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The Czech Languages. Laura A. Janda UNC-CH. Pre-History. Original inhabitants were Celts Slavs arrived in 6 th century Legends of matriarchal rule, prophesy of Libuše, and “Girls’ War” in 7 th century Creation of Greater Moravia in early 9 th century. Christianization of the Slavs.

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The Czech Languages

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The czech languages

The Czech Languages

Laura A. Janda


Pre history


  • Original inhabitants were Celts

  • Slavs arrived in 6th century

  • Legends of matriarchal rule, prophesy of Libuše, and “Girls’ War” in 7th century

  • Creation of Greater Moravia in early 9th century

Christianization of the slavs

Christianization of the Slavs

  • SS. Cyril and Methodius travel to Moravia in 863, invited by Prince Rostislav, first development of written language for Slavs

  • 880 S. Ludmila is baptized by Methodius; Svatopluk blinds Rostislav, drives Methodius out, makes deal with Franks

  • 924-935 Prince Václav (“Good King Wenceslaus”) reigns briefly and is murdered like his grandmother Ludmila

Christianization of the slavs1

Christianization of the Slavs

Charles iv 1346 1378 king of bohemia and holy roman emporer

Charles IV 1346-1378, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emporer

  • 1348 founding of Charles U. in Prague, oldest university north of the Alps

  • Founding of New Town, construction of St.Vitus’ Cathedral, Charles Bridge, many monasteries and castles, golden age of Bohemian art

  • First complete translation of the Bible into Czech

Charles iv 1346 1378 king of bohemia and holy roman emporer1

Charles IV 1346-1378, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emporer

Reformation and early habsburg rule

Reformation and Early Habsburg Rule

  • 1415 Jan Hus, preacher and inventor of diacritics burned at the stake

  • 1419-1434 the Hussite wars

  • 1526, Ferdinand I, a Habsburg, becomes King of Bohemia, and ultimately Austria and Hungary as well, ushering in 400 years of Habsburg rule in Bohemia

  • 1579-1594 translation of Kralice Bible and golden age of Czech literature

Decline and renewal

Decline and Renewal

  • 1618 Habsburg repressions incite Prague defenestration, initiating 30 Year War

  • 1620 Defeat at White Mountain

  • Two centuries of decline and oppression

  • 1809 Josef Dobrovský’s Czech grammar

  • Remainder of 19th century: Czech National Revival

The twentieth century

The Twentieth Century

  • 1918 Dr. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk becomes president of the “First Republic”

  • 1938 Munich agreement signed by Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain, Daladier

  • 1948 Communist party comes to power

  • 1968 Prague Spring and August invasion

  • 1989 Velvet Revolution

  • 1993 Velvet Divorce



  • When a population uses one language for high-brow purposes, such as written documents, but another language for all other purposes

King james scots english

King James > Scots English

  • Phonology (sounds)

    • Loss of final consonants

      • and > an; of > o; have > hae; with > wi

    • Diphthongization

      • to > tae; parts > pairts; dogs > dowgs; eating >aitin

  • Morphology (forms of words)

    • Verb endings

      • saying > sayin; the dogs get > the dowgs gets

King james scots english1

King James > Scots English

  • Syntax (how words are combined)

    • Be it unto thee even as thou wilt > ye will een hae your will

    • Her daughter was made whole > her dachter cowred her ill

  • Lexicon (words)

    • Children’s > bairns’

    • Table > buird

Literary czech spoken czech

Literary Czech > Spoken Czech

  • Phonology

    • é>í; ý>ej; o- > vo-

  • Morphology

    • Endings are different for nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, numerals, conjugated verb forms

    • Gerunds and participles are absent in the spoken language

Literary czech spoken czech1

Literary Czech > Spoken Czech

  • Syntax

    • Relative clauses are formed differently

    • Pronouns and cases are used differently

  • Lexicon

  • Hundreds of common words are different, such as the words for ‘father’, ‘house’, ‘money’, ‘mouth’, ‘few’, ‘much, many’

A true story

A true story…

  • Já mluvím úplně spisovně. Ty to ale slyšíš nespisovnejma ušima.

  • “I speak in a completely literary fashion. You, however, hear it with unliterary ears.

  • The literary Czech version would be nespisovnýma

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