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Freising Fragments (10th century)

Primož Trubar (1508-1586)

France Prešeren (1800-1849)

Slovene is a fully developed and internally richly-structured modern language. The codification of literary Slovene in grammars, dictionaries and normative reference books has a rich tradition stemming from the 16th century (the first Slovene book  was printed in 1550). 

Linguistic situation  


Slovene is an Indo-European language with a highly developed inflectional system (e.g. preservation of the dual). Together with Croatian, Serbian, Macedonian and Bulgarian, it is classified within the South Slavic branch of the Slavic languages, although it also has many features in common with the West Slavic branch. The geographic territory of Slovene lies in one of the most complex linguistic contact areas in Europe, where Slavic converges with Romance, Germanic and Finno-Ugric.


In comparison to the majority of other Slavic languages, Slovene has a number of characteristic features in the areas of phonology, lexicology and morphology. To orthographically represent its 29 phonemes, Slovene uses 25 Latin letters, including three with a wedge (č,š,ž).


Slovene is the official and state language of the Republic of Slovenia and the native language of approximately 2.4 million people: about 1.85 million of them live in the Republic of Slovenia.


Despite the fact that Slovene is limited to a relatively small territory and small number of speakers, dialectologists have established the presence of 46 clearly defined dialects, divided into six regional groups: Carinthian, Upper Carniolan, Lower Carniolan, Littoral, Rovte, Styrian and Pannonian. More >>

Historical overview


Sources indicate that two waves of Slavic settlement reached what is now Slovene territory in the 6th century. The Freising Fragments and some other copies show that in the 10th century Slovene was already beginning to take shape from Alpine Slavic as a distinct language. Long after the loss of Carantania 's political independence the language of this tradition continued to be used (for example in the enthronement ceremony of the Carinthian duke until 1414).


The era of the Slovene literary language begins with Primož Trubar . His Abecedarium and Catechismus were published in 1550.


The reforms under Maria Teresa and Joseph II, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars: the use of Slovene in public life began to spread into public schools and offices, and the literacy rate of the population increased. The new state of affairs was codified in Jernej Kopitar's grammar of 1808. The status of the literary language was considerably elevated by the high-quality poetic creations of France Prešeren  (Poezije, 1847).


During the second half of the 19th century, Slovene began to be used widely. The Slovene pronunciation norms (S.Škrabec) were thus the most important decision for the development and growth of the public prestige of Slovene at that time and later. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire within Yugoslavia as well, Slovene was not on an equal footing for long.


After the Second World War, Slovene regained the status of an official language and was also one of the state languages of the Yugoslav federation. Nonetheless, the old political and cultural linguistic problems (the privileged position of Serbo-Croatian) arose once more.


In 1980, the Council for the Public Use of Slovene was established (with a special working group called the Language Arbitration Tribunal). Its members issued declarations on burning politico-linguistic questions and on concrete examples of linguistic neglect. Their declarations did not carry legal weight, but under the given circumstances they aided in raising linguistic self-confidence and a sensitivity for language equality and language culture among Slovenes through their expert argumentation and moral-political authority. When a group of Slovene civilians was tried before a military court in Ljubljana in 1988, and the court conducted its business in Serbo-Croatian, this was one of the prime arguments in the call for the 1990 plebiscite.

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The situation today

In the new state of Slovenia, Slovene fully asserted itself immediately in the military, in the customs service, and in state protocol, and in every case its use has expanded into all areas that have opened up with the newest innovations in social and technological development.


One of the greatest challenges to Slovene at the start of the 20th century was brought by membership of the European Union. On 1st May 2004 Slovenia became a full member of the EU and Slovene acquired the status of one of its official languages.


During Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2008, the Slovene language was used to address Members of the European Parliament.


Slovene is taught at numerous universities around the world, under the auspices of the University of Ljubljana’s Centre for Slovene as a Second/Foreign Language .


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Prepared by:  Dr Janez Dular (2001)

 Paper on Slovene (76 KB)


  •  O slovenščini / On Slovene (2.4 MB) - publication bringing an outline of its historical development and its legal and social position, as well as of some important grammatical elements, that Slovene is not Slovak and that
    it is, like Slovak, Portuguese and Dutch, and many other languages, a modern European language. Welcome to Slovene!
    Publishers: European Parliament Information Office for Slovenia, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Government Office for European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, 2007

More on

 Slovenian (76 KB)

The paper on Slovenian language, prepared by Dr Janez Dular.