or less frequently Slovakian (/ˈsloʊvæk, -vɑːk/ (About this soundlisten)) is a West Slavic language (together with Czech, Polish, and Sorbian). It is called slovenský jazyk (pronounced [ˈslɔʋɛnskiː ˈjazik] (About this soundlisten)) or slovenčina ([ˈslɔʋɛntʃina]) in the language itself.
Historically, it forms a dialect continuum with the Czech language. The written standard is based on the work of Ľudovít Štúr published in the 1840s and codified on 9 and 10 August 1847 by the Tatrín Association in Čachtice.
Pre-standard literal languages
The earliest written records of Slovak are represented by personal and place names, later by sentences, short notes and verses in Latin and Czech documents. Latin documents contain also mentions about a cultivation of the vernacular language. The complete texts are available since the 15th century. In the 15th century, Latin began to lose its privileged position in favor of Czech and cultural Slovak.
Old Church Slavonic
The Old Church Slavonic became the literary and liturgical language, and the Glagolitic alphabet, the corresponding script in Great Moravia until 885. Latin continues to be used in parallel. Some of the early Old Church Slavonic texts contain elements of the language of the Slavic inhabitants of Great Moravia and Pannonia, which were called the Sloviene by Slavic texts at that time. The use of Old Church Slavonic in Great Moravia was prohibited by Pope Stephen V in 885; consequently, Latin became the administrative and liturgical language again. Many followers and students of Constantine and Methodius fled to Bulgaria, Croatia, Bohemia, the Kievan Rus’ and other countries.
From the 10th century onward, Slovak began to develop independently. Very few written records of Old Slovak remain, mainly from the 13th century onwards, consisting of groups of words or single sentences. Fuller Slovak texts appeared starting from 15th century. The old Slovak language and its development can be research mainly through old Slovak toponyms, petrificated within Latin texts.
Czech and Slovakized Czech
The written Czech language started to penetrate into present-day Slovakia through Czech clergy teaching in capitular schools in the 14th century. In the pre-standard period, the Czech language was used along with Latin and cultural Slovak as a cultural and liturgical language. The reasons for the use of the Czech language were the absence of a uniform Slovak language standard due to the absence of a Slovak state, whereas the Czech was a standardized language; the rise of the Slovak population in towns; the similarity to Slovak making it easier to learn; studies of many Slovaks at the University of Prague; the influence of the campaigns of the Czech Hussites and of John Giskra (Ján Jiskra) in Slovakia; and the temporary conquest of Moravia by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus.
The Czech language was recognized as an official language of the Evangelical Church by the councils in 1610 and 1614 and was used as a liturgical language even until the early 20th century. The official form was biblical Czech used in the Czech Bible of Kralice. The orthography of Hussite “Brothers in the Law of Christ” was used also in Catholic publications but often adjusted to the cultural Slovak language.
The usage of Czech in Slovak environment resulted to the Slovakized Czech language, a variant of cultural Czech with Slovak elements. This variant existed since the penetration of Czech to present-day Slovakia and was used in city books and official correspondence. Early writings had a various frequency of Slovak elements caused by a poor knowledge of standard Czech among many Slovak native speakers, the influence of vernacular language and cultural Slovak. The normalized form of Slovakized Czech existed since the 17th century. In it, Czech letters and words were systematically replaced by their Slovak equivalents.
Kollár’s “Old Slovak”
Slovak humanist Ján Kollár and Andrej Ľudovít Radlinský attempted to standardize a new literal language called Old Slovak (staroslovenčina), a version of Slovakized Czech. According to the contemporary Pan-Slavic views, the Slavic nation consisted of four tribes, the Czechoslovak, the Polish, the Russian and the Illyrian (Southern Slavs). Kollár assumed a common origin of Czechs and Slovaks. The original language, he claimed, is closer to Slovak, with Czech allegedly losing its beauty due to contact with the German language. After the suppressing of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Kollár got an approval of the government in Vienna to use “Old Slovak” as an administrative and educational language. The trial to create a common literal language for Czechs and Slovaks failed. Czechs had difficulties understanding Kollár’s “improvements” of Czech by Slovakisms, and the younger Slovak generation preferred standardization of Slovak.
Cultural Western, Central and Eastern Slovak
Catholics use the Western Slovak language (Cultured Western Slovak, Jesuit Slovak) based on the language used by educated people from the region of Trnava, where the important Jesuit University of Trnava was founded in 1635, and in the profane sphere, especially in towns, the Slovak language influenced by the Czech is used even in written documents, often with a chaotic orthography.
After the defeat of the Turks near Vienna in 1683, many Slovaks gradually emigrated to the Lower Lands, territories in present-day Hungary, Serbia (later to Croatia and Bulgaria), and Romania was depopulated after the Turkish occupation. They have preserved their particular Slovak dialects until today. In eastern Slovakia, a Slovakized standard Polish language is used sometimes (besides Czech, Slovak and Latin) for the same purposes and reasons as the Czech language is used in the remaining Slovakia. The Latin language continues to be used, especially in state administration.
Efforts to establish Slovak as the standard language emerged as early as in the 17th century. For example, in The Czech Grammar (1603), Vavrinec Benedikt of Nedožery incites the Slovaks to deepen their knowledge of their Slovak language. Matej Bel in the introduction to the Gramatica Slavico-Bohemica (1745) of Pavel Doležal compares the Slovak language with other recognized languages. Literary activity in the Slovak language flourished during the second half of the seventeenth century and continued into the next century. Romuald Hadvabný of Červený Kláštor proposed a detailed (Western Slovak) language codification in his Latin-Slovak Dictionary (1763) with an outline of the Slovak grammar. The first adventure novel in Slovak, the René mláďenca príhodi a skúsenosťi, was published in 1783 by Jozef Ignác Bajza in the Western Slovak language.