Slavic languages

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Ethnicity Slavs
Throughout Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Europe, plus Central Asia and North Asia (Siberia)
Native speakers
c. 315 million (2001) [1]
Linguistic classification Indo-European
Proto-language Proto-Slavic
ISO 639-2 / 5 sla
Linguasphere 53 (phylozone)
Glottolog slav1255
Slavic europe.svg
Political map of Europe with countries where a Slavic language is a national language.
  East Slavic languages
  South Slavic languages
  West Slavic languages

The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavic peoples and their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic, spoken during the Early Middle Ages, which in turn is thought to have descended from the earlier Proto-Balto-Slavic language, linking the Slavic languages to the Baltic languages in a Balto-Slavic group within the Indo-European family.


The Slavic languages are conventionally (that is, also on the basis of extralinguistic features) divided into three subgroups: East, South, and West, which together constitute more than 20 languages. Of these, 10 have at least one million speakers and official status as the national languages of the countries in which they are predominantly spoken: Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian (of the East group), Polish, Czech and Slovak (of the West group) and Bulgarian and Macedonian (eastern members of the South group), and Serbo-Croatian and Slovene (western members of the South group). In addition, Aleksandr Dulichenko recognizes a number of Slavic microlanguages: both isolated ethnolects and peripheral dialects of more well-established Slavic languages. [2] [3] [ page needed ] [4]

Slavic languages are highly fusional and, with some exceptions, have richly developed inflection and cases. The word order of the Slavic languages is mostly free.

The current geographical distribution of natively spoken Slavic languages includes the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe, and all the way from Western Siberia to the Russian Far East. Furthermore, the diasporas of many Slavic peoples have established isolated minorities of speakers of their languages all over the world. The number of speakers of all Slavic languages together was estimated to be 315 million at the turn of the twenty-first century. [1] It is the largest ethno-linguistic group in Europe. [5] [6]


Balto-Slavic language tree. Slavic languages tree.svg
Balto-Slavic language tree.
Linguistic maps of Slavic languages Slavic languages.png
Linguistic maps of Slavic languages

Since the interwar period, scholars have conventionally divided Slavic languages, on the basis of geographical and genealogical principle, and with the use of the extralinguistic feature of script, into three main branches, that is, East, South, and West (from the vantage of linguistic features alone, there are only two branches of the Slavic languages, namely North and South). [7] These three conventional branches feature some of the following sub-branches:

Some linguists speculate that a North Slavic branch has existed as well. The Old Novgorod dialect may have reflected some idiosyncrasies of this group.

Mutual intelligibility also plays a role in determining the West, East, and South branches. Speakers of languages within the same branch will in most cases be able to understand each other at least partially, but they are generally unable to across branches (which would be comparable to a native English speaker trying to understand any other Germanic language besides Scots).

The most obvious differences between the East, South, and West Slavic branches are in the orthography of the standard languages: West Slavic languages (and Western South Slavic languages – Croatian and Slovene) are written in the Latin script, and have had more Western European influence due to their proximity and speakers being historically Roman Catholic, whereas the East Slavic and Eastern South Slavic languages are written in Cyrillic and, with Eastern Orthodox or Uniate faith, have had more Greek influence. [10] Two Slavic languages, Belarusian and Serbian, are biscriptal, commonly written in either alphabet. East Slavic languages such as Russian have, however, during and after Peter the Great's Europeanization campaign, absorbed many words of Latin, French, German, and Italian origin.

The tripartite division of the Slavic languages does not take into account the spoken dialects of each language. Of these, certain so-called transitional dialects and hybrid dialects often bridge the gaps between different languages, showing similarities that do not stand out when comparing Slavic literary (i.e. standard) languages. For example, Slovak (West Slavic) and Ukrainian (East Slavic) are bridged by the Rusyn language/dialect of Eastern Slovakia and Western Ukraine. [11] Similarly, the Croatian Kajkavian dialect is more similar to Slovene than to the standard Croatian language.

Although the Slavic languages diverged from a common proto-language later than any other groups of the Indo-European language family, enough differences exist between the various Slavic dialects and languages to make communication between speakers of different Slavic languages difficult. Within the individual Slavic languages, dialects may vary to a lesser degree, as those of Russian, or to a much greater degree, like those of Slovene.


Common roots and ancestry

Area of Balto-Slavic dialectic continuum (purple) with proposed material cultures correlating to speakers Balto-Slavic in Bronze Age (white). Red dots = archaic Slavic hydronyms Balto-Slavic lng.png
Area of Balto-Slavic dialectic continuum (purple) with proposed material cultures correlating to speakers Balto-Slavic in Bronze Age (white). Red dots = archaic Slavic hydronyms

Slavic languages descend from Proto-Slavic, their immediate parent language, ultimately deriving from Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor language of all Indo-European languages, via a Proto-Balto-Slavic stage. During the Proto-Balto-Slavic period a number of exclusive isoglosses in phonology, morphology, lexis, and syntax developed, which makes Slavic and Baltic the closest related of all the Indo-European branches. The secession of the Balto-Slavic dialect ancestral to Proto-Slavic is estimated on archaeological and glottochronological criteria to have occurred sometime in the period 1500–1000 BCE. [12]

A minority of Baltists maintain the view that the Slavic group of languages differs so radically from the neighboring Baltic group (Lithuanian, Latvian, and the now-extinct Old Prussian), that they could not have shared a parent language after the breakup of the Proto-Indo-European continuum about five millennia ago. Substantial advances in Balto-Slavic accentology that occurred in the last three decades, however, make this view very hard to maintain nowadays, especially when one considers that there was most likely no "Proto-Baltic" language and that West Baltic and East Baltic differ from each other as much as each of them does from Proto-Slavic. [13]

Baska tablet, 11th century, Krk, Croatia. Bascanska ploca.jpg
Baška tablet, 11th century, Krk, Croatia.


The imposition of Old Church Slavonic on Orthodox Slavs was often at the expense of the vernacular. Says WB Lockwood, a prominent Indo-European linguist, "It (O.C.S) remained in use to modern times but was more and more influenced by the living, evolving languages, so that one distinguishes Bulgarian, Serbian, and Russian varieties. The use of such media hampered the development of the local languages for literary purposes, and when they do appear the first attempts are usually in an artificially mixed style." (148)

Lockwood also notes that these languages have "enriched" themselves by drawing on Church Slavonic for the vocabulary of abstract concepts. The situation in the Catholic countries, where Latin was more important, was different. The Polish Renaissance poet Jan Kochanowski and the Croatian Baroque writers of the 16th century all wrote in their respective vernaculars (though Polish itself had drawn amply on Latin in the same way Russian would eventually draw on Church Slavonic).

14th-century Novgorodian children were literate enough to send each other letters written on birch bark. Beresta.jpg
14th-century Novgorodian children were literate enough to send each other letters written on birch bark.

Although Church Slavonic hampered vernacular literatures, it fostered Slavonic literary activity and abetted linguistic independence from external influences. Only the Croatian vernacular literary tradition nearly matches Church Slavonic in age. It began with the Vinodol Codex (1288) and continued through the Renaissance until the codifications of Croatian in 1830, though much of the literature between 1300 and 1500 was written in much the same mixture of the vernacular and Church Slavonic as prevailed in Russia and elsewhere.

The most important early monument of Croatian literacy is the Baška tablet from the late 11th century. It is a large stone tablet found in the small Church of St. Lucy, Jurandvor on the Croatian island of Krk, containing text written mostly in Čakavian dialect in angular Croatian Glagolitic script. The independence of Dubrovnik facilitated the continuity of the tradition.

10th-11th century Codex Zographensis, canonical monument of Old Church Slavonic (written in Glagolitic script) ZographensisColour.jpg
10th–11th century Codex Zographensis , canonical monument of Old Church Slavonic (written in Glagolitic script)

More recent foreign influences follow the same general pattern in Slavic languages as elsewhere and are governed by the political relationships of the Slavs. In the 17th century, bourgeois Russian (delovoi jazyk) absorbed German words through direct contacts between Russians and communities of German settlers in Russia. In the era of Peter the Great, close contacts with France invited countless loan words and calques from French, many of which not only survived but also replaced older Slavonic loans. In the 19th century, Russian influenced most literary Slavic languages by one means or another.


The Proto-Slavic language existed until around AD 500. By the 7th century, it had broken apart into large dialectal zones.

There are no reliable hypotheses about the nature of the subsequent breakups of West and South Slavic. East Slavic is generally thought to converge to one Old East Slavic language, which existed until at least the 12th century.

Linguistic differentiation was accelerated by the dispersion of the Slavic peoples over a large territory, which in Central Europe exceeded the current extent of Slavic-speaking majorities. Written documents of the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries already display some local linguistic features. For example, the Freising manuscripts show a language that contains some phonetic and lexical elements peculiar to Slovene dialects (e.g. rhotacism, the word krilatec). The Freising manuscripts are the first Latin-script continuous text in a Slavic language.

The migration of Slavic speakers into the Balkans in the declining centuries of the Byzantine Empire expanded the area of Slavic speech, but the pre-existing writing (notably Greek) survived in this area. The arrival of the Hungarians in Pannonia in the 9th century interposed non-Slavic speakers between South and West Slavs. Frankish conquests completed the geographical separation between these two groups, also severing the connection between Slavs in Moravia and Lower Austria (Moravians) and those in present-day Styria, Carinthia, East Tyrol in Austria, and in the provinces of modern Slovenia, where the ancestors of the Slovenes settled during first colonisation.

Map and tree of Slavic languages, according to Kassian and A. Dybo Slavic languages tree and map from Kushniarevich article.png
Map and tree of Slavic languages, according to Kassian and A. Dybo

In September 2015, Alexei Kassian and Anna Dybo published, [14] as a part of interdisciplinary study of Slavic ethnogenesis, [15] a lexicostatistical classification of Slavic languages. It was built using qualitative 110-word Swadesh lists that were compiled according to the standards of the Global Lexicostatistical Database project [16] and processed using modern phylogenetic algorithms.

The resulting dated tree complies with the traditional expert views on the Slavic group structure. Kassian-Dybo's tree suggests that Proto-Slavic first diverged into three branches: Eastern, Western and Southern. The Proto-Slavic break-up is dated to around 100 A.D., which correlates with the archaeological assessment of Slavic population in the early 1st millennium A.D. being spread on a large territory [17] and already not being monolithic. [18] Then, in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D., these three Slavic branches almost simultaneously divided into sub-branches, which corresponds to the fast spread of the Slavs through Eastern Europe and the Balkans during the second half of the 1st millennium A.D. (the so-called Slavicization of Europe). [19] [20] [21] [22]

The Slovenian language was excluded from the analysis, as both Ljubljana koine and Literary Slovenian show mixed lexical features of Southern and Western Slavic languages (which could possibly indicate the Western Slavic origin of Slovenian, which for a long time was being influenced on the part of the neighboring Serbo-Croatian dialects),[ original research? ] and the quality Swadesh lists were not yet collected for Slovenian dialects. Because of scarcity or unreliability of data, the study also did not cover the so-called Old Novgordian dialect, the Polabian language and some other Slavic lects.

The above Kassian-Dybo's research did not take into account the findings by Russian linguist Andrey Zaliznyak who stated that, until the 14th or 15th century, major language differences were not between the regions occupied by modern Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, [23] but rather between the north-west (around modern Velikiy Novgorod and Pskov) and the center (around modern Kyiv, Suzdal, Rostov, Moscow as well as Belarus) of the East Slavic territories. [24] The Old Novgorodian dialect of that time differed from the central East Slavic dialects as well as from all other Slavic languages much more than in later centuries. [25] [26] According to Zaliznyak, the Russian language developed as a convergence of that dialect and the central ones, [27] whereas Ukrainian and Belarusian were continuation of development of the central dialects of East Slavs. [28]

Also Russian linguist Sergey Nikolaev, analysing historical development of Slavic dialects' accent system, concluded that a number of other tribes in Kievan Rus came from different Slavic branches and spoke distant Slavic dialects. [29] [ page needed ]

Zaliznyak and Nikolaev's points mean that there was a convergence stage before the divergence or simultaneously, which was not taken into consideration by Kassian-Dybo's research.

Ukrainian linguists (Stepan Smal-Stotsky, Ivan Ohienko, George Shevelov, Yevhen Tymchenko, Vsevolod Hantsov, Olena Kurylo) deny the existence of a common Old East Slavic language at any time in the past. [30] According to them, the dialects of East Slavic tribes evolved gradually from the common Proto-Slavic language without any intermediate stages. [31]

Linguistic history

The following is a summary of the main changes from Proto-Indo-European (PIE) leading up to the Common Slavic (CS) period immediately following the Proto-Slavic language (PS).

  1. Satemisation:
    • PIE *ḱ, *ǵ, *ǵʰ → *ś, *ź, *źʰ (→ CS *s, *z, *z)
    • PIE *kʷ, *gʷ, *gʷʰ → *k, *g, *gʰ
  2. Ruki rule: Following *r, *u, *k or *i, PIE *s → *š (→ CS *x)
  3. Loss of voiced aspirates: PIE *bʰ, *dʰ, *gʰ → *b, *d, *g
  4. Merger of *o and *a: PIE *a/*o, *ā/*ō → PS *a, *ā (→ CS *o, *a)
  5. Law of open syllables: All closed syllables (syllables ending in a consonant) are eventually eliminated, in the following stages:
    1. Nasalization: With *N indicating either *n or *m not immediately followed by a vowel: PIE *aN, *eN, *iN, *oN, *uN → *ą, *ę, *į, *ǫ, *ų (→ CS *ǫ, *ę, *ę, *ǫ, *y). (NOTE: *ą *ę etc. indicates a nasalized vowel.)
    2. In a cluster of obstruent (stop or fricative) + another consonant, the obstruent is deleted unless the cluster can occur word-initially.
    3. (occurs later, see below) Monophthongization of diphthongs.
    4. (occurs much later, see below) Elimination of liquid diphthongs (e.g. *er, *ol when not followed immediately by a vowel).
  6. First palatalization: *k, *g, *x → CS *č, *ž, *š (pronounced [ ], [ ʒ ], [ ʃ ] respectively) before a front vocalic sound (*e, *ē, *i, *ī, *j).
  7. Iotation: Consonants are palatalized by an immediately following *j:
      • sj, *zj → CS *š, *ž
      • nj, *lj, *rj → CS *ň, *ľ, *ř (pronounced [nʲrʲ] or similar)
      • tj, *dj → CS *ť, *ď (probably palatal stops, e.g. [cɟ], but developing in different ways depending on the language)
      • bj, *pj, *mj, *wj → *bľ, *pľ, *mľ, *wľ (the lateral consonant *ľ is mostly lost later on in West Slavic)
  8. Vowel fronting: After *j or some other palatal sound, back vowels are fronted (*a, *ā, *u, *ū, *ai, *au → *e, *ē, *i, *ī, *ei, *eu). This leads to hard/soft alternations in noun and adjective declensions.
  9. Prothesis: Before a word-initial vowel, *j or *w is usually inserted.
  10. Monophthongization: *ai, *au, *ei, *eu, *ū → *ē, *ū, *ī, *jū, *ȳ [ɨː]
  11. Second palatalization: *k, *g, *x → CS *c [ts], *dz, *ś before new *ē (from earlier *ai). *ś later splits into *š (West Slavic), *s (East/South Slavic).
  12. Progressive palatalization (or "third palatalization"): *k, *g, *x → CS *c, *dz, *ś after *i, *ī in certain circumstances.
  13. Vowel quality shifts: All pairs of long/short vowels become differentiated as well by vowel quality:
      • a, *ā → CS *o, *a
      • e, *ē → CS *e, *ě (originally a low-front sound [æ] but eventually raised to [ie] in most dialects, developing in divergent ways)
      • i, *u → CS *ь, *ъ (also written *ĭ, *ŭ; lax vowels as in the English words pit, put)
      • ī, *ū, *ȳ → CS *i, *u, *y
  14. Elimination of liquid diphthongs: Liquid diphthongs (sequences of vowel plus *l or *r, when not immediately followed by a vowel) are changed so that the syllable becomes open:
      • or, *ol, *er, *el → *ro, *lo, *re, *le in West Slavic.
      • or, *ol, *er, *el → *oro, *olo, *ere, *olo in East Slavic.
      • or, *ol, *er, *el → *rā, *lā, *re, *le in South Slavic.
    • Possibly, *ur, *ul, *ir, *il → syllabic *r, *l, *ř, *ľ (then develops in divergent ways).
  15. Development of phonemic tone and vowel length (independent of vowel quality): Complex developments (see History of accentual developments in Slavic languages).


The Slavic languages are a relatively homogeneous family, compared with other families of Indo-European languages (e.g. Germanic, Romance, and Indo-Iranian). As late as the 10th century AD, the entire Slavic-speaking area still functioned as a single, dialectally differentiated language, termed Common Slavic . Compared with most other Indo-European languages, the Slavic languages are quite conservative, particularly in terms of morphology (the means of inflecting nouns and verbs to indicate grammatical differences). Most Slavic languages have a rich, fusional morphology that conserves much of the inflectional morphology of Proto-Indo-European. [32] The vocabulary of the Slavic languages is also of Indo-European origin. Many of its elements, which do not find exact matches in the ancient Indo-European languages, are associated with the Balto-Slavic community. [33]


The following table shows the inventory of consonants of Late Common Slavic: [34]

Consonants of Late Proto-Slavic
Labial Coronal Palatal Velar
Nasal m n
Plosive p b t d tʲː dʲː k ɡ
Affricate ts dz
Fricative s z ʃ , ( 1) ʒ x
Trill r
Lateral l
Approximant ʋ j

1The sound /sʲ/ did not occur in West Slavic, where it had developed to /ʃ/.

This inventory of sounds is quite similar to what is found in most modern Slavic languages. The extensive series of palatal consonants, along with the affricates *ts and *dz, developed through a series of palatalizations that happened during the Proto-Slavic period, from earlier sequences either of velar consonants followed by front vowels (e.g. *ke, *ki, *ge, *gi, *xe, and *xi), or of various consonants followed by *j (e.g. *tj, *dj, *sj, *zj, *rj, *lj, *kj, and *gj, where *j is the palatal approximant ([j], the sound of the English letter "y" in "yes" or "you").

The biggest change in this inventory results from a further general palatalization occurring near the end of the Common Slavic period, where all consonants became palatalized before front vowels. This produced a large number of new palatalized (or "soft") sounds, which formed pairs with the corresponding non-palatalized (or "hard") consonants [32] and absorbed the existing palatalized sounds *lʲ *rʲ *nʲ *sʲ . These sounds were best preserved in Russian but were lost to varying degrees in other languages (particularly Czech and Slovak). The following table shows the inventory of modern Russian:

Consonant phonemes of Russian
Labial Dental &
Nasal m n
Stop p   b   t   d   k   ɡ   ɡʲ
Affricate t͡s ( t͡sʲ )  t͡ɕ
Fricative f   v   s   z   ʂ   ʐ ɕː   ʑː x     
Trill r
Approximant l   j

This general process of palatalization did not occur in Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian. As a result, the modern consonant inventory of these languages is nearly identical to the Late Common Slavic inventory.

Late Common Slavic tolerated relatively few consonant clusters. However, as a result of the loss of certain formerly present vowels (the weak yers), the modern Slavic languages allow quite complex clusters, as in the Russian word взблеск [vzblʲesk] ("flash"). Also present in many Slavic languages are clusters rarely found cross-linguistically, as in Russian ртуть [rtutʲ] ("mercury") or Polish mchu [mxu] ("moss", gen. sg.). The word for "mercury" with the initial rt- cluster, for example, is also found in the other East and West Slavic languages, although Slovak retains an epenthetic vowel (ortuť).[ failed verification ] [35]


A typical vowel inventory is as follows:

Front Central Back
Close i (ɨ) u
Mid e o
Open a

The sound [ ɨ ] occurs only in some languages (e.g. Russian and Belarusian), and even in these languages, it is often unclear whether it is its own phoneme or an allophone of /i/. Nonetheless, it is a quite prominent and noticeable characteristic of the languages in which it is present.

Common Slavic also had two nasal vowels: *ę [ẽ] and *ǫ [õ] . However, these are preserved only in modern Polish (along with a few lesser-known dialects and microlanguages; see Yus for more details).

Other phonemic vowels are found in certain languages (e.g. the schwa /ə/ in Bulgarian and Slovenian, distinct high-mid and low-mid vowels in Slovenian, and the lax front vowel /ɪ/ in Ukrainian).

Length, accent, and tone

An area of great difference among Slavic languages is that of prosody (i.e. syllabic distinctions such as vowel length, accent, and tone). Common Slavic had a complex system of prosody, inherited with little change from Proto-Indo-European. This consisted of phonemic vowel length and a free, mobile pitch accent:

The modern languages vary greatly in the extent to which they preserve this system. On one extreme, Serbo-Croatian preserves the system nearly unchanged (even more so in the conservative Chakavian dialect); on the other, Macedonian has basically lost the system in its entirety. Between them are found numerous variations:


Similarly, Slavic languages have extensive morphophonemic alternations in their derivational and inflectional morphology, [32] including between velar and postalveolar consonants, front and back vowels, and a vowel and no vowel. [36]

Selected cognates

The following is a very brief selection of cognates in basic vocabulary across the Slavic language family, which may serve to give an idea of the sound changes involved. This is not a list of translations: cognates have a common origin, but their meaning may be shifted and loanwords may have replaced them.

Proto-Slavic Russian Ukrainian Belarusian Rusyn Polish Czech Slovak Slovene Serbo-Croatian Bulgarian Macedonian
*uxo (ear)ухо (úkho)вухо (vúkho)вуха (vúkha)ухо (úkho)uchouchouchouhoуво / uvo (Serbia only)
ухо / uho (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia)
ухо (ukhó)уво (úvo)
*ognь (fire)огонь (ogónʹ)вогонь (vohónʹ)агонь (ahónʹ)огинь (ohénʹ)ogieńoheňoheňogenjогањ / oganjогън (ógǎn)оган/огин (ógan/ógin)
*ryba (fish)рыба (rýba)риба (rýba)рыба (rýba)рыба (rýba)rybarybarybaribaриба / ribaриба (ríba)риба (ríba)
*gnězdo (nest)гнездо (gnezdó)гнiздо (hnizdó)гняздо (hnyazdó)гнïздо (hnʹizdó)gniazdohnízdohniezdognezdoгнездо / gnezdo (ek.)
гнијездо / gnijezdo (ijek.)
гниздо / gnizdo (ik.)
гнездо (gnezdó)гнездо (gnézdo)
*oko (eye)око (óko) (dated, poetic or in set expressions)
modern: глаз (glaz)
око (óko)вока (vóka)око (óko)okookookookoоко / okoоко (óko)око (óko)
*golva (head)голова (golová)
глава (glavá) "chapter or chief, leader, head"
голова (holová)галава (halavá)голова (holová)głowahlavahlavaglavaглава / glavaглава (glavá)глава (gláva)
*rǫka (hand)рука (ruká)рука (ruká)рука (ruká)рука (ruká)rękarukarukarokaрука / rukaръка (rǎká)рака (ráka)
*noktь (night)ночь (nočʹ)ніч (nič)ноч (noč)нуч (nuč)nocnocnocnočноћ / noćнощ (nosht)ноќ (noḱ)

Influence on neighboring languages

Most languages of the former Soviet Union and of some neighbouring countries (for example, Mongolian) are significantly influenced by Russian, especially in vocabulary. The Romanian, Albanian, and Hungarian languages show the influence of the neighboring Slavic nations, especially in vocabulary pertaining to urban life, agriculture, and crafts and trade—the major cultural innovations at times of limited long-range cultural contact. In each one of these languages, Slavic lexical borrowings represent at least 15% of the total vocabulary. This is potentially because Slavic tribes crossed and partially settled the territories inhabited by ancient Illyrians and Vlachs on their way to the Balkans. [33]

Germanic languages

Max Vasmer, a specialist in Slavic etymology, has claimed that there were no Slavic loans into Proto-Germanic. However, there are isolated Slavic loans (mostly recent) into other Germanic languages. For example, the word for "border" (in modern German Grenze, Dutch grens) was borrowed from the Common Slavic granica. There are, however, many cities and villages of Slavic origin in Eastern Germany, the largest of which are Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden. English derives quark (a kind of cheese and subatomic particle) from the German Quark, which in turn is derived from the Slavic tvarog, which means "curd". Many German surnames, particularly in Eastern Germany and Austria, are Slavic in origin. The Nordic languages also have torg/torv (market place) from Old Russian tъrgъ (trŭgŭ) or Polish targ, [37] humle (hops), [38] räka/reke/reje (shrimp, prawn), [39] and, via Middle Low German tolk (interpreter) from Old Slavic tlŭkŭ, [40] and pråm/pram (barge) from West Slavonic pramŭ. [41]

Finnic languages

Finnic and Slavic languages have many words in common. According to Petri Kallio, this suggests Slavic words being borrowed into Finnish languages, as early as Proto-Finnic. [42] Many loanwords have acquired a Finnicized form, making it difficult to say whether such a word is natively Finnic or Slavic. [43]


The Czech word robot is now found in most languages worldwide, and the word pistol , probably also from Czech, [44] is found in many European languages.

A well-known Slavic word in almost all European languages is vodka, a borrowing from Russian водка (vodka) – which itself was borrowed from Polish[ citation needed ]wódka (lit. "little water"), from common Slavic voda ("water", cognate to the English word) with the diminutive ending "-ka". [45] [lower-alpha 1] Owing to the medieval fur trade with Northern Russia, Pan-European loans from Russian include such familiar words as sable . [lower-alpha 2] The English word "vampire" was borrowed (perhaps via French vampire) from German Vampir, in turn derived from Serbo-Croatian вампир (vampir), continuing Proto-Slavic *ǫpyrь, [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [lower-alpha 3] although Polish scholar K. Stachowski has argued that the origin of the word is early Slavic *vąpěrь, going back to Turkic oobyr. [52]

Several European languages, including English, have borrowed the word polje (meaning "large, flat plain") directly from the former Yugoslav languages (i.e. Slovene and Serbo-Croatian). During the heyday of the USSR in the 20th century, many more Russian words became known worldwide: da, Soviet , sputnik , perestroika , glasnost , kolkhoz , etc. Another borrowed Russian term is samovar (lit. "self-boiling").

Detailed list

The following tree for the Slavic languages derives from the Ethnologue report for Slavic languages. [53] It includes the ISO 639-1 and ISO 639-3 codes where available.

Map of all areas where the Russian language is the language spoken by the majority of the population. Idioma ruso.PNG
Map of all areas where the Russian language is the language spoken by the majority of the population.
South Slavic dialect continuum with major dialect groups South Slavic dialect continuum.svg
South Slavic dialect continuum with major dialect groups
West Slavic dialect continuum with major dialect groups Zapadoslovanske.jpg
West Slavic dialect continuum with major dialect groups

East Slavic languages:

South Slavic languages:

West Slavic languages:

Para- and supranational languages

See also


  1. Harper, Douglas. "vodka". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  2. Harper, Douglas. "sable". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  3. Harper, Douglas. "vampire". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 21 September 2007.


  1. 1 2 Ivanov 2021, section 1: "The Slavic languages, spoken by some 315 million people at the turn of the 21st century".
  2. Dulichenko 2005.
  3. Dulichenko 1981.
  4. Duličenko 1994.
  5. Misachi 2017.
  6. Barford 2001, p. 1.
  7. Trudgill 2003, p. 36, 95–96, 124–125.
  8. IRB 2004.
  9. Kamusella 2005, p. 77.
  10. Magocsi & Pop 2002, p. 274.
  11. Novotná & Blažek 2007, p. 185–210: ""Classical glottochronology" conducted by Czech Slavist M. Čejka in 1974 dates the Balto-Slavic split to −910±340 BCE, Sergei Starostin in 1994 dates it to 1210 BCE, and "recalibrated glottochronology" conducted by Novotná & Blažek dates it to 1400–1340 BCE. This agrees well with Trziniec-Komarov culture, localized from Silesia to Central Ukraine and dated to the period 1500–1200 BCE".
  12. Kapović 2008, p. 94: "Kako rekosmo, nije sigurno je li uopće bilo prabaltijskoga jezika. Čini se da su dvije posvjedočene, preživjele grane baltijskoga, istočna i zapadna, različite jedna od druge izvorno kao i svaka posebno od praslavenskoga".
  13. Kassian & Dybo 2015.
  14. Kushniarevich et al. 2015.
  15. RSUH 2016.
  16. Sussex & Cubberley 2006, p. 19.
  17. Sedov 1995, p. 5.
  18. Sedov 1979.
  19. Barford 2001.
  20. Curta 2001, p. 500-700.
  21. Heather 2010.
  22. Zaliznyak 2012, section 111: "…ростовско-суздальско-рязанская языковая зона от киевско-черниговской ничем существенным в древности не отличалась. Различия возникли позднее, они датируются сравнительно недавним, по лингвистическим меркам, временем, начиная с XIV–XV вв […the Rostov-Suzdal-Ryazan language area did not significantly differ from the Kiev-Chernigov one. Distinctions emerged later, in a relatively recent, by linguistic standards, time, starting from the 14th-15th centuries]".
  23. Zaliznyak 2012, section 88: "Северо-запад — это была территория Новгорода и Пскова, а остальная часть, которую можно назвать центральной, или центрально-восточной, или центрально-восточно-южной, включала одновременно территорию будущей Украины, значительную часть территории будущей Великороссии и территории Белоруссии … Существовал древненовгородский диалект в северо-западной части и некоторая более нам известная классическая форма древнерусского языка, объединявшая в равной степени Киев, Суздаль, Ростов, будущую Москву и территорию Белоруссии [The territory of Novgorod and Pskov was in the north-west, while the remaining part, which could either be called central, or central-eastern, or central-eastern-southern, comprised the territory of the future Ukraine, a substantial part of the future Great Russia, and the territory of Belarus … The Old Novgorodian dialect existed in the north-western part, while a somewhat more well-known classical variety of the Old Russian language united equally Kiev, Suzdal, Rostov, the future Moscow and the territory of Belarus]".
  24. Zaliznyak 2012, section 82: "…черты новгородского диалекта, отличавшие его от других диалектов Древней Руси, ярче всего выражены не в позднее время, когда, казалось бы, они могли уже постепенно развиться, а в самый древний период […features of the Novgorodian dialect, which made it different from the other dialects of the Old Rus', were most pronounced not in later times, when they seemingly could have evolved, but in the oldest period]".
  25. Zaliznyak 2012, section 92: "…северо-западная группа восточных славян представляет собой ветвь, которую следует считать отдельной уже на уровне праславянства […north-western group of the East Slavs is a branch that should be regarded as separate already in the Proto-Slavic period]".
  26. Zaliznyak 2012, section 94: "…великорусская территория оказалась состоящей из двух частей, примерно одинаковых по значимости: северо-западная (новгородско-псковская) и центрально-восточная (Ростов, Суздаль, Владимир, Москва, Рязань) […the Great Russian territory happened to include two parts of approximately equal importance: the north-western one (Novgorod-Pskov) and the central-eastern-southern one (Rostov, Suzdal, Vladimir, Moscow, Ryazan)]".
  27. Zaliznyak 2012, section 94: "…нынешняя Украина и Белоруссия — наследники центрально-восточно-южной зоны восточного славянства, более сходной в языковом отношении с западным и южным славянством […today's Ukraine and Belarus are successors of the central-eastern-southern area of the East Slavs, more linguistically similar to the West and South Slavs]".
  28. Dybo, Zamyatina & Nikolaev 1990.
  29. Nimchuk 2001.
  30. Shevelov 1979.
  31. 1 2 3 Comrie & Corbett 2002, p. 6.
  32. 1 2 Skorvid 2015, p. 389, 396–397.
  33. Schenker 2002, p. 82.
  34. Nilsson 2014, p. 41.
  35. Comrie & Corbett 2002, p. 8.
  36. Hellquist 1922a.
  37. Hellquist 1922b.
  38. Hellquist 1922c.
  39. Hellquist 1922d.
  40. Hellquist 1922e.
  41. Kallio 2006.
  42. Mustajoki & Protassova 2014.
  43. Titz 1922.
  44. Merriam-Webster.
  45. Wörterbuchnetz 2023.
  46. Dauzat 1938.
  47. Pfeifer 2006.
  48. Skok 1974.
  49. Tokarev 1982.
  50. Vasmer 1953.
  51. Stachowski 2005.
  52. Ethnologue 2022.
  53. Dominikánská.
  54. Bartoň 2018.
  55. Steenbergen 2018, p. 52–54.

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General references