Czech/Slovak: Mutual Intelligibility

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by Azori, Nov 27, 2010.

  1. Azori

    Azori Senior Member

    Moderator note:

    Split from here. The topic of this split-off is mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovak.

    Yes, Nizozemí is češki (did you use a Czech dictionary?), however, this word cannot be Slovak because Slovak has no neuter nouns ending with a long í, in Slovak it would have to be Nizozemie, with an -ie diphtong, compare SK územie vs CZ území (area), prízemie - přízemí (first floor) etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2011
  2. Orlin Banned

    I simply guessed because I know very little about Czech and Slovak.
  3. Azori

    Azori Senior Member

    And what were you thinking? That Slovak and Czech have identical vocabulary?
  4. nonik Senior Member

    čeština je dialekt slovenštiny a naopak, a zároveň jsou to dva samostatné jazyky.
    co chceš k tomu dodat více :)
  5. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    I think the best description of the situation is that while passive bilingualism is common amongst older Czechs, and amongst Slovaks of all age groups due to Czech language media saturation, they are actually two distinct languages that are not mutually intelligible without a lot of exposure.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2011
  6. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    Your source for this is?
  7. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    I apologize, but I'm not sure which portion you are asking for sources for. The state of passive bilingualism is well documented in the Czech and Slovak linguistic literature. For example,

    As to the claim that mutual intelligibility is declining, most of my knowledge of this phenomena is anecdotal, or from personal experience. My wife is a Slovenka, and whenever traveling throughout the Czech and Slovak republics we witness this often. Older Czechs and Slovaks speak to each other in their own language, and the other responds back in theirs. With younger Czechs this was not possible unless they had more Slovak acquaintances. We even witness this with a young (30's) Bohemian/Moravian expat couple we are friends with here in the US. Moravian is ostensibly closer to Slovak on the dialect continuum, yet the Bohemian partner had to translate to their Moravian partner (and still often does) for the first 2 years they knew my wife.

    All the best.
  8. ilocas2 Senior Member

    I'm sorry but this is just nonsense. To imagine, how a Czech communicates with a Slovak in English, is just laughable. I think that I have enough personal experiences for this statement. Sometimes you don't understand every single word, yes this happens, but overall the mutual intelligibility doesn't fall under 90 % even when people speak fast. Mostly you don't understand 3 words in 10 minutes or something like that.

    And on internet discussions, Youtube etc., Slovak language is everywhere, so you learn the different words quickly, even if you don't watch TV or listen radio.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  9. nonik Senior Member

    This is based on the deep lexicostatistical test made by Zhuravlev (*) from the etymological dictionary of slavic languages in 15 books (ed. O.N. Trubachev, Moscow 1974).
    There is a complex formul...a how to compute statistical distance of languages:

    G(A,B) = SUM i is from 2 to n ((n + 2 - i) * V(A,B)i) / H(A) / H(B), where

    A,B are tested languages,
    n is total number of tested languages
    G(A,B) is congruence of these two languages
    H(A), H(B) is inherited dictionary from common root of these two languages
    V(A,B)i is isoglossa

    In this formula, the higher value has isoglossa limited to only two languages and the lower number has isoglossa, which is common for more languages.

    The highest number of profimity is between upper and lower lusatian sorbian: 1.93,
    Bulgarian-Slavomacedonian has 1.73,
    Czech-Slovak has 1.36,
    Bielorusian-Russian has 1.27,
    Ukrainian-Russian has 1.20 (but ukrainians learn Russian as well) and
    Polish-Bulgarian has only 0.93 etc.

    If languages have proximity at least 1.1, they can be assigned into one group, but this approach goes intoa lot of such similar solutions.

    For mutual understanding of ordinary people You need to have at least 1.2.
    Old Slavonic has value 1.15 (to Polish) or better (1.27 to Czech, for example) to modern slavic languages
  10. nonik Senior Member

    My nephew and niece were exposed to Slovak language just one week on the wacations in Rhodos.
    They have never before were exposed to slovak language.
    In hotel komplex, the animators were young people from slovak, who speak just slovak and didnt speak czech.
    My nephew and niece (12 and 7), they did not have problem with understanding, yes they were suprised by the sound of slovak language.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  11. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    I never said that the Czechs and Slovaks in question speak English to each other. I said the wife ended up translating quite a bit to the husband. Ie, verbs and a good number of nouns are different, so Czech equivalents had to be given. You are adding something that was not in my initial statement, implicitly, or explicitly.

    I don't believe this is such a small number for most people, and I don't think everyone is on the internet watching and reading things in Slovak all the time.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  12. nonik Senior Member

    Could you tell us, from exactly what part of former czechoslovakia are those two, that they dont understand each other???
  13. Ayazid Senior Member

    What you are saying quite strange, since I am a young Czech person and I have never had any problem to understand (standard) Slovak in my life, except a few words, mostly related to traditional life in the countryside etc. However, some dialects might be tricky (especially the Eastern ones), but it seems to me that most young Slovaks don't use them anyway. And yes, sometimes you can hear young Czech people claiming that they do not understand Slovak perfectly, but I have never witnessed any case of serious communication problems between Slovaks and Czechs. It's rather laziness or a superficial impression. For example once, I was talking with a Czech guy, who told me that he doesn't understand Slovak well. The we listened to a video in Slovak and suddenly he had never problem to understand it whatsoever.
  14. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    My wife is from Central Slovakia, near Banská Bystrica and Zvolen. She understands Czech, from growing up during the end days of Czechoslovakia, and reading most literature in Czech, watching Czech films, Czech overdubs of English and other foreign films.

    The couple is mixed. She is from Prague, he is from Olomouc.

    I am not saying that there is no mutual comprehension. I am saying there are two languages, and that the distance in understanding is increasing, particularly on the Czech side, because the media saturation of Czech into Slovak is mostly one way.
  15. nonik Senior Member

    Prague, Olomouc, Zvolen, Banská Bystrica...........well, well, well, then I dont see any reason why they have problem with understanding, especially after two years.

    Of course we were exposed to slovak language in TV during Czechoslovakia time and slovak were exposed to czech language.
    Of course there exist some slovak words which are not understand in czech or opposit way. But these few words are not reason to be not understand, even by person who were never exposed slovak or czech.

    My nephew and niece , never exposed slovak language before, didnt have problem in understanding standard slovak language whey they heard it. Yes, I have to admit, they didnt understand a few specific words, but after I explained them these few words, there wasnt any problem after.

    Maybe if somebody speak some special dialect from slovakia, he can have problem to be understand in czech.
  16. nonik Senior Member

  17. Ayazid Senior Member

    That's certainly a nice way of developing language skills, but I do not think that Czechs and Slovaks need such an intense exposure to understand each other's languages. Most of the grammar and vocabulary is identical or very similar and the phonetics are not very different. For other Slavs the difference might be cardinal, but not for us.
  18. ilocas2 Senior Member

    No, they are not on the internet watching and reading things all the time, but it's just sufficient to see or hear an unknown Slovak word once or twice and it's remembered for the rest of life, really. It's much easier than with other languages, I can't explain it.
  19. nonik Senior Member

    It's much easier than with other languages, I can't explain it.....................................................................................................................yes, and few special slovak words, which ordinary czech people dont know, are on the other way very good in communication and understanding with other slavs languages.
  20. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    I'm not going to attempt to refute your personal experiences with mutual intelligibility. I have had different experiences which make me think that it is not as easy for everyone as it has been for yourself and ilocas2.

    This certainly seems to be true. Lower register words in Slovak seem to be more pan-Slavic.
  21. Ayazid Senior Member

    Well, one thing is to say that not all Czechs understand Slovak easily (which I find doubtful) and something quite different is to state that Czech and Slovak:

    I don't think that even some kids growing up in Northern Bohemia without any contact with Slovaks would find Slovak language to be unintelligible, maybe only if they had to deal with a 90 years old toothless villager from Eastern Slovakia :D
  22. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    Actually, that is saying the same thing.

    There are enough common vocabulary differences that I don't believe that without repeated exposure, one will understand. Compare the common names for body parts, names of the months, etc. These are things that come up in conversation regularly, but have many different words.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  23. nonik Senior Member

    I'm not going to attempt to refute your personal experiences with mutual intelligibility. I have had different experiences which make me think that it is not as easy for everyone as it has been for yourself and ilocas2................................................................................Let it be, I belive you, people can have different experiences.

    This certainly seems to be true. Lower register words in Slovak seem to be more pan-Slavic. ...............................................maybe, I am not expert, some people from poland or former yugoslavia said to me, that they understand slovak muche more better than czech.
    and about the written slavs language, I read somewhere, that if some schollars did not destroy old writting system evolved from OS (old slavonic) time, there would be much more better understanding betwen them.
    Because wriitting acording phonetics destroyed morphologic root of word, and thus the word is becoming nonunderstandable for others slavs .
  24. Ayazid Senior Member

    It doesn't, at least for me. I find Slovak easily understandable without a lot of exposure, Polish rather difficult, but highly intelligible after some time of exposure and learning the differences, Bulgarian almost completely unintelligible and needing a serious study to really understand it and Lithuanian is all Greek to me :D No surprise, since it reflects how closely related these languages are to my own.
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  25. Ayazid Senior Member

    The common names for body parts are mostly identical or very similar and the names of the months are different, but people acquainted with the international names of the months will understand them even in the case of those who don't, it still can't make a whole sentence unintelligible, just to cause occasional misunderstandings.
  26. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    Which common body parts do you think are similar?
  27. nonik Senior Member

    Compare the common names for body parts, names of the months, etc. These are things that come up in conversation regularly, but have many different words., you should choose something better than body parts or months:)))

    body parts are not so differrent except few words, and about months, you could always say....first months, second months a everybody will understand.

    PS....slovak name of month before adopting them from latin language was almost identical to czech, except 2 of them, i think.
  28. nonik Senior Member

    Which common body parts do you think are similar? ................guys, you should writte which are not identical, it is better way.
  29. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    záda - chrbát
    játra - pečeň
    jícen - pažerák
    játra - pečeň
    chrbát - záda
    kyčel - bedro
  30. Ayazid Senior Member

    Well, I supposed that you are fluent in both Czech and Slovak, but actually as far as I know they are all similar, except pery and chrbát (related to the Czech hřbet, by the way) which are rty and záda in Czech. Certainly not something what would make a conversion incomprehensible.
  31. Ayazid Senior Member

    Ok, there are more of them, but unless the people were talking about anatomy it wouldn't cause them serious troubles in understanding each other.:rolleyes:

    hlava - hlava
    nohy - nohy
    ruce - ruky
    prsty - prsty
    oči - oči
    krk - krk
    tvář - tvár

    Some more common ones ;)
  32. nonik Senior Member

    just tell me how many times you need to talk about you anatomy unless you are 75 old:)))
  33. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    So not being able to talk a sore back from work, or bitch about a liver hurting from drinking too much means you can have a conversation easily?

    The English equivalents of the words listed above are common enough that anyone with a basic education would use them regularly to describe any minor physical distress they are experiencing.
  34. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    Keep sitting at the computer for a few years, and then tell me you won't be griping about back pain :D

    Anyway, none of those are specialist terms in Slovak. Most Slovak anatomical terms are derived from Latin.
  35. nonik Senior Member

    So not being able to talk a sore back from work, or bitch about a liver hurting from drinking too much means you can have a conversation easily?, you can say it easily in diferent way, if you are not dumb.
  36. nonik Senior Member

    Latin was only common language betwen nations lived in Ungarian kingdom, maybe that is way slovak months are adopted from latin.
  37. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    The point is, you shouldn't have to avoid using common terms like "môj chrbát"/"my back" if they are so easily understood. This is lower register vocabulary, not specialist higher register in any way.

    There are many other terms in the lower register that are totally different: pork meat-> bravčové mäso / vepřové maso, potato -> zemiak / brambor, and so on.

    If you know these words, it means you have been exposed to them.
  38. nonik Senior Member

    the words like CHRBAT, PECEN, OBLICKA, POCUVAJ, HITRO etc. can be easily explained by the others common words which are shared in both languages.
    If somebody is not able do that, well than I have to say, that He or She is not have a piece of brain in the head.
  39. Ayazid Senior Member

    Well, who forces you to talk about such unpleasant things with anybody after all? :D And yes, it is perfectly possible for the average Czech person to talk with the average Slovak person about a variety of topics and understand each other very well, except a few words here and there, which might be easily explained or are clear from the context, just like the ones you mentioned.
  40. nonik Senior Member

    I didnt know meaning of some words from slovak language even untill my 30, but when I meet slovak person, and he used those words, and I ask him, what does that menas, he would able very easilly to do that by different way.
    And as from my experiences, this is able even for poland,russian and serbo-chroatians.
  41. Ayazid Senior Member

    I do not avoid using terms like "moje záda", when I talk with Slovaks and even if I met some who wouldn't know what it means, I could explain to them the meaning very easily, trust me :D

    The same thing for these other words, you can just say "maso z prasat", when asked what's the meaning of "vepřové maso". Again, not an unsurmountable problem. It still doesn't justify your premise that "Czech and Slovak are mutually unintelligible without a lot of exposure."
  42. Ayazid Senior Member

    I am sure that until now I don't know many Slovak words, so I wonder why I have always been able to communicate with them so well :D
  43. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    These statement also don't contradict the statement, because you could use the same types of statements with Serbs and Poles.
  44. nonik Senior Member

    czech....brambory....but also zemáky (slightly archaic, connected to zem-ground), even moravian krumple, which is understand even so far in serbo-chroatians.
  45. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    Maybe because they are so familiar with Czech. (devil)
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  46. Ayazid Senior Member

    The lexical, grammatical and fonetical differences between each of these languages and Czech are considerably greater than those which exist between Czech and Slovak, what are you trying to prove here?
  47. ilocas2 Senior Member

    To JamyangNorbu:

    Why are you trying to prove that Czech and Slovak are not mutually intelligibile, when it's utterly obvious that they are? You can't change personal experiences of people.
  48. nonik Senior Member

    Maybe because they are so familiar with Czech. (devil)

    I dont think so, but because according of zurajevski research, which i posted before, betwen slovak-czech is 1,36 point of similarity, and in mutual understandibility for ordinary person you need just 1,2.
  49. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    There are quite a few differences grammatically between Czech and Slovak. Case endings for nouns obviously vary. Despite this, I am not saying that Slovak and Czech are not closer to each than the South Slavic languages. They obviously went through some similar phonetic shifts from common Slavic, despite several pronounced differences as well.

    I am saying that your reasoning given above, that you can just say "maso z prasat" is not a good indicator of mutual intelligibility because you can do the same with these other two languages. Your example was poor. That is all.
  50. JamyangNorbu New Member

    American English
    That was a snarky joke. I hoped this board had the devil smiley which would have made that clear.

    There are different opinions amongst linguists on this issue. So I will leave it at that.

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