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Country and Language

Czech as a national language and its various forms

Czech as a national language takes various forms, which differ in the situations in which they are used, regionally or socially.

  • Czech is divided into spoken and written.

    It is natural in everyday spoken communication across the country to use such terms that are almost non-existent in written form (lidma, bysme, mladej,vokno, furt, etc.). On the other hand, it would be unusual to use terms which appear mainly in written Czech in spoken Czech - expressions primarily used in the written forms are used in the spoken form rather rarely (titíž, nýbž, jenž, etc.).

    Standard Czech includes language means that prevail in a certain type of text in a certain communicative situation.

    Standard Czech is the prestigious form of the Czech language. Standard Czech is used in official circumstances, mostly in written form. Standard Czech is codified (captured and normalized) in the Rules of Czech grammar and in dictionaries (Dictionary of standard Czech language for schools and the public, Dictionary of standard Czech, New academic dictionary of foreign words, etc.). The Institute of the Czech Language at the Academy of Sciences studies and deals with the codification.

  • By region, where a given form is used, we distinguish regionally restricted expressions (dialects, interdialects) and nationally understood and used lexical items.

    Interdialects

    Interdialects arise when various dialects gradually converge and also when the standard Czech penetrates into the traditional dialects.

    Common Czech is a form of the Czech language which is used in informal spoken communication. This is an interdialect mostly used in Bohemia and western Moravia. It is also used by a large number of Czech people living abroad. Common Czech has come into existence naturally without the direct intervention of linguists (unlike standard Czech).

    Examples:

    Standard Czech: být, otevřít okno, řekl, jablko, osm

    Common Czech: bejt, votevřít vokno, řek, japko, vosum

    Dialect

    Czech has many dialects, which are mostly mutually intelligible. Media and the widespread use of common Czech (see below) have resulted in the disappearance of many such differences.

    Traditional Czech dialects are territory based and are mainly transmitted by oral tradition.

    They are divided into 4 groups:

    1. Czech dialectal group (with common Czech as an interdialect)
    2. Central Moravian dialectal group (Hanakian)
    3. East Moravian dialect group (Moravian-Slovak)
    4. Silesian dialects (Lachian)

    Examples:

    Standard Czech: Dej mouku ze mlýna na vozík.

    1. Dej mouku ze mlejna na vozejk.
    2. Dé móku ze mléna na vozék.
    3. Daj múku ze mlýna na vozík.
    4. Daj muku ze młyna na vozik.
  • Depending on the situation, in which a given form is used, several different varieties of Czech are distinguished - sociolects (social dialects).

    Sociolects are colloquial language formations characteristic of a particular interest or professional groups of users. They differ from standard Czech mainly in vocabulary.

    There are three groups distinguished within sociolects:

    1. Professional speech - colloquial expressions characteristic for certain professions (eg. speech of miners, railway workers, health care professionals)
    2. Slang - speech of members of certain groups (eg. speech of students or musicians)
    3. Argot - comes from the criminal environment, the purpose is unintelligibility for those not in the know (eg. secular speech, prison and criminal slang)

    Examples:

    1. fiřt (ceiling), glajze (tracks), jipka (Intensive Care Unit), dezina (disinfection)
    2. usárna (American kitbag) medina (Medical Faculty), zápich (credit), škopky (drums)
    3. vybílit káču (rob a safe), krochna (gun), cop / švestka (policeman)

Useful links:

  • A map of Czech dialects at the website of the Academy of Sciences' Institute of Czech Language. - www.ujc.cas.cz
  • The state of Czech dialects in the 1960s-1970s is captured in a six-volume Czech language atlas. Its last volume contains audio as well. The atlas is available online at http://cja.ujc.cas.cz/cja.html.

Selected literature:

  • HAUSENBLAS, Karel – KUCHAŘ, Jaroslav a kol. Čeština za školou. Praha, Orbis, 1974.
  • ČMEJRKOVÁ, Světla – DANEŠ, František – KRAUS, Jan – SVOBODOVÁ, Ivana. Čeština, jak ji znáte i neznáte. Praha, Academia, 1996.
  • HUBÁČEK, Jaroslav. O českých slanzích. Ostrava, Profil, 1981.
  • HUBÁČEK, Jaroslav. Malý slovník českých slangů. Ostrava, Profil, 1988.
  • CHLOUPEK, Jan. Knížka o češtině. Praha, Odeon, 1974.
  • OUŘEDNÍK, Patrik. Šmírbuch jazyka českého. Praha, Ivo Železný, 1992. Slovník výrazů z oblasti argotu, slangu a „nekonvenční češtiny“ z let 1945 až 1989.
  • SGALL, Petr – HRONEK, Jiří. Čeština bez příkras. Jinočany, H+H, 1992.
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