Czech (?eština in Czech) is a Western Slavic language spoken in the Czech Republic and by some people in Slovakia; according to Omniglot, it is most closely related to Slovak, Polish and Sorbian. Anyone who speaks another language will recognize a number of grammatical features in Czech, though Czech presents unique challenges such as initial-syllable stress and some rare sounds.
Czech has a fairly large alphabet, but one that, fortunately for the English speaker, is based on the Latin alphabet. The Czech alphabet is: Aa, Áá, Bb, Cc, ??, Dd, ?d', Ee, Éé, ??, Ff, Gg, Hh, Chch, Ii, Íí, Jj, Kk, Ll, Mm, Nn, ??, Oo, Óó, Pp, Qq, Rr, ??, Ss, Šš, Tt, ?t', Uu, Úú?, Vv, Ww, Xx, Yy, Ýý, Zz, Žž.
Vowels with ´ are pronounced longer than other letters (the names for these letters are dlouhé, which means long, followed by the name of the vowel) and can be found anywhere within a word. The circumflex (?) above certain letters is called a ha?ek. The most difficult letter for foreigners (even ones from surrounding countries) is ?, which is pronounced something like a flapped r plus the \"s\" in \"measure.\" To hear the Czech alphabet pronounced, visit locallingo.com.
Pronunciation and Stress
Czech has initial stress, which means that the stress is located on the first syllable of every word. This can be difficult for foreigners to discern because of long vowels in positions outside the stressed syllable. There is no vowel shortening as there is in Russian, but voiced consonants do devoice at the end of a word and voiceless consonants become voiced when followed by a voiced consonant. For instance, chléb, the word for bread, is pronounced [chlép], while the word kdo (who?) is pronounced [gdo].
Czech is famous around the world for its words that have no vowels; this, however, is only made possible by syllabic consonants--consonants with an implied semi-vowel. The liquids r and l form syllables in Czech, creating words like \"vlk\" (wolf) and \"krk\" (church). Krk appears in the famous tongue-twister \"str? prst skrz krk,\" which means \"stick [your] finger through [your] throat.\"
Czech has three genders of noun: masculine, feminine and neuter. Most masculine nouns end in a consonant, such as \"pes\" (dog) and \"den\" (day), although some end in -a, such as \"turista,\" while some end in -e, like \"soudce.\" Feminine nouns tend to end in -a, like \"kniha\" (book), while some may end in -e, or a hard or soft consonant. Neuter nouns often end in -o or -e, like m?sto (city--note that, as in all words in which ? follows m, this is pronounced \"mnyesto\") and mo?e (sea), while some neuter nouns end in í, like \"stavení\" (building).
The plural of Czech nouns can be difficult to form and is tied closely to how the word ends. A masculine noun ending in a hard consonant adds -y, as in \"hrady\" (castles). A masculine word like \"stroj\" (machine) adds -e (stroje). Most animate masculine nouns take the soft ending -i, like soudci (judges) or muži (men). Some masculine animate nouns take -ové as an ending (pedagogové--educators), and some nouns use the endings interchangeably (profeso?i or profesorové--professors).
Feminine nouns ending in -a take -y as an ending (knihy). Those that end in -e also end in -e in the plural (r?že). Those that end in a soft consonant, like ?, end in ? in the plural (píse?, song becomes písn?). Those that end in a hard consonant in the singular take the plural -i (noci, nights).
Neuter nouns ending in -o in the singular take the plural -a (m?sta). Some neuter nouns ending in -e remain the same in the plural, like mo?e, but others like \"zví?e\" (animal) take the ending -ata (zví?ata). Neuter nouns ending in -í also have the same form in the plural.
Czech uses a system of pronouns similar to those found in Russian and also uses honorifics which may be familiar to speakers of Polish. The personal pronouns of Czech are: já (I), ty (you, singular informal), on/ona/ona (he/she/it), my (we), vy (you plural or formal), oni/ony/ona (they masculine/feminine/neuter). Note the use of the special form of \"they\" for neuter nouns, which is not present in other Slavic languages. Czech honorifics include pán (Mr.) paní (Mrs., Ms.) and sle?na (Miss).
Just as nouns, Czech adjectives have three genders. They are also divided into two groups: those that end in ý, like \"mladý\" (young) and those that end in í, like jidelní (food). In the nominative singular, -ý adjectives are marked for gender, (mladý, mladá, mladé--masculine/feminine/neuter), while -í adjectives are not.
Czech also retains the distinction between inanimate and masculine animate in adjectives: the plural of masculine animate adjectives ending in -ý is -í (mladí soudci--young judges). The plural of feminine adjectives ending is -é. The plural of neuter adjectives is -á. The plural of all adjectives which end in -í in the nominative singular is -í.
Most verbs in Czech have at least two aspects, a concept unfamiliar to English speakers. Verbs of the imperfective aspect are used to discuss actions that are, were or will be in progress, while perfective verbs are used to talk about actions that were or will be completed (they have no present tense). For instance, the verb \"to buy\" has two aspects: \"Nakupovat\" is the imperfective and \"koupit\" is the perfective.
Czech makes use of seven noun, pronoun and adjective cases to show how words function within their clause. These are: nominative (subject), genitive (\"of\" ), dative (indirect object), accusative (direct object), vocative (used to get the attention of the word spoken), locative (location--cannot be used without a preposition) and instrumental (with). Cases are governed by verbs and prepositions.