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A semivowel is a vowel which does not have a special letter. Phonetically it is written as ‘ə’, but we never write it. It is pronounced similar to French unstressed ‘e’.
A feature in Slovenian is that a semivowel ‘ə’ is pronounced each time when a letter ‘r’ stands between two consonants (trg) or before another consonant (rdeč); for example: [tərg], [ərdeč]. So, we have to pronounce it every time, at each ‘r’ which doesn’t stand beside a vowel. In some words a semivowel ‘ə’ replaces a letter ‘e’ in pronunciation, like in the words “pes” and “dež”. We pronounce them like [pəs] and [dəš]. Narrow and wide ‘e’ aren’t stressed when write in Slovenian, so you simply have to memorise how each word is pronounced.
In Slovenian plenty of words exist without vowels (mostly very short words). But instead of vowels we use a semivowel. The longest Slovenian words without vowels are “vzbrst” (adenoids), “čmrlj” (bumblebee), “zvrst” (genre) and “čvrst” (solid). The shortest words without vowels and with only two letters are “rt” (cape) and “rž” (rye).
This might be odd to foreigners, as for example in English, French and other languages words without vowels don’t exist. Sometimes foreigners in Slovenia think that words completely without vowels are acronyms for something. But no, we don’t spell them, we pronounce them fluently.
Some words in Slovenian completely without vowels
|Slovenian Words Without vowels
One of our students gave a great tip for getting more out of the Learn Slovenian Online course. By playing the audio files through VLC media player, the play back speed can be controlled. This means you can slow down the audio files to better hear what Valentina is saying.
VLC media player can be downloaded for free here.
We have also added a new Downloads page to the course, from where you can easily download all of the course audio files in .m4a format.
You can try a free lesson from Learn Slovenian Online here.