The Czech and Slovak Music Society

Czech Language
Pronunciation Guide


The following pronunciation guide was compiled and submitted for your use by
Dr. Geoffrey Chew, Royal Holloway College, University of London


The Czech Alphabet and Pronunciation


A a (short)  u in English but
(long) a in father
B b b (unaspirated as in French)
C c ts in bits
    ch in church
D d d (dental)
d in English dew
e (short) e in met
  (long) e in there; colloquially sometimes shortened as if in French t, or further still
ye in yes
F f f (usually in words of foreign origin)
G g g in go (only in words of foreign origin)
H h voiced h more or less as in inhale
Ch ch ch in loch
I i (short) i in it or in French vif, the same as Cz. y
(long) i in machine; colloquially sometimes shortened
J j y in yes, or (after a vowel) y in boy
K k k (unaspirated as in French)
L l l (medium as in last; can be used as a vowel, as in vlk)
M m m (occasionally used as a vowel, as in osm)
N n n (alveolar)
n in English new
O o (short) o in for
(long) oo in door
P p p (unaspirated as in French)
R r r (rolled as in Scots; can be used as a vowel, as in prst)
r and (English sh) or (s in pleasure) pronounced simultaneously
S s s in see
sh in shall
T t t in take (dental)
T' t' t in English tune (as in Cz. Kt'a)
U u (short) u in put
(long) oo in boot (occurs initially)
(long) oo in boot (occurs medially and finally)
V v v in violin
Y y (short) pronounced as short i
(long) pronounced as long
Z z z in zebra
sh, or s in pleasure
- qu (pronounced kv), w (pronounced v) and x (pronounced ks) appear only in foreign words. D represents the single sound of English j in jelly and occurs mainly in words of foreign origin, e.g., dungle (jungle).

Diphthongs:
 

aj, j like English eye
ej ai in bait
j like English yea
ij, j, yj ee with audible final y
oj oy in boy
uj, j oi in doing
au ow in now, in foreign words only (e.g., auto)
eu eu as in Latin deus, in foreign words only (e.g., neutrln)
ou ow in show, frequent in Czech words
- Additional letters found in Slovak and sometimes in dialect but not standard in Czech:

, L', l', , , ,


Source: R.G.A. de Bray, Guide to the Slavonic Languages, revised edition (London: Dent, 1969), p. 445+.


The Czech Dialects

Czech dialects fall into six groups:

From the point of view of Slavonic literary languages, the most important group for Czech is the Central group, which forms the basis of modern literary Czech and whose phonetic characteristics are those of colloquial Czech in general and also features of Prague speech in particular.

The Czecho-Moravian dialects form a transition from the Czech dialects to the Hank dialect of Moravia (and to Slovak). Here the Czech pehlska or vowel mutation is unknown, and is used for t', e.g.:

Soft dentals are preserved before e in the Past Participle Passive and Infinitive, e.g.: The Hank dialects are notable especially for their peculiar vowels. They have o, for original Czech u, , e.g.: is used for , , and ej, e.g.: and e is sometimes used for i and y, e.g.: Both h and v are used prothetically, e.g.: The Czech vowel mutation is unknown. And is used for t' as above. Short vowels in roots agree with Slovak, e.g.: and likewise the -ite ending for the Imperative, e.g.: The Lach dialects are clearly a transition to Polish and have features in common with Eastern Slovak, although the latter and the Lach dialects are not geographically contiguous. Such common features are the absence of long vowels, the fixed stress accent on the penultimate syllable, dz for Czech z from dj, e.g.: soft and for soft s and z, e.g.: soft and d for t' and d' occurring also before all e's of whatever origin, e.g.: n also is palatalized before all e's, e.g.: y is pronounced as in Polish, e.g.: l is either soft () or hard (l) as in Polish.

Instrumental singular of adjectives ends in -ym, e.g. dobrym

is used for t', as in other Czech dialects, Slovak and Polish, e.g.:

A vowel is inserted with vocalic l and usually with vocalic r.

o replaces a, as in the neighboring Polish dialects, e.g.:

The Czech pehlska is not known.

As in Slovak, Church Slavonic becomes a and ia, e.g.:

Animates have Accusative plural = Genitive plural, e.g.: These features all point to the fact that the Lach dialects of Czech are very archaic. Being far from the center where the later changes originated, they escaped their influence and preserved many old features such as are also preserved in Polish and Slovak today.

Finally, there is a dialect known as moravsk sloventina, spoken in southern Moravia in the region known as Slovcko, a transition dialect to Slovak.


Editor's note: A good introduction to the dialect used in Prague is available in Charles E. Townsend's A Description of Spoken Prague Czech (Columbus, Ohio: Slavica Publishers, 1990).


Any comments regarding the above guide should be directed to Brian Locke <karlstejn23@hotmail.com>.


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