Czech is the official language spoken in the Czech Republic, and also the dominant language of the country. The total number of Czech speakers in the Czech Republic is estimated at over 10.7 million people. Data from a 2012 Eurobarometer survey showed that 98% of all citizens of the Czech Republic were defined as Czech speakers. Czech is also recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. Other languages spoken in the country include Slovak and Polish, which are spoken by a small percentage of the population.
Official Language of the Czech Republic
The origin of the Czech language is traced back to the 9th and 10th centuries, when Czech and Slovak branched from the West Slavic language group. During this period through to the 20th century, the Czech language was known as Bohemian language. The earliest records written in Czech appeared in the 13th and 14th centuries. A statement in the 13th century Litomerice charter is the oldest known complete sentence written in the language. The 14th century was the period when the language was further developed and was also the period when the Bible was first translated completely to Czech. The first attempt at the standardization of Czech orthography was made during the Bohemian Reformation of the 15th century. The modern standardized Czech language emerged in the late 18th century and early 19th century, as the country was undergoing the Czech National Revival. The standardization was primarily based on a publication by Josef Dobrovsky, a 19th-century linguist.
Varieties of the Czech Language
The Czech language is a classified under the Indo-European language family, and as a member of the Czech-Slovak language group, it is closely related to the Slovak language. There are three main varieties of Czech language used in the Czech Republic, which are geographically defined. Each of the three varieties has distinct characteristics which set them apart particularly in their phonology and morphology. The varieties include Common Czech, Bohemian dialects, and Moravian dialects. Common Czech is the variety with the highest number of native speakers who are predominantly found around Czech Republic’s capital city, Prague. Common Czech is widely used in print and electronic media, but the variety is yet to be codified. The Moravian dialect is another distinct variety of the Czech language. This variety is predominantly used in the Czech Silesia and Moravia regions, and is estimated to have about 108,000 users all over the Czech Republic. The Moravian variety is made up of five dialects: Cieszyn Silesian, Bohemian-Moravian, Lach, Eastern, and Central Moravian dialects. The other variant is the Bohemian dialects, which are comprised of three dialects: Central Bohemian, Southwestern Bohemian, and Northeastern Bohemian dialects. In recent years, the use of the Bohemian variant language in the Czech Republic has drastically declined, caused by public stigmatization because the Bohemian dialects are linked to the lower class of Czechs.
Minority Languages Spoken in the Czech Republic
Slovak and Polish are the main minority languages spoken in the Czech Republic. Slovak and Polish are closely related to the Czech language, as the three languages are from the West Slavic language group. Slovak is spoken as the first language by a small population of Slovak people in the country. The Polish dialect spoken in the country is that of the Gorals people who inhabit the mountainous region on the Czech-Poland border.