Slovene: How to pronounce "nj "


New Member

I'm currently learning Slovene on my own with no access to people fluent in the language and I'm not 100% sure how to pronounce 'nj' in words such as below:

* Sovodenj
* Spodnja
* Srednja
* Gorenje

I speak Czech fairly well and can see a lot of similarities between Czech and Slovene so I kind of suspect the sound of 'nj' should be akin to Ň/ň as in:

* Sovodeň
* Spodňa
* Sredňa
* Goreňe

Rather than:

* Sovodenee
* Spodnya
* Srednya
* Gorenye

I understand that there may be subtle differences but do you think I got the this principle fairly right?

  • Panceltic

    Senior Member
    It is pronounced as written, according to our alphabet. That is, a /n/ sound follow by a /j/ sound. However, in final positions (Sovodenj) or before a consonant (manjkati), the /j/ is simply ignored.


    New Member
    Thanks, this is interesting and I can clearly understand why dropping /j/ in final positions makes sense seeing as this is the very thing I had most difficulties in pronouncing myself.

    Just to clarify a couple of aspects though.

    It is dropped only if it's preceded by a constant but it stays there if it's after a vowel, is it not?

    * Ošelj -> Ošel
    * Skedenj -> Skeden

    But no changes here:

    * Volej -> Volej
    * Dokaj -> Dokaj

    Also, when Kranj changes into Kran does the now final /n/ somehow become softened by the fact that there used to be a /j/ over there? Or is it the same clear /n/ as in, say, narava?



    Senior Member
    Oh yes of course, the /j/ is dropped only in the /nj/ and /lj/ combinations.

    About Kranj ... In very careful pronunciation, it is considered more correct or whatever to actually attempt to pronounce the /j/ too, or at least soften the /n/ (not that soft consonants actually exist in Slovenian). In everyday speech, however, it is pronounced exactly the same as narava. Exactly the same goes for the combination /lj/.

    That we write the /j/ at all is actually a historic orthographic anomaly ... It is written in all cases for /lj/ and /nj/, but only when actually pronounced for /rj/


    kralj - kralja
    skedenj - skednja
    mesar - mesarja


    Senior Member
    Actually in standardized pronunciation (not that anyone actually speaks like that, or at least they are very few, you can hear it on the national radio stations, for instance) the final "nj" and "lj" (or those before consonants) are pronounced in a more "softened manner", whatever that means. :)

    Johnny Milutinović

    New Member
    This is a very interesting detail about Slovenian. I speak Serbian, a cognate to Slovenian, and we have separate grapheme lj (љ) and nj (њ), which account for our alphabetical inventory. I had been convinced until I started doing business with Slovenians (mostly online and via email correspondence) that these were separate letters in Slovene, too. So, this means that Ljubljana is actually pronounced as L+jub+l+jana, right?


    Senior Member
    Yes, you are right. The pronunciation of Ljubljana is [ljubljana] (not [ʎubʎana] as in Serbian for example). :) However, in the local speech, lj is usually contracted to l only, so people normally say [lublana] unless they are aware they have to obey the standard pronunciation for the given occasion.