Slavic languages, Consonants

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The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages), a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, much of the Balkans, parts of Central Europe, and the northern part of Asia.


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

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

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 indicates the sound of the English consonant y as 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 and absorbed the existing palatalized sounds . 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:

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 ("flash"). Also present in many Slavic languages are clusters rarely found cross-linguistically, as in Russian ртуть ("mercury") or Polish mchu ("moss", gen. sg.).

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External Links

  • WikipediaSlavic Script ConverterSlavic dictionaries on Slavic NetSlavistik-PortalSwadesh lists of Slavic basic vocabulary words

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