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-li (chceš-li ...)

Discussion in 'Čeština (Czech)' started by Odriski, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. Odriski Senior Member

    Hi everyone!
    I have a question about the interrogative particle - are there any nterrogative particles existing in Czech languge? I know in Polish, it has "czy", in Russian, it has "ли". But what about in Czech? Can the suffix "-li" be some kind of interrogative particle? eg. Chceš-li kavu? Do you want coffee?
    I think if Czech has interrogative particles, then I can tell if it is a questioning sentence or declarative sentence in a Czech song(because when we sing a song, speaking intonation couldn't be expressed).
    Thank you for your answers in advance.
  2. marsi.ku Junior Member

    "-li" is not an interrogative particle, but a conditional conjunction, it means "if" and is formed from the word "jestli/jestliže", so "chceš-li" means "if you want":tick: and not "do you want?":cross:.
    And to answer you question about some interrogative particle existing: if you want to use someting, you can say "jestlipak" or "zdalipak". However you don't need to use it with each question, because you already know we can ask by intonation or by using some interrogative pronouns like "kdy", "kde", "jak" etc.
  3. Odriski Senior Member

    Thank you!
  4. Tchesko

    Tchesko Senior Member

    Paris 12
    It's true, at least in modern Czech.
    In old Czech, it used to have 3 different functions: (1) interrogative particle for yes-no questions; (2) modal particle (that could be used e.g. to introduce questions in indirect speech or to show that the realisation of what is being said is uncertain); (3) conditional conjunction = if. Source (in Czech)

    The interrogative function of -li is present in a very well known Czech folk song, Ach synku, synku:
    Ach, synku, synku, doma-li jsi? Oh son, (my dear) son, are you at home?
    Today one would rather say Ach, synku, synku, jsi doma? (and even so, the first 3 words would sound quite archaic).

    Actually it's the other way round: jestli is formed from the verbal form jest (former 3rd person sg of být = to be) and -li. So etymologically jestli means "if (he/she/it) is" and jestliže "if (it) is that".

    Exactly. I would just add, to answer Odriski's last question, that in songs you sometimes have to guess according to the context.

    Example (taken from an existing song by Jan Nedvěd):
    Máš má ovečko dávno spát, i píseň ptáků končí.
    Litt. (You) shall / my sheep (=darling) / long time ago / sleep, / even / song / of birds / is ending

    When we listen to the song, we don't know whether it is written with punctuation like above or Máš má ovečko dávno spát? (with a question mark). The intonation is no help here.
    However, given the context, the meaning is clearly declarative: "My darling, you should have been asleep for quite a while already, even the birds' song is about to end."
    Several elements help us tell that the 1st part of the sentence is not a question: the use of máš rather than nemáš and the use of dávno ("should you have been asleep for quite a while already?" would sound strange); and also the 2nd part of the sentence, hinting at a reason why she should be sleeping.
  5. Odriski Senior Member

    Thanks, Tchesko that is to say, when use nemáš, it is more like questioning, right?
  6. Tchesko

    Tchesko Senior Member

    Paris 12

    As for the folk song I mentioned above (Ach synku synku), I'd like to add that many kids misunderstand the 1st verse due to this (nowadays) strange use of -li.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014

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