Similarities between Slovenian and other Slavic languages

There are several similarities and differences between Slovenian and other Slavic languages.

Slavic languages are part of  the Indo-European languages. They are divided in 3 branches:

  • West Slavic (Czech, Slovak, Polish)
  • East Slavic (Russian, Belorussian, Ukrainian)
  • South Slavic (Slovenian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Serbian)
Map of Slavic language groups, from Similarities between Slovenian and other Slavic languages

West Slavic languages, East Slavic languages, South Slavic languages

Usually Slavic languages of the same language branch have more similarities, in comparison to other Slavic branches.

Understanding between Slovenian and other Slavic languages

Some people may think Slavs understand each other well, but it is only partly true. Slovenians, for example, don’t have any problem understanding Croatian or Serbian, but they have more difficulty understanding Macedonian and Bulgarian, not to mention West and East Slavic languages.

Slovaks and Czechs also understand each other pretty well—because of their common history. And the same story exists between Russians and Belorussians, Croats and Serbs. Slavic languages—excluding Bulgarian and Macedonian—and Baltic languages have from 6 to 7 grammatical cases (we wrote a little about Slovenian cases before). In Slavic languages 2 alphabets exist: Cyrilic and Latin. The Cyrilic alphabet is in use in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian. In most cases Slavic languages are written phonetically.

Similar words in Slavic languages

There are a lot of similar words in Slavic languages, with the same meaning, but also a lot of very similar words with the same lexical roots that have different meanings. Latter are called “false friends”.

Let’s see some similarities and differences between each Slavic language and Slovenian:

Russian

Russian has the same number of cases like Slovenian. The difference is just that in Slovenian we use the locative and instrumental with prepositions, but in Russian the prepositions are usually used only in instrumental, which is the 5th case in Russian, and the locative the 6th (in Slovenian is the opposite).

With word pronunciation, the emphasised syllable is different in Slovenian and Russian. Here is an example: земля́ –zêmlja (‘ground’, or ‘earth’), and коне́ц- kônec (‘end’).

Russian has letters Č(ч), Š(ш) and Ž(ж) like Slovenian, and also a Cyrilic letter for the diphthong ‘ŠČ’ (щ), which is quite difficult to pronounce, specially for non-Slavs.

Here are some Slovenian and Russian words with the same meaning and writing, but different stress:

SLOVENIAN RUSSIAN ENGLISH
bánja ба́ня bath
búrja бу́ря bora
káplja ка́пля drop
kít кит whale
ôreh оре́х walnut
uhó у́хо ear
šéf шеф boss

And some Russian words similar to Slovenian, but with totally different meanings:

SLOVENIAN RUSSIAN ENGLISH
poletje ле́то summer
teden неде́ля week
kruh хлеб bread
pogovor бесе́да talk
vrt cад garden

Czech

In 19th century Czech sibilants were first inducted into Croatian, and then to Slovenian.

Here are some Czech letters unknown in Slovenian:

Ď pronounced as ‘dj’
Ě pronounced as ‘je’
Ň pronounced as ‘nj’
Ř pronounced as  ‘rž’, ‘rš’
Ť pronounced as ‘tj’
Ý pronounced as long ‘i’

Slovak

A language is very similar to Czech, both also have a similar alphabet. Slovak has also some common features with South Slavic languages, especially with Slovenian and some Croatian dialects. No wonder, some people still confuse Slovakia and Slovenia, not just because of a similar name, but also because of the similar languages.

Polish

Polish has some special letters, also unknown in Czech and Slovak. Most often the second last syllable is stressed in Polish.

Here are some special letters:

Ą ‘o’ with nasal
Ć even softer than Serbian and Croatian ‘ć’
Ę ‘e’ with nasal
Ń like Croatian ‘nj’
Ł like ‘l’ in the word “delal
Ś softer ‘š’
Ź soft ‘ž’

Phraseology examples between Slovenian and Polish:

SLOVENIAN POLISH ENGLISH
bolje pozno kot nikoli lepiej późno niż wcale better late than never
kdor čaka, dočaka kto czeka, ten się doczeka everything comes to those who wait
čas celi rane czas goi rany time heals wounds
ljubezen na prvi pogled miłość od pierwszego wejrzenia love at first sight

Ukrainian

Ukrainian is East Slavic language with West Slavic influences, mainly Polish. It is quite different from Russian.

Bulgarian

Bulgarian is together with Macedonian, Romanian and Albanian also related as the so-called ‘Balkan language union’. For this reason it has some language features uncommon to other Slavic languages. Bulgarian Cyrillic is very similar to Russian.

A special letter in Bulgarian:

Щ pronounced as ‘št’

Macedonian

Macedonian is spoken in Macedonia, northern Greece, south-west Bulgaria, and in south-east Albania. Like Bulgarian it has some special features, untypical to other Slavic languages. They don’t decline nouns and adjectives, instead of this they use prepositions before nouns.

Some letters from Macedonian Cyrillic alphabet:

Џ pronounced as ‘dž’
Ќ pronounced as ‘kj’
Ѓ pronounced as ‘gj’

Serbian and Croatian

Serbian is a South Slavic language. Its writing is Cyrillic. In Montenegro they use both, Cyrillic and Latin. The independence of Montenegro in 2006 was followed by polemics about Montenegrin as an independent language. Serbian has a lot of words from Turkish and French. This also separates it from Croatian. There are also a lot of polemics about which language is spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some say that it’s Bosnian. Anyway, these languages are so similar to each other, that people can perfectly understand among themselves. It’s ironic, that a Slovenian from Prekmurje region understands a Slovenian from Primorje region with more difficult than a Croat and a Serb between themselves.

Similarities between some South Slavic languages:

MONTENEGRIN SERBIAN CROATIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
đe gde gdje kje where
đevojka devojka djevojka dekle girl
đeca deca djeca otroci children
śutra sutra sutra jutri tomorrow
cukar šećer šećer sladkor sugar
oriz pirinač riža riž rice

A large number of words originate from a common ancient Slavic vocabulary, for this reason there are so many similar words in Slavic languages. Below are some examples of the “false friends”, similar words with different meanings, I referred to earlier.

  • Russian – Slovenian false friends
RUSSIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
стол miza table
стул stol chair
  •  Polish – Slovenian
POLISH SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
bańka posoda container
bank banka bank
  • Czech – Slovenian
CZECH SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
slovenský slovaški Slovak
slovinský slovenski Slovenian
  • Slovak – Slovenian
SLOVAK SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
družina spremstvo retinue
rodina družina family
  • Croatian – Slovenian
CROATIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
grad mesto town
tvrđava grad fortress
  • Bulgarian – Slovenian
BULGARIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
вещ reč matter
реч govor speech
  • Ukrainian – Slovenian
UKRAINIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
cклеп klet cellar
вирішення sklep decision
  • Macedonian – Slovenian
MACEDONIAN SLOVENIAN ENGLISH
воздух zrak air
зрак žarek ray

You can find more false friends here.

Published on September 5, 2013