Oldřich Švarný

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Oldřich Švarný (born May 1, 1920 in Velké Němčice ; died April 19, 2011 in Prague ) was a Czech sinologist and phonetician.


Oldřich Švarný had a difficult childhood and was an orphan at the age of seven. In 1939 he graduated from the Public Humanistic Gymnasium in Brno .

Švarný began studying Latin and Greek at Masaryk University in Brno. Shortly afterwards, the Czech universities were closed by the fascist German occupying forces and Švarný was brought to Germany for forced labor . In addition to the forced labor in road construction, he learned Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, English and Russian. Even then he began to be interested in the rhythm of ancient Greek, but also in the Chinese language .

After the war, Švarný studied English and Russian at Masaryk University. After completing his studies in 1947, he taught these two languages ​​for three years at several secondary schools in Brno. In 1950 he began studying sinology and phonetics at Charles University in Prague . Jaroslav Průšek commissioned him to develop a new Czech transcription for Chinese. In 1951, Švarný introduced his transcription system, the Czech transcription from Chinese . This is still used in the Czech Republic - alongside Hànyǔ Pīnyīn  - to this day.

In 1951, Švarný was admitted to the Oriental Institute ( Orientální ústav ), which was later incorporated into the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences . In 1952 he defended his dissertation on the prosodic characteristics of the syllable in Chinese and their changes in coherent speech, based on laboratory analysis in collaboration with Bohuslav Hála. In 1955, together with Karel Ohnesorg, he published a detailed description of the articulation of Chinese vowels and consonants based on x-rays and palatograms .

In 1955 Švarný spent four months with a delegation from the Ministry of Education in the People's Republic of China , where he made contact with the Chinese linguists Lǚ Shūxiāng (吕叔湘) and Xú Shìróng (徐世荣). It would be his only stay in China until the end of his life.

Until the early 1960s, Švarný taught Chinese at Charles University.

In 1963, Švarný defended his second dissertation on the problem of morphemes and words in Chinese. He published several textbooks.

In 1969/1970 Švarný spent a year at Princeton and Berkeley Universities , where he worked with William S.-Y. Wang (Wáng Shìyuán 王 士 元) and studied the phonetics and prosody of spoken Chinese. After returning from the USA, Švarný worked for more than five years on the transcription and analysis of a corpus of spoken Chinese that he had built up for a study dictionary.

Since the crackdown on the Prague Spring in 1968, Švarný has been under political pressure. In 1976 he was dismissed from the Oriental Institute for ideological reasons, but received a contract for external part-time work. He began teaching Chinese at the District Culture House 6 ( Obvodní kulturní dům 6 ) in Prague.

In the 1980s, Švarný dealt with the rhythm of spoken Chinese and with other Asian languages ​​(Sanskrit, Hebrew, Arabic, Tibetan and Vietnamese).

After the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, Švarný was politically rehabilitated. From 1989 to 1991 he taught at the Comenius University in Bratislava , from 1990 to 1997 at the Charles University and from 1994 to 2007 at the Palacký University in Olomouc .

Between 1998 and 2000, Švarný's main work was finally published: Učební slovník jazyka čínského (Learning Dictionary of the Chinese Language) in four volumes, on which he had worked for several decades. It provides an analysis of nearly two thousand monosyllabic morphemes with several thousand example sentences.

Works (selection)


  • Prosodické vlastnosti slabiky v čínštině a jejich modifikace v řeči souvislé . Unpublished dissertation. Prague: Charles University, 1952.
  • K otázce morfému a slova v moderní hovorové čínštině . Unpublished dissertation. Prague: Orientální ústav, 1963.
  • Études experimentales des articulations chinoises (with K. Ohnesorg) (Rozpravy ČSAV 65, řada Společenské vědy, sešit 5; Praha: NČSAV, 1955)
  • K otázce morfému a slova v moderní hovorové čínštině (Praha: Orientální ústav, 1963)
  • Úvod do hovorové čínštiny , 2 vols. Prague: Státní pedagogické nakladatelství, 1967 (with Jarmila Kalousková, Čang Ťing-jü Rotterová and Josef Bartůšek).
  • Gramatika hovorové čínštiny v příkladech . Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Univerzity Komenského, vol. 1: 1991; Vol. 2: 1993 (with O. Lomová and Tchang Jün-ling Rusková).
  • Hovorová čínština v příkladech 1–4 . Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 1998 (with several co-authors).
  • Úvod do studia hovorové čínštiny . Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 1997 (with David Uher).
  • Učební slovník jazyka čínského , 4 vols.Olomouc : Univerzita Palackého, vol. 1 1998, vol. 2 1999, vol. 3 1999, vol. 4 2000.
  • Rok 2000, jazyk jako most i propast . Prague: Mladá fronta, 1992 (with Josef Skácel and Petr Zima).


  • Some remarks on the articulation of the "cerebral" consonants in Indian languages, especially in Tamil. In: Archiv orientální 23,3 (1955), pp. 374–434 (with Kamil Zvelebil).
  • Études expérimentales des articulations chinoises. In: Rozpravy Československé akademie vĕd. Společenské vědy 65.5 (1955) (with Karel Ohnesorg).
  • Reforma písma v Číně. In: Nový Orient 20.7 (1965), pp. 214–215.
  • Je čínština těžká ?. In: Nový Orient 21.4 (1966) p. 116.
  • On the problem of differentiating the unstressed syllables in the Peking dialect. In: Archiv orientální 34 (1966) pp. 165–211 (with Kuan Ming-če).
  • On the question of the reduction of the vowel elements in the atonic syllables in the Beijing dialect. In: Scientific journal of the Karl Marx University, social and linguistic series 16.1 / 2 (1967) pp. 249–250 (with Kuan Ming-če).
  • Prosodic features and their functioning in modern Chinese. In: Papers of the CIC Far Eastern Language Institute . Ann Arbor, 1968, pp. 77-80 (with B. Krones and R. Hanson).
  • Grammatical and phonetic indications in the Chinese dictionary. In: Problems of Lexicography . Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1970, pp. 53–58.
  • Pekingese tones - proposal of a new approach. In: Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Philologica 1, Phonetica Pragensia III . Prague: 1972, pp. 257-260.
  • Variability of tone prominence in Chinese (Pekingese). In: L. Hřebíček, V. Černý u. a. (Ed.): Asian and African languages ​​in social context . Prague: Academia, 1974, pp. 127-186.
  • Vývoj a možnosti znakového písma. In: Jaroslav Bařinka u. a. (Ed.): Kulturní tradice Dálného východu . Prague: Odeon, 1980, pp. 139-182.
  • The functioning of the prosodic features in Chinese (Pekingese). In: Archiv orientální 59.2 (1991), pp. 208–216.
  • Prosodic features in Chinese (Pekingese). Prosodic transcription and statistical tables. In: Archiv orientální 59.3 (1991), pp. 34–254 (with Tchang Jün-ling Rusková).
  • Rhythmical features of spoken Chinese: quantitative and grammatical analysis methodology. In: Rocznik Orientalistyczny 47.2 (1991), pp. 131-137.
  • Prosodical Transcription of Modern Chinese: Experimental Research and Teaching Practice. In: Zdena Palková, Hans-Walter Wordarz (ed.): Papers in Phonetics and Speech Processing (Forum Phoneticum 70). Frankfurt am Main: Hector, 2000, pp. 149–157.


  • Hana Třísková: Jubilant Oldřich Švarný. In: Nový Orient 50.6 (1995), 239.
  • Hana Třísková: Oldřich Švarný — bibliography 1952–1993. In: Bibliografická edice Orientálního ústavu 9.1–2. Praha: Orientální ústav, 1995, pp. 29-46.
  • Hana Třísková: Oldřich Švarný oslavil 85th jubileum. In: Nový Orient 60.3 (2005), pp. 60–61.
  • Hana Třísková: Za Oldřichem Švarným a jeho prozodickou transkripcí čínštiny. In: Nový Orient 66.3 (2011), pp. 40–43.
  • Hana Třísková: Prozodická transkripce čínštiny Oldřicha Švarného: čtyři historické verze. In: Nový Orient 66.4 (2011), pp. 45–50.
  • David Uher: Prof. PhDr. Oldřich Švarný, CSc. — pedagog. In: Studia Orientalia Slovaca 4 (2005), pp. 275-280.

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