The origins of the Czech Language
Czech, also known as Bohemian, is spoken by about 10 million people. It is the official language of the Czech Republic and has a special connection with Slovak. In general, the two languages are mutually intelligible. In addition, it is an official language of the European Union and also has a large presence in Slovakia due Czech and Slovakian areas’ past association. Czech speaking communities also reside in other countries as well, including the United States (most notably in Texas), Portugal, Germany, and Poland.
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Czech is a fusional language, meaning that affixes can be added that represent multiple meanings and nuances. Like English, it’s word order is mostly subject-verb-object, however, this word order is highly flexible. This is primarily due to the Czech case system. This is similar to German or Russian, where the grammatical role of a word is known due to the addition of letters. In all, there are seven cases in the Czech language. In English, case is not usually marked as prepositions are used.
In terms of language family, it is an Old West Slavic Language. Other languages that belong in this family include Sorbian and Polish. In terms of vocabulary, there is a heavy influence of Latin and German. Loanwords usually come from two time periods. An earlier time period was before the revival of Czech as a national language. These loanwords usually came from German, Greek and Latin. More recent loan words arrived after the revival. These groups of loan words come from a wider range of languages, spanning from English, French, Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian. During the nineteenth century, however, many loan words were rejected in favor of words based on an older version of Czech.
Czech uses the Latin script consisting of 42 letters. In addition to the standard set, there are variants of the letters with symbols on them to represent uniquely Czech sounds. The letters Q, W, and X are used exclusively foreign words. Czech’s version of the Latin alphabet also reserves some digraphs, which are combinations of letters that represent one sound.
The history of the Czech language starts with Old Czech, also called Medieval Czech, having roots before the 6th century. In the 600s, there was a Slavic expansion reaching Central Europe. Great Moravia had emerged by the 800s. Around the 9th-10th century, the Christianization of Bohemia took place. At this point, the Czech-Slovak ethnic group that occupied these regions, and therefore its language, began to diverge as the cultures diversified. The first records of Bohemian writing dates back to the 12th and 13th century, and literary works in Czech appeared in the early 14th century. In the late 14th century , administrative and governmental documents started to emerge as well, and the first Czech translation of the Holy Bible also dates back to this time period. By the early 15th century due to sociocultural circumstances, many who spoke Czech became literate and this resulted in standardized versions of the language emerging.
Before the 15th century, both Czech and Slovak were known as Czech-Slovak and were not languages that were distinguished. However, at the start of the 16th century, divisions between the two had become more apparent as this is the start of Early Modern-Czech. Part of this division is related to religion, with Lutheran Protestants showing a tendency to use Czech orthography and Catholics showing a tendency to use Slovak orthography, as Slovak was also based on the language in the Trnava region.
The Kralice Bible, the complete Czech translation of the Bible from historically older languages, also played an important role in the standardization of Czech in the following centuries, as it was used as a basis.
The Bohemian diet attempted to declare Czech as the only official language of the Kingdom. However, after the Bohemian revolt and a defeat of the mostly Protestant aristocracy by the Habsburg in 1620, there was an extremely negative impact on the Czech language.
Czech and German both had official status in the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1627. In the beginning of the 1700s, however, German became the more dominant language in both Bohemia and Moravia, specifically for the upper-class populations.
Modern Czech, such as provided today by our translations to Czech services, is the standard that emerged after efforts originating in the 18th century. Since this time period, there have been little changes or differences to the language. The Czech National Revival in the middle of the 18th century focused on the Czech culture and on placing the Czech language as part of the high culture again, along with German. Josef Dobrovsky published a German-language grammar of Old Czech and this publication served as the basis for the revival of Czech as it was said to be based on an older, purer form of Czech. Certain descriptions in this publication and other changes also further differentiated it from its Slovak sibling.
Modern Czech is composed of Standard Czech and Common Czech. Standard Czech is, similarly to other standard languages, used in more formal and official circumstances, while common language is a general register used for everyday affairs. Grammatically, Common Czech is simpler and more economic in terms of conjugations. It is based on the dialect spoken in Prague and surrounding regions. On the other hand, Standard Czech is highly formal, standardized, and codified, preserving all the grammatical rules. In addition, there are also other dialects that may be found in rural areas, as well as Moravia and Silesia, where it is called Moravian. For any inquiries about translations to Czech get in touch today!
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