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Branch of the Indo-European language family spoken by more than 315 million people in central and eastern Europe and northern Asia. The Slavic family is usually divided into three subgroups: West Slavic, comprising Polish, Slovak, Czech, and Sorbian; East Slavic, comprising Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian; and South Slavic, comprising Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian. Polish belongs to the Lekhitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, which also includes Kashubiannow spoken in western Poland by fewer than 150,000 people and regarded in Poland as a Polish dialectand several now-extinct languages. A distinctive feature of this subgroup is its preservation of the Proto-Slavic nasal vowels. Another remnant language is Sorbian, spoken by 60,000–70,000 people in eastern Germany. Western Lekhitic and Sorbian are all that remains of what was once a much greater Slavic speech area in central Europe; that area was gradually Germanized from about the 9th century. Among Indo-European languages, Slavic is closest to the family of Baltic languages.
Variants of SLAVIC LANGUAGES
Slavic languages or Slavonic languages
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Slavic languages, visit Britannica.com.
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