Why the Slovak Language has Three Dialects:
A Case Study in Historical Perceptual Dialectology

Historians and linguists alike have long argued Slovak has three dialects, and that Ludovit Stur's Slovak language reforms successfully replaced Anton Bernolak's literary language because Stur codified the "Central Slovak Dialect", as opposed to Bernolak's "Western Slovak dialect." Examining the linguistic thought of nineteenth century language planners, however, shows that nineteenth century Slovaks did not believe that Slovak had three dialects, but instead classified the Slovak dialects in other ways. Stur himself created the tripartite division of the Slovak dialects in order to de-legitimate Bernolak's script, and the success of this taxonomy is linked to the success of his national work. This story suggests that the history of dialect taxonomies, no less than the distinction between languages and dialects, is influenced by social and political factors.