OVERVIEW OF THE CZECH LANGUAGE
The Czech language was formerly known as Bohemian. It is a West Slavic language and is spoken by over 11 million people. Czech is spoken in the regions of Bohemia, Moravia and southwestern Silesia in the Czech Republic. It is the official language in the Czech Republic (where most of its speakers live), and has minority language status in Slovakia. Czech’s closest relative is Slovak, with which it is mutually intelligible. It is closely related to other West Slavic languages, such as Silesian and Polish, and more distantly to East Slavic languages such as Czech . Although most Czech vocabulary is based on shared roots with Slavic and other Indo-European languages, many loanwords (most associated with high culture) have been adopted in recent years.
The language began in its present linguistic branch as Old Czech before slowly dwindling in importance, dominated by German in the Czech lands. During the mid-eighteenth century, it experienced a revival in which Czech academics stressed the past accomplishments of their people and advocated the return of Czech as a major language.
It has changed little since this time. Its phoneme (sound) inventory is comprised of five vowels (each short or long) and twenty-five consonants (divided into “hard”, “neutral” and “soft” categories). Words may contain uncommon (or complicated) consonant clusters or lack vowels altogether, including one consonant represented by the grapheme ř which is only shared by Irish Gaelic (slender r as in Eire). Czech orthography is simple, and has been used as a model by phonologists. The writing system of Caech is based on latin script.
As a member of the Slavic sub-family of the Indo-European languages, Czech is a highly inflected fusional language. Its word order is very flexible and words may be transposed to change emphasis or form questions.
The main Czech vernacular, spoken primarily near Prague but also throughout the country, is known as Common Czech. This is an academic distinction; most Czechs are unaware of the term or associate it with vernacular (or incorrect) Czech. Compared to standard Czech, Common Czech is characterized by simpler inflection patterns and differences in sound distribution.
The Institute of the Czech Language of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic is a scientific institution dedicated to the study of the Czech language. It is one of the institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Its headquarters are in Prague and it has a branch in Brno. In the Czech Republic, the institute is widely accepted as the regulatory body of the Czech language. Its recommendations on standard Czech are viewed as binding by the educational system, newspapers and others, although this has no legal basis.
Czech Linguistic Features
Czech has five short vowels and five long matching ones. Vowel length is phonemic, i.e., unlike English, the difference between one word and another is signaled bcy the length of the vowel. It also has diphthongs: ou (in native words), au and eu (in foreign words).
Czech has 25 Consonants. A striking feature of Czech is the absence of “g” from the native word stock. The original “g” changed into a voiced “ h” and now “g” is, thus, restricted to borrowings. “f” is also largely confined to loans. Final voiced stops are devoiced, and voiceless stops may become voiced in consonant clusters (kdo [gdo]). Consonant clusters are numerous and they can include up to four successive consonants.
The voiced affricates [dz] and [dʒ], occur as positional variants of [ts] and [tʃ] before
voiced consonants. Czech has a very distinctive phoneme [r̝] produced by simultaneous pronunciation of the dental trill [r] and the voiced palatal fricative[ʒ].
Stress falls on the first independent syllable of a word.
Nominal. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for gender, number and case.
gender: masculine, neuter, feminine. Masculine gender distinguish animate (humans and other animals) from inanimate nouns.
number: singular, plural. Old Czech had also a dual which survives in nouns referring to pairedody parts (treated as anomalous plurals).
case: nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative, instrumental, locative. The vocative case occurs only in singular nouns but not in the plural or in adjectives or pronouns.
Masculine nouns: For animate nouns there are hard-stem, hard-stem-a, soft-stem and soft-stem-a declension types. For inanimate nouns, hard and soft-stem types.
Feminine nouns: hard and soft declensions, a soft mixed type and i-declension.
Neuter nouns: hard and soft declensions, a long soft declension and a nt-declension.
Articles: Czech has no articles.
Verbal: Czech and Slovak, like Russian, have abandoned a complex tense system in favor of an aspect-based system. Person and number are marked in non-past conjugations while number, person and gender are marked in past and conditional conjugations.
Word order is essentially free but the underlying one is Subject-Verb-Object. The element carrying new information or most emphasis occupies the last position in the sentence. The order of enclitics, namely stressless auxiliary verbs and pronouns, is strict. They occupy the second slot in the clause, after the first stressed word, and within this slot:
1. auxiliary verb in the past tense or conditional
2. reflexive pronoun
3. dative pronoun
4. object pronoun
5. adverb or particle
Czech is a pro-drop language i.e., subject pronouns are usually dropped because the verb has all the information required about person and number; they are only used for emphasis.
Czech Script, Orthography, and Lexicon
Czech is written with a modified Latin alphabet of 42 letters, though 11 of them have no separate entry in the dictionaries (those highlighted in red). Initially, many sounds were represented by digraphs but the Czech linguist Jan Hus (1373-1415) introduced a system of diacritics which in modified form are still in use today. About 15 % of all Czech words are borrowings, the most ancient from Old Church Slavonic. Later, Latin became an important source for religious and administrative terms. German contributed many technical words. During the 19th century Czech revival loans came, mainly, from other Slavic languages. Since World War II, Russian and English are the main contributors.
A Few Little Known Facts About The Czech Language and Culture
The Prague castle is listed in the Guinness as the largest castle in the world. In fact, the Czech Republic is the castle capital of the world. Given its location in the center of Europe, there were armies from all sides who wanted to come through what is today the Czech Republic. As such, they built a lot of castles. Over 2,000 of them are in the country today which is the highest density of castles in the world.
The Czech’s drink more beer per capita than anyone else in the world, consuming on average 43 gallons (160 liters) per person, per year. The original Budweiser can be found in the Czech Republic. The Czech city of Pilsen is the home of pilsner.
In general, Czechs tend to be reserved and can appear distant until they feel comfortable. This trait is reflected in the language, which uses formal and informal forms to address people. Convention dictates that the woman, an elder or a work superior offers the informal form of address. The formal form of address is also used to show respect. For example, a prospective daughter-in-law will formally address her future parents-in-law until after the wedding when the convention is dropped.
Visitors are also expected to remove their shoes when entering a home and often the host will provide ‘guest slippers’. Office staff also tend to change their footwear when arriving at work and it is not unusual to see administrative workers wearing sandals in offices and corridors.
Modern soft contact lenses were invented by the Czech chemist, Otto Wichterle in 1959. It was a Czech doctor, Jan Jansky, who first divided blood into four types in 1907. The first sugar cubes were made in the Czech Republic in 1841 after a sugar factory director’s wife got injured while trying to cut some pieces of sugar and suggested finding an alternative. The word ‘robot’ is Czech and it was first used in 1920 in a theatre play by Karel Capek, Rossum’s Universal Robots. The play was about a robots factory and the playwright’s brother suggested calling the working machines ‘roboti’ from the Slavic ‘robota’, which means ‘labour’.
A Touch of Czech Literature
Deeply lost in the night.
Just as one sometimes lowers one’s head to reflect, thus to be utterly lost in the night. All around people are asleep. It’s just play acting, an innocent self-deception, that they sleep in houses, in safe beds, under a safe roof, stretched out or curled up on mattresses, in sheets, under blankets; in reality they have flocked together as they had once upon a time and again later in a deserted region, a camp in the open, a countless number of men, an army, a people, under a cold sky on cold earth, collapsed where once they had stood, forehead pressed on the arm, face to the ground, breathing quietly.
And you are watching, are one of the watchmen, you find the next one by brandishing a burning stick from the brushwood pile beside you.
Why are you watching?
Someone must watch, it is said. Someone must be there.