“Look, look. A broken window. ”Typically a Prague sentence? According to the Czech dialect expert Jarmila Bachmannová from the Institute for the Czech Language of the Academy of Sciences, it is not so much a Prague dialect as a general Czech, which gradually erases individual dialects.
However, in addition to the dialect disappearing from the Czech language, completely new words are also emerging. Researchers from the Institute for the Czech Language are therefore working on a new glossary, which should have up to one hundred and fifty thousand entries. The three-day conference 100 Years of Our Speech, which commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the linguistic magazine Naše řeč, began on Tuesday at the Academy of Sciences in Prague about the history and future of speech.
Are you interested in what is happening in the regions?
For the price of one edition, you get all the regional supplements.
What dialect is spoken in Prague? Does he have any of his own?
Many people ask us this question, but from a dialectological point of view, it cannot be said that Prague now has any dialects of its own. Today, the dialects unfortunately give way to the influences of general Czech. Even in the villages. So, for example, even in the Krkonoše Mountains, mostly general Czech is spoken, into which the features of the local dialect penetrate. Prague is a big city where people from different dialect areas moved. Not only from the Czech Republic. Therefore, her speech developed completely differently than in traditional villages.
Has it been true in the past that the Prague speech resembles general Czech?
The typical Prague dialect has not been known to us for a long time, not even historically. In addition, the metropolis is located in Central Bohemia, which generally has a minimum of dialects. In Bohemia, the dialects are situated mainly on the outskirts, ie mainly in the Giant Mountains, Chodsko or Doudlebsko. In the case of Prague, we speak more of the so-called Pepíkov Czech, which was not a dialect, but a speech that tended to slang and had no territorial ties. Zizkov slang is typical. In the end, however, it turned out that certain dialect phenomena also occurred in Prague.
What made you find out?
Twenty years ago, one of my colleagues, Pavel Jančák, published his research in the magazine Naše řeč, which is celebrating its anniversary this year. And in which he dealt with the dialects intervening in Prague. He analyzed a huge amount of material that he obtained in the fifties and seventies in Prague and the Central Bohemian cities in its vicinity. And he found that in the generation of Prague speakers born at the turn of the century, certain Prague dialect phenomena still existed. Prague is located exactly at the point where the dialects of the surrounding areas intersect and meet.
So was the Prague dialect a mixture of the surrounding ones?
You could say that. For example, the shortening of vowels penetrated Prague from the north. Rabbit, pond, dumpling. But also lengthening like burning or pain. Short infinitives like pect, utect or nest came here from the south. From the direction of Kladno, the typical form of the possessive adjective – brother’s sweater, brother’s woman. Or, for example, the form of family names – Novákovic family and the like. So several dialect variants from all directions were mixed in Prague, and at a time when the dialect had not dissipated so much, even a native of Prague could say one sentence in four ways: give me some cabbage, cabbage, cabbage and cabbage.
You mentioned Zizkov slang. What can we imagine under that term?
To put it simply, it was the language of dubious existing or criminals. It was a slang aimed at secrecy so that no one from outside could understand the members of that particular group. Unfortunately, the Žižkov slang was not sufficiently described at the time it was alive, ie until about the period of the First Republic. Today, no one will describe him in retrospect because he has disappeared.
Prague local names
Hlavák – Central Station. The older generation may remember Wilsoňák, according to the name of the station during the First Republic.
Pavlák – Náměstí IP Pavlova and the metro station of the same name. However, the name Ípák is also widespread.
Already – There is a dispute between Praguers about the correct slang designation of the South City. Some profess Southern, others claim that the only correct name is Southern.
Sherwood – Vrchlického sady in front of the main station got its name in the wild 1990s due to frequent thefts.
Under the tail – The place under the back of the statue of St. Wenceslas in front of the National Museum has become one of the most famous Prague locations for arranging a meeting.
Kulaťák – Dejvické náměstí was established in 1925 as Vítězné, but the name was changed several times. During the war, it was the square of the Armed Forces, then Dr. Edvard Beneš and since 1952 the October Revolution. However, it is popularly known mainly as Kulaťák.
So can slang be considered part of the dialect? In the case of Prague, you can definitely mention, for example, the slang markings of places. Hlavák, Užák and the like.
It can be considered part of the dialect, but the way of creating slang local expressions does not differ so regionally. Similarly universal, it is such a shortening of words – I go to the host, to the savings. This, in turn, is because the language adapts to economy. Unfortunately, no research on modern Prague speech or the speech of Prague youth is currently underway.
Because to study a dialect today is, figuratively speaking, not in five minutes twelve, but ten minutes after twelve. Even in traditional villages, it is poorly researched. Words disappear the fastest.
For example, are there still typically Prague words?
If you look at the Czech Language Atlas, which, for example, also studies the language of young people in Prague, it will not achieve that the language spoken in Prague coincides with the language of Central Bohemian cities. And the differences can be observed more on the axis of Bohemia versus Moravia. For example, the Czech language in schools for children in Prague and the Czech Republic is referred to as Czech, while in Moravian cities they refer to Czech. Chewing gum is called chewing gum in Prague, chewing gum in Eastern Moravia or even chewing gum. But that the metropolis currently has some words of its own, no.
So can it be said that Prague rather received influences from different parts of the country and did not influence the Czech language so much?
It depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, various dialect influences did mix in Prague, but in the end, it was the metropolis that shaped the Czech language. Because all language innovations, various umlauts and the like spread from the cultural center to the edge. However, some did not go everywhere. That is why we say meadow in Prague, meadow in Hana, meadow in eastern Moravia and meadow in Silesia.
Praguers are sometimes ridiculed outside Prague for allegedly “singing” and stretching endings when speaking. Is it really a Prague specialty?
You are right, I myself sometimes come across such an opinion. And in my opinion, on the contrary, the Moravians are singing again. Man has a sensitive ear for what is not his own. Another such feature is, for example, wide vowels, where the vowel E sounds more like A. It is said that the mouth opens so much in Prague that more dentists are needed because of it. But in my opinion, this is not a special feature of Prague Czech, I would rather say a sign of uncultivated speech. Because you will find native Praguers who don’t talk like that at all.
A year ago, the people of Prague were eagerly discussing the name of the new public transport card. some claimed that Lítačka was not a Prague term and did not fit into the capital. How do you view the chosen name?
In my opinion, the problem was mainly that the word was already semantically occupied, that is, it already had a different meaning. The older generation associates him with the military police, which checked the soldiers to see if they had an abandoned man. There has been a lot of talk about the name, it sounds foreign to me too, but you get used to it. Because language is shifting so much that there is no reason to worry that people will not live with the new meaning.