Common Bohemian

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Common Bohemian or Common Czech (Czech obecná čeština ) is the oral form of the Czech language that is used in everyday communication.

Common Bohemian is generally defined as an interdialect that is common in Bohemia and Western Moravia . It differs from the written form of the Czech language, which is mostly perceived as unnatural in informal communication (in spoken form called Hovorová čeština ). Common Bohemian is not codified, which is why it develops faster than the written language . Some of their developments found their way into the written forms of Czech over time.

Historical background

The development of the special discrepancy between the spoken language and the written language in Czech, with which it occupies an exposed position among the Slavic languages , has its reasons in the history of Bohemia . After the Battle of White Mountain was lost for the Czechs in 1620 and this had prepared the ground for the following violent Counter-Reformation (ie recatholization of the largely Reformed population) under the Habsburg monarchy , a large part of the Czech-speaking elite left the country. The Czech language rapidly lost its importance in favor of German .

When, in the course of the so-called national rebirth of the Czechs from the end of the 18th century, Czech was reanimated as a written language - the Slavist Josef Dobrovský was in charge - this was done on the basis of the so-called Veleslavin Czech , the language of the Bohemian brothers and the Kralitz Bible . The further development of the spoken Czech language in its dialects over the past 300 years was not taken into account. One reason for this was that the spoken language had adopted many elements of German during the centuries of German-speaking rule, which Dobrovský judged negatively and did not want to fix it by adopting the new written language.

The expectation that the spoken form of the high-level language would establish itself alongside the dialects (comparable to the situation in Germany ) was not fulfilled. Instead, common Bohemian emerged from the Bohemian dialects as Koine . In communist times , the existence of common Bohemian was officially ignored and a distinction was only made between a written and a spoken form and dialects.


Empirical surveys have shown that especially the Bohemian part of the Czech Republic is shaped by the Common Bohemia , whereby an expansion to Moravian territory is also becoming apparent. In Bohemia, the family context is entirely determined by the common Bohemian. In the kindergarten, the children prefer the common Bohemian among each other and also by the teachers. It is also widely used in schools. The standard Czech language is only used here in writing or when presenting written (reading) or prepared texts (presentations) orally. While it is used almost exclusively in informal conversation situations, it also dominates formal conversations by around 60%. The level of education of the speakers also plays a role. While about 70% of academics use standard Czech forms in formal conversations, it is only 18% of speakers without a high school diploma. It was also found that the Prague urban population is less inclined towards the Common Bohemia than the inhabitants of the rural areas of Bohemia.

The spread of Common Bohemian in all areas of life, including formal conversation, means that there is hardly any room left for the use of the standard language in addition to written use. It was found that as a result, many Czechs have problems expressing themselves in the standard language - orally or in writing. Again and again there is a demand to adapt the written language to the spoken language, while opponents of this approach demand a solution to the problem by improving the communication of the standard language.

Special features (compared to the standard language)

The main differences between Common Bohemian and the written Czech language are:

1) in the field of phonology :

  • replacing the / i: / with the diphthong / ej /
    • Common Bohemian dobr ej vs. written language dobr ý 'good'
    • ciz ej ch vs. ciz í ch 'foreign' (genitive)
    • b ej t vs. b ý t 'be'
    • ml ej n vs. ml ý n 'mill'
    • z ej tra vs. z í tra 'tomorrow'
  • replacing the / ɛ: / (in Czech orthography: é ) with an / i: / (hard ý or soft í )
    • čerstv ý ml í ko vs. čerstv é ml é ko 'fresh milk'
    • l í tat vs. l é did 'fly'
    • pol í vka vs. pol é vka 'soup'
  • Simplification of consonant groups or loss of consonants
    • šesnáct vs. šes t náct 'sixteen'
    • dycky vs. dycky 'always'
    • japko vs. jab l ko 'apple'
    • řbitov vs. h řbitov 'cemetery'
    • sem vs. j sem 'I am' (failure of j in the conjugated forms of být )
    • nes vs. nes l 'he wore' (failure of the l in the l participle with the preceding consonant)
  • Shortening of vowels
    • dom u vs. dom ů 'home',
    • slyš i m vs. slyš í m 'I hear',
    • knedl i ky vs. knedl í ky 'dumplings' (plural)
  • Prosthetic v in the initial sound
    • v on vs. o n 'he'
    • v okno vs. o kno 'window'
    • v oči vs. o či 'eyes'
    • v otevřít vs. o tevřít 'open'
    • v oblíkat se vs. o blékat se ' to get dressed'
    • v ostrej vs. o strý 'spicy'
  • Contraction of the auxiliary verb in the past tense with the preceding word
    • Pročs mi to neřek? vs. Proč jsi mi to neřekl? 'Why didn't you tell me?'

2) in the field of morphology :

  • Unification of the enjoyment-specific adjective endings in the nominative plural
    • times ý vs. sometimes í (mask., animate), sometimes é (mask., inanimate; fem.) and sometimes á (neutr.) 'small'
  • Ending -ama in the instrumental plural of all declension classes, with the adjectives -ýma / -ejma / -ima , e.g. B. s naš ima spolužák ama 'with our classmates', s tě ma mal ejma dět ma 'with these small children' instead of written language: s naš imi spolužák y , s tě mi mal ými dět mi .

3) in the field of syntax :

  • Use of the exclusively temporal conjunction když in the standard language, also conditionally (comparable to when in German). ''
  • Own system of conjunctions developed due to phonetic developments: esli for jestli 'if', dyby for kdyby 'if' (conditional), prže for protože 'because', páč for poněvadž 'because'
  • Use of the “ pronoun universaleco instead of the standard relative pronoun který etc. (comparable to where in the southern German language area).
  • Avoidance of the possessive pronoun svůj in favor of můj, tvůj etc. in the 1st and 2nd person. The pronoun svůj can be used for all three grammatical persons and refers to the subject of the sentence. Its failure is possibly the result of a German influence, since such a pronoun does not exist in the German language, in contrast to all Slavic languages .

Situation in Moravia

Not all of these phenomena are evident in East Moravia. Since the vowels are generally spoken briefly in north-eastern Moravia and Silesia, they retain their original sound value ( dobry , čerstve mleko, etc.). A clear convergence with Slovak can be seen in South Moravia .


  • Lenka Bayer: use of language vs. Language setting in Czech. An empirical and sociolinguistic study in western Bohemia and Prague . Sagner, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-87690-838-8 .
  • P. Karlík, M. Nekula, J. Pleskalová (eds.): Encyklopedický slovník češtiny . Lidové noviny, Praha 2002, ISBN 80-7106-484-X .
  • Peter Kosta: Problems of Švejk translations in the West and South Slavic languages: linguistic studies on the translation of literary texts . Sagner, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-87690-353-X . P. 111ff.