Interslavic is a language for communication between Slavs of different nationalities, rooted in centuries of geographical proximity, shared history and common cultural heritage. More than anything else, it is based on linguistic similarity, because the Slavic language family is essentially one large continuum of closely related dialects with a relatively high degree of mutual understandability. Throughout the centuries, Slavs have explored the centre of this continuum in various ways: ordinary people learned to talk to their neighbours by means of simple, improvised language forms, while linguists and others have attempted to describe a generic Slavic language that would be understandable for all Slavs alike, often, but not always, taking Old Church Slavonic as a starting point.
In other words, Interslavic is a language with three different aspects:
Although the Slavic languages share enough characteristics in grammar, vocabulary and syntax to allow for some basic mutual understanding, each language has idiosyncrasies that stand in the way of full understanding. To enhance communication between speakers of different Slavic languages, Interslavic removes these idiosyncrasies and focuses on the numerous words and forms that the Slavic languages have in common. It can be learned and used as a Slavic Esperanto, but it can also be treated as a set of recommendations for altering any Slavic language as to facilitate communication with other Slavic speakers. As a result, every piece of newly acquired knowledge can be put into practical use immediately; knowledge that is helpful not only in making yourself understandable, but also in getting a better understanding of texts written in any other Slavic language.
We are aware that the Slavs are perfectly able to find a common language without our help – by using in English, by writing and/or speaking in their own languages, or by improvising their own Interslavic pidgin. However, many Slavs find it shameful to communicate with each other in English, and besides, a lot of Slavs know English only at a very basic level or not at all. Texts written in natural Slavic languages can be hard to follow for other Slavs, and especially the longer chunks of text are likely to be ignored. For those who write in an improvised Interslavic pidgin language, it would be useful to know that they won't make themselves better understood by using, for example, infinitives only.
It is not our purpose to build a community of Interslavic speakers and we do not ask anybody to actually learn it; we merely offer suggestions that will enable people to make themselves understandable to (other) Slavs in a language that is essentially their own. Given the character of the Slavic language family, it should be possible to speak or write in such way that ca. 90% of it will be readily understandable for virtually every Slavic speaker.
The goals of Interslavic are covered by the keywords communication and education. They can be summarised in the following points:
It should be emphasised that Interslavic is not related to any religion, ideology or political movement. Neither is it intended to ever replace any living language, nor to become a universal second language of any kind. We merely hope to provide a useful tool to those who wish to engage in any form of Interslavic dialogue, and those who hope to achieve a better understanding of the Slavic languages as a whole.
Over the centuries, numerous attempts have been made at an umbrella language for Slavs, carrying names like „Pan-Slavic”, „Common Slavic”, „Inter-Slavic”, „Modern Slavic” or simply „Slavic”. Some of them have elaborate grammars, others are mere sketches. Some were meant to serve as a language for a unified pan-Slavic state or to enhance communication between Slavs of various nationalities, others were created just for fun. Some of them put more weight on simplicity than others. Some are based on Old Church Slavonic or reconstructed Proto-Slavic, others draw their material from the modern languages. What all these proposals have in common though, is that they simplify grammar to a certain degree, use an orthography that is more in line with contemporary needs and possibilities, replace archaic features with modern material, and seek the middle point between multiple, if not all, Slavic languages. Obviously, these projects are not identical to each other, but the differences between them are not significant in the sense that understandability is dramatically affected. A language based on comparative linguistics will differ from a modernised Proto-Slavic only in details; both approaches can easily be combined in one dictionary. Because there is so much overlap between all naturalistic projects, they can impossibly be considered separate languages, rather attempts at the very same language.
Most differences between them are due to the fact that their authors make choices between several options provided by the Slavic languages, and more often than not these choices are coloured by their own native language. For example, South Slavic authors consistently distinguish between hard L and soft LJ, while Czech authors tend to find this distinction irrelevant and use only L, as Czech does. Differences in pronunciation, however, occur between different dialects of natural languages, too. In some parts of Russia, the word молоко is pronounced [mɔlɔ'kɔ], in other parts [məlɑ'kɔ], yet everybody knows that it is the same word in the same language. Similar differences occur between the Slavic languages: Russian пять [pʲætʲ], Polish pięć [pʲɛɲt͡ɕ] and South Slavic pet [pɛt] are all locally coloured versions of one and the same word.
Interslavic, one might say, is a language that was never successfully standardised, despite many attempts in that direction. Every user writes differently, following his own preferences and/or possibilities. Some adhere strictly to the rules of one particular project, others combine elements from multiple projects, others again follow their own unwritten rules. What matters though is that they all operate within certain „margins”.
Interslavic as presented on these pages is not the only possible way of speaking and writing Interslavic. Yet, its current form is the fruit of years of collaboration, gradual convergence and ultimately the full merger of the two most active and elaborated projects from the last decade, Slovianski and Neoslavonic, incorporating material from older projects as well. It is intended to be inclusive: whenever two possibilities are equally understandable to Slavs, there is no point in enforcing one of them and forbidding the other. But on the other hand, because a certain level of standardisation is inevitable to prevent the language from becoming needlessly confusing for learners, the grammar always suggests one preferred option.
Categorising Interslavic is not an easy task. It is not a strictly natural language, because it does not have, and never had, any native speakers. Yet, Interslavic has been a naturally existing phenomenon for centuries, and therefore it can hardly be considered an artificially constructed language either. Standardised languages inevitably contain artificial elements but are always listed among the natural languages, while artificial languages that consist solely of naturally existing material are still considered artificial languages. A key factor that distinguishes constructed languages from natural languages is that they have one or more authors, and this is precisely what cannot be said about Interslavic, because despite many efforts at standardising it, Interslavic is primarily what those who use it, make of it themselves. Ultimately it belongs somewhere in the grey zone between natural and constructed languages, bearing much similarity to languages like Katharevousa, an extremely archaic type of Greek that was created in the 19th century as a compromise between ancient Attic and the modern vernaculars. Indeed, even academic research into Interslavic is divided over two entirely different fields: interlinguistics and Slavistics, notably the development of standard national languages like Slovene and Serbo-Croatian.
Therefore, the correct classification of Interslavic depends pretty much on how one looks at it. Those who see the Slavs as one big nation will in all likeliness consider the Slavic languages dialects of one Pan-Slavic language, in other words, an umbrella language or Dachsprache. Based on the fact that Interslavic is a naturally existing phenomenon in environments where Slavs of different nationalities meet, it has something in common with pidgin languages, too. On the other hand, one might also treat it as the hypothetical language at the very centre of the Slavic languages: a modernised continuation of Proto-Slavic that answers the question what it would have looked like if the Slavs hadn't diverged into separate nations, in which case it is something between a reconstructed language and an alternative language. At last, it can also be considered an international auxiliary language, intended for regional use (unlike languages like Esperanto and Interlingua, which are intended to be used globally). As such, it belongs to the so-called zonal constructed languages, a group of artificial languages created for communication among/with speakers of a family of related languages.
Those who see Interslavic as a constructed auxiliary language will probably be surprised about many features that are highly unusual in languages of this type, like grammatical gender, verbal aspect, seven noun cases, distinctions between hard and soft consonants, etc. The answer lies in the target group. Before one can even start building a language, it is of crucial importance to know whom it is meant for. Many elements typical for the Slavic languages are difficult to grasp for native speakers of English or Chinese, and a language intended to be easy for non-Slavs should therefore have a simple phonology, orthography and grammar. On the other hand, to be maximally understandable for Slavs, it would inevitably have to include elements that make it harder for non-Slavs. These differences lead to three basic orientations, the so-called „schematic approach”, the „naturalistic approach” and the „pidgin approach”. Quoting Wikipedia:
„A schematic planned language is a type of language whose grammar and morphology have been deliberately simplified and regularised, with idiosyncrasies from source languages (if any) removed, in order to be simpler and more streamlined than those of the ethnic languages, even if this should make the language's vocabulary relatively unrecognizable to newcomers to the language. The best known example of this type of language is Esperanto.”
„A naturalistic planned language is specifically devised to reproduce the commonalities in morphology and vocabulary from a group of closely related languages, usually with the idea that such a language will be relatively easier to use passively — in many cases, without prior study — by speakers of one or more languages in the group. The best known languages of this type are Occidental and Interlingua.”
„A pidgin language is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. Fundamentally, a pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication, as it is constructed impromptu, or by convention, between groups of people.”
A schematic Slavic language would have the advantage that it is easy to master for non-Slavs, because all they need to know is some basic vocabulary and a set of grammatical rules. However, sacrificing Slavic grammar on the altar of regularity and simplicity will automatically make the language look strange and unfamiliar to Slavic speakers. Besides, communication in a schematic language requires that both sides (speaker/writer and listener/reader) know the rules, so that it remains largely restricted those who have learned it. Not surprisingly, virtually all Interslavic projects past and present have chosen the naturalistic approach. A well-designed naturalistic language has the advantage of being readily understood by virtually anyone who knows a Slavic language, which makes it very suitable for one-way communication (websites, newsgroups, wikis, mailing lists, etc.). Because of its similarity to the Slavic languages, it is also fairly easy to learn and use for Slavs. Non-Slavs will definitely need more time to master it, but once they do, it will give them instant access to millions of people who may not even know what language it is but can understand it anyway.
Naturalism does by no means exclude the possibility of simplification. It would be pointless for Slavic speakers to use an un-Slavic grammar, but there is also no reason why a non-Slav who only wishes to make himself understandable to Slavs, should plough his way through tables with Slavic declensions and conjugations. Interslavic needs to be flexible enough to offer solutions to both. To achieve this, we provide two different levels that involve both grammar and orthography:
Both levels are complementary, and the simple level is basically a subset of the advanced level. Because speakers of pidgin languages do not know each other's native language, they do not know what their languages really have in common either. Our team of linguists has both the knowledge and the experience to tell how one side can make himself optimally understandable to the other, thus providing Interslavic with a well-researched structure. This structure is not a closed system of rules, but only a toolbox with recommendations. Elements of both levels can easily be mixed with each other and also with elements from the natural Slavic languages, so that learners can gradually expand their knowledge while putting it to use immediately. This flexibility also allows for flavourisation, the possibility to adapt Interslavic to a specific target audience by adding local or regional colour.
Although Interslavic is a naturalistic and not a schematic language, it includes various tools for schematic word building, so that a writer does not have to look up every single word in the dictionary. Even if the resulting word does not actually exist in any Slavic language, it will be understandable, because its components are generally known.
Interslavic has gained most of its fame under the name Slovianski, a name that is understood as „Slavic” by all Slavs. This name, however, causes one problem: Slavic is universally known as the name for a family of languages, not of one language in particular. That's why several alternative names have been proposed and/or used as well:
In 2011, Medžuslovjanski was chosen as the common moniker for all Interslavic projects. After the merger of Slovianski and Neoslavonic in 2017, this became Medžuslovjansky.
Why Slovjansky instead of Slavjansky, Slověnsky or something similar? All of them are possible, and all will be understood. But Slovjansky is the most common outcome. First of all, slav- is used in Russian, Belarusian, Rusyn, Croatian, Bosnian and Bulgarian, but slov- is used in Ukrainian, Polish, Cashubian, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Serbian and Macedonian. Furthermore, -jan- exists in Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Rusyn, Polish, Cashubian, Upper Sorbian and Bulgarian, -an- in Czech, Slovak and Slovene, and -en- (-ěn-, -jen-) in Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Macedonian, Lower Sorbian and Old Church Slavonic. In other words, slov- and -jan- are the most frequently encountered forms, and in addition, they are both represented in all three subbranches of Slavic.
So, who is behind this project? Well, many people in fact. Some would argue that the Interslavic language goes back to St. Cyril and St. Method. But whether we consider Old Church Slavonic to be an artificial language or not, one could hardly treat it as anything else but an attempt at a written standard for a number of Slavic dialects. However, if we treat Interslavic (Pan-Slavic) as one language and not as a number of individual language projects, then Juraj Križanić has been the first person to actually give a description of it as early as the 1660s. His example was followed by Blaž Kumerdej, Stefan Stratimirović, Samuel Linde, Ján Herkeľ, Matija Ban, Radoslav Razlag, Božidar Raič, Václav Bambas, Matija Majar-Ziljski, Anton Budilovič, Ignác Hošek, Josef Konečný, Edmund Kolkop, Bohumil Holý, Ladislav Podmele, Richard Ruibar, Štefan Vitězslav Pilát, and many others.
Obviously, not all of them have had a direct impact on the content of these pages. This, however, cannot be said of Matija Majar-Ziljski. His Uzajemni Pravopis Slavjanski is more than just a precursor of modern Interslavic, it has also been a major inspiration and an excellent resource. Just like we do, Majar based his conclusions on comparing the whole range of Slavic languages known in his days, and perhaps most importantly, he presented a flexible system that enabled people to write in such way that they could easily take their own language as a starting point. Although sometimes our choices are differ from Majar's, Medžuslovjansky can still be seen as a direct continuation or modernisation of it. In addition to that, Majar left us an excellent grammar and orthography, but no dictionary, an omission we hope to correct by providing a list of words that are generally understandable to all or most Slavs.
The people who originally initiated the Slovianski project were, in chronological order: Ondrej Rečnik, Gabriel Svoboda, Jan van Steenbergen and Igor Polyakov. Slovioski, which merged into Slovianski in 2010, was created by Steeven Radzikowski, Andrej Moraczewski and Michal Borovička. Neoslavonic was created by Vojtěch Merunka and Martin Molhanec. Others who have significantly contributed to the project are: Rostislav Levčenko, Maciej Pawłowski, Rolf Arvid Rökeness, Waldemar Kubica, Katarzyna Majda, Dražen Buvač, Obren Starović, Moreno Vuleta, Jan Vít, Arkadiusz Danilecki, Josip Bibić, Vladimir Romanov, Brunon Kozica, Mateusz Kopa, Cxiril Slavjanski, Roberto Lombino, Michał Swat, and several others.
The current version of Interslavic was established in the Summer of 2017 by a committee consisting of: Vojtěch Merunka, Jan van Steenbergen, Roberto Lombino, Michał Swat and Pavel Skrylev.
From the very beginning, Slovio creator Mark Hučko has been displaying an extremely hostile attitude towards other Interslavic projects. Among his actions is the purchase – with the obvious purpose of confusing potentially interested people – of several domain names with the names of our projects (slovianski.eu, novoslovianski.com, interslavic.org, slovianto.com). Their content is nothing but a mix of plagiarism, parody, misinformation and hatred, or sometimes just a modification of Slovio under a name similar to ours. It should be emphasised that none of these pages are in any way related to our projects, and that neither Interslavic nor its predecessors are based on Slovio, as Mr. Hučko claims. For more information, see the Memorandum of the Interslavic community about Slovio, Slovianski and Neoslavonic from September 2011.