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the language of the Czechs, one of the official languages of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (the other is Slovak).
Czech is spoken in Czechoslovakia (in Bohemia, Moravia, and part of Silesia) and abroad (in the USA, Austria, Canada, and other countries) by approximately 10 million people (1974, estimate). Czech, which belongs to the West Slavic group of languages, has four groups of dialects: (1) the Bohemian dialects—central (with Prague as the center), southwestern, and northeastern; (2) the Haná (central Moravian) dialects; (3) the Lach dialects (in northeastern Moravia and in Silesia); and (4) the Moravian Slovak dialects (in eastern Moravia to the borders with Slovakia).
The Czech sound system is characterized by the presence of short and long vowels, which, like the diphthong ou, are phonemically distinctive, and by the presence of syllabic r and l. There are only three pairs of hard and soft consonants (n/n’, t/t’, and d/d’). Most consonants are paired as voiced-voiceless. Typical of Czech is the alternation of short and long vowels and consonant alternation. Stress is dynamic and always falls on the first syllable of a word; a secondary stress occurs in polysyllabic words. The morphological system is distinguished by a diversity of declensional and conjugational types. The noun is marked for the categories of gender, number, and case (six cases and a vocative form); masculine nouns are also marked for animateness. All relative, and some qualitative, adjectives are used only in the long form. The verb is marked for the categories of aspect, voice, mood, tense, person, and number; participles and adverbial participles are marked for gender.
The Czech literary language was formed on the basis of the central Bohemian dialect. The earliest written records date from the late 13th century. The written language of the first half of the 19th century was purely a bookish, literary form. The colloquial form of the modern literary language arose in the mid-19th century and existed side by side with everyday speech forms. The writing system is based on the Latin alphabet; diacritical marks are used to indicate sounds specific to the Czech language.
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A. G. SHIROKOVA