The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic Languages) are the languages of the Slavic peoples. They are a group of Indo-European languages spoken in most of eastern Europe, much of the Balkans, parts of central Europe, and the northern part of Asia.
The Slavic group of languages is completely different from the neighboring Baltic group (Lithuanian, Latvian, and the now-extinct Old Prussian). The Baltic language speakers once lived in a much larger area along the Baltic Sea, but Slavic language speakers gradually came conquering north and west and overtook large areas of the Baltic people. This process started by 600 AD, was somewhat stopped and reversed by the Holy Roman Emperors taking in Slavs who pledged allegiance to the Empire by 1000 AD and thereafter.
Due to the Slavs spreading into the Baltic speaking areas and the people living together in close proximity and often under the same political governments , some similarities have developed.
Scholars divide the Slavic languages into three branches: (1) South Slavic, which is further split into Western and Eastern subgroups. The Western subgroup is composed of Slovene and Serbo-Croatian (present-day Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian), languages spoken in Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, and adjacent regions. The Eastern subgroup consists of Bulgarian in Bulgaria and adjacent areas, and Macedonian in Macedonia and the adjacent part of Greece. (2) West Slavic, which includes Czech in the Czech Republic and Slovak in Slovakia, Upper and Lower Sorbian in Germany, and Lekhitic (Polish and related dialects). (3) East Slavic, including Russian, Ukrainian (Little Russian), and Belarusian (White Russian).
The tripartite division of the Slavic languages does not take into account the spoken dialects of each language. Of these, certain so-called transitional dialects and hybrid dialects often bridge the gaps between different languages, showing similarities that are not apparent when Slavic literary (i.e., standard) languages are compared. There are, however, enough differences existing between the various Slavic dialects and languages to make communication between Slavs of different nationalities difficult, but not impossible. Within the individual Slavic languages, dialects may vary to a lesser degree, as in Russian, or to a much greater degree, as in Slovene. Modern mass communication, however, has helped to minimize variation in all the Slavic languages.
Slavic languages descend from a dialect of Proto-Slavic, their parent language, which developed from a language that was also the ancestor of Proto-Baltic, the parent of the Baltic languages. It is believed that Proto-Balto-Slavic, this ancestral language, was spoken in the territories surrounding what is today known as Lithuania at some time after the Indo-European area had been separated into different dialect regions (c. 3000 BC).
West Slavic Languages:
- Sorbian -- also known as Wendish
- Slovincian -- extinct
- Polabian -- extinct
South Slavic Languages:
East Slavic languages: