Czech-Slovak Languages
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Czech%E2%80%93Slovak Languages
Central Europe
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Czech-Slovak within West Slavic

The Czech and Slovak languages form the Czech-Slovak (or Czecho-Slovak) subgroup within the West Slavic languages.

Most varieties of Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible, forming a dialect continuum (spanning the intermediate Moravian dialects) rather than being two clearly distinct languages; standardised forms of these two languages are, however, easily distinguishable and recognizable because of disparate vocabulary, orthography, pronunciation, phonology, suffixes and prefixes. The eastern Slovak dialects are more divergent and form a broader dialect continuum with the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic, most notably Polish.

The name "Czechoslovak language" is mostly reserved for an official written standard intended to unify Czech and Slovak created in the 19th century (but to a greater extent based on Czech rather than Slovak).


The early Slavic expansion reached Central Europe in c. the 7th century, and the West Slavic dialects diverged from Common Slavic over the following centuries. The West Slavic tribes settled on the eastern fringes of the Carolingian Empire, along the Limes Saxoniae. Prior to the Magyar invasion of Pannonia in the 890s, the West Slavic polity of Great Moravia spanned much of Central Europe between what is now Eastern Germany and Western Romania. In the high medieval period, the West Slavic tribes were again pushed to the east by the incipient German Ostsiedlung, decisively so following the Wendish Crusade in the 11th century.

West Slavic as a group distinct from Common Slavic thus emerges during the 7th to 9th centuries. The Czech-Slovak in turn develops as a separate dialect continuum within West Slavic during roughly the 10th to 12th centuries, just predating the first written attestation of the language in the 13th to 14th centuries. The diversification of West Slavic had the characteristic of a dialect continuum. For example, the spirantisation of Slavic /g/ to /h/ is an areal feature shared by the Czech-Slovak group with both Ukrainian and Sorbian (but not with Polish). This innovation appears to have travelled from east to west, and is sometimes attributed to contact with Scytho-Sarmatian.[1] It is approximately dated to the 12th century in Slovak, the 12th to 13th century in Czech and the 14th century in Upper Sorbian.[2]

The Bohemian state was incorporated as the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 13th century. The Slovaks, on the other hand, never became part of the Holy Roman Empire in the medieval period, being incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary. For this reason, the history of the closely related Czech and Slovak peoples took a significantly different course during the later medieval period, the Czechs being associated with the Holy Roman Empire and the Slovaks being affected by the history of Eastern Europe (the history of Hungary and the Mongol invasion). In the 16th century, however, they were once again united under Habsburg rule, and after the fall of the Habsburg monarchy sharing their own country of Czechoslovakia during 1918–1993.

In the modern period, the spoken language of Bohemia became influenced by the written standard and developed into Common Czech, largely effacing dialectal variation within Bohemia. By contrast, Moravia remained dialectally diverse, with a series of variants intermediate between Czech and Slovak,[3] and are thus sometimes viewed as dialects of Slovak rather than Czech. The Czech-Slovak group was summarized under the term "Bohemian-Moravian-Slovak" (Böhmisch-Mährisch-Slowakisch) in the Austrian census of Cisleithania beginning in the 1880s.[4]

The Czechoslovak language was an attempt to create a single written standard, first proposed during the national revival in the 1830s and the official language of the First Czechoslovak Republic from 1920–1938.

In television and radio, Czech and Slovak were used in equal ratios. Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech and Slovak written standards have been the official languages of the Czech and Slovak Republics, respectively.

Beginning in the 1990s, a political movement of Moravian linguistic separatism has developed. [5] On the occasion of 2011 Census of the Czech Republic, several Moravian organizations (Moravané and Moravian National Community among others) led a campaign to promote the Moravian nationality and language. The 2011 census recorded 108,000 native speakers of Moravian.[6]


The Czech-Slovak dialect continuum historically blended into Silesian in the west and Old Ruthenian (also known as Chancery Slavonic) in the east. With the development of the written standards in the 19th century, it has become less diversified, but there remains a pronounced dialectal division in Moravia. The southeastern Moravian dialects, in particular, are sometimes considered dialects of Slovak rather than Czech, e.g. using the same declension patterns for nouns and pronouns and the same verb conjugations as Slovak.[7]

In a 1964 textbook on Czech dialectology, B?etislav Koudela used the sentence "Put the flour from the mill in the cart" to highlight phonetic differences between dialects:[11]

Standard Czech: Dej mouku ze mna na vozík.
Common Czech: Dej mouku ze mlejna na vozejk.
Central Moravian: Dé móku ze mna na vozék.
Lach: Daj muku ze m?yna na vozik.
Eastern Moravian: Daj múku ze mna na vozík.
Standard Slovak: Daj múku z mlyna na vozík.

Comparison of written standards

The following comparison concerns the contemporary written standards:


Slovak graphemes that do not exist in the Czech language are: ä, ?, ?, ?, ô, dz, d?. Czech graphemes that do not exist in the Slovak language are, ? and ? (see Pronunciation for Czech language and Pronunciation for Slovak language).


Slovak has the following phonemes which Czech does not have: /?/, /r:/, /l:/ (also /æ/ in higher-style standard Slovak, or some dialects), and the diphthongs /i?a/, /i?e/, /i?u/, /u?o/; and on the contrary, Czech has /r?/. Slovak, unlike Czech, uses palatal consonants more frequently (that is, is phonetically "softer"), but there are some exceptions. Slovak de, te, ne are usually pronounced as the Czech d?, t?, n?. The "rhythmic law" in Slovak prohibits two adjacent long syllables.[12]


Slovak grammar is somewhat more regular than the grammar of literary Czech, since present-day standard Slovak was not codified until the 19th century. The two languages have differences in declension and conjugation endings and paradigms (e.g. Slovak -cia, -ej, -dlo, -?, -ov, -om, -mi - Czech -c(i)e, , -tko, -t, -?, -em, y). Slovak does not commonly use the vocative case, while the Czech vocative is still very much alive. Slovak uses the passive voice formed like in English less than Czech, and prefers the passive voice formed using the reflexive pronoun sa (like in East Slavic languages) instead.


Lexical differences are mostly of simple historical origin. As for professional terminology, except for biology (esp. all names of animals and plants), the Czech terminology was mostly taken over (in Slovakised form) for practical reasons. The Czech-Slovak Dictionary of Different Terms (1989, Prague) contains some 11,000 entries (without professional terminology):

Examples of basic different words
English Slovak Czech
yeah hej jo
if ak jestli, jestli?e, -li
really, actually naozaj opravdu
just, only iba, len pouze, jenom
to like pá?i? sa líbit se
as well tie? také, taky
but ve? v?dy?
hot horúci horký
let, may nech a?
to wish ?ela? p?át
to see zbada? spat?it
next to popri vedle
cemetery cintorín h?bitov
especially najmä p?edev?ím, obzvlá, zejména
to forgive, to excuse prepá?i? prominout
apart from, besides okrem krom?, mimo, vyjma
operation (of machine) prevádzka provoz, chod
traffic premávka provoz
war vojna válka
current teraj?í stávající
bad zlý ?patný
worse (adv.) hor?ie h
to go ís? jet, jít
as soon as len ?o jakmile
to forget zabudnú? zapomenout
once raz jednou
next budúci p?í?tí
ball lopta mí?
button gombík knoflík
pub kr?ma hospoda
stamp pe?iatka razítko
room izba pokoj
to acquire nadobudnú? nabýt
behaviour správanie chování
to listen po?u? sly?et
to watch (TV) pozera? (televíziu) dívat se na (televizi)
to look pozera? koukat
to look like vyzera? vypadat
to say, to speak poveda?, vravie? ?íct, mluvit
pocket vrecko kapsa
to clean up upratova? uklízet
because kee jeliko?
surname priezvisko p?íjmení
cellar pivnica sklep
including vrátane v?etn?
autumn jese? podzim
be called (as in name), vola? sa jmenovat se
boy chalan kluk
girl diev?a holka, d?v?e
breakfast ra?ajky snídan?
to count ráta?, po?íta? po?ítat
snack olovrant sva?ina
to clug, to stuff pcha? cpát
laundry bielize? prádlo
press tla? tisk
although hoci a?koliv
pillow vankú? pol?tá?
that is ?i?e ?ili
thirst smäd ?íze?
strike (of employees) ?trajk stávka
bet, wager, stake stávka sázka
race preteky závod
Good bye dovidenia na shledanou
cat ma?ka ko?ka
blackbird drozd kos
to kiss bozka? líbat
now teraz te?, nyní
goods tovar zbo?í
potatoes zemiaky brambory
trap klepec, pasca past, lé?ka
the same, equal rovnaký stejný
dishes riad nádobí
tissue, handkerchief vreckovka kapesník
be surprised, wonder ?udova? sa divit se
pencil ceruzka tu?ka
perhaps azda, vari, sná? snad
easy ?ahký snadný
trouble ?a?kos? potí?, nesnáz
baggage bato?ina zavazadlo
branch konár v?tev
to meet stretnú? sa setkat se, potkat
spine chrbtica páte?
he/she/it is not nie je není
to do, to make robi?, spravi? d?lat, ud?lat
to apologize, to excuse ospravedlni? sa omluvit se
to smoke faj?i? kou?it
whatever hoci?o, vo?a?o leccos, cokoliv
blueberry ?u?oriedka bor?vka
apricot marhu?a meru?ka
cabbage kapusta zelí
Savoy cabbage kel kapusta
legume, pulses strukoviny lu?t?niny
chickpeas cícer cizrna
lentils ?o?ovica ?o?ka
rye ra? ?ito
demand dopyt poptávka
offer; supply ponuka nabídka
early, soon skoro, ?oskoro brzy
earlier, sooner skôr d?ív
late neskorý, neskoro pozdní, opo?d?ný, pozd?
later neskôr pozd?ji
suddenly zrazu najednou
fairy tale rozprávka pohádka
tramway elektri?ka tramvaj
pork brav?ové vep?ové
mutton baranina skopové
breastfeed doj?i? kojit
infant doj?a kojenec
baby bábätko miminko
(the) rest (of a group) zvy?ok zbytek
lips pery rty
lipstick rú? rt?nka
flock k?de? hejno
railway station (?elezni?ná) stanica nádra?í
despite napriek navzdory
when ke? kdy?
glass (of water) pohár sklenice, skleni?ka
pepper ?ierne korenie pep?
ill chorý nemocný
illness choroba nemoc
dot bodka te?ka
wall múr ze?
bricklayer murár zedník
shoulder plece rameno
to heat kúri? topit
turtle korytna?ka ?elva
camel ?ava velbloud
even párny sudý
odd nepárny lichý
finally napokon nakonec
butcher mäsiar ?ezník
slim, thin chudý hubený
poor chudobný chudý

Examples of words with different meanings : SK topi? (to melt/to drown) (could be same meanings, depends on region) - CZ topit (to heat/to drown), SK kúri? (to heat) - CZ kou?it (to smoke), SK rameno (arm) - CZ rameno (shoulder; also arm), SK horký (bitter) - CZ horký (hot) but ho?ký (bitter), SK stávka (stake, bet) - CZ stávka (strike), SK chudý (slim, skinny) - CZ chudý (poor), SK kapusta (cabbage) - CZ kapusta (Savoy cabbage), SK pivnica (cellar) - CZ pivnice (pub), SK syrový (cheesy, of cheese) - CZ syrový (raw, uncooked), SK spravi? (to make, to create) - CZ spravit (to repair, to fix). Czech months are of Slavic origin (e.g. ?íjen), whereas the Slovak months are of Latin origin (e.g. október).

Although most words are in fact different, they are largely similar, being cognates, which makes both languages mutually intelligible to a significant extent; e.g. foreign (SK cudzí - CZ cizí), reason (SK dôvod - CZ d?vod), to want (SK chcie? - CZ chtít), to promise (SK s?ubova? - CZ slibovat), if (SK keby - CZ kdyby), river (SK rieka - CZ ?eka), church (SK kostol - CZ kostel), wedding (SK svadobný - CZ svatební), who (SK kto - CZ kdo), to ask (SK spýta? sa - CZ zeptat se), to fail (SK zlyha? - CZ selhat), almost (SK takmer - CZ tém), thanks (SK ?akujem, v?aka - CZ d?kuju, díky).

Sample text

The following is a sample text in Slovak and Czech, of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):

English: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Czech: V?ichni lidé se rodí svobodní a sob? rovní v d?stojnosti i právech. Jsou nadáni rozumem a sv?domím a mají spolu jednat v duchu bratrství.

Slovak: V?etci ?udia sa rodia slobodní a rovní v dôstojnosti aj právach. Sú obdarení rozumom a svedomím a majú sa k sebe správa? v duchu bratstva.

See also


  1. ^ ?. ?. ? ? g (h) ? ? // ? . ?., 1964, 115--121. ?. ?. ? ? -? // ? ? ? ? ? ?. ?., 2002, 76--77.
  2. ^ Pronk-Tiethoff, The Germanic loanwords in Proto-Slavic, 2013, p. 71 (fn 26))
  3. ^ Kortmann (2011:516)
  4. ^ Kortmann (2011:714)
  5. ^ BLÁHA, Ond?ej. Moravský jazykový separatismus: zdroje, cíle, slovanský kontext. In Studia Moravica. Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucensis Facultas Philosophica - Moravica. Olomouc : UP v Olomouci, 2005. ISSN 1801-7061. Svazek III.
  6. ^ Obyvatelstvo podle v?ku, mate?ského jazyka a pohlaví (
  7. ^ ?ustek, Zby?ek (1998). "Otázka kodifikace spisovného moravského jazyka (The question of codifying a written Moravian language)" (in Czech). University of Tartu. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ Eckert 1993, pp. 143-144
  9. ^ Wilson (2010:21). Compared to standard Czech, Common Czech is characterized by simpler inflection patterns and some phonological differences. Dane?, Franti?ek (2003). "The present-day situation of Czech". Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ Wilson (2010:49f)
  11. ^ Koudela, B?etislav (1964). Vývoj ?eského jazyka a dialektologie. ?eskoslovenské státní pedagogické nakladatelství. p. 173.
  12. ^ Christina Y. Bethin, Slavic Prosody: Language Change and Phonological Theory (1998), p. 217.
  • Wilson, James (2010). Moravians in Prague: A Sociolinguistic Study of Dialect Contact in the Czech Republic. Peter Lang. pp. 49-50.
  • Kortmann, Bernd; van der Auwera, Johan (2011). The Languages and Linguistics of Europe: A Comprehensive Guide. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 3110220261.

External links

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