The standard orthography of the Slovak language is based on the standard developed by Ľudovít Štúr in 1844 and reformed by Martin Hattala in 1851 with the agreement of Štúr. The then-current (1840s) form of the central Slovak dialect was chosen as the standard. It uses the Latin script with small modifications that include the four diacritics (ˇ, ´, ¨, ˆ) placed above certain letters. After Hattala’s reform, the standardized orthography remained mostly unchanged.
The Slovak alphabet has 46 letters which makes it the longest Slavic and European alphabet.
Here is the full list of all Slovak letters: A, Á, Ä, B, C, Č, D, Ď, DZ, DŽ, E, É, F, G, H, CH, I, Í, J, K, L Ĺ, Ľ, M, N, Ň, O, Ó, Ô, P, Q, R, Ŕ, S, Š, T, Ť, U, Ú, V, W, X, Y, Ý, Z, Ž. The letters Q, W and X are only used in loanwords.
Letters in the Slovak alphabet can be divided into three groups:
- simple: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z
- created in combination with diacritics
- consisting of two letters: dz, dž, ch
Letters created in combination with diacritics include:
- the acute mark (“dĺžeň”): á, é, í, ĺ, ó, ŕ, ú, ý
- the caron (“mäkčeň” or softener): č, ď, ľ, ň, š, ť, ž
- the umlaut (two dots, or “prehláska”): ä
- the circumflex (“vokáň”): ô
The acute mark indicates length (e.g. í = approximately [iː]). This mark may appear on any vowel except “ä” (wide “e”, široké “e” in Slovak). It may also appear above the consonants “l” and “r”, indicating the long [lː] and [rː] sounds.
The circumflex exists only above the letter “o”. It turns the o into a diphthong.
The umlaut is only used above the letter “a”. It indicates a raised vowel, almost an “e”, similar to German ä.
The caron indicates a change of alveolar fricatives, affricates, and plosives into either post-alveolar or palatal consonants, in informal Slovak linguistics often called just «palatalization”.
To accelerate writing, a rule has been introduced that the frequent character combinations ďe, ťe, ňe, ľe, ďi, ťi, ňi, ľi, ďí, ťí, ňí, ľí, ďie, ťie, ňie, ľie, ďia, ťia, ňia, ľia are written without a caron de, te, ne, le, di, ti, ni, li, dí, tí, ní, lí, die, tie, nie, lie, dia, tia, nia, lia. These combinations are usually pronounced as if a caron were found above the consonant.