Slovenian Alphabet and Pronunciation

Slovenian Alphabet and Pronunciation

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Welcome to our Slovenian grammar course for beginners! Today, we'll delve into the intricacies of the Slovenian alphabet and pronunciation.

Slovenian is the official language of the Republic of Slovenia, spoken by over 2 million people. Slovene speakers are not limited to Slovenia alone. You'll find Slovenian speakers residing in various regions of Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and even the United States. Linguists classify Slovenian within the South Slavic group of Slavic languages, but it possesses a range of characteristics that are akin to the West Slavic languages, particularly Czech and Slovak. This unique blend positions Slovenian in a distinctive place within the Slavic language family.

Geographical and historical factors led to the development of diverse dialects of the Slovenian language. The absence of widespread education in Slovenian, along with various political circumstances that dispersed Slovenes across different countries and territories, contributed to this dialectal diversity. Consequently, the language absorbed numerous foreign words while maintaining its distinct identity to an extent that allows it to evolve as an independent Slavic language. As a result, this small country hosts more than 40 different dialects and subdialects. Occasions arise where Slovenes may encounter challenges in comprehending the speech of Slovenes from other regions of the country. It's safe to say that each Slovenian city converses in its own unique dialect.

In recent times, with the attainment of national independence, the Slovenian literary language has experienced significant growth. It's the official language used in radio broadcasts, television programs, public speaking engagements, educational institutions, and other official communications. Yet, in informal contexts, local conversational dialects and subdialects still persist. Currently, territorial variations of the Slovenian language are gradually fading, yielding to what's known as the official Slovenian language, anchored in the Ljubljana or capital city dialect.

Now, let's focus on the specifics of the language, particularly its sounds, letters, and the alphabet employed in Slovenian.

The Slovenian alphabet consists of 25 letters. Below, we'll present the letters themselves along with their transcription.

The foundation of the alphabet is rooted in the Latin script. Additionally, specific letters - č (ch), š (sh), ž (zh) are utilized to convey sibilant sounds. Slovenian contains only five vowel letters: i, a, u, o, e. The consonant letters in Slovenian include: m, n, r, l, j, v, p, b, f, t, d, s, z, š, ž, c, č, , k, g, h.

Furthermore, a particular sound emerges after the consonants l and v when they occur at the end or middle of a word, followed by the absence of a vowel. This sound is pronounced quite close to the English "w" or the Polish sound "ł."

Another noteworthy feature of Slovenian is the absence of soft consonants. This implies that by default, all Slovenian sounds are hard, introducing specific nuances when pronouncing certain sounds. For instance, the sound č is pronounced not as the English "ch" with distinct softening. Additionally, consonants following vowels e and i do not soften and remain hard.

To denote the softness of a consonant sound, the letter j is obligatory in its writing. Pronunciation entails a clear separation and a slight pause between the consonant that requires softening and the sound j. In colloquial Slovenian, some speakers might omit the j, maintaining consonants as hard. For example:
Ljubljana (capital of Slovenia));
Jahati (to ride);
Morje (the sea);
Polje (a field).

Furthermore, there's an additional sound that's not explicitly represented in writing but can be heard in conversation. It's a very brief sound, appearing in words that seemingly lack any vowel. This sound emerges in words such as trg (square), vrt (garden) and so forth.

Regarding the writing intricacies of the language, there's a fundamental rule: spell as you hear. Notably, two features distinguish Slovenian spelling: the english sound "w" (derived from the letters v and l), as mentioned earlier, and the "polglasnik" (semivowel) sound discussed in the preceding paragraph.

As a closing note, here's some useful information. In Slovenian the practice of "formal address" exists. This means addressing a familiar individual using ti (you), and employing vi (you) when addressing an unfamiliar individual or a group of people (more than 2 people - why this is so will be covered in our subsequent materials). The polite forms of address in Slovenian are gospa (Mrs.) and gospod (Mr.).

We hope this overview offers you a comprehensive understanding of the Slovenian alphabet, pronunciation, and some of its intriguing features. Stay tuned for more insights into this captivating language in our future lessons, where we will talk about the grammatical gender in Slovenian. Good luck!