The Slavic languages are a relatively coherent language group. Knowledge of one Slavic language is often sufficient to get at least a rough understanding of what a text in any other Slavic language is about. During the course of history, this fact has inspired linguists and others to build a universal Slavic language that would be understandable for all Slavs, including the famous Old Church Slavonic language from the 9th century, as well as dozens of other projects from the 16th century onwards. What they have in common is that they are all based on the assumption that the Slavic languages are similar enough to make such a language possible at all.
Mr. Mark Hučko was one of the first who picked up this idea in the digital era. He made his Slovio in 1999 on almost the same principles as Esperanto, but using Slavic word roots instead. Initially, the project was received with some enthusiasm on the Internet, but interest in it later fizzled. One significant drawback of the Slovio language is the artificial character of its grammar. Slavic vocabulary is used only for word stems, but suffixes and many other grammatical elements were taken from Esperanto or English, or designed artificially. For non-Slavs, this language may serve as a kind of Esperanto with the advantage that Slavic people can understand some of it; nonetheless, for Slavs the entire concept comes across as unnatural and sometimes ridiculous. As a result, Slovio never gained acceptance, and by now it has practically vanished from the scene.
THE INTERSLAVIC PROJECT
Most other projects past and present have chosen a more naturalistic approach, which has accumulated today into our two collaborative community projects: Novoslovienski (Neoslavonic) and Slovjanski (Slavic). Both share a similar, naturalistic grammar, a common vocabulary and one common goal: to describe a universal Slavic language that Slavs can understand without any prior learning and use actively after some minimal learning only. This language, called Interslavic, is based exclusively on forms that exist throughout the Slavic language continuum, and artificiality is carefully avoided: every word stem, grammatical ending or morphological element can be found in several Slavic languages, ideally in all of them. This design strategy locates Interslavic at the very centre of the living Slavic languages.
In addition, speakers can easily mix words or other elements from their mother tongue into Interslavic, which enables them to make themselves clearer to other Slavic speakers, and also allows them to use Interslavic as a transient tool for faster and easier learning of another Slavic language. Likewise, Interslavic can easily be manipulated by using characteristics from the language(s) of a specific target group. We call these processes "flavorization".
Our experience is that speakers of Slavic languages tend to perceive Interslavic as either an ancient or remote dialect of their own language, or a neighboring language closely related to their own. People are often surprised how much they can understand of it. Our strategy is to develop this auxiliary language in such way that it can be naturally incorporated into the collection of spoken Slavic languages, to enable Interslavic dialogue, knowledge and cultural transfer without the need of translating information into several national languages.
It should be emphasized that Interslavic is not related to any religion, ideology or political movement. It is neither intended to ever replace any living language, nor to become a universal second language of any kind, but merely to serve as a tool for those who wish to communicate with other Slavs, and to those who hope to achieve a better understanding of the Slavic languages.
Slovjanski consists of elements that are most common in today's living Slavic languages. Grammar is basic, simple and regular. To maximize understandability to Slavic speakers, all words and forms are consistently based on majority solutions. Because Slovjanski is a multi-purpose language, it is not a closed system with hard rules, but a flexible collection of Interslavic language instruments, including numerous word-building tools. The Slovjanski project also encompasses Slovianto, a highly simplified experimental form of Interslavic, designed to have an even lower complexity level than Slovio, but using natural forms only.
Neoslavonic (Novoslovienski) is an artificial evolution of the Old Church Slavonic language from the early Middle Ages into modern times. It can be regarded as the simplified grammar and vocabulary of all Slavic languages. Neoslavonic includes elements that are no longer universal in Slavic (multiple past and future verb tenses, the dual, the present passive participle). This somewhat greater complexity has the advantage that it contributes to a greater passive (e.g. receptive) understanding of the local languages. Even so, Neoslavonic grammar is not very complicated at all; a basic overview fits on two pages.
Practically, differences between Slovjanski and Neoslavonic are minimal. Slovjanski is based on the commonalities of the living Slavic languages, but to ensure consistency, we never borrow straight from any living Slavic language but reconstruct proto-forms and take those as a starting point instead. On the other hand, Neoslavonic is Old Church Slavonic modernized through the prism of the modern languages. Not surprisingly, the results are often identical. Words, forms and conventions from one project can be very easily used in the other and vice versa, to the point that nobody can tell the difference anymore. This is proven by some of the columns written in the Internet news and the Internet discussions within our community.
Both projects cooperate very closely. Our project members write and read in both language forms, have their discussions on the same Internet forums, share the same dictionary, the same Internet newspaper, as well as several other places. Moreover, we have chosen the name INTERSLAVIC as a common denominator for both our projects. We expect that our two approaches will continue to inspire and enrich each other in the future, but in the meantime, we thoroughly enjoy our cooperation: the fruit of mutual appreciation of each other's work, respect for different points of view, overcoming personal ambitions, constructive criticism and most of all, the belief that our common goal is best served if we work together.
We have, at several occasions, invited Slovio's creator, Mark Hučko to cooperate with us. Despite our differences, we do appreciate his pioneering work and we still consider Slovio a part of the Interslavic family. Sadly, his attitude towards our work has from the very beginning been extremely hostile - including a hate campaign, personal attacks and even threats. Among his more recent actions is the purchase of several domain names with the names of our projects (slovianski.eu, novoslovianski.com, interslavic.org, slovianto.com). These pages are completely unrelated to our projects, and what they contain is either a mix of plagiarism, parody and hatred, or modifications of Slovio presented under new names similar to ours. Obviously, the purpose is to confuse potentially interested people. Mr. Hučko's writings make it more than clear that he considers himself to be the exclusive owner of the entire concept of Interslavic, and that he holds us personally responsible for the failure of his own project. Other projects are consistently referred to as "plagiarised Slovio clones" or "useless copy-cut languages".
We want to stress that the information contained on the aforementioned and other pages is patently and deliberately false. Our projects do not use Slovio material. Any coincidences are the logical result of both projects being based on the same Slavic source material. It is our belief that no one has the moral right to call himself the owner of Slavic vocabulary, and that the Interslavic language should never be used as a vehicle for anybody's personal ambitions or financial gains.
Both our Interslavic teams are perfectly aware of the fact that we are only in the beginning, and that there is still a lot of work ahead of us. We need to practice, produce more texts and other materials, and we always need more feedback from others. We, as the collaborative creators, do what we think is best, but we know very well that we cannot always take the right decision. Spoken languages are living things and we know that no conlang (Esperanto, Interlingua) or reconstructed modern national language (Slovak, Hebrew, Indonesian) in the world is used in the exactly same form as when it was first published. Therefore we welcome anybody – linguist, non-linguist, native speaker, non-native speaker – to join our ranks and work with us on this great task!
THE INTERSLAVIC COMMUNITY, September 2011