Dialects—Treasures of the Slovenian Language
Each village has its own dialect, each family has its own pronunciation, and each person has its own idiolect.
Slovenian language is one of the smallest South Slavic languages according to the geographical distribution and the number of native speakers, but it has the greatest number of speech patterns or dialects—about 50, which are combined into 7 dialect groups.
The famous Slovenian dialectologists (Ramovš, Logar and Rigler) isolated the Upper Carniolan (Gorenjska), Lower Carniolan (Dolenjska), Styrian (Štajerska), Pannonian (Panonska), Carinthian (Koroška), Littoral (Primorska) and Rovte (Rovtarska) dialect groups. The Grammar by Jože Toporišič allocates one more Kočevje dialect group, which is relatively young and has a mixed nature. We also know a lot of subdialects or local dialects or speech patterns, which are not even the minimum unit of the dialect. Even one native speaker at a certain stage of his or her life can be a representative of such pattern.
Talking to real native speakers living today in various regions of Slovenia makes it possible to get acquainted with a living local dialect of the Slovenian language. A resident of the Slovenia’s Littoral region from Nova Gorica would say, “Dəns ponwoči səm skwəzi wakno vidla Božičkav sankə, puhnə daril” (“Tonight, from my window, I saw the sleigh of Santa Claus full of gifts”). The Littoral dialect with additions from the Italian language sounds very melodious. It is inherent in a so-called guttural “h” or “ɣ” (for example, “noɣa” instead of “noga”). It is also characterized by particular forms of verbs (“delaste”).
“Ej, čuj, dans ponoči, ne, te pa (sn) skoz okno vidla, kak je Božiček pərpelo darile” (“Tonight, from my window, I saw the sleigh of Santa Claus full of gifts”), a resident of the Styria region from Maribor would say. This dialect group has, for example, the reduplication (“toti”), and the verbs of dual number are conjugated with “-m” (“delama”). The residents of Styria end past masculine participles with “-o” (“prpelo“, “zaslužo“). For example, “drevi” instead of “o drevesu” and “uhi” instead of “o ušesu”, and a neutral vowel sound is pronounced as a long “e” (“pês”, even “s pêsom”).
A resident of the Upper Carniola region from Bohinjska Bela would say, “Dons punoč skoz vokn vidla Bužičkove sani, pouhne dariv” (“Tonight, from my window, I saw the sleigh of Santa Claus full of gifts”). The Upper Carniolan dialect is characterized by masculinization of neuter gender (“Okən”), that is the transformation of neuter nouns into masculine gender. The same as in the Carinthian dialect, the representatives of the Upper Carniolan dialect usually change “l” before “o” or “a” to “w” (“dewawa” instead of “delala”). In Bled, even today, this word names a “dating man”, for example, in Haloze. The Upper Carniolan dialect is very similar to the phonetic perception of the Lower Carniolan dialect, with the only difference being that the residents of White Carniola, for example, in Črnomelj “dns ponoči” (“at night”) look “čez okno” (“through a window”). These dialect groups have long evolved together, but the Upper Carniolan dialect is harder and has a clearer rhythm, while the Lower Carniolan dialect tends to drawl and is more melodic.
The Carinthian dialect is also very specific with diphthongs (e.g., “muost”), which are predominantly pronounced with the sounds “ʃv” and “ʃt” (“š” is put before the demonstrative pronouns, e.g., “šəta” instead of “ta”). The North Pohorje–Remšnik dialect of the Lovrenc na Pohorju settlement basically has no “ʃv” sound, and one can hear, “Nes večer sn vuntan skoz akno vidwa od Božičeka sanke s puno paklami” (“Tonight, from my window, I saw the sleigh of Santa Claus full of gifts”). It is because of mixing with other languages and some peripheral speech patterns, the Carinthian dialects, for example, the Rosen Valley and the Gail Valley speech patterns, or the Littoral-Resian microlanguage, are of exceptional interest.
The Pannonian dialect group, both the Prekmurje and Prlekija speech patterns divided by the Mura River, has its own unique features as well. People living on the territory of Pannonia change the sound “u” to “ü” (“čüje”), and the final sound “-m” to “-n” (“sedin“). Moreover, sometimes one may meet hard declension of adjectives (“leipoga”). The Prekmurje dwellers also use diphthongs (“mlejko”, “skouz”). Thus, a woman from Murska Sobota (Prekmurje) would say, “Gnes vnoči san skouz okno vijdla Božičekove sanke, pune daril” (“Tonight, from my window, I saw the sleigh of Santa Claus full of gifts”).
The word “okno” (“window”) in Slovenian dialects is usually neuter. Only sometimes, in singular, dual, and plural, it changes its gender to feminine, for example, in Styria they say “imamo nove okne” (“we have new windows”), whereas in some Upper Carniolan subdialects, in singular it changes its gender to masculine, for example, “tist oken“. In Styria, they have an explicitly short sound “o”, i.e. “ókno”, whereas in the literary language as well as in other dialects, in the singular form, this sound is long “ô”. Some dialects from the Littoral, Rovte and Upper Carniolan dialect groups have a prosthetic sound “v“, that is a consonant, which appears before a vowel at the beginning of the word for ease of pronunciation (e.g., “wakno” instead of “okno”). While, the Rosen Valley dialect from the Carinthian dialect group has a prosthetic sound “h” (e.g., “hovs” instead of “oves”).