FellowPhD.; dr.sc. Siniša Habijanec
Project NamePhonological Development of the Slovak Language in Light of the Current State of Historical Linguistics
Host organisationLudovit Stur Institute of Linguistics
Duration of the project01.04.2015 - 31.12.2018

The „Phonological Development of the Slovak Language in Light of the Current State of Historical Linguistics“ scholarly project has two mutually related aims. The primary aim is conceiving a new diachronic phonology of the Slovak language, a field where no significant advances have been made since the last academic monograph (R. Krajčovič: A Historical Phonology of the Slovak Language, 1975). In the nearly four decades intervening, many historical linguistics disciplines have experienced considerable growth, these recent insights opening new perspectives on those problems of the phonological development of Slovak that still do not have satisfactory solutions, or no solutions at all. As Slovak is very sparsely attested in the first centuries of its existence, the focus will, in addition to historical language monuments, be predominantly on linguistic data provided by Slovak dialects, which often preserve earlier states of the language, while their diversity and geographical distribution allow us to reconstruct the main tendencies of phonological change. Particular attention will be paid to the development of quantity, where the newest breakthroughs of historical-comparative Slavic accentology will be applied, and peculiarities in the development of quantity that differentiate Slovak from other Slavic languages will be pointed out. The secondary aim of the project is the editing, commentary and publication of Slovak linguist Izidor Kotulič's (1927 – 2012) unpublished 1957 doctoral dissertation on „The Historical Phonology and Morphology of the Eastern Slovak Dialects.“ This often cited, but never published, dissertation can be considered to be somewhat out of date in the context of modern insights; nevertheless, it contains a wealth of historical and dialectal linguistic data, obtained by the author's personal research, which publication would make accessible to modern researchers.

Project Summary with Interim Results


The “Phonological Development of the Slovak Language in Light of the Current State of Historical Linguistics“ research project (SASPRO 0014/01/03-b) comprises a primary and a secondary part. The goal of the primary part is to cast a new light on a number of problems of the phonological development of Slovak that have either not been solved or have not been given a satisfactory solution. The research is founded upon three pillars: (1) the analysis of historical language data, (2) the analysis of dialectal data, and (3) the application of new theoretical insights of historical linguistics. In all those three segments advances are possible.


In the first year of research we directed our efforts primarily  on excerpting the rich Slovak dialectal material kept in the dialectological collection (consisting of a collection of texts and an alphabetical and subject card catalogue of lexical entries) of the Department of Dialectology of Ľudovít Štúr Institute of Linguistics, which due to the lack of written evidence is the most important and the most exhaustive source for the reconstruction of the phonological development of Slovak. In excerpting, we focussed primarily on defining the reflexes of Proto-Slavic phonemes (semi-vowels, nasal vowels, syllabic sonorants, the *šč, *ždž sequences, the Old Slovak *ä, *ä:), the results of contraction, the results of diphthongization, and the rise and the decay of the correlation of softness as well. Attention was also devoted to quantity in those cases where it deviates from the expected. In that way a large database was created, showing a detailed and realistic distribution of the phonological features of local idioms, which is a necessary precondition for their exhaustive analysis, to be undertaken in the second year of research. However, a preliminary survey of the material gleaned already confirms the starting hypothesis: the distribution of phonological features in dialects is much more complex and diverse than the generalised distribution presented in the Atlas of the Slovak Language, and shows numerous local discrepancies, particularly in marginal and transitional idioms.


Another vital element of the first part of the project is a study of crucial monographs and academic papers in the fields of historical linguistics, comparative-historical Slavic linguistics, Slovak historical grammar and Slovak dialectology, in order to build a theoretical foundation for an interpretation of the defined dialectal phonological features identified by the research.


The secondary part of the project consists in digitalising and editing Slovak linguist Izidor Kotulič's (1927–2012) 1957 doctoral dissertation “The Historical Phonology and Morphology of East Slovak Dialects”. This work is the only historical grammar of Slovak dialects and has never been published before. It contains a wealth of historical linguistic and dialectal data which publication will finally make available to the present generation of researchers. In the first year of the project the complete text of the dissertation was digitalised, using modern philological fonts and applying the contemporary way of citing of references.