The Use of Slovenian Dialect in the Film Oča (Dad): a pragmatic approach
By Mihaela Koletnik & Alenka Valh Lopert (University of Maribor, Slovenia)
Abstract & Keywords
This article analyzes the film speech in the film Oča (Dad 2010), directed by Vlado Škafar and was shot in the Slovenian Prekmurje dialect. In general, the paper focuses on the dialectal speech realization of scenarios and the degree it matches the non-fictional reality we recognise from our experience and scientific research of the Prekmurje dialect; and in particular, the extent to which it provides authentic real life speech.
Keywords: slovene films, film speech, standard literary Slovene, slovene dialects
©inTRAlinea & Mihaela Koletnik & Alenka Valh Lopert (2016).
"The Use of Slovenian Dialect in the Film Oča (Dad): a pragmatic approach"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: The Translation of Dialects in Multimedia III
Edited by: Koloman Brenner & Irmeli Helin
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Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2184
The article consists of a theoretical and analytical section. The first section gives an overview of the following: the use of spoken language in Slovenian films in general in the past and Slovene language varieties and the categorisation of dialects (according to regions) in the film Oča (Dad)  within the Slovene dialectal group/base. Language as a key factor in determining the social and geographical origin and class status of the film’s characters is also considered.
In the second section the dialect used in the film is discussed and the extent to which it matches the recognized non-fictional reality. In doing so, the paper attempts to answer the following question: to what extent can the speech used in this film be regarded as an authentic example of the Prekmurje dialect?
Vlado Škafar is the author and the director of the Slovene short films Stari most (The Old Bridge, 1 998), Nočni pogovori z Mojco (Night Conversation with Mojca, 2008 ) and the feature-length films Peterka: leto odločitve (Peterka: the year of decision, 2003) and Otroci (Letter to a Child, 2008). The success story of his film Oča (Dad) began in September 2010 at the 25th Venice Film Festival. The following quotations give a flavour of the critical reviews the film received there: Anton Giulio Mancino: “Škafar /…/ a poet knows how to weave all the threads together /.../”; Francesco di Pace: “This was love at first sight /…/” Olaf Möller expressed his appreciation for the film by awarding it second place overall. Oča (Dad) was also later shown at the 10th Estoril Film festival 2010, the 14th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, the 46th Solothurn Film Days, the 34th Göteborg International Film Festival and the 39th International Film Festival Rotterdam. We should also mention the 2nd VOICES Festival — (Vologda Independent Cinema from European Screens), where the film Oča (Dad) had a resounding impact on audience and critics alike in July 201l. The film’s producer is Frenk Celarc, while the lead actors are Miki Roš, Sandi Šalamon, and the Mura factory employees.
The Slovene language appears in several varieties or registers: social, functional, transmissive, temporal/historical and quantitative. We are most interested in its social varieties, which are divided into two sub-varieties, specifically Standard Literary Slovene and Non-standard. The first variety (Standard) serves as a means of communication throughout Slovenia and, as such, represents the whole nation. It is classified into a literary variety and a colloquial one (the latter being a less formal variety of Standard Literary Slovene). The second one (Non-standard) is divided into seven dialectal groups: Styrian, Carinthian, Pannonian, Lower Carniolan, Upper Carniolan, Littoral, and the Rovte as well as into regional colloquial languages. The Non-standard variety can be seen as a transdialect made up of several geographical dialects, i.e. a type of social variety in between Standard Literary Slovene and the dialects: Central Slovene (centred in Ljubljana), South Styrian (around Celje), North Styrian (Maribor, with an influence on Ptuj and Ravne as well; a subvariety that developed along the Mura River and is centred around Murska Sobota), Littoral (varieties around Nova Gorica, Trieste, Koper and Postojna) and possibly two more: the Rovte (around Škofja Loka) and Austrian Carinthian (Toporišič 2000: 13–21).
The article focuses on an important feature of so-called ‘popular culture’ (Stankovič 2002: 12; Betts 2004: 1); popular culture incorporates music, television, advertisements, sport, fashion etc. Betts (ibid.) explains that it is concerned with mass production in order to meet the demands of the masses and entertain them, and as such can be defined as market oriented. Storey (2004: 6) “emphasizes that there are different criteria allowing us to regard a given phenomenon as pertaining to/forming part of popular culture”; on the one hand it denotes something that is ‘leftover’ from high culture, while on the other it defines work that is intended to be appealing. Language plays an extremely important role within popular culture. Since language is presented as a system of rules (langue), Pelko (2008: 161) defines speech (parole) as a feature of it that is impossible to capture. Recently, Non-standard Slovene and dialects have been widely used in popular music, films and on stage, which contrasts sharply with the times in which films solely featured Standard Slovenian. The language in these productions sounded extremely pompous and detached from everyday life, as most of these films were based on Slovene classical literary works, written in Standard Literary Slovene. We should mention at this point the first Slovene sound film, Na svoji zemlji (On Our Own Land), shot in 1948 by Štiglic; the screenplay was written by Kosmač, based upon his own short story Očka Orel (Grandpa Orel). The film was a landmark in Slovenian film production, setting a pattern which was to be followed by many later works (Šimenc 1996: 70–74). However, a paradigm shift occurred when the article Slovenski pogovorni jezik (Colloquial Slovene) by the linguist Toporišič (1970) was published, allowing directors and language editors to argue for the use of spoken (colloquial) Slovene as well as regional colloquial varieties and dialects. It became easier to choose an appropriate social language variety for a particular film. In general, actors here usually undertake formal education in Standard Literary Slovene, despite the fact that they come from all over Slovenia and speak the dialect of their home region. With these new guidelines on speech, some of them were simply glad to use their own ‘first/mother tongue’ on film, if requested, although some actors may find it difficult to master some of the dialects that they did not grow up using. However, as a result of this language shift, the language used in Slovenian films has become much more convincing, "deliberately casual", natural, relaxed and up-to-date. Thus, there has been a move away from Standard Literary Slovene towards Non-standard varieties and non-theatrical speech has become popular and widely accepted. The speech used in films should serve the film's content and vary from the artistic to non-artistic. Koršič (2006: 160) thus claims that speech functionality seems to have become a criterion of the film's artistic value. The language and speech norms of a film should be in accordance with the aesthetic and functional objectives of the speech used by the film's characters; however, good dialogues can only be attained through cooperation among film directors, screenwriters, authors, language editors and actors.
The plot of the film Oča (Dad) takes place in the easternmost part of Slovenia (near the Hungarian border) where the Pannonian dialects are spoken, one of which is the Slovene Prekmurje dialect used in the film. Dialects have mostly been used in films to provide individual dialectal words or stylization; however, recently, the choice of dialect has heavily influenced the choice of actor. Mostly, professional actors are chosen who grew up in the region where the respective dialect is spoken, i.e. the dialect which is required for a given film, while sometimes even amateur actors from that same region are also employed. The combination of both methods is seen as one of the key reasons behind the success of a film. Recently, films featuring the Prekmurje dialect have come in for linguistic analysis. All of them are based upon literary works written by Lainšček in Standard Slovene: Halgato, 1994 (based on the novel Namesto koga roža cveti, 1991); Traktor, ljubezen in rock'n'roll 2006 (Tractor, love and rock'n'roll; based on the novel Vankoštanc 1994) and Petelinji zajtrk 2007 (Rooster's Breakfast; based on the novel Petelinji zajtrk, 1999).
Language is certainly a means of expressing identity, i.e. in personal and/or national terms alike. It has always been an important element in film (and theatre), one which is growing in importance, in order to draw or determine a character. In other words, each character has their own manner of speaking adapted to various psychological or social discourse situations. The concept of identity is also defined in the Slovar slovenskega knjižnega jezika (Dictionary of Slovene Standard Language) as ‘compliance, data matching with real facts, evidence, identity’, in Slovenski pravopis (Slovene orthography, 2001) as an ‘identity, sameness’, in the English-Slovene Dictionary (Grad 2009) as ‘identi ty, unity, equality’, and in the German-Slovene Dictionary (Debenjak 2008 ) as ‘identity’.
From a linguistic point of view this means the identification of the individual with the primary language of their own environment (family, place of birth). Thus, for the majority of Slovenes, dialect is their first or native language; we are born into it, while Standard Slovene is taught at schools to enable communication between different dialectal speakers. The language used by the characters refers to the respective psychological and social situations they are in, which reflects Gibson’s claim (2004: 1; based on Spolsky 1999: 181): “Language is a central feature of human identity. When we hear someone speak, we immediately make guesses about gender, education level, age, profession, and place of origin. Beyond this individual matter, a language is a powerful symbol of national and ethnic identity”. The actors define the film speech very successfully, yet such ultimate mastery requires a very sharp voice pitch and a high level of mental discipline. We assume that the actors who were given roles had no particular difficulties with language adaptation because they are native speakers of the dialect chosen and required in the film.
The film Oča (Dad), the first feature-length film directed by Vlado Škafar, premiered at the 67th Venice Film Festival (Sept. 1st–11th 2010).Contrary to the Slovene film tradition of basing the writing of a screenplay on a literary work, the director sought to transfer the human approach to a fictional context. He set out to merge his fictional character with the real man, with what is real for him and within him – the truth is after all just an emotion, hidden somewhere deep in our hearts.
The film, a lyrical, yet also shocking story of the love between a father and son, was shot in the Slovenian Prekmurje dialect. The whole narrative of the story is covered in one day of their unusual friendship. The father is a simple man, worn down by a hard life, and the son, who following the divorce of his parents becomes increasingly close to his mother, with whom he lives, is burdened by his father's absence. One Sunday afternoon they meet to try and establish a genuine relationship. Through the thorough exploration of the deep feelings of family relationships, layers of time build upon one another in a moment of heightened sensitivity: desire, passion, joy and the pain of love, a moment of love and memories of it – this is how love is depicted in the film.
A wide variety of linguistic registers exist in Slovene – from the social and the functional to the temporal. The director's decision to also use language (the Prekmurje dialect to be exact) to define the characters, geographical environment, time and social affiliation is not surprising; indeed, we could say it was expected. The narrative space is situated in the director’s native Prekmurje, and the Prekmurje dialect, more precisely its Ravensko subdialect, creates the necessary sense of genuineness and authenticity of life when compared to the Standard language in the film.
The director also deliberately chose not to use trained/professional actors but non-professional actors and native-speakers who come from the described area and are therefore most proficient in the Ravensko subdialect. Most of the dialogues in the film, which we phonetically fully transcribed, are spoken by the two main male characters, the father and the son. Both of the main actors are non-professional, native-speakers, but come from the Prekmurje dialect area. The role of the father is performed by Miki Roš, a Prekmurje writer, director and amateur actor while the role of his son was taken by Sandi Šalamon, a 13-year-old elementary school pupil from Murska Sobota, one of the most mature Slovene child actors, the so-called “naturščik”. 22 people appear beside them in three sequences of the film, mostly as extras. The cast is therefore relatively modest, but in terms of film speech they are uniquely colourful.
In the realisation of the film speech both actors preserve: (1) the Prekmurje place of stress with all (a) accent shift removals from old circumflexed length or shortness: sàmo (SSl. samó) ‘just’, vǜja (SSl. uhó) ‘ear’, prìšo (SSl. prišèl) ‘came’, zà čne (SSl. začnè) ‘begin’ or a significant tendency towards analogical generalization of stress to all or most forms of the same words: sóúsit sóúsida (SSl. sôsed, soséda) ‘neighbour’, béžo, béžala, béžalo (SSl. béžal, bežála, bežaló) ‘run’, and (b) short vowels, possible in any syllable in the Prekmurje dialect: ràzmiš (SSl. razumeš) ‘understand’, živẹ̀ti (SSl. živeti) ‘live’, kǜp (SSl. kup) ‘heap’; (2) all Prekmurje vowels: dialectal diphthongs [e ] for the Proto-Slavic long yat /ě/ – sréda (SSl. sreda) ‘Wednesday’, ščéš (SSl . želiš) ‘want’ and [oú] for Proto-Slavic always long /o/ – nóúč (SSl. noč) ‘night’, šóúla (SSl. šola) ‘school’ and nasal /Ø/ – klóúp ( SSl. klop) ‘bench’, sóúsit (SSl. sosed) ‘neighbour’; dialectal [ü] for Pr oto-Slavic old acuted / u / – tǜdi (SSl. tudi)‘also’, vǜpa la (SSl. upala) ‘hope’, dialectal [ö] for /e/ in the position beside the sonant / v / : vö̀ter (SSl. veter) ‘wind’, vö̀ (SSl. ven) ‘out’ and [ u ], originated from vocalic /l/ – kùča (SS l. hiša) ‘house’, skùza (SSl. solza) ‘tear’. Proto-Slavic always long /i/ and /u/ are sometimes pronounced as diphthongs – očí (SSl. oči) ‘eyes’, fčíš (SSl. učiš) ‘learn’, dǘša (SSl. duša) ‘soul’, poslǘšan (SSl. poslušam) ‘listen’, the same also long narrow [e], originated from the Proto-Slavic always long /e/, semivowel (schwa) and nasal /ę/: té (SSl. te) ‘this’, imé (SSl. ime) ‘name’, glédo (SSl. gledal) ‘watch’, but dén (SSl. dan) ‘day’, potégni (SSl. potegni) ‘pull’, zvéživa (SS l. zveživa) ‘bind’ The proto-Slavic long /a/ in dialect remains open – mála (SSl. mala) ‘small’, znáš (SSl. veš) ‘know’, old acut ed /a/ is labialized [å]– màn (SSl. imam) ‘have’, pràf (SSl. prav) ‘right’ and it is pronounced as such by the actors.
There are some rare deviations from the dialectal vowel system in the actors’ speech, specifically in vowel quality. Sometimes short a is not clearly pronounced as a. Labialization is to be expected, while in the dialect it is clearly expressed, e. g.: màma ‘mother’, kà (SSl. kaj) ‘what’, tàkši (SS l. takšen) ‘such’, in only some cases in the film the short but not labialized a is pronounced. In the whole Pannonian dialectal group the labialized u is normally pronounced, but in the film the non-labialized u as in Standard Lit erary Slovene is heard very rarely, e.g.: ljùcki (dialectal: lǜcki) ‘folk/native’; in only one example the dialectal labialized ü is pronounced as i, as in Standard Slovene: mìdva (dialectal: mǜva) ‘two of us’.
Here and there the pronunciation follows Standard Literary Slovene, specifically in a) pre-stressed u remains unchanged, displaying the o or i colour in dialect – učìtel (but dia lectal: očìtel, vičìtel) ‘teacher’; b) as well as the pre- a nd post-stressed e in dialect being strictly pronounced as [ i ] deklìna (but dialectal: diklìna) ‘small girl, girl’, člọ̀vek (but dialectal: člọ̀vik) ‘man’.
The consonants are pronounced as in the dialect, although some deviations can be seen in:
- the consonant /x/, which in dialect disappears, e.g.: fála (SSl. hvala) ‘thanks’, fčási (SSl. včasih) ‘sometimes’, or is replaced by the sonant j, e. g.: stráj (SSl. strah) ‘fear’, vǜja (SSl. uho) ‘ear’, in the film it is pronounced here and there as it is in Standa rd Slovene, i.e., as [x]: hodìti (dialectal: odìti) ‘walk’ , téh (dialectal: té) ‘these gen. Pl.’;
- the sonant /j/ in the Ravensko subdialect is pronounced as [g] before front vowels – gén (SSl. jem) ‘eat’, pigén (SSl. pijem) ‘drink’; in front of back vowels as [dž]: džóúčen (SSl. jočem) ‘cry’, in the f ilm is pronounced also as in Standard Slovene, i.e., as [j]: jàs (dialectal: gè) ‘I’;
- palatal /l/, in dialect becomes hard, in the film in three cases palatalization remains: ljubézen (dialectal: libézen) ‘love’, ljùcki (dialectal: lǜcki) ‘folk/native’, življénje (dialectal: živlènje) ʻlife.ʼ
Dialectal endings with verbs for the first person dual -va without the Standard tendency are observed in all of the actors’ speech: bova ‘we will’, napraviva ‘we will do’, the same pattern is used in Standard Slovene, while dialects spoken in the North and in the East of Slovenia Slovene dialects use the Non-standard -ma instead.
Beside verbs, the use of adverbs is also characteristic for Slovenian dialects in order a) to change the meaning of the verb: fkràj vréže (SSl. odreže) ‘cut’, cùj zvéže (SSl. priveže) ‘bind’, or b) to strengthen its basic meaning : cùj prpèlan (SSl. pripeljem) ‘bring along’, dọ̀j poklàčo (SSl . potlačil) ‘subdue’.
Typical dialectal features in speech are portrayed by the frequent use of vocative verbless sentences, exclamation sentences, interjections, authentic adverbs, e.g., ès (SSl. sem) ‘here’, èti (SSl. tukaj) ‘here’, fčàsik (SSl. takoj) ‘at ones’, gvǜšno (SSl. zagotovo) ‘sure’, nájprlé (SSl. najprej) ‘first of all’, nìgdar (SSl. nikoli) ‘never’, pomàli (SSl. počasi) ‘slow’, índa svéta (SSl. nekoč) ‘once upon a time’, sìgdar (SSl. vedno) ‘always’, žmètno (SSl. težko) ‘difficult’, particles, e.g., bar (SSl. vsaj) ‘at least’, ešče/šče (SSl. še) ‘still; yet’, ranč (SSl. ravno) ‘just; exactly’, vej (SSl. saj) ‘but’, repetitions of all kinds, among which some idiosyncrasies in word order stand out:
- interchanges of theme and rheme and even transition: Dọ̀bro je tóú ? ‘Is this right?’ – Kràp je tóú, znáš. ‘This is a carp, you know’;
- the auxiliary verb is placed at the beginning or at the end of the sentence: Sen džóúko ‘I was crying.’ – Opčǘto kà si? ʻWhat did you feel?’;
- frequent use of the personal pronoun where it is not used in the Standard variety: Máš tí ràt lés? ‘Do you like wood?’ – Gẹ̀ si se tí tóú fčìú? ‘Where did you learn this?’ – Sè , kà mo ge vìdo, mo povẹ̀do dàle svọ̀ji dẹ̀ci. ‘Everything I see, I’ll tell my children.’;
- the particle naj is used after the reflexive pronoun: Ja, pa zakàj si naj nèbi? ‘And why shouldn’t I?’;
- adverbial adjective to the right of the antecedent: sóúsit nàš ‘our neighbour’, ọ̀ča mọ̀j ‘my father’.
Besides the rich Pannonio-Slavic vocabulary, e.g., brọ̀diti (SSl. misliti) ‘think’, čèden (SSl. pameten) ‘smart’, dẹ̀ca (SSl. otroci) ‘children’, gúúčati (SSl. govoriti) ‘speak’, ìstina (SSl. resnica) ‘truth’, pítati (SSl. vprašati) ‘ask’, štẹ̀ti (SSl. brati) ‘read’, víditi (SSl. zdeti se) ‘seem’, zgràbiti (SSl. uloviti) ‘catch’, znàti (SSl. vedeti) ‘know’, Standard-Slovene lexemes are also noticeable., e.g., míza (dialectal: stọ̀) ‘table’, rábiti (dialetal: nucati) ‘need’, zràk (dialectal: lǜft) ‘air’, xítro (dialectal: frìško) ‘fast’, življénje (dialectal: žìtek) ‘life’, doublets (Standard as well as dialectal words), e.g., tùrba (dialectal) and tórba (Standard) ‘bag’, mǜva (dialectal) and mídva (Standard) ‘two of us’, pripovést (dialectal) and zgódba (Standard) ‘story’, fọ̀rma (dialectal) and oblíka (Standard) ‘form’, slangisms, e.g.,: čìk ‘cigaret’, and Germanisms preserved in the dialect, some of them were already adopted into the Prekmurje dialect during the Old High German and Middle High German period: cùk (SSl. vlak) ‘train’← G. Zug, falìti (SSl. manjkati) ‘miss’ ← G. fehlen, gvǜšno (SSl. gotovo) ‘sure’ ← MHG. gewiss, penezi (SSl. denar) ‘money’ ← OHG. pfenni(n)g , pénzija (SSl. pokojnina) ‘pension’ ← G. Pension, pùcati (SSl. čistiti) ‘clean’ ← G. putzen, špìc (SSl. konica, ost) ‘point’ ← G. Spitze, špìlati (SSl. igrati) ‘play’ ← G. spielen, tẹ̀pix (SSl. preproga) ‘carpet’ ← G. Teppich, and rare Hungarisms: čọ̀nta (SSl. kost) ‘bone’ ← Hun. csont.
G. – German
Hun. – Hungarian
MHG. – Middle High German
OHG. – Old High German
SSl. – Standard Slovene
The analysis of language dialogues shows that the speech plan in the film is well-implemented. All the characters consistently speak the kind of language variety which was chosen and defined for the film at all linguistic levels. Slight deviations from the dialect system are noticeable only on the phonological and lexical level.
The review of dialogues in the film Oča (Dad) suggests that the speech in the film "acts like magic on the viewer, with the illusion that this is not just a performed and filmed world, but the world in which the viewer really lives" (Gjurin 1983: 316). The language is, therefore, such as we would expect in similar circumstances in real life, which is one of the main strong points of this film.
Language, being the reflection of our individual and national identity, is a very powerful constituent part of the analysed film. Both main actors, being native speakers of the dialect, express themselves perfectly with its use. The use of any other linguistic register and/or variety would make it impossible for the main characters to express themselves adequately in the given discourses and, ultimately, it would be impossible for the actors to give a credible performance. Since the use of spoken language, in particular dialect, in the film Oča (Dad) is almost absolutely authentic, this film is an excellent example of the paradigm shift which occurred after 1970 when Toporišič’s article Slovenski pogovorni jezik was published, giving directors and language editors free reign in the use of spoken (colloquial) Slovene as well as regional colloquial varieties and dialects in films.
″Oča″. [Videotape] (2010). Screen-play and director: Vlado Škafar. Lenght: 70 min. Country: Slovenia. Language: Slovene. (Acquired exclusively for the purpose of language analysis by the main actor Miki Roš).
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 We would like to express our gratitude to the lead actor Miki Roš and the whole team for the videotape of the film.
 For more on the period 1931–2005, see Šimenc (2005).
 Translated by the authors for the purposes of the article only.
 Mihaela Koletnik, Alenka Valh Lopert, Zinka Zorko, 2009: Translating from Standard Slovene into Carinthian and the Prekmurje Dialects in Slovene films. Mihaela Koletnik, Alenka Valh Lopert, 2012: Intralingual subtitling of the Slovene dialectal film Petelinji zajtrk (Rooster’s Breakfast).
 Feri Lainšček (born in 1959) is a leading Slovene author. He is appreciated by contemporary Slovene literary critics as a prolific author of high-quailty novels.
 English title: http://cineuropa.org/f.aspx?t=film&documentID=84906 (accessed 18 March 2013).
 See note 8.
 Words are marked with symbols denoting the place of stress: the acute ( ´ ), grave ( ` ) and roof ( ˆ ) are used in Slovene literary language. The acute stays to lengthen and narrow e and o, the grave to shorten and widen e and o and labialisation of -a; a small dot under a vowel denotes narrowness. The vowel nature of l and n is marked with a small circle underneath; a semi-circle under i and u (, ú) denotes their consonant pronunciation, while the semi vowel is marked with |.
 In the Prekmurje Goričko subdialect diphthongization of the long narrow e in e has taken place; in the Ravensko subdialect this process is in progress. Therefore, as regards the Proto-Slavic always long vowels, two reflections appear: monophthongs and/or diphthongs.
 The word order of Standard Slovene is stylistically neutral when used in the following sequence: the topic (theme), the transition, and the focus (rheme). It may deviate according to language use (See Toporišič 2000: 668–677).
 In Standard Slovene adjectival attributes preceed the antecedent, while nominal ones follow it.