Slovak phonology

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This article is about the phonology and phonetics of the Slovak language.

An excerpt of Slovak poem 'Mor ho' by Samo Chalupka (1812–1883). The speaker is a 21-year-old woman from Bratislava.

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Vowels[edit]

Monophthongs of standard Slovak, from Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:375)
Diphthongs of standard Slovak, based on the monophthongs chart in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:375) and information about diphthongs in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:376)

Slovak has the five short vowels /a/ /e/ /i/ /o/ /u/ (plus /æ/, orthographic ä, though rare), the five long vowels /aː/ /eː/ /iː/ /oː/ /uː/, and four rising diphthongs: /ie/ /ia/ /iu/ /uo/. /e/ /eː/ /o/ /oː/ are phonetically mid. /a/ and /aː/ are central.[1][2]

Pronunciation of ä as [æ] is already archaic (or dialectical) but still considered correct by some authorities; the standard pronunciation today is [ɛ].[3]

The graphic group -ou (at the end of words) is pronounced [ɔu̯] but is not considered a separate diphthong. Its phonemic interpretation is /ov/.

Consonants[edit]

Consonant phonemes of Slovak[4]
Labial Alveolar Post-
alveolar
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive voiceless p t c k
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ x
voiced v z ʒ ɦ
Trill plain r
geminated
Approximant central j
lateral plain l ʎ
geminated ʎ

The postalveolar consonants are often pronounced with retroflexion,[4] similar to Russian and Polish. /v/ is frequently pronounced as a labiodental approximant, particularly in the syllable onset before a vowel or sonorant.[4] /c/, /ɟ/, /ɲ/[4][5] and often /ʎ/[4] are phonetically palatalized alveolar [t̻ʲ d̻ʲ n̻ʲ l̻ʲ].[4][5] /l/ is slightly velarized [lˠ].[4]

Some additional notes includes the following (transcriptions in IPA unless otherwise stated):

  • r and l can be syllabic: /r̩/ and /l̩/. When they are long (indicated in the spelling with the acute accent: ŕ and ĺ), they are always syllabic, e.g. vlk (wolf), prst (finger), štvrť (quarter), krk (neck), bisyllabic vĺčavĺ-ča (wolfling), vŕbavŕ-ba (willow-tree), etc.
  • m has the allophone [ɱ] in front of the labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/.
  • n in front of (post)alveolar fricatives has an allophone written as [n̠] in a phonemic transcription of Slovak.
  • n can be [ŋ] in front of the velar plosives /k/ and /ɡ/.

Stress[edit]

In the standard language, the stress is always on the first syllable of a word (or on the preceding preposition, see below). This is not the case in certain dialects. Eastern dialects have penultimate stresses which at times makes them difficult to understand for speakers of standard Slovak. Some of the north-central dialects have a weak stress on the first syllable, which becomes stronger and "moves" to the penultimate in certain cases. Monosyllabic conjunctions, monosyllabic short personal pronouns and auxiliary verb forms of the verb byť (to be) are, as a rule, not stressed.

Prepositions form a single prosodic unit with the following word, unless the word is long (four syllables or more) or the preposition stands at the beginning of a sentence.

Official transcriptions[edit]

Slovak linguists do not usually use IPA for phonetic transcription of their own language or others, but have their own system based on the Slovak alphabet. Many English language textbooks make use of this alternative system of 'phonetic' transcription, a factor which probably contributes to some Slovaks developing a particular ('incorrect') pronunciation of certain English phonemes. In the following table, pronunciation of each grapheme is given in this system as well as in the IPA.

grapheme IPA transcr. example
a a a
á á
ä ɛ, æ e, ä
b b b
c t͡s c
č t͡ʃ č
d d d
ď ɟ ď
dz d͡z ʒ
d͡ʒ ǯ
e e e
é é
f f f
g ɡ g
h ɦ h
ch x x
i ɪ i
í í
j j j
k k k
l l, l̩ l
ĺ l̩ː ĺ mĺkvy (adj. prone to silence) About this sound [ˈm ̩lkvɪ] 
ľ ʎ ľ moľa (clothes moth) About this sound [ˈm ̞olʲa] 
m m m
n n n
ň ɲ ň
o ɔ o
ó ɔː ó
ô u̯ɔ ŭo kôň (horse) About this sound [ˈkuoɲ] 
p p p
q kv kv
r r, r̩ r
ŕ r̩ː ŕ vŕba (willow tree)
s s s
š ʃ, ʂ š
t t t
ť c, tʲ ť
u u u
ú ú
v v v
w v v
x ks ks
y ɪ i
ý í
z z z
ž ʒ, ʐ ž

Sample[edit]

The sample text is a reading of The North Wind and the Sun. The transcription is based on a recording of a 28-year-old female speaker of Standard Slovak from Bratislava.[6]

Phonemic transcription[edit]

/ˈras sa ˈsɛvɛraːk a ˈsl̩nkɔ ˈɦaːdali | ˈktɔ z ɲix jɛ ˈsilɲɛjʃiː || ˈf tɔm ˈzbadali ˈpɔt͡sɛstnɛːɦɔ | ˈktɔriː ˈkraːt͡ʃal ˈzakritiː ˈplaːʃcɔm || ˈdɔɦɔdli sa | ʒɛ ˈsilɲɛjʃiː jɛ ˈtɛn | ktɔ ˈakɔ ˈpr̩viː ˈdɔkaːʒɛ | ˈabi si ˈpɔt͡sɛstniː ˈvizlɪ̯ɛkɔl ˈplaːʃc || ˈa tak ˈzat͡ʃal ˈsɛvɛraːk ˈfuːkac zɔ ˈfʃɛtkix ˈsiːl | ˈale t͡ʃiːm vɪ̯at͡s ˈfuːkal | ˈtiːm vɪ̯at͡s sa ˈpɔt͡sɛstniː ˈzakriːval ˈplaːʃcɔm || ˈnakɔɲɪ̯ɛt͡s sa ˈsɛvɛraːk ˈvzdal ˈzbitɔt͡ʃnɛj ˈnaːmaɦi || ˈpɔtɔm ˈsl̩nkɔ ˈzat͡ʃalɔ ˈsʋɪ̯ɛcic a ˈɦrɪ̯ac || ˈza maluː ˈxʋiːʎku ˈbɔlɔ ˈpɔt͡sɛstnɛːmu ˈcɛplɔ | a ˈvizlɪ̯ɛkɔl si ˈplaːʃc || ˈsɛvɛraːk ˈmusɛl ˈnakɔɲɪ̯ɛt͡s ˈuznac | ʒɛ ˈsl̩nkɔ jɛ ˈsilɲɛjʃɪ̯ɛ ˈakɔ ɔn/

Phonetic transcription[edit]

[ˈras sa ˈsɛʋɛraːk a ˈsl̩ŋkɔ ˈɦaːdali | ˈktɔ z ɲix jɛ ˈsilɲɛjʃiː || ˈf tɔm ˈzbadali ˈpɔt͡sɛstnɛːɦɔ | ˈktɔriː ˈkraːt͡ʃal ˈzakritiː ˈplaːʃcɔm || ˈdɔhɔdli sa | ʒɛ ˈsilɲɛjʃiː jɛ ˈtɛn | ktɔ ˈakɔ ˈpr̩ʋiː ˈdɔkaːʒɛ | ˈabi si ˈpɔt͡sɛstniː ˈʋizlɪ̯ɛkɔl ˈplaːʃc || ˈa tag ˈzat͡ʃal ˈsɛʋɛraːk ˈfuːkaɟ zɔ ˈfʃɛtkix ˈsiːl | ˈale t͡ʃiːm ʋɪ̯at͡s ˈfuːkal | ˈtiːm ʋɪ̯at͡s sa ˈpɔt͡sɛstniː ˈzakriːʋal ˈplaːʃcɔm || ˈnakɔɲɪ̯ɛt͡s sa ˈsɛvɛraːg ˈvzdal ˈzbitɔt͡ʃnɛj ˈnaːmaɦi || ˈpɔtɔm ˈsl̩ŋkɔ ˈzat͡ʃalɔ ˈsʋɪ̯ɛcic a ˈɦrɪ̯ac || ˈza maluː ˈxʋiːʎku ˈbɔlɔ ˈpɔt͡sɛstnɛːmu ˈcɛplɔ | a ˈʋizlɪ̯ɛkɔl si ˈplaːʃc || ˈsɛvɛraːk ˈmusɛl ˈnakɔɲɪ̯ɛt͡s ˈuznac | ʒɛ ˈsl̩ŋkɔ jɛ ˈsilɲɛjʃɪ̯ɛ ˈakɔ ɔn][7]

Orthographic version[edit]

Raz sa severák a slnko hádali, kto z nich je silnejší. V tom zbadali pocestného, ktorý kráčal zakrytý plášťom. Dohodli sa, že silnejší je ten, kto ako prvý dokáže, aby si pocestný vyzliekol plášť. A tak začal severák fúkať zo všetkých síl, ale čím viac fúkal, tým viac sa pocestný zakrýval plášťom. Nakoniec sa severák vzdal zbytočnej námahy. Potom slnko začalo svietiť a hriať. Za malú chvíľku bolo pocestnému teplo a vyzliekol si plášť. Severák musel nakoniec uznať, že slnko je silnejšie ako on.[7]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]