A member of the Slavonic branch of the Balto-Slavic family, and grammatically very similar to Polish. Usually considered to be mutually intelligible with Slovak, except by Slovak nationalists.

Vowel length is indicated by an acute, but there is also a U with a circle above it, Ů, as in the composer Martinů, now with the same value as u-acute. The vowels I and Y are pronounced the same but I causes palatalization of some previous consonants. There is also an E with a háček over it, Ě, pronounced JE. The name of this accent comes from Czech. The hooked T and D are palatal.

Czech uniquely has the rolled fricative written R-hacek (Ř if that shows up on your browser), as in Dvořák. This is voiceless after voiceless consonants.

Here are the specifically Czech letters, taken from my Using Unicode in E2:

Č  Č   č  č   C-hacek
Ď  Ď   ď  ď   D-hook
Ě  Ě   ě  ě   E-hacek
Ň  Ň   ň  ň   N-hacek
Ř  Ř   ř  ř   R-hacek
Š  Š   š  š   S-hacek
Ť  Ť   ť  ť   T-hook
Ů  Ů   ů  ů   U-circle
Ž  Ž   ž  ž   Z-hacek
Note: 'Family' can refer to any main group, not necessarily the highest reconstructible.
To elaborate on the existence of ů (u with ring above): The rule of thumb is that it appears if and only if you hear long 'u' inside native Czech words, which is true, but it's more or less coincidential. (Note that this doesn't apply to loan words: for example "kůra" means "tree bark", whereas "kúra" means "treatment procedure". They are both pronounced the same, kinda like 'koo-ra' with a rolling 'r'.)

The point is that in old Slavic languages, there was a long 'o' (ó) in place of the current ů. This has since differentiated in a number of ways in each of the languages - in Czech and Slovak it turned into "uo". While Slovak has remained in this stage (the diphthong is now spelled 'ô'), Czech (especially Bohemian dialects) went on to long 'u'. I've heard somewhere that the ring above ů is to resemble the original 'ó' sound, and for all I know, it may be true.

Anyway, the existence of ů has ethymological reasons.

And by the way, Balto-Slavic family of languages? Sub-family, perhaps. "Family" is a higher rank, and Slavic languages belong to the Indo-European family of languages.

Sorry if I ramble too much, I just like to discuss stuff like this. :)

Czech is a Slavic language (Indo-European/Balto-Slavic/Slavic/West Slavic/Czech) spoken today mainly in the Czech Republic with 12 million speakers, as well as some people in the United States, Germany, and other Central and Eastern European countries. Its closest relatives are Slovak and Sorbian (which is all but extinct, if not completely dead already), as well as Polish (due to different spelling conventions the languages look less related in print). Czech has some palatalization, like most Slavic languages, though to a lesser extent. It also has contrastive vowel length, which is lost in many modern Indo-European languages. Its relatively weak (when compared to Russian, particularly) stress always falls on the first syllable, giving Czech a rather staccato rhythm. It is grammatically very similar to Polish and Slovak, and for the most part Czech is mutually intelligible with Slovak. The written record of Czech (When the modern Czech Republic was roughly made up of the small kingdoms of Bohemia and Moravia, the two principal halves of the modern country) dates back to the 13th Century at least, and Czech, like many Slavic languages has enjoyed a rich literary history, especially after an 18th Century revival

The alphabet has 42 letters, most of which are modified versions of Latin letters. A reform around the 15th Century which resulted in a roughly one-to-one correspondence between letter and sound. Anyone writing or typing Czech knows how much of a pain in the ass all the diacritics can be, but it actyually comes out looking quite beautiful. Here is the alphabet of Czech, including the letter and its IPA value:

  • A a ... á ... /a/, like English 'father'
  • Á á ... dlouhe á ... /a:/, a long 'a'
  • B b ... bé ... b /b/
  • C c ... cé ... /ts/, like German 'z'
  • Č č ... čé ... /tš/, like an English 'ch' but not aspirated
  • D d ... dé ... /d/
  • Ď ď ... ďé ... /j/, a real voiced palatal stop, which is something in between a /d/ and a /g/, not merely a palatalized /d/ like in the Russian дядя 'uncle' /djadja/, and not like in the affricate /dž/, as in the English 'jot' /džat/, but a real palatal stop.
  • E e ... é ... /ε/, kind of like the English 'met'
  • É é ... dlouhe é ... /ε:/, a long 'e'
  • Ě ě ... é z háčem ... /jε/, an 'e' which palatizes the preceding consonant.
  • F f ... ef ... /f/
  • G g ... gé ... /g/, only found in loanwords, since all originally Slavic 'g's have gone to 'h' as they have in some other Slavic languages including Ukrainian.
  • H h ... há ... /'h/, from the original Slavic /g/, it sounds like a more guttural 'h' than the one in English, and is also voiced. It is not /γ/, which is the fricative of /g/, but a voiced /h/. To the linguists out there, it is a voiced glottal fricative
  • Ch ch ... chá ... /x/, like the 'ch' in German acht 'eight' or like a Scot saying 'loch'. Also like Russian x, as in xopoшo 'good/well' ('khorosho').
  • I i ... í ... /I/, it's like the English 'miss,' but it softens / palatizes the preceding consonant. A 't' followed by 'i' is pronounced as 'ť', a 'd' is 'ď,' and an 'n' is 'ň.' Other letters will undergo spelling changes to mark this (i.e. 'r' will change to 'ř ' in written and spoken Czech)
  • Í í ... dlouhe í ... /i:/, it's like the English 'seat', but without the offglide, and the same palatization rules apply as for 'i'.
  • J j ... jé ... /j/, like the English 'y' in 'yes'
  • K k ... ká ... /k/, like in English, but not aspirated
  • L l ... el ... /l/, and it can be syllabic, as in Plzeň
  • M m ... em ... /m/
  • N n ... en ... /n/
  • Ň ň ... eň .../ñ/, like the Spanish letter 'ñ'
  • O o ... ó ... /o/, as in English, but without the /w/ offglide (the Czech diphthong 'ou' actually sound slike the English 'o' in 'mow' and 'row')
  • Ó ó ... dlouhe ó ... /o:/, a long 'o'
  • P p ... pé ... /p/, as in English, but not aspirated
  • Q q ... qé ... /kv/, not a very common letter in Czech, usually only in loanwords
  • R r ... er ... /r/, the tap or the trill so common in other European languages (NOT in English), and it can be syllabic, as in Brno.
  • Ř ř ... eř ... /ř/, this is the Czech sound -- the hardest and last to acquire and the first to disappear for Czech speakers. It's related to the Russian 'рь' ans the Polish 'rz,' but is a unique sound, that isn't even found in Slovak. It basically sounds like the lovechild of 'r' and 'ž,' and is described phonetically as a trilled postalveolar fricative, or in the vernacular a 'rolled fricative.' This is one sound that is very hard to describe, as it occurs nowhere else but in Czech, where it is in abundance, such as in the name Dvořák and the word moře ('sea,' an important concept to Czechs, who have no seacoast). This sound is usually voiced, but can devoice after voiceless consonants
  • S s ... es ... /s/
  • Š š ... eš ... /š/, like the 'sh' in English
  • T t ... té ... /t/, as in English but not aspirated
  • Ť ť ... ťé ... /c/, a true palatal stop, somewhere between 't' and 'k'. It is not like the Russian /tj/ as in тëтя /tjotja/ 'aunt', or the 'ch' sound of English (/tš/), but a true palatal stop, and it is not aspirated.
  • U u ... ú ... /u/, as in English 'to,' withouth the /w/ offglide
  • Ú ú ... dlouhe ú ... /u:/, a long 'u'
  • Ů ů ... ů s krouškem ... /u:/, it is phonetically identical to 'ú,' but historically and morphologiclaly different. It used to be an 'o,' but has sinced changed to an 'ú.' The 'ů' will often revert to its original 'o' in certain cases. Dům 'home' in the nominative or accusative, but doma, 'of home' or 'at home,' in the genitive
  • V v ... vé ... /v/
  • W w ... dvojité vé ... /v/, an uncommon letter, usually only in loanwords
  • X x ... iks ... /ks/ also an uncommon letter, and also only really found in loanwords
  • Y y ... ipsilon ... /I/, like the 'i' in English 'bit'. It does not palatalize preceding consonants like 'i' does.
  • Ý ý ... dvojité ipsilon ... /i:/, a long 'y,' which doesn't palatalize preceding consonants like 'í' does.
  • Z z ... zet ... /z/
  • Ž ž ... žet ... /ž/, like the 's' in 'pleasure' or the Russian 'ж' ('zh', as in 'Zhivago')

Czech (ch?k; 204), n.

1.

One of the Czechs.

2.

The language of the Czechs (often called Bohemian), the harshest and richest of the Slavic languages.

 

© Webster 1913.

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