľakto, henten)
  • The Czech language does not have the Rhythmical Rule (see Slovak language)
  • Slovak uses the passive voice formed like in English less than Czech, and prefers the passive voice formed using the reflexive pronoun sa (like in Spanish language) instead.[clarification needed]
  • Czech months are of Slavic origin (e.g. Říjen), whereas the Slovak months are of Latin origin (e.g. Október).