Proposed Czech profile

Discuss the HTLAL forum's past and its future
Theodisce
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Languages: Polish (native), speaks: English, Czech, German, Russian, French, Spanish. Writes in: Latin. Understands: Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Slovak, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian/Croatian. Studies for passive competence in: Dutch, Romanian, Slovene, Bulgarian
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Theodisce » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:50 pm

Thank you Cavesa for the clarification. Do you have any idea where the notion of the short version being colloquial shared at some point by some Czech learners come from? From textbooks? And on more question regarding the register: would a university professor use the version without the verb být in a lecture and if so, would it be understood as a part of the normal "lecture register" as opposed to a joke or a parody? I don't want to suggest anything, I'm just curious.

The Masaryk example was meant to be inconclusive :D. Actually I didn't read the book, I have an audiobook version which I did enjoy (for example, Masaryk describes his German speaking Latin teacher who pronounced names like Zeus as if they were German, an attitude that his Czech students didn't find correct and so they started to employ some features of Czech phonetics in their pronunciation of Latin to the enragement of the teacher) . Btw., I saw the third person singular form of být rendered as jest in a few texts from the early 19th century.
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Cavesa
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Cavesa » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:16 pm

Theodisce wrote:Thank you Cavesa for the clarification. Do you have any idea where the notion of the short version being colloquial shared at some point by some Czech learners come from? From textbooks? And on more question regarding the register: would a university professor use the version without the verb být in a lecture and if so, would it be understood as a part of the normal "lecture register" as opposed to a joke or a parody? I don't want to suggest anything, I'm just curious.

The Masaryk example was meant to be inconclusive :D. Actually I didn't read the book, I have an audiobook version which I did enjoy (for example, Masaryk describes his German speaking Latin teacher who pronounced names like Zeus as if they were German, an attitude that his Czech students didn't find correct and so they started to employ some features of Czech phonetics in their pronunciation of Latin to the enragement of the teacher) . Btw., I saw the third person singular form of být rendered as jest in a few texts from the early 19th century.


The problem many Czech learners don't understand, I don't blame them, having read examples of some ressources they use, is very simple. Czech is no more of a diglossia than other languages, like French or English. Not only the ressources tend to mistake the Prague dialect for Common Czech. "Common Czech" exists, it is in the textbooks for native kids. And those include typical Prague Czech as "Common Czech" examples too, I guess moravian kids find it very funny. But I'd say it is a rather academic discussion about its differences from regional dialects or the differences based on education or social spheres. In the real world, the formal and informal language get mixed a lot, it is a fluid continuum, with extremes being an exception, not the rule.

The language in university lectures is not necessarily strictly formal and standard. It is not on the other extreme of the spectrum either, but many professors will use any language means to make the lecture accessible. Some medicine professors doesn't understand it, true, but the general point of a lecture is to transmit the knowledge, to make people understand something. Not to insist on purity of the language. There are professors who try to be overly formal and the result is often ridiculous, as some create new mistakes. In general, I would say a normal lecture (probably except of linguistic lectures or Czech language lectures) is 75-90% standard. And what is not standard depends a lot on the origin of the lecturer.

Most professors would use any of the versions, depending on the context and their personal taste. Neither of them is inappropriate.

I think this confusion among the Czech learners comes from three main sources.
1.textbooks. Not necessarily because those textbooks are bad, but the explanations there can never be complete, especially without tons of other input, which is something most teachers and students forget.
2.the Czech learner community, which perpetuates some misconceptions. A mistake heard from ten different other learners looks very reliable. I was even being "corrected" by a Czech learner trying to prove me wrong. Nope, I am not like many natives, I know fairly well how my language works. And I know well what a diglossia is, my disagreement is caused by experience, not by being stupid. Some Czech learners online insist on their ideas a lot.
3.ideas taken from examples from the 19th century or the first half of the 20th century. The language has changed enormously since then. And what changed the most is the society. The differences between various registers used to be much stronger, just like the differences between various social spheres. I would guess that the notion of standard vs. common vs. dialect Czech takes roots there.
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Theodisce
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Theodisce » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:57 pm

Thank you, that's fairly exhaustive. It's been many years since you answered my question about diglossia, so that I didn't have to suffer from this particular disease :) . I recall reading on a few occasions that the prominent scholars and lexicographers from the time of the national awakening basically reinvented the language by ignoring the common man's speech and choosing the renaissance literature as a basis for the codification, thus moving the standard language far away from the spoken version. At that time this sounded quite convincingly to me and was even reinforced by one university professor (a Czech native speaker himself) I met. This conversation makes me want to consult some up to date scholarly literature on this subject, which is a gain in a of itself.

I can't remember if somebody used the short version in a lecture setting during my semester in Brno, but I had the feeling (and obviously too little competence to make it an informed opinion) that the register was of the sort I would have expected in that setting based on my experiences in Poland, that is neither too low, neither ridiculously high. I recall the phrase "musíš to cejtit" being used to mimic the colloquial language.
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Cavesa
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Cavesa » Wed Oct 11, 2017 8:49 pm

Theodisce wrote:Thank you, that's fairly exhaustive. It's been many years since you answered my question about diglossia, so that I didn't have to suffer from this particular disease :) . I recall reading on a few occasions that the prominent scholars and lexicographers from the time of the national awakening basically reinvented the language by ignoring the common man's speech and choosing the renaissance literature as a basis for the codification, thus moving the standard language far away from the spoken version. At that time this sounded quite convincingly to me and was even reinforced by one university professor (a Czech native speaker himself) I met. This conversation makes me want to consult some up to date scholarly literature on this subject, which is a gain in a of itself.

I can't remember if somebody used the short version in a lecture setting during my semester in Brno, but I had the feeling (and obviously too little competence to make it an informed opinion) that the register was of the sort I would have expected in that setting based on my experiences in Poland, that is neither too low, neither ridiculously high. I recall the phrase "musíš to cejtit" being used to mimic the colloquial language.


Two thoughts, one to each part of your post.

1. This information is true but it is not the whole truth. Perhaps the professor told you all of it and just parts were remembered (which is normal), I don't know. The differences between Czech spoken in Bohemia and Moravia are significant. And were enormous back in the 19th century. Nowadays, everyone watches the same tv channels and travels 200km away every now and then. The scholars disregarded the langauge spoken by commoners in Prague and surrounding regions and took the ridiculously old books as the base for new norms of the language. But Moravia was by far not as far from that hyperold language as Bohemia. The language there wasn't "as advanced" or "as modern", if I use terms that are understandable, even though I don't mean it in a pejorative way. And this difference is obvious even these days. The standard is, for example the most well known difference between -ý/-ej, different from the "more modern" colloquial language in Prague and surrounding areas. But still close to the colloquial language in Moravia. Moravia differs from the standard language with some regional vocabulary, but the grammar normally used even by teenagers and kids is the standard one.

2.I totally believe this anecdote. But that professor's example is Prague, not general colloquial language. If he was a Brno native, he had been probably ridiculing Prague natives for this many times. People from half the country don't say "Musíš to cEJtit." Not even teenagers, not even uneducated people, not even kids, not even in a pub.

I don't know why it is so, but foreigners are much more willing to believe in diglossia that in the simple and obvious fact that even a small country may be home to distinct regional differences.
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Theodisce
Orange Belt
Posts: 157
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2015 9:18 am
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Languages: Polish (native), speaks: English, Czech, German, Russian, French, Spanish. Writes in: Latin. Understands: Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Slovak, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian/Croatian. Studies for passive competence in: Dutch, Romanian, Slovene, Bulgarian
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Theodisce » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:59 pm

I believe the professor was ridiculing certain attitudes (like relying on subjective feelings in making various life choices as opposed to more serious but not always emotionally attractive commitments) and he used the Prague (is there an English adjective for the city?) feature to further alienate his audience from the imagined person expressing that attitude or/and to discredit it in the eyes of his (most probably predominantly) Moravian students. Do you think it's plausible? BTW, if I'm not mistaken, this kind of diphthongisation is heavily employed in a series I watched some months ago (Kriminálka Anděl- I woudn't have watched it, had it not been a Czech series that I could easily access. I discovered the joy of TV series only recently and haven't yet gathered much experience regarding the language used in Czech series. I really regret Pustina was only a mini series).
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Cavesa
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Cavesa » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:01 pm

Theodisce wrote:I believe the professor was ridiculing certain attitudes (like relying on subjective feelings in making various life choices as opposed to more serious but not always emotionally attractive commitments) and he used the Prague (is there an English adjective for the city?) feature to further alienate his audience from the imagined person expressing that attitude or/and to discredit it in the eyes of his (most probably predominantly) Moravian students. Do you think it's plausible? BTW, if I'm not mistaken, this kind of diphthongisation is heavily employed in a series I watched some months ago (Kriminálka Anděl- I woudn't have watched it, had it not been a Czech series that I could easily access. I discovered the joy of TV series only recently and haven't yet gathered much experience regarding the language used in Czech series. I really regret Pustina was only a mini series).


Yes, this is certainly plausible. Moravians find the Prague dialect simply a symptom of stupidity of inhabitants of the capital city. But the rudest, most arrogant, and worst xxxx (can't remember any polite word for this) in Prague are usually among the newcomers. Typically a person who hates Prague till the day they move in, and hate the others from that day on :-D

Kriminálka Anděl is located in Prague, so the diphtongisation is absolutely necessary there. We simply use it. This series is quite fun, even though definitely not a masterpiece. I watched it a few months ago. Too bad it ended after just four series, because it was one of the best examples of contemporary Czech series of this genre. And a few episodes were really good and original, but those were an exception.

If you want an excellent one, I recommend Kapitán Exner, which is new, the first season is now running. It is very different from most, as it is based on successful books by Václav Erben. The stories are adapted to our times (I don't know how old the books are, perhaps 40 years? 50?), but it is still very clear the stories are well thought out and the makers of the series tried to respect the author as much as possible. The actors (very good ones) will show you various registers of the language, especially as two out of three members of the main team are proud of looking well educated at all times. The third is a much more "regular" person, and uses -ej normally. :-D The rest of the characters comes from various social spheres, even though majority are intellectuals. The cases are put in very interesting locations, such as the Prague zoo, an archeology site, or an experimental faculty belonging to the army. The humour is very tasteful, both the dialogues and situations. I really should read the books. My mother is likely to have them in her collection of original Czech crime novels. I think one of the advantages of this series for learners is the clear sound in the dialogues. Some series, no matter where from, have very loud back noise, making it hard to understand. Not this one. The tempo of dialogues is natural, yet not too fast. The makers of this series had a clear intention to distinguish it from the modern CSI Miami type series (which Kriminálka Anděl takes some inspiration from), without this series being any less thrilling.

As we are talking about contemporary Czech crime series, I would like to warn you against Policie Modrava. The landscapes of the Šumava mountains are beautiful, but that's about it. Boring dialogues, boring crimes, boring characters. I watched half an episode, perhaps a whole one, I cannot even remember.

http://play.iprima.cz/kapitan-exner
I hope there is no region block.
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Theodisce
Orange Belt
Posts: 157
Joined: Sun Oct 04, 2015 9:18 am
Location: Germany
Languages: Polish (native), speaks: English, Czech, German, Russian, French, Spanish. Writes in: Latin. Understands: Ancient Greek, Modern Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Slovak, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian/Croatian. Studies for passive competence in: Dutch, Romanian, Slovene, Bulgarian
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Theodisce » Sun Oct 15, 2017 11:39 am

Thank you so much for you suggestions and warnings!
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