Monday, December 30, 2013

Language Profile: Czech

Today we'll be taking a brief look at Czech, the official language of Czech Republic. Czech is a member of the Slavic language family, and was formerly known by the name "Bohemian" in English until the late 19th century. It shares much of its lexicon with other Slavic languages such as Ukrainian and Russian.

The Czech language is also used as a minority language in Slovakia, whose official language is Slovak. These two languages are closely related, to the extent that most varieties of both are mutually intelligible. Together, they can be considered to be a pluricentric language, or language with multiple standard versions, such as Catalan/Valencian/Balearic and Serbo-Croatian.

The Charles Bridge over the Vltava River in Prague.
There are several dialects of Czech, including one specific to Czech speakers residing in Texas. The dialect developed in the late 1800s when many Czech immigrants moved to this area of the US. Czech journalism was prominent in the area for some time, but in recent years use of the dialect has been declining, sadly. 

The Institute of the Czech Language regulates standard Czech from its headquarters in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The language is written using a Latin-based script. It is interesting to note that the language contains many words that contain no vowels, such as vlk ("wolf") and smrt ("death"). It also uses three different genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. The masculine is then further divided into animate and inanimate, though the same is not true of feminine and neuter terms.