Our Slavic Fellow Citizens - 1910

Slovak Emigration
Chapter VI

The Slovak Tongue

Both in language and, presumably, in blood, the Slovaks are very close to the Chekhs, so close that Protestant Slovaks use the old Bohemian translation af the Bible made in 1613 by tbe followers of Huss. Indeed, till after 1850, when the first Slovak grammar was written, authors of Slovak birth, including the poet Kollar and the scholar Safarik, wrote in Bohemian, regarding that as the literary form of their own tongue. Nowadays newspapers, poetry, novels and other works are published in Slovak, but a person who knows Bohemian can read them probably more readily than an Englishman reads Burns.

The Slovaks claim that their vernacular, as compared with the Chekh, is purer from contamination with foreign idioms, racier, richer in old words that are obsolete or uaknown in Bohemia, and above all more musical and euphonious. Admittedly, the Slovaks are singularly ricb in folk-songs -- like most primitive songs, frequently in a minor key -- and in beautiful popular melodies.

The county of Trencsen is especially noted for the custom of its peasants singing in parts. As I recall hearing this music ringing from the roadside as the workers walked together to their fields, I seem to see again how splendidly the women carried themselves, how freely and finely they moved in their short petticoats.

See Lichard and Kolisek "Slovak Popular Melodies" and Vajansky "Slovak Popular Poetry" -- two delightful essays in Mr. Seton-Watson's "Racial Problems in Hungary."


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