History of the Slovak language

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This is a tabular history of the Slovak language.

Linguistic history of the region[edit]

6th – 7th century[edit]

Phonological differentiation within the uniform Slavic language (Proto-Slavic) begins and it also occurs on the territory of present-day Slovakia. For some results of this differentiation, see 9th century.

9th century[edit]

Nitrian principality (until 833) in Slovakia and Great Moravia (833-?907) in Slovakia and Moravia. A dialect exists in central Slovakia that has changed the Proto-Slavic groups -ort-, -olt- in rat-, lat- (as in today standard, Slovak language), e. g. in the name of the Great Moravian prince Rastislav (Czech: Rostislav). Furthermore, the Proto-Slavic -dj-, -tj- has changed to -dz-, -c- (this happened well before the 9th century):

Before 863[edit]

Latin is probably the administrative and liturgical language on this territory


The brothers Constantine (Cyril) and Methodius arrive in Great Moravia. The Old Church Slavonic becomes the administrative, literary and liturgical language, and the Glagolitic alphabet the corresponding script, in Great Moravia until 885. Latin continues to be used in parallel. Some of the early Old Church Slavonic texts contain elements of the language of the Slavic inhabitants of Great Moravia and Pannonia (which were called Sloviene by Slavic texts at that time).


The use of the Slavic language (Old Church Slavonic) in Great Moravia is prohibited by Pope Stephen V. Latin becomes the administrative and liturgical language again. Many followers and students of Constantine and Methodius flee to Bulgaria, Croatia, later also to Bohemia, Rus' and other countries.

Early Slovak[edit]

Early 10th century[edit]

The Slovak language arises from the language of the Slovene (i.e. the Slavic inhabitants of Great Moravia, present-day Hungary, Slovenia and Slavonia) in the form of several Slovak dialects, after the Magyars (Hungarians) have destroyed Great Moravia (c.907), settled in present-day Hungary, separated the West from the South Slavs, and temporarily subjugated southern parts of Slovakia (most of the remaining Slovakia will become part of Hungary until the end of the 11th century). In the 10th century, the Slovak dialects are already divided in the three present-day groups (Western, Central and Eastern Slovak dialects). The rise of the Slovak language, just as that of other Slavic languages, can be shifted back to the 6th and 7th century, but the general consensus of Slavic linguists is that it was only in the 10th century that the Slavic languages were different enough to define them as separate languages.

10th – early 12th century[edit]

Latin is used as the administrative, liturgical and literary language in Hungary . The common people in north region speak Slovak dialects.

13th – 14th century[edit]

Slovak burghers and yeomen start to use the Slovak dialects as administrative languages (together with Latin). The Slovak language consolidates after centuries of quick development.

14th century[edit]

The written Czech language starts to penetrate to Slovakia through Czech clergy teaching in capitular schools.

15th century – 16th century[edit]

Slovak continues to be used for administrative purposes. The written Czech language is also used (together with Latin) by certain Slovaks for certain purposes (correspondence, certain contracts, religious texts addressed to common people, etc. ), but it mostly contains many Slovak elements, and texts written by people with no higher education are always written in Slovak. The reasons for the use of the Czech language are: the absence of a uniform Slovak language standard due to the absence of a Slovak state (whereas the Czech was a more or less standardized language), the fact that it is easier to learn than Latin for Slovaks, studies of many Slovaks at the University of Prague, the influence of the campaigns of the Czech Hussites and of John Giskra (Ján Jiskra) in Slovakia, and the temporary conquest of Moravia by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus. In the 16th century, a Cultured Western Slovak, Cultured Central Slovak and a Cultured Eastern Slovak language start to arise (their use will intensify in the 18th century).

17th century – 18th century[edit]

The Lutheran Protestants use the Czech language (since late 16th century; as a liturgical language even till the early 20th century) in the religious sphere, the Catholics the Western Slovak language (Cultured Western Slovak, Jesuit Slovak) based on the language used by the educated people from the region of Trnava where the important Jesuit University of Trnava was founded in 1635, and in the profane sphere (especially in the towns) the Slovak language more or less influenced by the Czech is used even in written documents, often with a chaotic orthography. But even the above-mentioned Protestants have replaced many Czech sounds by Slovak ones (e. g. ř by r, ě by e, au by ú, ou by ú, etc. ). In eastern Slovakia, a Slovakized standard Polish language is used sometimes (besides Czech, Slovak and Latin) for the same purposes and reasons as the Czech language is used in the remaining Slovakia. Of course, the Latin language continues to be used, especially in state administration. As for politics, many Czech Protestant emigrants came to Slovakia in the late 16th century and especially after the Battle at the White Mountain (1620). After a successful recatholization, however, Slovakia became a largely Catholic country again in the 18th century.

1680s – 18th century[edit]

After the defeat of the Turks near Vienna, many Slovaks gradually emigrate to the "Lower Lands", i.e. to the territories in present-day Hungary, Serbia (later to Croatia and Bulgaria), and Romania depopulated after the Turkish occupation. They have preserved their particular Slovak dialects until today.


17th century - 1750[edit]

Major efforts to establish Slovak as the standard language emerge. For example, in his The Czech Grammar (1603, Prague), Vavrinec Benedikt of Nedožery incites the Slovaks to deepen their knowledge of their Slovak language. Also, Matej Bel in the introduction to the Gramatica Slavico-Bohemica (1745, Bratislava) of Pavel Doležal compares the Slovak language with other recognised languages. Literary activity in the Slovak language flourishes during the second half of the seventeenth century and continues into the next century.


Romuald Hadvabný of Červený Kláštor proposes a detailed (Western Slovak) language codification in his Latin-Slovak Dictionary with an outline of the Slovak grammar.


The first adventure novel in Slovak - the René mláďenca príhodi a skúsenosťi - is published by Jozef Ignác Bajza in the Western Slovak language.


Anton Bernolák, a Catholic priest (1762-1813), publishes his Dissertatio philologico-critica de litteris Slavorum (Bratislava), in which he codifies a Slovak language standard based on the Western Slovak language of the University of Trnava, but containing also some central Slovak elements (e.g. the ľ and many words). The language is often called the Bernolák language. Bernolák will continue his codification work in other books in the 1780s and 1790s and especially in his huge six-volume Slovak-Czech-Latin-German-Hungarian Dictionary (published only 1825 –1927). This is the first successful establishment of a Slovak language standard. Bernolák's language will be used by Slovak Catholics (esp. by the writers Juraj Fándly and Ján Hollý), but the Protestants will still write in the Czech language (in its old form used in Bohemia until the 17th century).


Main article: Ľudovít Štúr

Young Slovak Lutheran Protestants, led by Ľudovít Štúr, decide to establish and discuss the central Slovak dialect as the new Slovak language standard (instead of both Bernolák's language used by the Catholics and the Czech language used by older Slovak Lutheran Protestants). The new language is also accepted by some users of the Bernolák language led by Ján Hollý (see also 1851), but is initially criticized by the older Lutheran Protestants led by Ján Kollár (died 1852). This language formed a basis of later literary Slovak language (see 1851) that is used today. It will be officially declared the new language standard in August 1844. The first Slovak grammar of the new language will be published by Ľudovít Štúr in 1846.


The Hungarian Diet of Pozsony (today Bratislava) replaces the Latin language (used since the Middle Ages) with the Hungarian language as the official language of Hungary (including what later became Slovakia).


Modern history[edit]


After the establishment of Austria-Hungary (1867), the Hungarian government prohibits the only three Slovak high schools in Hungary (founded in the 1860s) in 1874-1875, and a strong Magyarization begins in Hungary.


With the Apponyi Laws, the Hungarian government officially turns all Slovak (and German) elementary schools into Hungarian ones and the Slovak (and German) language is allowed to be taught one hour in the week as a foreign language.

1918–1992 except World War II[edit]

With the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918, Slovak becomes an official language for the first time in history (along with the Czech language). The Czechoslovak Constitution of 1920 and the constitutional law on minorities which was adopted alongside the constitution on the same day, established the Czechoslovak language (i.e. Czech and Slovak considered as two official dialects of one language) as an official language. In this period, the language (especially the vocabulary) is strongly influenced by the Czech language. This holds mainly for the initial years of Czechoslovakia, when many Czech teachers and clerks were active in Slovakia (since Slovaks educated in the Slovak language were missing) and when missing Slovak professional terminology had to be created, as well as for the period after World War II, when most TV programs were broadcast in the Czech language. The Constitutional Law of Federation in 1968 confirmed equal rights for the Slovak and the Czech languages in the federation.


The six-volume Dictionary of the Slovak Language (SSJ) is published (online version)


Czechoslovakia splits into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Slovak language becomes the official language of Slovakia. Further developments with respect to the Czech language remain to be seen, because close cultural and educational contacts did not disappear after 1992 and, for economic reasons, there are even more books written in the Czech language in the Slovak market than before 1990.


  • Kováč, Dušan; et al. (1998). Kronika Slovenska 1 (Chronicle of Slovakia 1). Chronicle of Slovakia (in Slovak) (1st ed.). Bratislava, Slovakia: FortunaPrint. ISBN 80-7153-174-X.  External link in |publisher= (help)

See also[edit]