Slovak Phonology
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Slovak Phonology

This article is about the phonology and phonetics of the Slovak language.



Ranges of the standard Slovak monophthongs, from Pavlík (2004:95)
Front Back
short long short long
Close i i: u u:
Mid ? ?: ? (?:)
Open (æ) a a:

Phonetic realization

  • The close and mid vowels are typically peripheral, but they can at times be somewhat centralized.[1]
  • /i, i:, u, u:/ are typically near-close [i?, i?:, u?, u?:], but sometimes they can be close [i, i:, u, u:] instead.[2]
  • /?, ?:, ?, ?:/ are typically mid [, :, , :]. /?, ?:/ are slightly higher than /?, ?:/ - this can be transcribed in narrow transcription as [e?, e?:] vs. [, :]. At times, /?, ?:/ can be as close as close-mid [e, e:] and /?, ?:/ as open as open-mid [?, ?:].[3]
  • Speakers often fail at attempts to pronounce /æ/, pronouncing a vowel that is phonetically too close to either /?/ or /a/.[4]
  • /a, a:/ are typically open central [ä, ä:], but at times they can be somewhat fronted [a?, a?:], retracted [, :] or raised [?, ?:].[3]
  • Under Hungarian influence, some speakers realize /?:, ?:/ as close-mid [e:, o:] and /a/ as open back rounded . The close-mid realizations of /?:, ?:/ occur also in southern dialects spoken near the river Ipe?.[5]

Other notes

  • Vowel length is not phonemic in Eastern dialects,[6] which have only five vowel phonemes (/i, u, ?, ?, a/, some speakers also have /æ/).
  • In Western dialects, vowels that are short due to the rhythmical rule are often realized as long, thus violating the rule.[7]
  • /y, y:, oe, oe:, ?:/ occur only in loanwords.[6][8] Just as other mid vowels, /oe, oe:/ are phonetically true-mid [oe?, oe?:].[9] Among these vowels, only /?:/ is consistently realized in the correct manner, whereas the occurrence of the front rounded vowels /y, y:, oe, oe:/ has been reported only by Krá? (1988), who states that the front rounded vowels appear only in the high register and medium register. However, in the medium register, /y, y:/ and /oe, oe:/ are often either too back, which results in realizations that are phonetically too close to, respectively, /u, u:/ and /?, ?:/, or too weakly rounded, yielding vowels that are phonetically too close to, respectively, /i, i:/ and /?, ?:/.[10]
  • /u:, ?:/ do not occur after soft consonants, where they are replaced by the corresponding diphthongs /u, /. The same is generally true for /a:/ (/a/ after soft consonants), but the sequence /ja:/ may occur in some cases.[11]
  • Long /?:/ occurs only in loanwords, one native word (dcéra) and in adjective endings.[12]
  • /æ/ can only be short, and occurs only after /m, p, b, v/.[6][4] There is not a full agreement about its status in the standard language:
    • Krá? (1988) states that the correct pronunciation of /æ/ is an important part of the high register, but in medium and low registers, /æ/ merges with /?/, or, in some cases, with /a/.[4]
    • Short (2002) states that only about 5% of speakers have /æ/ as a distinct phoneme, and that even when it is used in formal contexts, it is most often a dialect feature.[13]
    • Hanulíková & Hamann (2010) state that the use of /æ/ is becoming rare, and that it often merges with /?/.[6]


Slovak diphthong phonemes[14][7]
Ending point
Front Central Back
Unrounded a u
  • All of the diphthongs are rising, i.e. their second elements have more prominence.[7][15]
  • The phonetic quality of Slovak diphthongs is as follows:
    • // is typically a glide from /i/ to /?/ ([?]).[16]
    • /a/ is typically a glide from the position below /i/ to /æ/ ([æ?]).[17]
    • /u/ is typically a glide from /i/ to the position more front than /u/ ([]).[16]
    • // is typically a glide from /u/ to the position above /?/ ([o?]).[16]
  • There are many more phonetic diphthongs, such as [a] in Miroslav ['mir?sla] and [] in Pre?ov ['pr]. Phonemically, these are interpreted as sequences of /v/ preceded by a vowel. This [] is phonetically [] and it is very similar to the first element of //.[18][19]


  • Voiceless stops and affricates are unaspirated.
  • Voiced stops and affricates are fully voiced.
  • /n/ is apical alveolar .[20]
  • /t, d, ts, dz, s, z, ?, c, ?/ are laminal [t?, d?, t?s?, d?z?, s?, z?, , c?, ].[21]
  • /?/ is palatalized laminal denti-alveolar ,[31] palatalized laminal alveolar [19][31][32] or palatal .[19][31][32] The palatal realization is the least common one.[19][32]
    • Pavlík (2004) describes an additional realization, namely a weakly palatalized apical alveolar approximant [l]. According to this scholar, the palatal realization [?] is actually alveolo-palatal .[18]
  • The /?-l/ contrast is neutralized before front vowels, where only /l/ occurs. This neutralization is taken further in western dialects, in which /?/ merges with /l/ in all environments.[19]
  • /l, r/ are apical alveolar [l?, r?].[33]
    • /l/ is either neutral or velarized .[30]
    • Short /r/ is most often a tap .[19]
  • Postalveolar /t?, d?, ?, ?/ are often pronounced hard, i.e. as laminal retroflex (flat postalveolar) [t?, d?, ?, ?],[19] as in Russian and Polish.
    • /d?/ occurs mainly in loanwords.[19]
  • /v/ is realized as:
    • Voiced fricative in onsets before voiced obstruents;[19]
    • Voiceless fricative in onsets before voiceless obstruents;[34]
    • Variably as an approximant or a glide [] in coda;[19]
    • Approximant in all other cases.[19]
  • /j/ is an approximant, either palatal or alveolo-palatal.[35] Between close front vowels, it can be realized as a fricative , whereas between open central vowels, it can be a quite lax approximant [j?].[36]

Some additional notes includes the following (transcriptions in IPA unless otherwise stated):

  • /r, l/ can be syllabic: /r?, l?/. When they are long (indicated in the spelling with the acute accent: ? and ?), they are always syllabic, e.g. vlk (wolf), prst (finger), ?tvr? (quarter), krk (neck), bisyllabic va--v?-?a (wolfling), v?ba--v?-ba (willow-tree), etc.
  • /m/ has the allophone [?] in front of the labiodental fricatives /f/ and /v/.
  • /n/ in front of (post)alveolar fricatives has a postalveolar allophone [n?].
  • /n/ can be [?] in front of the velar plosives /k/ and /?/.


In the standard language, the stress is always on the first syllable of a word (or on the preceding preposition, see below). This is not the case in certain dialects. Eastern dialects have penultimate stress (as in Polish), which at times makes them difficult to understand for speakers of standard Slovak. 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 by? (to be) are usually unstressed.

Prepositions form a single prosodic unit with the following word, unless the word is long (four syllables or more) or the preposition stands at the beginning of a sentence.

Official transcriptions

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 transcription system. In the following table, pronunciation of each grapheme is given in this system as well as in the IPA.

grapheme IPA transcr. example
a /a/ a mama ('mother')
á /a:/ á láska ('love')
ä /æ/ a, e, ä mäso ('meat, flesh')
b /b/ b brat ('brother')
c /ts/ c cukor ('sugar')
? /t?/ ? ?aj ('tea')
d /d/ d dom ('house')
? /?/ ? ?akova? ('to thank')
dz /dz/ ? bryndza ('sheep cheese')
d? /d?/ ? d?em ('jam')
e /?/ e meno ('name')
é /?:/ é bazén ('pool')
f /f/ f farba ('colour')
g /?/ g egre? ('gooseberry')
h /?/ h hlava ('head')
ch /x/ x chlieb ('bread')
i /i/ i pivo ('beer')
í /i:/ í gombík ('button')
j /j/ j jahoda ('strawberry')
k /k/ k kniha ('book')
l /l/, /l?/ l plot ('fence')
? /l?:/ ? m?kvy ('prone to silence')
? /?/ ? mo?a ('clothes moth')
m /m/ m pomoc ('n. help')
n /n/ n nos ('nose')
? /?/ ? stud?a ('n. well')
o /?/ o kostol ('church')
ó /?:/ ó balón ('balloon')
ô // ?o kô? ('horse')
p /p/ p lopta ('ball')
q /kv/ kv squash (squash)
r /r/, /r?/ r more ('sea')
? /r?:/ ? v?ba ('willow tree')
s /s/ s strom ('tree')
? /?/ ? my? ('mouse')
t /t/ t stoli?ka ('chair')
? /c/ ? ?ava ('camel')
u /u/ u ruka ('arm')
ú /u:/ ú dúha ('rainbow')
v /v/ v ve?a ('tower')
w v whiskey ('whiskey')
x /ks/ ks xylofón ('xylophone')
y /i/ i syr ('cheese')
ý /i:/ í rým ('rhyme')
z /z/ z koza ('goat')
? /?/ ? ?aba ('frog')


The sample text is a reading of the first sentence of The North Wind and the Sun. The transcription is based on a recording of a 28-year-old female speaker of standard Slovak from Bratislava.[37]

Phonemic transcription

/'ras sa 's?v?ra:k a 'sl?nk? '?a:dali | 'kt? z ?ix j? 'silj?i:/

Phonetic transcription

['ras sa 'sra:k a 'slk? '?a:dali | 'kt? z ?i? j? 'silj?i:][38]

Orthographic version

Raz sa severák a slnko hádali, kto z nich je silnej?í.[39]

See also

Slovak orthography


  1. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 93-95.
  2. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 93, 95.
  3. ^ a b Pavlík (2004), pp. 94-95.
  4. ^ a b c Krá? (1988), p. 55.
  5. ^ Krá? (1988), pp. 54, 92.
  6. ^ a b c d Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 375.
  7. ^ a b c Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 376.
  8. ^ Krá? (1988), pp. 64-65.
  9. ^ Krá? (1988), p. 64.
  10. ^ Krá? (1988), pp. 57, 64-65, 103.
  11. ^ Short (2002), pp. 534-535.
  12. ^ Short (2002), p. 535.
  13. ^ Short (2002), p. 534.
  14. ^ Krá? (1988), p. 51.
  15. ^ Pavlík (2004), p. 95.
  16. ^ a b c Pavlík (2004), pp. 96-97.
  17. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 95, 97.
  18. ^ a b Pavlík (2004), p. 105.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 374.
  20. ^ Krá? (1988:73). The author describes /n/ as apical alveolar, but the corresponding image shows a laminal denti-alveolar pronunciation (which he does not discuss).
  21. ^ Krá? (1988), pp. 72, 74-75, 80-82.
  22. ^ Krá? (1988), p. 72.
  23. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 98-99.
  24. ^ Krá? (1988), pp. 74-75.
  25. ^ Pavlík (2004), pp. 103-104.
  26. ^ Dvon?ová, Jen?a & Krá? (1969:?), cited in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:374)
  27. ^ Pauliny (1979), p. 112.
  28. ^ a b Krá? (1988), pp. 81-82.
  29. ^ Recasens (2013), pp. 11, 13.
  30. ^ a b Krá? (1988), p. 80.
  31. ^ a b c Krá? (1988), p. 82.
  32. ^ a b c Dvon?ová, Jen?a & Krá? (1969), pp. 94-95.
  33. ^ Krá? (1988), pp. 78-79.
  34. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), pp. 374, 376.
  35. ^ Recasens (2013), p. 15.
  36. ^ Pavlík (2004), p. 106.
  37. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 373.
  38. ^ Based on the transcription in Hanulíková & Hamann (2010:377). Some symbols were changed to keep the article consistent - see the section above.
  39. ^ Hanulíková & Hamann (2010), p. 377.


  • Dvon?ová, Jana; Jen?a, Gejza; Krá?, Ábel (1969), Atlas slovenských hlások, Bratislava: Vydavate?stvo Slovenskej akadémie vied
  • Hanulíková, Adriana; Hamann, Silke (2010), "Slovak" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 40 (3): 373-378, doi:10.1017/S0025100310000162
  • Krá?, Ábel (1988), Pravidlá slovenskej výslovnosti, Bratislava: Slovenské pedagogické nakladate?stvo
  • Krech, Eva Maria; Stock, Eberhard; Hirschfeld, Ursula; Anders, Lutz-Christian (2009), "7.3.15 Slowakisch", Deutsches Aussprachewörterbuch, Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-018202-6
  • Pauliny, Eugen (1979), Slovenská fonológia, Bratislava: Slovenské pedagogické nakladate?stvo
  • Pavlík, Radoslav (2004), "Slovenské hlásky a medzinárodná fonetická abeceda" (PDF), Jazykovedný ?asopis, 55: 87-109
  • Recasens, Daniel (2013), "On the articulatory classification of (alveolo)palatal consonants" (PDF), Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 43 (1): 1-22, doi:10.1017/S0025100312000199
  • Rubach, Jerzy (1993), The Lexical Phonology of Slovak, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198240006
  • Short, David (2002), "Slovak", in Comrie, Bernard; Corbett, Greville G. (eds.), The Slavonic Languages, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 533-592, ISBN 9780415280785

Further reading

  • Bujalka, Anton; Balá?, Peter; Rýzková, Anna (1996), Slovenský jazyk I. Zvuková stránka jazyka. Náuka o slovnej zásobe, Bratislava: Univerzita Komenského
  • ?urovi?, ?ubomír (1975), "Konsonantický systém sloven?iny", International Journal of Slavic Linguistics and Poetics, 19: 7-29
  • Hála, Bohuslav (1929), Základy spisovné výslovnosti slovenské a srovnání s výslovností ?eskou, Prague: Universita Karlova
  • Isa?enko, Alexandr Vasilievi? (1968), Spektrografická analýza slovenských hlások, Bratislava: Vydavate?stvo Slovenskej akadémie vied
  • Pauliny, Eugen (1963), Fonologický vývin sloven?iny, Bratislava: Vydavate?stvo Slovenskej akadémie vied
  • Pauliny, Eugen; Rui?ka, Jozef; ?tolc, Jozef (1968), Slovenská gramatika, Slovenské pedagogické nakladate?stvo
  • Rendár, ?ubomír (2006), "Di?tinkcia mäkkeho ?" (PDF), in Ol?iak, Marcel (ed.), Varia XIV: Zborník materiálov zo XIV. kolokvia mládych jazykovedcov, Bratislava: Slovenská jazykovedná spolo?nos? pri SAV a Katedra slovenského jazyka FF UKF v Nitre., pp. 51-59, ISBN 80-89037-04-6
  • Rendár, ?ubomír (2008), "Hlasový za?iatok v spravodajstve" (PDF), in Kral?ák, ?ubomír (ed.), Hovorená podoba jazyka v médiách, Nitra: Univerzita Kon?tantína Filozofa v Nitre, pp. 184-191, ISBN 978-80-8094-293-9
  • Rendár, ?ubomír (2009), "Fonácia a hlasové za?iatky" (PDF), in Olo?tiak, Martin; Ivanová, Martina; Gianitsová-Olo?tiaková, Lucia (eds.), Varia XVIII: zborník plných príspevkov z XVIII. kolokvia mladých jazykovedcov (Pre?ov-Koko?ovce-Sigord 3.-5. 12. 2008)., Pre?ov: Pre?ovská univerzita v Pre?ove, pp. 613-625
  • Rubach, Jerzy (1995), "Representations and the organization of rules in Slavic phonology", in Goldsmith, John A. (ed.), The handbook of phonological theory (1st ed.), Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 848-866, ISBN 978-0631180623
  • Sabol, Ján (1961), "O výslovnosti spoluhlásky v", Slovenská re?, 6: 342-348
  • Taba?eková, Edita (1981), "Fonetická realizácia labiodentál v spisovnej sloven?ine" (PDF), Slovenská re?, 46: 279-290
  • Zygis, Marzena (2003), "Phonetic and Phonological Aspects of Slavic Sibilant Fricatives" (PDF), ZAS Papers in Linguistics, 3: 175-213, doi:10.21248/zaspil.32.2003.191

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