Standard Slovene is the national standard language that evolved on the basis of Central Slovene dialects in the 18th century and consolidated itself through the 19th and 20th centuries. While distinct regional varieties descended from the older rural dialects still exist, the spoken and written language is uniform and standardized. Some dialects differ considerably from the standard language in phonology, vocabulary and grammar. Though not facing imminent extinction, such dialects have been in decline during the past century, despite that they are well researched and their use is not discouraged by the authorities. Although most dialects, especially in rural and mountainous regions, have retained their specific phonetic features, their vocabulary, syntax and grammar have been strongly influenced by standard Slovene. Some dialects have been more successful in resisting the penetration of the standard language: most notably the Prekmurje dialect, which is one of the few dialects in Slovenia still widely used by all strata of the population, and some Slovene dialects in the Austrian state of Carinthia and in Italy. The Resian and Torre (Ter) dialects in the Italian Province of Udine are the only Slovene dialects that have remained untouched by the influences of standard Slovene, to the extent that they are unintelligible to most Slovene speakers.

The distinctive characteristics of Slovene are dual grammatical number, two accentual norms (one characterized by pitch accent), and abundant inflection (a trait shared with many Slavic languages). Although Slovene is basically a SVO language, word order is very flexible, often adjusted for emphasis or stylistic reasons. Slovene has a T-V distinction: second-person plural forms are used for individuals as a sign of respect. Also, Slovene and Slovak are the two modern Slavic languages whose names for themselves literally mean “Slavic” (slověnьskъ in old Slavonic).

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