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Časopis Slovo a slovesnost
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The norms of spoken communication in East Slovakia

Dana Slančová, Miloslava Sokolová



Normy komunikácie na východnom Slovensku

The investigation of spoken communication in East Slovakia is a broader project a partial problem of which is represented in the context of our contribution. The contribution describes the results of the first, more systematic soundings of the form of spoken communication in Prešov.[1]

The form of verbal communication in Prešov has been examined by means of methods of observation, questionnaire, recordings of dialogical and monological utterances and by means of a survey. The questionnaire, focussed on the examination of expansive dialectal phenomena (compare below) contained half–opened, partly cross questions. The answers to them were contrasted with the material of the sound recordings. The respondents to questionnaires and the persons interviewed were identical. We have analysed 40 recordings and 90 completed questionnaires (the proportion was approximately 1 questionnaire per 1000 inhabitants, comparable with other sociolinguistic works, for example Kamińska, 1979), and the selection of respondents corresponded to the basic demographic data of the structure of Prešov’s population. Inhabitants who had lived in Prešov since their birth were predominantly taken into consideration, that is for the last 20 years. Though the results in any case do not claim to be absolute, we assume that the investigation is extensive enough to indicate the basic tendencies in spoken communication in the demarcated locality.

Methodologically we followed the stratification of national language as offered by J. Horecký (1979, 1984), according to which there exists in the present–day Slovak, alongside to the literary standard form and alongside territorial and social forms, a standard form of Slovak as used in the whole Slovakia, following the norms of literary language but marked by a less strict norm functioning in everyday communication, more spoken but also partially written, and a substandard form which is not specified by Horecký in more detail, though, but it can be supposed that it is a lower form (variety) of the standard. ”Common Slovak” (hovorová slovenčina, J. Bosák, 1990) can be considered as well. It ”is used by cultured users of Slovak (university or secondary school education) in semiofficial and inofficial (informal) communicative situations”. Thus it is, in substance, valid for all Slovakia. Its use primarily in oral, partly in written form can be considered here. It also has a higher form, that is a form closer to the literary standard form, comparable with the standard form and a lower form more distant from the literary language, comparable to the substandard form used according to the social prestige of the communicative situation.

We assume that besides the literary form of Slovak, the standard form of Slovak (commonly used Slovak), the existence of its regional variants can be anticipated (for regional variants compare, e. g., Jedlička, 1978), as formed and functioning in the West, Central and East Slovakia, and the local character of these variants is formed due to two basic forms of the national language – the literary language and the traditional dialect, out of which the prevalently spoken form of communication in towns is formed (compare also Patráš, 1991). The actual speech acts contain, depending on the communicative situation, sociological indices and individual speech habits, elements of all [221]forms of existence of the national language and with a different proportion of representation, conceivably even the absence of some of them.

In our material that mapped semiofficial communication (the interviewed persons were usually not in a close relationship to the person leading the interview; they were identical neither in age nor in other indices. Moreover, the ”microphone effect” has to be taken into account), from which the assumption of the form of inofficial communication that is neither dialectal nor pure literary performance in accordance with the valid codification has emerged. The question already raised by J. Chloupek (1991) on the basis of E. Haugen’s reflections, is whether it is possible to speak literary language at all.

The norm of the common form of Slovak in Prešov, which can be characterized as a loose form of literary Slovak and has components resulting from the contact with the Šariš dialect (Sokolová, 1991), arose against the background of the differences between the both systems. The given contact components in individual speech utterances of Prešov people either substituted literary language phenomena or can be seen in the unstable norm. It means that in the same utterance there occur both literary and dialectal means. The given variety is used both in half official and official communication. The amount of the contact elements depends on their language nature and also on the social characteristics of their users, mainly on the age and education.[2] The strongest in all examined age and education groups are pronunciation contact elements, fewer are syntactic and the fewest morphological and lexical elements. The only exception is represented by particles and expletive words of the type ta, šak, hej (marked contact signals especially the particle ta), which can be found also in such utterances that are from the lexical perspective almost, or completely in accordance with the literary norm. It is obviously a psycholinguistically explainable phenomenon; particles are stored in the deepest stratum of language consciousness, they are therefore activated subconsciously also by speakers with a learned language consciousness. With regard to the examined demographic groups the representation of contact components rises proportionally with age and in indirect proportion to the level of education. It is especially striking as far as morphological and lexical means are concerned. In an unofficial communication of the social groups with the basic education and apprentice education of the middle and especially older generation but also in the communication of Prešov people belonging to other social groups if they communicate with representatives of this group, the variety, the basis of which is formed by the loose form of the Šariš dialect (grammar, pronouns, particles) with components of literary Slovak (literary lexemes, especially terms and quotations), is used.[3]

This lower, substandard variety is in contemporary communication of Prešov inhabitants significantly less wide–spread than the standard variety.


Regional pronunciation variant of Slovak in Prešov. The material from recordings shows the following tendencies:

1. Pronunciation of long vowels. It holds for the standard of all Slovakia that the vowels in the initial stressed syllable are most marked, the least marked pronunciation is in three– and more–syllabic words (compare Holčík, 1980; Sabol, [222]1984; Sokolová, 1985). The East Slovak variant makes this Slovak tendency only more marked. For a majority of respondents an unstable pronunciation of long vowels is characteristic in one and the same utterance: jazyk slovenský/anglicky, chcem ísť na školu pedagogicku/vysokú, or the contamination of stress and quantity and prolongation of short vowels in stressed syllables [pe:kne, trie:d, kre:sliť, le:piť]. It is especially marked in the youngest age group.


2. Stress. The most frequent marked stressing was recorded in the first syllable of two–syllabic words and less marked stressing in the first syllable of three– and more–syllabic words. In emotionally coloured performances or in some spontaneous replies also the penultimate stress of the type uči’teľka occurred. In utterances of inhabitants of the oldest age group and of respondents with basic education or apprentice training the last but one syllable is sometimes stressed consistently (kul’tura, oz’doba, v ška’tuľke, zvyk’nutá, kupa’lisko, matema’tiku). Similarly, regardless of the group, the tendency to prolong the stressed syllable occurs here (domy su staváne) as opposed to the literary ’domy sú ’stavané. The stress ”shift”, it means the shift from the first syllable to the last but one syllable, is one of the most evident phenomenon of the East Slovak variant of standard Slovak. There has been no recording in our material without this tendency more or less strongly evident.[4]

Both the quantity and the stress are unstable in the utterances of the same speaker.


3. Pronunciation of diphtongs. Of the standard variant of Slovak in toto the marked pronunciation of the i–element after labials and consonant r is characteristic: pjatok, vjem, vjacej, bjely, rjaditeľ. The marked hiatus j in foreign words can be considered a standard Slovak element as well: akcija, v televiziji, na gymnáziju, chémiju. In the East Slovak variety a reduction of i–semivowel after consonants ď, ť, ň, š and of u–semivowel was recorded in diphtongs: [ňe, vysvečeňe, pomož, pojďeme, guľočka, osma:k] as opposed to the literary ňie, vysvedčeňie, pomuož, puojďeme, guľuočka, uosmak. Sometimes in the same utterance there is an unstable pronunciation ňe/ňie. The tendency towards the reduction of semiwovels i and u occurs itself also in the Slovak variant but less considerably and mainly in frequent words, for example [možme] as opposed to the literary muožme.


4. Simplification of consonant groups. Consistent simplification of geminated consonants can be considered a standard Slovak phenomenon.


5. Pronunciation of the consonant group šť. In some utterances a contact dialectal pronunciation of the group occurs, that is pronunciation šč or pronunciation with more palatalized š and ť as š’, ť’. It is often unstable: ešťe/ešče, ščastlivý, opuščák, ruščina.


6. Pronunciation of preposition s before personal pronouns. The assimilation of the preposition s is considered to be a typical East Slovak pronunciation: [z nami, z vami, z ňou, zo mnou]. In the questionnaire we observed how the prepositions were pronounced. Non–assimilation of a preposition in connection with a personal pronoun of the type k vašim (as opposed to the literary g vašim) can be regarded a Slovak component of the standard. The pronunciation of the phrase so mnou like [zo mnou] and s vami as [s vami], s ním as [z ni:m], however, is rather a regional contact phenomenon.


[223]7. Pronunciation of the consonant v. In utterances there is evidence also for a non–codified pronunciation of the consonant v as a labiodental v and as f in the positions where the literary norm requires the pronunciation w (prfky, bytofky, babofka, stofka instead of literary prwky, bytowky, bábowka, stowka). Contrary to our expectations, the results from the questionnaire did not confirm the regional contact phenomenon in the pronunciation of the consonant v as f. Only in the oldest age group (41 %) the respondents confirm the contact pronunciation.


Grammatical and lexical phenomena. One of the most expansive grammatical contact phenomena following from morphological differences among the East Slovak dialects and literary Slovak is the use of the vocative especially with proper nouns and names of family members. The situation in the standard form is different. Morphological literature (Miko, Oravec, Mistrík) does not consider the vocative to be a special case in literary Slovak. Its functions are taken over by the nominative. Formally, we distinguish a vocative, formed by the relational morpheme –i as a characteristic phenomenon of the Slovak standard, occurring especially in the youngest age group (mami: 73 % in group I, 46 % in group II and 18 % in group III; oci: 52–14–14; babi: 61–54–36, dedi: 6–0–0) and a vocative formed by means of dialectal relational submorphemes as a characteristic phenomenon of a lower form, occurring above all in the oldest age group and in the groups with basic, middle and vocational education (mamo, mamčo: 0–11–19, Moniko: 0–3–27, Marto: 0–3–14). In addition to this a form with the zero relational morpheme is represented in the third age group (Maruš, Jolan).[5]

As with the vocative, also with relational morphemes of further grammatical forms, their dialectal forms occurred more frequently in the third age group.

From the point of view of educational stratification the speakers of all educational groups are the bearers of Slovak standard form (mainly of its morphological and syntactic components, less of the lexical component); mainly the speakers of the second and the third educational groups are the bearers of the East Slovak variant of the standard form, the speakers of the latter educational groups are also the bearers of the substandard form. However, the percentage representation in all educational groups is lower here. The command of the literary form is, according to the results of the questionnaire investigation, highest in the group 4 (75 %), lower in the group 2 (68 %), 1 (58 % – here the respondents are also basic school pupils and secondary school students), the lowest command of the literary norm was found in the group 3. The average degree of at least a passive command of the literary form is 66 % and the average percentage, not having command of the literary form, is 29 %.[6]

The material research and its results are to some extent in accordance with the findings arrived at by V. Patráš in the quoted work (Patráš, 1991, p. 10–11). According to him, the spoken form of Slovak in Banská Bystrica – the centre of the Central Slovakian region – is characterized by the falling representation the spoken form of the literary (codified) Slovak, a spoken Slovak in the process of its forming itself, the existence of dialects and sociolects, the use of Czech and components of other language systems, and the expansive manifestations of dialects. According to our examinations in Prešov only the proportional representation is different from the Patráš’s findings. It is also connected with a more conspicuous expansion of contact dialectal components. Thus this comparison with the results of a similarly oriented investigation in other localities in Slovakia also supports the thesis about the existence of at least two strata within two [224]standard forms of Slovak: its component for Slovak in toto and the component formed by regional variants.




Bosák, J.: Skúmanie jazyka ako sociálno–komunikačného systému. In: Dynamické tendencie v jazykovej komunikácii. JÚĽŠ, Bratislava 1990, s. 75–84.

Holčík, J.: Skracovanie dlhých samohlások v spisovnej slovenčine. Jazykovedný časopis, 31, 1980, s. 147–151.

Horecký, J.: Vymedzenie štandardnej formy slovenčiny. Slovenská reč, 44, 1979, s. 221–227.

Horecký, J.: Na okraj štruktúrnej klasifikácie F. Kočiša. Slovenská reč, 49, 1984, s. 162–167.

Chloupek, J. – Čechová, M. – Krčmová, M. – Minářová, E.: Stylistika češtiny. SPN, Praha 1991.

Jedlička, A.: Spisovný jazyk v současné komunikaci. 2. vyd. Praha 1978.

Kamińska, M.: Załoženia metodyczne badania polszczyzny mówionej w Łodzi i ich praktyczna realizacja. In: Prace naukowe Uniwersytetu Sląskiego, 287. Socjolingwistyka, 2, 1979, s. 87–94.

Miko, F.: K otázke vokatívu v spisovnej slovenčine. Slovenská reč, 26, 1961, s. 32n.

Mistrík, J.: Náboženský štýl. In: J. Mistrík (ed.), Studia Academica Slovaca, 20. Alfa, Bratislava 1991, s. 163–175.

Oravec, J. – Bajzíková, E.: Súčasný slovenský spisovný jazyk. Syntax. SPN, Bratislava 1982.

Patráš, V.: Hovorená podoba slovenčiny v Banskej Bystrici. [Autoreferát dizertácie na získanie vedeckej hodnosti]. JÚĽŠ, Bratislava 1990.

Sabol, J.: Kvantita v spisovnej slovenčine. In: J. Mistrík (ed.), Studia Academica Slovaca, 13. Alfa, Bratislava 1984, s. 511–532.

Slančová, D.: Anketový prieskum o postojoch k jazyku. Slovenská reč, 55, 1990, s. 1–16.

Sokolová, M.: Niektoré špecifiká v jazykovej výchove na východnom Slovensku. In: J. Kačala (ed.), Jazyková politika a jazyková kultúra. JÚĽŠ, Bratislava 1986, s. 341–347.

Sokolová, M.: Komunikatívna efektívnosť českých kontaktových javov v súčasnej slovenčine. In: J. Findra (ed.), Všeobecné a špecifické otázky jazykovej komunikácie. PF, Banská Bystrica 1991b, s. 232–242.



Normy komunikácie na východnom Slovensku

Práca sa zaoberá výskumom podoby hovorenej komunikácie v Prešove, centre strednej a severozápadnej časti východného Slovenska. Podoba verbálnej komunikácie v Prešove sa zisťovala pomocou metód pozorovania, dotazníka, zaznamenaných monologických a dialogických prehovorov a pomocou ankety. Porovnávali sa údaje v dotazníkoch (90 kusov) a údaje zistené z nahrávok (respondenti boli v obidvoch prípadoch totožní). Normu bežnej slovenčiny v Prešove možno charakterizovať ako uvoľnenú normu spisovnej slovenčiny (štandardná norma v zmysle vymedzenia J. Horeckého), ktorá vychádza zo základu spisovnej slovenčiny a má komponenty šarišského nárečia. Stává sa tak výrazom regionálneho variantu východoslovenskej podoby štandardnej formy slovenčiny. Charakterizujú ju niektoré výrazné výslovnostné javy (napr. rozkolísaná výslovnosť dlhých hlások, „posunutý” prízvuk, výslovnosť diftongov, zjednodušovanie výslovnosti spoluhláskových skupín, výslovnosť spoluhláskových skupín, výslovnosť spoluhláskovej skupiny šť, výslovnosť predložky s pred osobnými zámenami, výslovnosť spoluhlásky v), ako aj gramatické a lexikálne javy (výskyt vokatívu, špecifické podoby relačných morfém, podoby zámen a častíc), a to v závislosti od demografických údajov, hlavne veku a vzdelania respondentov.

[1] Prešov is the fourth largest town in Slovakia and the second largest town in East Slovakia. According to the last count in 1990 it had 87 788 inhabitants. It is the industrial, cultural and educational centre of the Šariš region, the central and north–western part of East Slovakia. Like other bigger Slovak towns, in recent decades it has become the centre for immigration of inhabitants from nearby and further environs.

[2] As to the age the respondents were divided into three groups: I: to 24 years, II: 25–50 years, III: over 50 years. The respondents were also divided into 5 educational groups: 1: basic education, 2: secondary school education, vocational training with a school leaving examination, 3: vocational training without the school leaving examination, 4: university education – humanities, 5: university education – other than the humanities.

[3] It showed also in the examination of attitudes of Prešov inhabitants to language (compare Slančová, 1990), where also the reflexion of their communicative competence was observed. In different communicative situations in accordance with the respondents answers the dialect, or prevalently dialect, is used to the extent of 1,5 % (interviews with unknown people and superiors) to 18 % (in talks with friends). But when talking to parents the percentage is 42,1 %.

[4] That it is a striking phenomenon has been proved by the results of the survey respondents from which the East Slovakian origin of the speaker speaking Slovak would be discovered by a large majority of the persons questionned. The stress is followed by a quantity reduction, fast tempo and some other phenomena whose awareness appeared only sporadically.

[5] We will concentrate on the problem of the vocative in a special contribution.

[6] These results correspond to the findings arrived at in the quoted investigation of the attitudes towards language in the Prešov territory (Slančová, 1990), in which 66 % of respondents confessed that the literary language is the most natural form of communication for them while the preference of other forms of the national language is evidently dependent on the level of education as well as on its orientation.

Filozofická fakulta Univerzity P. J. Šafárika

Slovo a slovesnost, ročník 54 (1993), číslo 3, s. 220-224

Předchozí Jitka Radoňová: Collocational patterns of a word in a particular sense in written and spoken language

Následující Jana Slavíčková: Understanding Czech conversation