Czech is a Western Slavic language spoken by about 10
million people in the Czech Republic (Česká republika).
There are also Czech speakers in Portugal, Poland, Germany
and the USA. Czech is closely related to Slovak, Polish and
Czech at a glance
Native name: čeština [ˈt͡ʃɛʃcɪna]; český jazyk [ˈt͡ʃɛskiː jɛzɪk]
Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Slavic, West Slavic
Number of speakers: c. 10 million
Spoken in: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Germany and the USA
First written: 11th century
Writing system: Latin alphabet
Status: official language in the Czech Republic. Recognised minority language in Slovakia and Poland
The region where Czech is spoken is traditionally called Bohemia (Čechy). It was named after the Boii tribe, who, according to Roman sources, have
inhabited the area since at least the 1st century AD. The dialects spoken
in Moravia (Morava)
are also considered forms of Czech. The language of Bohemia was known as
Bohemian until the early 20th century, when it became known as Czech.
Czech literature started to appear in the 13th century. The first printed
book in Czech, the story of the Trojan war (příběh o Trójské válce), was published at Plzeň
(Pilsen) in 1468. After many years of Austrian rule, during which German
was the main language of literature and government, there was a revival
of Czech literature at the end of the 18th century.
The most prominent writer during the early period of Czech literature
was Jan Hus (1369-1415), a religious reformer who also reformed Czech
spelling (české hláskování). He created the system of having one grapheme (letter) for
every phoneme (sound) in the language by adding accents (čárka) to some of the
letters. As a result, written Czech looks very different from written
Polish. For example, in Czech the sound ch, as in church, is written
but the same sound is written cz
is also known as á s
čárkou. The same is true for the other long
vowels: é, í, ó, ú and ý.
ě = [je]
after p, b and v, [e] after d, t
and n (which become palatalized: ď, ť, ň). After
m, ě = [mɲe], but it
is pronounced [mje] in some regions.
When appearing after d, t and n, i and
í cause palatalization: ď, ť, ň
ú is normally used at the beginning of
root words and in onomatopoic words, while ů
is used elsewhere, except in interrogatives and loan words.
Word-final voiced consonants are pronounced unvoiced, even in
loan words, e.g. chléb [xle:p],
When a voiceless consonant comes before a voiced consonant
(except n, m, n, r, and l) it is becomes voiced, and when a
voiced consonant appears before a voiceless one it becomes voiceless.
E.g. zpít "(get) drunk" [spi:t],
sbít "hammer together" [zbi:t].
V becomes devoiced as /f/ before a voiceless consonant, eg. předevčírem ['pr̝̊ɛdɛ,ftʃi:rem]
"day before yesterday", but does not cause preceding voiceless consonants to become voiced, eg. kvalita ['kvalita] "quality".
l, r, n, m all can be syllabic (pronounced as separate syllables). The following words all contain
two syllables: jedl,
f and g are used in words and names of foreign origin
Primary stress falls on the first syllable. When there is secondary stress, it falls
on long vowels. When one, two or three syllable words are preceded by a preposition,
stress falls on the preposition, e.g. na střeše
[ˈnastr̝ɛʃɛ] (on the roof).
Stress falls on the first syllable in a word containing four or more syllables
preceded by a preposition. e.g. na nástupišti
[naˈnaːstupɪʃtɪ] (at the train stop).
In some Eastern dialects stress falls on the 2nd or 3rd syllable.
Recordings in the text by Jan Jurčík
Sample text in Czech
Všichni lidé se rodí svobodní a sobě rovní co do
důstojnosti a práv. Jsou nadáni rozumem a svědomím a
mají spolu jednat v duchu bratrství.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)