Form and structure

Slovak uses modified Latin orthography. As some Slovak phonemes do not have their own characters, the Slovak alphabet uses diacritical marks. The palatalization of consonants is marked by a háček (ď, ť, ň, ľ; also used for graphemes ž, š, č, dž) and the length of vowels by an acute accent (á, é, í, ý, ó, ú, ý). Vowels are not subject to reduction; they are pronounced in full form in each position. In addition to simple vowels and consonants, so-called i-diphthongs (ia, ie, iu) and one u- diphthong (uo, graphically ô) occur in the Slovak language. In those cases the first segment is pronounced as a semi-vowel.

A phonetic specialty of standard Slovak (and of Central Slovak dialects) is the so-called rhythmic rule, according to which two long syllables cannot be contiguous (pekný – krásny, nosím – súdim). This rhythmic reduction is actually not a rule, but rather a tendency in standard Slovak.

The first syllable is accented in Slovak; it is a dynamic accent, but it is weaker than in Russian or Polish. In a prepositional phrase with a one-syllable preposition, the accent is usually put on the preposition: na stole/on the table.

Slovak has a simpler declension and conjugation structure than languages like Russian or Czech. However, the system of noun and verb forms is clearly structured, in spite of unification tendencies. The Slovak language has six grammatical cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, locative and instrumental). The vocative is not as active in Slovak as in Czech; it is usually identical with the nominative. Slovak nouns have one of three grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Three tenses are used in the conjugation of verbs: past, present, and future. In addition, verbs can be used with three moods – indicative, imperative, and conditional. Most Slovak verbs distinguish between two aspects – perfective (zavolať) and imperfective (volať). Slovak is a highly inflectional language with analytic elements; the inflection of a word clearly marks its grammatical function. Therefore the word order in a sentence is relatively free and can be used to add semantic distinctions. In the syntactic typology, Slovak is characterised by a basic construction scheme S(ubject) – V(erb) – O(bject). In the Slovak language, two-member sentences with a subject (agents) are the most frequent, but one-member sentences without an agent are also frequently used (Prší, Zabilo ho v hore, Striaslo ho).

Passive constructions occurred and occur in Slovak dialects in a smaller number. In the standard language, the number of descriptive and reflexive verb forms has been increasing as a result of Europeanisation.