The history of the department is as long as the history of the University of Ljubljana. It was functioning under the combined Seminar for Slavic studies since the university was established in 1919. The Slovene linguistics professor Fran Ramovš was one of the first members in the professor's assembly of Slovene language at the newly established university.
Soon after, in 1939 when the Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) was established, the importance of language was considered one of the most defining elements in building a nation's identity. One factor which strengthened the institutionalisation of Slovenian language was the establishing of the Fran Ramovš Institute of the Slovenian Language in 1945.
In the 1960s, according to the scientific trends in linguistics, the focus after the first decades of the Slavistic Seminar shifted from historiographical and comparative approaches to a more structuralist approach. Along with the new generation of young linguists and philologists, the Chair for Slovene Language and Stylistics was established in the academic year 1970/71.
In the middle of the 1960s, the department started to put an effort into teaching Slovenian abroad at international institutions. The department established the Centre for Slovene as a Second/Foreign Language. As a result, the study of Slovene language in different forms, lectureships, chairs, departments, or less formalised ways, is possible at more than 50 universities world wide.
Slovenian language studies gained full formal independence in 2002/03 when the Department of Slovene Languages and Literature was separated from the Department of Slavistics. Both departments still maintain a common library. In recent years, the Department of Slovenian Studies has been very active in international cooperation with students of Slovene language from abroad and with individuals who learning the language for themselves or for professional purposes. In this respect the Centre for Slovene as a Second/Foreign Language regularly organises lectures, summer schools, meetings and encourages the interest for study of Slovene language.
The department is active in international cooperation and programmes like SOCRATES/ERASMUS, Basileus and CEEPUS. Several possibilities exist within the Erasmus programme for student exchange at different European universities in: Austria (Karl Franz University in Graz, University of Vienna), Belgium (University of Gent), Bulgaria (Sofia University ‘Saint Kliement Ohridski’, St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Turnovo), the Czech Republic (Masaryk University, University of Paradubice), Finland (University of Helsinki), Italy (University of Padua), Lithuania (Vilnius University), Hungary (Eötvös Loránd Tudományegyetem), Germany (Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen, University of Würzburg), Poland (University of Bielsko-Biala, University of Łodz, University of Warsaw), Portugal (University of Lisbon), Romania (University of Bucharest), Slovakia (Comenius University in Bratislava, Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Matej Bel University), and Great Britain (University of Nottingham).
The department publishes several publications and journals. Slavistična revija [Journal For Linguistics and Literary Studies] publishes articles in Slovenian and English; its articles with summaries are available online in pdf format.