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This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Czech alphabet is a version of the Latin alphabet, used when writing Czech. Its basic principles are "one sound - one letter" and the addition of diacritical marks above letters to represent sounds alien to Latin. The alphabets of several other East European languages (Slavic, Baltic, but also others, such as Estonian) are based on the Czech alphabet, omitting or adding characters according to their needs. The most notable exception is Polish, which developed its own Roman script independently. The Czech alphabet is also the standard script of Akademija Nauk, used when transliterating Slavic Cyrillic (Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and others).

The alphabet consists of 42 graphemes:

A, Á, B, C, Č, D, Ď, E, É, Ě, F, G, H, Ch, I, Í, J, K, L, M, N, Ň, O, Ó, P, Q, R, Ř, S, Š, T, Ť, U, Ú, Ů, V, W, X, Y, Ý, Z, Ž

The letters Q and W are used exclusively in foreign words, and are replaced with Kv and V once the word becomes "naturalized"; the digraphs dz and are also used mostly for foreign words and do not have a separate place in the alphabet. The letters with háček and čárka are usually treated as variants, hence their exclusion from the standard alphabet.

Contents

History

Most of the diacritic letters were added to the alphabet through reforms brought about by Jan Hus at the beginning of the 15th century to replace the digraphs and trigraphs used to write Czech sounds that had no equivalent in the Latin alphabet. During the 16th century, the letter "Ů" (historically an "Ó" but now pronounced as "Ú") was added to the list. The only digraph left in the alphabet is "Ch", being ordered between the "H" and "I", indicating the sound similar to the German "ch" or the Russian "Х" (IPA: [x]). It is considered a single letter — in some crosswords it takes only one square and in certain instances of vertical writing (as on shop signs) it stays together. The prevalence of single-square ch in crosswords declined somewhat with the widespread use of computers in the Czech Republic[1].

The acute accent (čárka) letters (Á, É, Í, Ó, Ú, Ý) and Ů indicate long vowels. They have the same alphabetical ordering as their non-diacritic counterparts. When there is no difference besides accentuation the accented letters are to be sorted after the unaccented ordered by the complexity of the accent. Therefore in a sorted list of wordforms, kura (of a Gallus) comes before kúra (treatment), which in turn comes before kůra (tree bark). The háček ( ˇ ) indicates historical palatalization of the base letter. The letters Č, Ř, Š, and Ž currently represent postalveolar consonants and are ordered behind their corresponding base letters; while Ď, Ň, Ť represent palatal consonants and have the same alphabetical ordering as their non-diacritic counterparts.

Letter names and pronunciation

Letter Name IPA value
A a á /a/
Á á dlouhé á /aː/
B b /b/
C c /ts/1
Č č čé /tʃ/1
D d /d/
Ď ď ďé /ɟ/
E e é /ɛ/
É é dlouhé é /ɛː/
* Ě ě ije,
é s háčkem
/ɛ/, /jɛ/
F f ef /f/
G g /ɡ/
H h /ɦ/²
Ch ch chá /x/²
I i í,
měkké í
/ɪ/
Í í dlouhé í,
dlouhé měkké í
/iː/
J j /j/
K k /k/
L l el /l/
M m em /m/
N n en /n/
Ň ň /ɲ/
O o ó /o/
Ó ó dlouhé ó /oː/
P p /p/
Q q kvé /kv/
R r er /r/
Ř ř /r̝/³
S s es /s/
Š š /ʃ/
T t /t/
Ť ť ťé /c/
U u ú /u/
Ú ú dlouhé ú,
ú s čárkou
/uː/
* Ů ů ů s kroužkem /uː/
V v /v/
W w dvojité vé /v/
X x iks /ks/
Y y ypsilon,
krátké tvrdé í
/ɪ/
Ý ý dlouhé ypsilon,
dlouhé tvrdé í
/iː/
Z z zet /z/
Ž ž žet /ʒ/

* - the letters Ě and Ů are practically never capitalized; because they cannot occur at the beginning of any word. These rather synthetic forms are only used in the small caps writing style, e.g. in newspaper headlines.

  1. Unofficial ligatures are sometimes used for the transcription of affricates: /ts/, /dz/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/. The actual IPA version supports using two separate letters which can be joined by a tiebar.
  2. Consonants are subject to allophonic voicing or devoicing; the distinction between velar and glottal fricatives is not made so that the voiced allophone of /x/ may be /ɣ/ or /ɦ/ and the voiceless allophone of /ɦ/ may be /h/ or /x/.
  3. The "long-leg R" <ɼ> is sometimes used to transcribe voiced <ř> (unofficially). This character was withdrawn from the IPA and replaced by the "lower-case R" with the "up-tack" diacritic mark, which denotes "raised alveolar trill".

Computer encoding

In computing, several different coding standards have existed for this alphabet, among them:

Notes

  1. ^ For some time in the 1990s, even the difference between accented and unaccented letters was not respected in crosswords, presumably because the software used could not handle accented characters gracefully.
  2. ^ Details in Czech at www.cestina.cz.

See also

External links

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