The primary principle of Slovak spelling is the phonemic principle, "Write as you hear". The secondary principle is the morphological principle: forms derived from the same stem are written in the same way even if they are pronounced differently. An example of this principle is the assimilation rule (see below). The tertiary principle is the etymological principle, which can be seen in the use of i after certain consonants and of y after other consonants, although both i and y are pronounced the same way. Finally there is the rarely applied grammatical principle, under which, for example, there is a difference in writing (but not in the pronunciation) between the basic singular and plural form of masculine adjectives, for example pekný (nice – sg.) vs pekní (nice – pl.), both pronounced [pekniː].
Most foreign words receive Slovak spelling immediately or after some time. For example, "weekend" is víkend , "software" is softvér (but some 15 years ago was spelled the English way), and "quality" is spelled kvalita (possibly from Italian qualità ). Personal and geographical names from other languages using Latin alphabets keep their original spelling, unless there is a fully Slovak form for the name (for example Londýn for "London").
Slovak orthography has changed many times. One of the most important changes was after World War II when s began to be written as z where pronounced as [z] in prefixes, for example smluva into zmluva , sväz into zväz . (That is, the phonemic principle has been given priority over the etymological principle in this case.)
The Slovak alphabet (minus the vowel diacritics) is often used to transcribe Ukrainian or Russian into the Latin alphabet.
The Slovak language has distinctive palatalization. Among the Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, Slovak is the closest to Ukrainian and then to Russian, and many Slovak words may be familiar to Ukrainian speakers.
The accent (stress) in the standard language is always placed on the first syllable of a word (or on the preceding preposition, see below). This is not the case in certain dialects. The eastern dialects, for example, have penultimate stress, which at times makes them difficult for speakers of Standard Slovak to understand. 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 words is long (four syllables or more) or the preposition stands at the beginning of a sentence.
The acute mark (in Slovak "dĺžeň", "prolongation mark") indicates a long vowel, for example í = approximately /i:/. This mark may appear on any vowel except "ä" (wide "e", široké "e" in Slovak). It may also appear above the consonants "l" and "r" (which, in such cases, are considered vowels).
The circumflex ("vokáň") exists only above the letter "o." It turns the o into a diphthong (see below).
The umlaut ("prehláska", "dve bodky" = two dots) is only used above the letter "a." It indicates a raised vowel, almost an "e".
The caron (in Slovak "mäkčeň", "palatalization mark" or "softener") indicates either palatalization or a change of alveolar fricatives into post-alveolar, in informal Slovak linguistics often called just "palatalization". Eight consonants can bear a caron. Not all "normal" consonants have a "caroned" counterpart:
In addition, the following rules hold:
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.
|ä||æ, ɛ||ä, e|
Some additional notes (transcriptions in IPA unless otherwise stated):
The main features of Slovak syntax are:
Word order in Slovak is relatively free, since strong inflection enables the identification of thematic role (subject, object, predicate, etc.) regardless of its placement. This relatively free word order allows the use of word order in information structure.
The unmarked order is Subject-Verb-Object. Word order is not completely free. In the above example, the following combinations are not possible:
The following are unlikely:
There is no article in the Slovak language. The demonstrative pronoun ten (fem: tá, neuter: to) may be used in front of the noun in situations where definiteness must be indicated.
There are unique forms for 0-10. 11-19 are formed by the numeral plus "násť." Compound numerals (21, 1054) are combinations of these words formed in the same order as their mathematical symbol is written (for example 21 = dvadsaťjeden, literally "twenty one")).
The numerals are: (1) jeden (jedno (neuter), jedna (feminine)), (2) dva (dve (neuter, feminine)), (3) tri, (4) štyri, (5) päť, (6) šesť, (7) sedem, (8) osem, (9) deväť, (10) desať, (11) jedenásť, (12) dvanásť, (13) trinásť, (14) štrnásť, (15) pätnásť, (16) šestnásť, (17) sedemnásť, (18) osemnásť, (19) devätnásť, (20) dvadsať, (21) dvadsaťjeden,... (30) tridsať, (31) tridsaťjeden,... (40) štyridsať,... (50) päťdesiat,... (60) šesťdesiat,... (70) sedemdesiat,... (80) osemdesiat,... (90) deväťdesiat,... (100) sto, (101) stojeden,... (200) dvesto,... (300) tristo,... (900)deväťsto,... (1,000) tisíc,... (1,100) tisícsto,... (2,000) dvetisíc,... (100,000) stotisíc,... (200,000) dvestotisíc,... (1,000,000) milión,... (1,000,000,000) miliarda,...
|volať, to call||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|bývať, to live||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|vracať, to return||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|robiť, to do, work||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|vrátiť, to return||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|vidieť, to see||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|kupovať, to buy||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|zabudnuť, to forget||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|1st Person||zabudnem||zabudneme||zabudol - zabudla|
|minuť, to spend, miss||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|niesť, to carry||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|1st Person||nesiem||nesieme||niesol, niesla|
|stučnieť, to carry (be fat)||Singular||Plural||Past Participle|
|byť, to be||jesť, to eat||vedieť, to know|
Adverbs are formed by replacing the adjectival ending with the ending –o or –e/-y. Sometimes both –o and -e are possible. Examples:
The comparative/superlative of adverbs is formed by replacing the adjectival ending with a comparative/superlative ending -(ej)ší or –(ej)šie. Examples:
Each preposition is associated with a particular grammatical case. The noun governed by a preposition must appear in the case required by the preposition. Example:
Priateľov is the genitive case of priatelia. It must appaear in this case because the preposition od (=from) always calls for its objects to be in the genitive.