Slavic languages

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The Slavic languages (also Slavic ) form a main branch of the Indo-European languages . A distinction is usually made between East Slavic , West Slavic and South Slavic .

Around 300 million people speak one of the 20 or so Slavic languages ​​as their mother tongue; 400 million including second speakers. By far the most speaker-rich Slavic language is Russian with around 145 million native speakers. Other important Slavic languages ​​are Polish and Ukrainian (about 50 million speakers each). Almost all major Slavic languages ​​are national languages ​​of their countries.

The science of Slavic languages, literatures and cultures is called Slavic studies .

Spread of the Slavic languages

Primeval Slavic and the development of the Slavic languages

The Slavic branch of the language is most closely related to the Baltic within Indo-European (cf. Balto-Slavic hypothesis ), which is supported without exception by all lexicostatistical and glottochronological calculations.

According to the most widespread hypothesis, the Slavic languages ​​emerged from a common proto- language , which is called Ur- Slavic or Proto -Slavic, and which comes closest in time to the oldest known Slavic written language, Old Church Slavonic . The three main branches (East, West and South Slavonic) probably developed from the Primeval Slavonic in the middle of the 1st millennium AD, after which further migrations led to the development of today's linguistic diversity. The sound processes of palatalisation and the tendency towards increasing syllable tonality are of great importance in the development of Slavic from Indo-European .

Classification of Slavic Languages

The Slavic languages ​​are linguistically and geographically divided into three main groups: East Slavic , West Slavic and South Slavic . Overall, the Slavic languages ​​can be classified as follows:

East Slavic languages

West Slavic languages

South Slavic languages

(*) Dialect bridge between Polish and Czech

† means the respective language is extinct

From a linguistic point of view, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian represent a common single language, also called Serbo-Croatian . However, there are differences e.g. B. in the vocabulary, which, according to the old border between the Western and Eastern Roman Empire, has more Latin loanwords in Croatian, and more Greek in Serbian (cf. differences between the Serbo-Croatian standard varieties ). After the fall of Yugoslavia, three standard national languages ​​were established. It can be assumed that these three varieties will continue to develop apart in the future. As a fourth language, Montenegrin (the form of Serbian in Montenegro) will possibly achieve standard language status. On the other hand, Serbian and Bulgarian, Czech and Slovak, Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian, as well as a few others, are understandable to one another to a certain extent. Macedonian, on the other hand, is often viewed as a Bulgarian dialect by the Bulgarian and Greek sides.

The table below gives a good impression of the degree of relationship between the individual Slavic languages.

For the purpose of internal classification, vocabulary that differ between the subgroups (so-called isoglosses ) is important. The word for "forgotten" is expressed in each of the three subgroups using different vocabulary (here two example languages ​​per subgroup):

East Slavic West Slavic South Slavic
Russian Russian Belarusian Ukrainian Slovak Czech Polish Croatian Bulgarian
"to forget" забывать (zabyvat ') забуду забыцца (zabycca) забувати (zabuvaty) zabúdať zapomínat zapominać zaboravljati забравя (zabravja)

More often it is the case that only one subgroup has a specific word, while the other two subgroups go together. Five examples each for this situation:

East Slavic West Slavic South Slavic
Russian Ukrainian Slovak Czech Polish Croatian Bulgarian
"Friend" друг (drug), приятель (prijatel ') друг (druh), приятель (prijatel ') priateľ přítel, druh przyjaciel priyatelj, drug приятел (prijatel)
"today" сегодня (segodn'a), сей день (sej den ') сьогодні (s'ohodni) dnes dnes dziś then днес (dnes)
"more" больше (bol'še) більше (bil'še) viac více więcej više повече (poveče)
"to open" открывать (otkryvat ') відкривати (vidkryvaty) otvárať otvírat otwierać otvarati отваря (otvarja)
"below" внизу (vnizu),

на дне (na dne)

внизу (vnizu),

на дні (na dni)

dole dole na dole dole долу (dolu)
"Chest" грудь (grud ') груди (hrudy) prsia, hruď prsa, hrud´ pierś grudi гърди (gărdi)
"Village" село (selo),

деревня (derevnja)

село (selo),

деревня (derevnja)

dedina vesnice how selo село (selo)
"rejoice" радоваться (radovat's'a), тусить (tusit ') радіти (radity), тусить (tusit ') tešiť sa těšit se cieszyć się radovati se радва се (radva se)
"kill" убивать (ubivat '),

забивать (zabivat ')

вбивати (vbyvaty),

забивати (zabivati)

zabíjať zabíjet zabijać ubijati убива (ubiva)
"knowledge" знать (znat '),

ведать (wedat ')

знати (znaty),

відати (widati)

vedieť, poznať vědět, znát wiedzieć znati знае (znaje)
"The End" конец (konec),

край (kraj)

кінець (kinec '),

край (kraj)

koniec konec koniec kraj край (kraj)
"Hair" волос (volos), косы (kosy) волосся (voloss'a), коси (kosy) vlas vlas włos kosa коса (kosa)
"right" правый (pravyj) правий (pravyj) vpravo, doprava pravý prawy desni десен (desen)
"expensive" дорогой (dorogoj) дорогий (dorohyj) drahý drahý drogi skup скъп (skăp)
"Door" дверь (dver '), ворота (vorota), врата (vrata) двері (dveri), ворота (vorota), врата (vrata) dvere dveře third vrata врата (vrata)

In addition to the lexical isoglosses mentioned here, there are also isoglosses on other levels, such as grammar or sound.

Geographical distribution and number of speakers

The following table contains an overview of the geographical distribution and number of speakers of the Slavic languages, broken down into the three main branches. In the Distribution column , areas in which the language in question is the official language are highlighted in bold, and areas in which the language in question has only recently arrived through emigration are highlighted in italics.

language distribution speaker
East Slavic languages
Russian (русский язык) Russia , Belarus , Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , other countries of the former Soviet Union (especially Ukraine , Latvia , Estonia ), USA, Israel, Germany, other Western European countries  145 million
Ukrainian (українська мова) Ukraine , Russia , Kazakhstan , Moldova , Poland , Belarus , Slovakia , Romania , North America , Argentina , Kyrgyzstan , Latvia , Western Europe, Czech Republic  47 million
Belarusian (беларуская мова) Belarus , Russia , Ukraine , Poland (in the vicinity of Białystok ), Latvia , Lithuania , Kazakhstan , USA  8 to 10 million
Carpathian-Russian (Ruthenian) (руски язик) Carpathian Ukraine ( Ukraine , but not officially recognized there, but regarded as a Ukrainian dialect), north-eastern Slovakia and neighboring areas of Poland , emigrants mainly in North America  830,000 to 1 million
Yugoslav Russian (Batschka Russian) (бачвански руски язик) Vojvodina ( Serbia ) and Slavonia ( Croatia ) (original origin: Carpathian Ukraine )  23,000
West Polish in the border area between Ukraine and Belarus  around 800,000 (1931 census)
West Slavic languages
Lower Sorbian (dolnoserbska rěc) Niederlausitz ( Germany ) in the area of Cottbus  7,000
Upper Sorbian (hornjoserbska rěč) Upper Lusatia ( Germany ) in the vicinity of Bautzen  20,000
Polish (język polski) Poland , Belarus, Ukraine, Israel, Czech Republic, Lithuania, North America, Western Europe, Brazil, Australia  50 million
Kashubian (kaszëbsczi jãzëk) in Poland west and south of Gdansk  50,000
Slovak (slovenský jazyk) Slovakia , Vojvodina ( Serbia ), Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Croatia, North America, Australia, Western Europe  6 million
Czech (český jazyk) Czech Republic , bordering countries (especially Slovakia ), North America, Western Europe, Australia  12 million
South Slavic languages
Slovenian (slovenski jezik) Slovenia , southern Carinthia , former provinces of Trieste and Gorizia ( Italy ), western Hungary  2 million
Resian (rozojanski lengač) Resia valley in the province of Udine ( Italy )  19,000
Croatian (hrvatski jezik) Croatia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Western Europe  about 7 million
Burgenland Croatian (gradišćansko-hrvatski jezik) Burgenland , Vienna ( Austria ), West Hungary, South West Slovakia  19,000
Molise Slavonic (naš jezik, na-našu) Molise ( Italy )  2,500
Bosnian (bosanski jezik) Bosnia and Herzegovina , Serbia , Montenegro , Turkey , North America, Western Europe  4 million
Serbian (српски језик, srpski jezik) Serbia , Montenegro , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Croatia , North Macedonia , Albania , Romania , Hungary , Turkey , Western Europe, America, Australia  about 12 million
Serbo-Croatian (srpskohrvatski jezik, hrvatskosrpski jezik) Official language in Yugoslavia until 1991 , used in emigration countries  18 million
Bulgarian (български език) Bulgaria , Ukraine, Moldova, bordering countries (Macedonia, Eastern Serbia, Eastern Romania, European part of Turkey), USA, Western Europe  9 million
Banater Bulgarian (bâlgarsći jazič) Banat ( Romania , Serbia )  18,000
Macedonian (македонски јазик) North Macedonia , bordering countries (Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria), Western Europe  2 million

Language categories

Standard languages ​​and microliterature languages

It is common in Slavic studies to divide Slavic languages ​​into “standard languages” and “microliterature languages”. Many researchers, however, regard some of these small languages ​​only as dialects or varieties of standard languages ​​(especially in Anglo-Saxon literature). After the break-up of Yugoslavia and the division of Czechoslovakia, the standard languages ​​are exactly the Slavic languages ​​with the status of a national language.

With that in mind are

  • Standard languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Upper Sorbian, Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Macedonian.
  • Microliterature languages: Yugoslav-Russian, Carpathian-Russian, West Polish, Kashubian, Lower Sorbian, Resian (to Slovenian), Burgenland-Croatian, Molise-Croatian, Banat Bulgarian and Pomakian (to Bulgarian).

The classification of the Sorbian languages ​​is handled differently, but Lower Sorbian in particular lacks most of the criteria of a “standard language”.

Extinct Slavic languages

The most important extinct Slavic language is Old Church Slavonic belonging to the South Slavic branch , an early form of Bulgarian , which is attested in around 30 manuscripts and some inscriptions from the 10th and 11th centuries. Proto-Slavic, the hypothetical common predecessor language of all Slavic languages, can be largely deduced from Old Church Slavonic . Further developments of Old Church Slavonic - so-called editorships of Church Slavonic that arose through local substrate influences and conscious approaches to standardization - played a central role as a literary language in the Orthodox Slavic regions until modern times . Even today, which is Neukirchen Slavic in almost all Slavic Orthodox churches as liturgical language used.

In the course of the German settlement in the east , a large number of West Slavic peoples were assimilated or displaced, their languages ​​became extinct. This affects first the Slavic tribes between the Elbe and Oder and the island of Rügen , which assimilated linguistically at the beginning of the 15th century, then the Polabic (also Drawänopolabisch) in Wendland near Lüchow (Wendland) and Dannenberg (Elbe) , which is in the first Became extinct in the middle of the 18th century. Finally, the Slowinese language, which was spoken in Pomerania until shortly after 1900 . The number of speakers in the two Sorbian languages ​​has also been steadily declining for centuries, and Lower Sorbian must be considered acutely threatened today.

Other small Slavic languages

Other languages ​​and dialects that are counted among the Slavic languages ​​are:

  • Aegean Macedonian is a language related to Macedonian and Bulgarian in northern Greece, which intellectuals there have been trying to write for a few years
  • Čakavisch is a collective term for Croatian dialects around Istria , Pomorje islands ( Kvarner ), Zadar and Split , which in the past (until the middle of the 19th century) also served as a written language;
  • Kajkavic is a collective term for Croatian dialects in the area around Zagreb and the surrounding area, limited by the line Karlovac - Jasenovac - Koprivnica - Varaždin and Karlovac. Kajkavian dialects have served as a written language in the past;
  • Štokavian is a collective name for dialects in Serbia , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Montenegro and parts of Croatia .
  • Lachish is adialect of Czech spokenin northern Moravia and in the former Austrian Silesia , which the writer Óndra Łysohorsky wanted to make a written language;
  • under Moravian refers to various attempts to introduce based on the languages spoken in Moravia Czech dialects own default language;
  • Masurian is a Polish dialect strongly influenced by German in the area of ​​former East Prussia, in which a certain amount of literature was published at times;
  • Eastern Slovak denotes the attempt at an own written language based on Eastern Slovak dialects , which Slovak Calvinists undertook from the 17th century;
  • Podhalic is the Polish dialect of Podhale at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, in which a certain amount of dialect literature has been published;
  • Pomak is the language of a Slavic ethnic group of the Muslim religion in southern Bulgaria, which was at times written in Greek ;
  • Slavonic-Serbian is a form of Russian Church Slavonic, which was used in the 18th century and the early 19th century in Serbia as a written language.

Grammar in comparison

Slavic languages ​​share many common grammatical features, the most prominent of which is likely to be the Aspect . In addition, the animatedness category in the paradigm of mainly masculine nouns is marked.

Conjugation of Slavic Verbs

Slavic verbs can be inflected according to the grammatical categories of person and number . As an example, the conjugation of the two verbs with the meaning 'take' (or 'read' in Slovenian) in comparison:

number person Bulgarian Serbo-Croatian Slovenian Slovak Czech Polish Ukrainian Russian
Aspect: imperfect
Infinitive: - brati bráti brať brát brać брáти (bráti) брать (brať)
Singular 1 бера (bera) berem bérem beriem based biorę берý (berú) берý (berú)
2 береш (beresch) bereš béreš berieš bereš bierzesz берéш (berésch) берёшь (berjósch ')
3 бере (bere) re bére berie re beer берé (beré) берёт (berjót)
Plural 1 берем (berem) beremo béremo straps bereme bierzemy беремо́ (beremó) берём (berjóm)
2 берете (berete) berete bérete advised berete Bierzecie берете́ (bereté) берёте (berjóte)
3 берат (advice) based bérejo based berou biorą берýть (berút ') берýт (berút)
Aspect: Perfect
Infinitive: - uzeti vzéti vziať vzít wziąć взяти (wzjati) взять (wzjat ')
Singular 1 взема (wzema) uzmem vzámem vezmem vezmu wezmę візьмý (wizmú) возьмý (wazmú)
2 вземеш (wzemesch) uzmeš vzámeš vezmeš vezmeš weźmiesz ві́зьмеш (wízmesch) возьмёшь (wazmjósch)
3 вземе (wzeme) uzme vzáme vezme vezme weźmie ві́зьме (wízme) возьмёт (wazmjót)
Plural 1 вземеме (wzemame) uzmemo vzámemo vezmeme vezmeme weźmiemy ві́зьмемо (wízmemo) возьмём (wazmjóm)
2 вземете (wzemete) uzmete vzámete vezmete vezmete weźmiecie ві́зьмете (wízmete) возьмёте (wazmjóte)
3 вземат (wzemat) uzmu vzámejo vezmu vezmou wezmą ві́зьмуть (wízmut ') возьмýт (wazmút)

Vocabulary in comparison

The vocabulary of the Primeval Slavonic can partly be reconstructed using methods of comparative linguistics based on later written Slavic languages ​​as well as traditional Slavic words in other languages. The following table shows some Slavic word equations with the reconstructed ancient Slavonic forms (penultimate column) and the corresponding Indo-European word root (last column). This table shows the close relationship between the Slavic languages.

The example of the head clearly shows the divergence of the three Slavic branches of the language, which already began during the original Slavonic sound process, with the tendency towards increasing syllable harmony.

Reconstructed, unused forms are marked with a preceding asterisk * . The languages ​​written in Cyrillic script (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Old Church Slavonic) are transliterated.

Slavic word equations

meaning Russian Ukrainian Polish Czech /
Upper Sorbian Slovenian Croatian /
Bosnian /
Bulgarian /
AltKslaw. Ur-Slavic Indo-term.
eye глаз (glaz), око (oko) око (oko) eco eco woko eco eco око (oko) eco * ȍko * h₃okʷ-os
Brothers брат (brat) брат (brat) fry roast / roast roast fry fry брат (brat) roast * bràtrъ * bʰréh₂tēr
Foot leg нога (noga) нога (noha) noga noha noha noga noga крак / нога (krak / noga) noga * nogà * h₃nogʷʰ- 'nail'
Hand, arm рука (ruka) рука (ruka) ręka ruka ruka roka ruka ръка / рака (răka / raka) rǫka * rǭkà * wronk-eh₂-
heart сердце (serdce) серце (serce) serce srdce wutroba srce srce сърце / срце (sărce / srce) srьdьce * sьrdьce * ḱr̥d-ik-io-
head головa (golowa) голова (holowa) głowa hlava hłowa glava glava глава (glawa) glava * golvà * golH-u- 'bald'
mother мать (mat ') мати (maty) uterus, mom matka, máti /
matka, mať, mater, mati
mać mati, mater mati (acc. mater), majka майка / мајка (majka) mati * màti * méh₂tēr
nose нoc (nos) ніс (nis) nos nos nós nos nos нос (nos) - * nȏsъ * nh₂-es-
ear ухо (ucho) вухо (wucho) ucho ucho wucho uho uho / uho / uvo ухо / уво (ucho / uvo) uxo * ȗxo * h₂eus-os-
sister сестра (sestra) сестра (sestra) siostra sestra sotra sestra sestra сестра (sestra) sestra * sestrà * swésōr
son сын (syn) син (syn) syn syn syn sin sin син (sin) synъ * sy̑nъ * suHnus
daughter дочь (doč '), дочка (dočka) донька (don'ka) córka dcera / dcéra dźowka hči kći / kćerka / ćerka дъщеря / ќерка (dăšterija / ḱerka) dъšti * dъkti * dʰugh₂tḗr
father отец (otec) батько (bat'ko) ojciec, tata otec / oteʦ / / otec / oceʦ / nan
wótc (sophisticated)
oče, ata otac, tata баща, татко (bašta / tatko) otьcь * otьcь * atta
fish рыба (ryba) риба (ryba) ryba ryba ryba riba riba риба (riba) ryba * ryba * dʰǵʰu-

Some German words of Slavic origin

Sinkhole - hackney - border - cucumber - karst - kolkhoz - horseradish - mink - curd - irritant - ogonek - seal - whip - pistol - pogrom - ponor - robot - samovar - butterfly - sputnik - goldfinch - troika - vampire - Vistula - sable - siskin


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Brockhaus, B20, ISBN 3-7653-3680-7 , p. 311.
  2. Petra Novotná, Václav Blažek: Glottochronology and Its Application to the Balto-Slavic Languages doi: 10.15388 / baltistica.42.3.1178 , accessed on April 9, 2020.
  3. ^ Balto-Slavic languages , Concise Encyclopedia of Languages ​​of the World