Slovenian Dialects

The Slovenian language is a South Slavic language with around 2.5 million speakers worldwide, most of whom live in Slovenia. It is one of the few Indo-European languages that has still preserved dual use. A large variety of dialects, depending on the number of speakers, is a reflection of the great diversity of а language.

The number of Slovenian dialects makes it one of the most parsed European languages. For all dialects, dual is in use consistently, and they are divided according to the melody, accent and vocabulary. The same goes for architecture, customs, music, and mentality, which vary between regions.

Relative to other countries in Europe, Slovenia is miniature, and its regions reflect the climatic, linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe.

After a general assessment, the Slovenian language has around 46 dialects. You may ask yourself, how such a small country has so many dialects. Such diversity is conditioned by geographical (being a small territory, and the resulting influence of neighbouring countries), political, historical, character, and social, among other influences. Various settlers in today’s Republic of Slovenia, arriving from different parts of the world played a role, as did the geographical characteristics of territories, which prevented regular contact between residents of  neighbouring languages.

Slovenian dialects are so different in some cases, that people can find difficult to understand each other. Also, because of this reason, the Slovenian standard language is in use, which is mainly encountered only in book form and public media.

Dialects are classified in 7 dialect groups:

  1. Upper Carniolian (gorenjsko narečje) 
  2. Lower Carniolian (dolenjsko narečje) 
  3. Styrian (štajersko narečje ) 
  4. Pannonian (panonsko narečje) 
  5. Carinthian (koroško narečje ) 
  6. Littoral (primorsko narečje) 
  7. Rovte (rovtarsko narečje) 
  8. Plus, I would add a dialect (or even better, a speech) which is spoken in the Ljubljana region. If it’s spoken correctly (without slang), it draws nearest to the standard Slovenian language.

Slovene dialects are also spoken outside of the state border, because Slovenian minorities live there. Those dialects are influenced by several neighbouring languages such as Italian, German (mostly), Croatian, and Hungarian. Deviations between these dialects can be so big speakers may have problems understand each other. For example, a person from Primorska region can have major challenges speaking to sombody from Prekmurje region, in their respective dialects.

Map of Slovenian dialects

Sources

Personal Observations on Slovenian Dialects

From my point of view, there are vast differences between Slovenian dialects. I have had (and still have) a chance to observe dialects of the Ljubljana and Dolenjska region. So, for example, I know the Lower Carniolian dialect has several German expressions.

Examples from the Lower Carniolian dialect:

Lower Carniolian Dialect Standard Slovenian English Translation German
antula brisača towel
cvek žebelj nail
cajt čas time die Zeit
flaša steklenica bottle die Flasche
južna kosilo lunch
kišta zaboj box die Kiste
luft zrak air die Luft
nucat uporabiti to use nutzen
pob fant boy
štenge stopnice stairs die Stiege

In most cases it’s true when they say every Slovenian village has its own accent (in Slovenian: ‘Vsaka vas ima svoj glas’). It’s interesting how people can use more dialects for different occations, for example when they are at work, they use a standard Slovene, but at home a dialect of certain region. Specially if they work with customers or clients. A good example of this is my mother.

In Littoral dialect (primorsko narečje) they use a lot of words from Italian, and in Styrian dialect (štajersko narečje) they use a lot of German expressions. In my opinion, the most unknown and somehow strange Slovenian dialect comes from Prekmurje region. I can’t understand it at all. Maybe this is because of the Hungarian influence in this area. The Hungarian language belongs to Ugro-Finnish language group, which is quite rare and unique.

I tried to find examples of dialects from different regions and I had some difficult doing so, but anyway, here are some, which I found on a Slovenian forum and are quite funny:

English Why do you call me when I’m walking the dog?
Standard Slovenian Zakaj me kličeš, ko sprehajam psa?
Styrian dialect (from Maribor) Kaj mi te težiš ko s’n glih s pesom vuni?
Ljubljana accent (slang) Kva moriš k psa šetam?
Carinthian dialect Ka težiš ko sn s paso zuna?
Pannonian dialect (Prekmurje region) Zakoj me zovejš glij te gda psa šejtan?
Styrian dialect (from Prlekija) Čüj, ka me zoveš, gli te kda pesa sprehojan?
Upper Carniolian dialect Zakuga me kličeš lih k psa sprehajam?
Littoral dialect (Kras region) Kej me hnjav’š lih ku sm wnh s p’sm!

In the Ljubljana region people are called ‘žabarji’, which would mean ‘frog people’ in English. That’s because the typical inhabitants of Ljubljana say ‘kva‘ instead of ‘kaj‘, which means ‘what‘. And a frog makes sounds like ‘kva’. Other sources say that the interrogative ‘kva‘ comes from the French word ‘quoi‘, which also means ‘what‘ and is pronounced quite the same.

"Kva pa je, žabarji so bli kle!" (What is it? Frog people were here!)

“Kva pa je, žabarji so bli kle!” (What is it? Frog people were here!)

This was an introduction to Slovenian dialects. I could write much more about this topic, but the post could turn into a small book. Maybe you are wondering, which is my favourite dialect. I like when the language is spoken in standard way, even though I speak in slang with people I know. It would be funny to do a survey about favourite Slovenian dialects. I’m wondering what the results would be. Because it’s like this, most people out of Ljubljana say that Ljubljana’s people are fooling around while they speak, but most of dialects from other regions are funny to people from Ljubljana too. So, it’s hard to say who is right. As long as we understand each other, everything is fine.