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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Ranges for Standard Slovak monophthongs, from Pavlík (2004:95). Rounded front vowels are not shown.
Slovak monophthong phonemes[1][2]
Front Central Back
unrounded rounded unrounded rounded
short long short long short long short long
Close i (y) () u
Mid e (ø) (øː) o ()
Open æ a

Non-native vowels are in parentheses.

  • Vowel length is not phonemic in Eastern dialects.[1] In Western dialects, short vowels may be realized as long.[3][in which environments?]
  • /eː, uː/ do not occur after soft consonants, when they are replaced by the corresponding diphthongs /i̯e, i̯u/.[4] The same is generally true for /aː/ (/i̯a/ after soft consonants), but the sequence /jaː/ may occur in some cases.[4]
  • Native close vowels are variably transcribed as /i, iː, u, uː/ (without diacritics)[5] and /i̞, i̞ː, u̞, u̞ː/ (with a lowering diacritic).[6] The purpose of the latter transcription is to show that they are rather lax, i.e. phonetically closer to [ɪ, ɪː, ʊ, ʊː].[7][8] This article uses the former set for simplicity.
  • Native mid vowels are variably transcribed as /e, eː, o, oː/[9] and /ɛ, ɛː, ɔ, ɔː/.[10] This article uses the former set for simplicity. These vowels are phonetically mid,[8][11][12] transcribed in narrow IPA as [, e̞ː, , o̞ː] or [ɛ̝, ɛ̝ː, ɔ̝, ɔ̝ː]. /eː/ may be even close-mid [], though this realization is rare.[13]
    • Long /eː/ occurs only in loanwords, one native word (dcéra) and in adjective endings.[14]
  • /y, yː, ø, øː, oː/ occur only in loanwords.[1][15][16] /ø, øː/ are mid,[17] transcribed in narrow IPA as [ø̞, ø̞ː] or [œ̝, œ̝ː]. Among these vowels, only /oː/ is consistently realized in the correct manner.[18] /y, yː/ and /ø, øː/ are often either too back, which results in realizations that are phonetically too close to, respectively, /u, uː/ and /o, oː/,[16] or too weakly rounded, yielding vowels phonetically too close to, respectively, /i, iː/ and /e, eː/.[16] However, most speakers bilingual in Slovak and Hungarian (or German) pronounce the rounded front vowels correctly.
  • /æ/ can only be short, and it occurs only after /m, p, b, v/.[1][19] Speakers often fail at attempts to pronounce /æ/, pronouncing a vowel that is phonetically too close to either /a/ or /e/.[19] Note that there is not a full agreement about its status in the standard language:
    • Kráľ (1988) states that the correct pronunciation of /æ/ is an important part of the high register, but in medium and low registers, /æ/ merges with /e/, or (in some cases) with /a/.[19]
    • Short (2002) states that only about 5% of speakers have /æ/ as a distinct phoneme, and that even when it is used in formal contexts, it is most often a dialect feature.[20]
    • Hanulíková & Hamann (2010) state that the use of /æ/ is becoming rare, and that it often merges with /e/.[1]
  • /a, aː/ are central [ä, äː],[12][21] or somewhat more back [ɑ̟, ɑ̟ː].[8][21] In Standard Slovak, both variants are equally correct.[21] Under Hungarian influence, some speakers pronounce the short /a/ as rounded [ɒ].[21]


Slovak diphthong phonemes[3][22]
Ending point
Front Central Back
Unrounded i̯e i̯a i̯u
Rounded u̯o
  • These diphthongs are variably transcribed as /i̯e, i̯a, i̯u, u̯o/,[9] /i̯ɛ, i̯a, i̯u, u̯ɔ/[23] and /ɪ̯ɛ, ɪ̯a, ɪ̯ʊ, ʊ̯ɔ/.[6] For simplicity, this article uses the first set of symbols.
  • In /i̯e, i̯a, i̯u/, the first element has more prominence.[24]


Consonant phonemes of Slovak[25]
Labial Dental/
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
Approximant central plain j
lateral l ʎ
geminated ʎː
Trill plain r
  • /p, t, c, k/ are unaspirated [p˭, t˭, c˭, k˭].[25][26] Voiceless affricates are also unaspirated.
  • /b, d, ɟ, ɡ/ are fully voiced.[25] Voiced affricates and fricatives are also fully voiced.
  • /n/ is apical alveolar [] or laminal denti-alveolar [].[27]
  • /t, d, t͡s, d͡z, s, z, ɲ, c, ɟ/ are laminal [t̻, d̻, t̻͡s̻, d̻͡z̻, s̻, z̻, ɲ̻, c̻, ɟ̻].[28]
  • /ʎ/ is palatalized laminal denti-alveolar [l̪ʲ],[36] palatalized laminal alveolar [l̻ʲ][25][36][37] or palatal [ʎ].[25][36][37] The palatal realization is the least common one.[25][37]
  • /l, r/ are apical alveolar [, ].[38]
    • /l/ is either neutral [l] or velarized [ɫ].[35]
    • Short /r/ is most often a tap [ɾ].[25]
  • Postalveolar /t͡ʃ, d͡ʒ, ʃ, ʒ/ are often pronounced with retroflexion [t͡ʂ, d͡ʐ, ʂ, ʐ],[25] as in Russian and Polish.
    • /d͡ʒ/ occurs mainly in loanwords.[25]
  • /v/ is realized as:
    • Voiced fricative [v] in onsets before voiced obstruents;[25]
    • Voiceless fricative [f] in onsets before voiceless obstruents;[39]
    • Variably as an approximant [ʋ] or a glide [ʊ̯] in coda;[25]
    • Approximant [ʋ] in all other cases.[25]
  • /j/ is palatal or alveolo-palatal.[40]

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

  • /r, l/ can be syllabic: /r̩, 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 a postalveolar allophone [n̠].
  • /n/ can be [ŋ] in front of the velar plosives /k/ and /ɡ/.


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 mama (mother)
á /aː/ á láska (love)
ä /æ/ e, ä mäso (meat, flesh)
b /b/ b brat (brother)
c /t͡s/ c cukor (sugar)
č /t͡ʃ/ č čaj (tea)
d /d/ d dom (house)
ď /ɟ/ ď ďakovať (v. to thank)
dz /d͡z/ ʒ bryndza (sheep cheese)
/d͡ʒ/ ǯ em (jam)
e /e/ e meno (name)
é /eː/ é bazén (pool)
f /f/ f farba (colour)
g /ɡ/ g egreš (gooseberry)
h /ɦ/ h hlava (head)
ch /x/ x chlieb (bread)
i /i/ i pivo (beer)
í /iː/ í gombík (button)
j /j/ j jahoda (strawberry)
k /k/ k kniha (book)
l /l/, /l̩/ l plot (fence)
ĺ /l̩ː/ ĺ mĺkvy (adj. prone to silence) About this sound [ˈml̩ːkvi] 
ľ /ʎ/ ľ moľa (clothes moth) About this sound [ˈmoʎa] 
m /m/ m pomoc (n. help)
n /n/ n nos (nose)
ň /ɲ/ ň studňa (n. well)
o /o/ o kostol (church)
ó /oː/ ó balón (baloon)
ô /u̯o/ ŭo kôň (horse) About this sound [ˈku̯oɲ] 
p /p/ p lopta (ball)
q /kv/ kv
r /r/, /r̩/ r more (sea)
ŕ /r̩ː/ ŕ vŕba (willow tree)
s /s/ s strom (tree)
š /ʃ/ š myš (mouse)
t /t/ t stolička (chair)
ť /c/ ť ťava (camel)
u /u/ u ruka (arm)
ú /uː/ ú dúha (rainbow)
v /v/ v veža (tower)
w v whiskey (whiskey)
x /ks/ ks xylofón (xylophone)
y /i/ i syr (cheese)
ý /iː/ í rým (rhyme)
z /z/ z koza (goat)
ž /ʒ/ ž žaba (frog)


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.[41]

Phonemic transcription[edit]

/ˈras sa ˈseveraːk a ˈsl̩nko ˈɦaːdali | ˈkto z ɲix je ˈsilɲejʃiː || ˈf tom ˈzbadali ˈpot͡sestneːɦo | ˈktoriː ˈkraːt͡ʃal ˈzakritiː ˈplaːʃcom || ˈdoɦodli sa | ʒe ˈsilɲejʃiː je ˈten | kto ˈako ˈpr̩viː ˈdokaːʒe | ˈabi si ˈpot͡sestniː ˈvizli̯ekol ˈplaːʃc || ˈa tak ˈzat͡ʃal ˈseveraːk ˈfuːkac zo ˈfʃetkix ˈsiːl | ˈale t͡ʃiːm vi̯at͡s ˈfuːkal | ˈtiːm vi̯at͡s sa ˈpot͡sestniː ˈzakriːval ˈplaːʃcom || ˈnakoɲi̯et͡s sa ˈseveraːk ˈvzdal ˈzbitot͡ʃnej ˈnaːmaɦi || ˈpotom ˈsl̩nko ˈzat͡ʃalo ˈsʋi̯ecic a ˈɦri̯ac || ˈza maluː ˈxʋiːʎku ˈbolo ˈpot͡sestneːmu ˈceplo | a ˈvizli̯ekol si ˈplaːʃc || ˈseveraːk ˈmusel ˈnakoɲi̯et͡s ˈuznac | ʒe ˈsl̩nko je ˈsilɲejʃi̯e ˈako on/

Phonetic transcription[edit]

[ˈras sa ˈseʋeraːk a ˈsl̩ŋko ˈɦaːdali | ˈkto z ɲix je ˈsilɲejʃiː || ˈf tom ˈzbadali ˈpot͡sestneːɦo | ˈktoriː ˈkraːt͡ʃal ˈzakritiː ˈplaːʃcom || ˈdohodli sa | ʒe ˈsilɲejʃiː je ˈten | kto ˈako ˈpr̩ʋiː ˈdokaːʒe | ˈabi si ˈpot͡sestniː ˈʋizli̯ekol ˈplaːʃc || ˈa tag ˈzat͡ʃal ˈseʋeraːk ˈfuːkaɟ zo ˈfʃetkix ˈsiːl | ˈale t͡ʃiːm ʋi̯at͡s ˈfuːkal | ˈtiːm ʋi̯at͡s sa ˈpot͡sestniː ˈzakriːʋal ˈplaːʃcom || ˈnakoɲi̯et͡s sa ˈseveraːg ˈvzdal ˈzbitot͡ʃnej ˈnaːmaɦi || ˈpotom ˈsl̩ŋko ˈzat͡ʃalo ˈsʋi̯ecic a ˈɦri̯ac || ˈza maluː ˈxʋiːʎku ˈbolo ˈpot͡sestneːmu ˈceplo | a ˈʋizli̯ekol si ˈplaːʃc || ˈseveraːk ˈmusel ˈnakoɲi̯et͡s ˈuznac | ʒe ˈsl̩ŋko je ˈsilɲejʃi̯e ˈako on][42]

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.[43]


  1. ^ a b c d e Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 375.
  2. ^ Kráľ (1988), pp. 51 and 64–65.
  3. ^ a b Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 376.
  4. ^ a b Short (2002), pp. 534–535.
  5. ^ For example by Mistrík (1988), Short (2002) and Krech et al. (2009).
  6. ^ a b For example by Hanulíková & Hamann (2010).
  7. ^ See the auditory vowel chart in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:375).
  8. ^ a b c See the auditory vowel chart in Mistrík (1988:13).
  9. ^ a b For example by Mistrík (1988) and Short (2002).
  10. ^ For example by Hanulíková & Hamann (2010) and Krech et al. (2009).
  11. ^ Kráľ (1988), pp. 56–57.
  12. ^ a b See the auditory and formant vowel charts in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:375).
  13. ^ Kráľ (1988), p. 56.
  14. ^ Short (2002), p. 535.
  15. ^ Mistrík (1988), p. 12.
  16. ^ a b c Kráľ (1988), pp. 64–65.
  17. ^ Kráľ (1988), p. 64.
  18. ^ Kráľ (1988), p. 57.
  19. ^ a b c Kráľ (1988), p. 55.
  20. ^ Short (2002), p. 534.
  21. ^ a b c d Kráľ (1988), p. 54.
  22. ^ Kráľ (1988), p. 51.
  23. ^ For example by Krech et al. (2009).
  24. ^ Mistrík (1988), p. 15.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 374.
  26. ^ Mistrík (1988), p. 13.
  27. ^ Kráľ (1988:73). The author describes /n/ as apical alveolar, but the corresponding image shows a laminal denti-alveolar pronunciation (which he doesn't discuss).
  28. ^ Kráľ (1988), pp. 72, 74–75 and 80–82.
  29. ^ Kráľ (1988), p. 72.
  30. ^ Kráľ (1988), pp. 74–75.
  31. ^ Dvončová, Jenča & Kráľ (1969:?), cited in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:374)
  32. ^ Pauliny (1979), p. 112.
  33. ^ a b Kráľ (1988), pp. 81–82.
  34. ^ Recasens (2013), pp. 11 and 13.
  35. ^ a b Kráľ (1988), p. 80.
  36. ^ a b c Kráľ (1988), p. 82.
  37. ^ a b c Dvončová, Jenča & Kráľ (1969), pp. 94–95.
  38. ^ Kráľ (1988), pp. 78–79.
  39. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), pp. 374 and 376.
  40. ^ Recasens (2013), p. 15.
  41. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 373.
  42. ^ Based on the transcription in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:377). Some symbols were changed to keep the article consistent - see the section above.
  43. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 377.


  • Dvončová, Jana; Jenča, Gejza; Kráľ, Ábel (1969), Atlas slovenských hlások, Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Slovenskej akadémie vied 
  • Hanulíková, Adriana; Hamann, Silke (2010), "Slovak" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association 40 (3): 373–378, doi:10.1017/S0025100310000162 
  • Kráľ, Ábel (1988), Pravidlá slovenskej výslovnosti, Bratislava: Slovenské pedagogické nakladateľstvo 
  • Krech, Eva Maria; Stock, Eberhard; Hirschfeld, Ursula; Anders, Lutz-Christian (2009), "7.3.15 Slowakisch", Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch, Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-018202-6 
  • Mistrík, Jozef (1988) [First published 1982], A Grammar of Contemporary Slovak (2nd ed.), Bratislava: Slovenské pedagogické nakladateľstvo 
  • Pauliny, Eugen (1979), Slovenská fonológia, Bratislava: Slovenské pedagogické nakladateľstvo 
  • Pavlík, Radoslav (2004), "Slovenské hlásky a medzinárodná fonetická abeceda" (PDF), Jazykovedný časopis 55: 87–109 
  • Recasens, Daniel (2013), "On the articulatory classification of (alveolo)palatal consonants" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association 43 (1): 1–22, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000199 
  • Short, David (2002), "Slovak", in Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G., The Slavonic Languages, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 533–592, ISBN 9780415280785 

Further reading[edit]