Battle for a disappearing consonant

CONSTRUCTION engineer Igor Adamovič is suing the head of the country's language institute (JÚĽŠ), which he says is "sabotaging language norms" in the use of the Slovak 'ľ' consonant.

Adamovič, 70, who recently delivered his complaint to the Bratislava V regional court, says that JÚĽŠ head Slavomír Ondrejovič "clearly sides with the saboteurs of the soft l".

In pure forms of spoken Slovak, the consonant is pronounced (to English ears) as if it had a 'y' after it, giving it a softer sound found in English words such as 'lurid'. In everyday use in Slovakia, however, the consonant is pronounced without such elision, such as in the English 'left'.

Adamovič demands the court bind Ondrejovič to abide by the rules of Slovak orthography.

Ondrejovič, on the other hand, said he knows Adamovič from linguistic conferences, and dubbed him a purist who speaks "as if he was in the 19th century".

He said Adamovič is fighting a lost battle to preserve the pronunciation of the soft 'l' in words where the majority of Slovak speakers already use the hard pronunciation.

"Language is not a dogma, it's a living entity and develops constantly," Ondrejovič asserted. "If the court accepts this complaint then I will finally stop wondering why our courts are flooded with cases."

Adamovič insisted that "the Culture Ministry needs to re-start linguistic inspection so our sweet-sounding Slovak language is not blemished, and so that those who do blemish it but are supposed to be guarding it are particularly severely punished."

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