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Re: Lack of ambiguity in Czech, was Re: EU allumettes

From:Racsko Tamas <tracsko@...>
Date:Wednesday, May 5, 2004, 20:18
On 5 May 2004 "Mark P. Line" <mark@...> wrote:

> The "Czech is a conlang" and the "last 650 words surviving the Habsburg > oppression" things are urban legends, I'm afraid.
I was silent until now, however, I'm a Slovak-Hungarian biligual from my childhood. The traditional liturgic language of my particulal ethnic group is the so-called "Biblichtina" (i.e. biblical Czech). The latter statement -- "last 650 words surviving the Habsburg oppression" -- is surely a legend. I have books printed in Czech in the Habsburg Empire during the era of "draconian measures". Of course there was an oppression that caused that the literary language was frozen in its 16th century state (this is the Biblichtina). Therefore the language had to be renewed in the period of the national renaissance. This period began in 1809 with the outstanding grammar of the excellent linguist Jozef Dobrovsky' (Lehrgebäude der böhmischen Sprache). So there were always more words in Czech than 650, both in archaic literary language and in the people's language. Even this was another problem: the people's language changed during the 17-18th century while the literary language not. So the same problem occurred as in Greek: Czech had its "katharevusa" and "dimotiki" (or Norwegian "bokmaal" ~ "landsmaal"). And it even has it: the efforts in the 19th century were not enough to entirely eliminate the difference between the literary and the colloquial language. The former statement -- "Czech is a conlang" -- is a true to a certain extent. But almost all of the _literary_ languages are construated lingustic systems (and IMHO rather auxlangs then conlangs). In Central Europe, probably it's a bit more obvious than in an "average" Western Europe language. However, I'm not able to recall the suspected unambiguity of the Czech at all. E.g. in the sentence "Zavolejte sem pani'!" 'Call here the lady/ladies' have six meaning: the Adressee can be 2pl plain, 2sg polite and 2pl polite, while the Object can be in singular or plural. When I say "novy' me<si'c" nobody knows without the context whether I'm talking about the 'new moon' or about the 'new month'. Etc. [Czech notation: e< = e with caron, y' = y with acute, i' = i with acute]