Clustering Consonants!

Clusters of consonants are quite common in Czech. Some words have no vowels at all. A couple that I came across recently: brzd [ˈbr̩st] (break) and krb [kr̩p] (fireplace).

Brzd is the genitive plural of brzda (brake (in a vehicle)). Related words include: brzdit [ˈbr̩zɟɪt] (to break) and brzdný [ˈbr̩zdniː] (breaking).

Krb means fire, hearth, fireplace or ingle. Related words include: krbový (relating or pertaining to fireplaces), krbová deska (hearthstone) and krbové náčiní (fire irons).

Other vowelless words include:

  • blb [ˈbl̩p] = wally (stupid person)
  • chrp [ˈxr̩p] = of cornflowers
  • drhl [ˈdr̩ɦl̩]= he scrubbed, scoured, rubbed
  • hrkl [ˈɦr̩kl̩] = he rattled
  • krk [kr̩k] = neck
  • plch [pl̩x] = dormouse
  • scvrkl [ˈst͡svr̩kl̩] = he shrank
  • škrtl [ˈʃkr̩tl̩] = he cancelled, deleted, scratched
  • vlk [vl̩k] = wolf

Source: Wiktionary

There are several tongue twisters made up of words like this:

See and hear more of these.

In fact, the r and l in these words funtion as semi-vowels, so you could say that they’re not really vowelless. This doesn’t make them any easier to pronounce.

Sources: Wiktionary and

2 thoughts on “Clustering Consonants!

  1. I heard that finger-to-throat sentence in school (if memory serves) when I was young and have liked it ever since, even though its meaning isn’t very pleasant. I sometimes say it out loud to myself just for fun.

  2. I can’t believe you missed this one:

    Chrt zdrhl z Brd. Vtrhl skrz strž v tvrz srn, v čtvrť Krč. Blb! Prskl, zvrhl smrk, strhl drn, mrskl drn v trs chrp. Zhltl čtvrthrst zrn skrz krk, pln zrn vsrkl hlt z vln. Chrt brkl, mrkl, zmlkl. Zvlhls?

    (This is copypasta, I don’t understand it myself and wonder if it really ends in š.)

    funtion as semi-vowels, so you could say that they’re not really vowelless

    That’s just a denialist way of saying “syllabic consonants”. 🙂 They “function as vowels” in the sense that they’re syllable nuclei, and in no other.

    Most Englishes (and most kinds of German) are full of syllabic /m/, /n/, /l/ and, if rhotic, also /r/. There are even not a few minimal pairs, like buckling in two syllables (“young buck”) vs. buckling in three syllables (“to buckle”). For many Americans, squirrel is a vowelless word.

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