The Czech language is one of the West Slavic languages, along with Slovak, Polish, Pomeranian, and Sorbian. It is spoken by most people in the Czech Republic and by Czechs all over the world (about 12 million native speakers in total).
Because of its complexity, Czech is said to be a difficult language to learn. The complexity is due to extensive morphology and highly free word order. As in all Slavic languages, many words (esp. nouns, verbs, and adjectives) have many forms (inflections). In this regard, Czech and the Slavic languages are closer to their Indo-European origins than other languages in the same family that have lost much inflection. Moreover, in Czech the rules of morphology are extremely irregular and many forms have official, colloquial and sometimes semi-official variants. The word order serves similar function as emphasis and articles in English. Often all the permutations of words in a clause are possible. While the permutations mostly share the same meaning, it is nevertheless different, because the permutations differ in the topic-focus articulation. As an example we can show: Češi udělali revoluci (The Czechs made a revolution), Revoluci udělali Češi (It was the Czechs who made the revolution), and Češi revoluci udělali (The Czechs did make a revolution).
Czech's phonology may also be very difficult for speakers of many other languages. For example, some words do not appear to have vowels: zmrzl, ztvrdl, scvrkl, čtvrthrst. A popular example of this is the phrase "strč prst skrz krk" meaning "stick a finger through your throat". The consonants l and r, however, function as sonorants and thus fulfill the role of a vowel (a similar phenomenon also occurs in American English, for example bird is pronounced as [brd] with a syllabic r). It also features the consonant ř, a phoneme that is said to be unique to Czech (it also existed in Proto-Norse) and quite difficult for foreigners to pronounce (to a foreign ear, it sounds very similar to zh). A better approximation could be rolled (trilled) r followed by zh, which was incidentally sometimes used as an orthography for this sound (rž) eg. in the royal charter of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor form 1609.
Parts of speech
Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numbers are declined (7 cases over a number of declension models) and verbs are conjugated; the other parts of speech are not inflected (with the exception of comparative formation in adverbs).
The noun cases are typically referred to by number, and learned by means of the question to which they are the answer, as follows:
- who/what? - Nominative
- (without) whom/what? - Genitive
- (to) whom/what? - Dative
- (I see) whom/what? - Accusative
- (addressing/calling) Vocative
- (about) whom/what? - Locative
- (with) whom/what? - Instrumental
The numbers are singular, plural, and remains of dual.
The genders are masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine, and neuter.
See also:Czech alphabet
, Frequently used Czech verbs
Last updated: 08-04-2005 18:25:29