- Czech language
formerly Bohemian languageWest Slavic language spoken by some 12 million people in the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and southwestern Silesia, all now in the Czech Republic, and in émigré communities, including perhaps a million speakers in North America.The earliest Old Czech texts date from the late 13th century. The distinctive orthographic system of Czech, which adds diacritics to letters of the Latin alphabet to denote consonants that did not exist in Latin and to mark vowel length, was introduced in the early 15th century and is associated with the religious reformer Jan Hus. The system was later adopted by other Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, including Slovak, Slovene, and Croatian (see Serbo-Croatian language). When Czech was revived as a literary language in the early 19th century, Josef Dobrovský based his codification of the language largely on the norms of 16th-century Czech, as exemplified in the Kralice Bible (1579–93), an authoritative translation. This decision has resulted in a wide gulf between Standard Czech, the literary language, and Common Czech, the spoken language.
* * *▪ West Slavic languageWest Slavic language closely related to Slovak (Slovak language), Polish (Polish language), and the Sorbian (Sorbian languages) languages of eastern Germany. It is spoken in the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and southwestern Silesia in the Czech Republic, where it is the official language. Czech is written in the Roman (Latin (Latin alphabet)) alphabet. The oldest records in the language are Czech glosses appearing in Latin and German texts of the 12th century. There was no standardized Czech language during the Old Czech period (11th–14th century), although the literary language became increasingly uniform during the Middle Czech period (15th–16th century), especially because of the innovations made in Czech orthography by the religious reformer Jan Hus (Hus, Jan). Toward the end of this period (in 1593), the Czech Bible translation became the standard of usage.Some characteristics of Czech are that it (like Slovak) retains a distinction between long and short vowels, places the stress on the first syllable of a word or prepositional phrase, and has replaced the original Slavic nasalized vowel sounds with pure vowels. The modern language has seven noun cases, two numbers, three persons in the verb, three tenses (present, past, and future), two voices, and three moods (indicative, imperative, and conditional or subjunctive), and it marks verbs for perfective (completed action) and imperfective (action in process or uncompleted action) aspects. Several dialects exist, including those of Moravia and Silesia, but differences between them are slight; the central dialect, that of 16th–17th-century Prague, is the basis for standard written Czech.
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