Word of the day – zmrzlina

zmrzlina [zmrzlɪna] = ice, ice cream, sherbet, sorbet

This tongue twister of word came up in today’s Czech lesson. I had to listen to it many times before attempting to pronounce it. This is quite an extreme example of the tricky consonant clusters common in Czech. I also find the ř [rʒ] sound particularly difficult, especially at the beginnings of words, such as in řízek [rʒi:zɛk] (schnitzel), and řekne [rʒɛknɛ], as in Jak se řekne česky …? (How do you say … in Czech?). According to this site, even some Czechs have difficultly with this sound!

This entry was posted in Czech, Language, Words and phrases.

12 Responses to Word of the day – zmrzlina

  1. Rita Mentor says:

    Greetings from Finland. What a great blog you have.

    I post in English on Sundays, the rest of the week in Finnish, one of the very few languages where the spelling makes sense. One can actually learn to read it in a day. Not much of a challenge, you might say… :)

  2. Podolsky says:

    The ř sound is very difficult not only for you. I have been teaching phonetics at the university, am able to pronounce all kinds of sounds, but have difficulty with this one.
    And how do you like long consonant clusters of Czech?

  3. Simon says:

    Podolsky – I like the consonant clusters, some of them quite tricky to pronounce though.

  4. Paul says:

    Could someone post the IPA for some of these CCCs* please? Especially ‘zmrzlina’; I wouldn’t know where to start.
    *Czech Consonant Clusters

  5. Simon says:

    Paul – I’ve added IPA transcriptions to the post.

  6. Benjamin says:

    And suddenly “rztpr” as in German “Arztpraxis” (a doctor’s practise) looks so easy… ;-)

    How do Czechs pronounce “r”? Is it rolled like in Spanish and most other languages?

    I’m really envious of Finnish spelling, although German spelling isn’t that bad actually. But yet Finnish is just the most logical spelling I’ve ever seen…
    By the way: Minä/Mina olen Benjamin.

  7. BG says:

    So how are you supposed to pronounce so many consonants without any vowels?

  8. Simon says:

    BG – with great difficulty! In Czech, r and l act as sort of semi-vowels. I’ve added a link to a recording of me attempting to say zmrzlina to the post.

  9. Simon says:

    Benjamin – my impression is that Czech “r”s are more tapped than rolled, but I could be wrong as I’m not yet familiar with all the subtleties of Czech pronunciation.

  10. Polly says:

    I’ve read countless explanations of Russian soft consonants but I still don’t get it! I can’t hear the difference, and I still don’t know how to make the sounds correctly. The letter “ы” also escapes me. I just pronounce it like “i” in “hit” but I know that’s wrong.

  11. Tuthmose says:

    Do you know the Czech word “čtvrthrst”? I think it’s very difficult to pronounce for English speaking people and foreigners in general…

  12. Petusek says:

    Pronunciational remarks:

    1. /ř/ is not a combination of [r] and [ʒ], but rather a raised [r] (the stricture between the tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge is narrowed), and has two allophones – voiceless and voiced. The voiced variant occurs after voiced consonants, the voiceless one elsewhere.

    Examples /břídil/ vs. /přítel/

    The /ř/ in /bří/ is voiced, similar to /ž/, but the /ř/ in /pří/ is voiceless, similar to /š/, or rather to Polish /ś/.

    2. Czech /r/ is somewhere between Spanish /r/ and Spanish /rr/. In general, we can say the more vibrations, the more expressivity.

    3. Yes, Czech /l/ and /r/ (and even the nasals /m/ and /n/) can by syllabic, i.e. they can act as vowels to form syllables. That also occurs in English. Consider words like /maple/, /bottle/, which is often (wrongly!) transcribed with a schwa at the end. Czech /r/ can do the same, and so can the two nasals.