Czech Spelling and Slavic Languages

Slavic and Germanic languages have considerably more sounds (phonemes) than Latin. It caused technical problems when at the beginning of the second millennium the Latin alphabet was employed for writing these vernaculars. The initial makeshift strategy was to use two or three letters (diagraphs and trigraphs) for the extra sounds. Czech was the first written language among Catholic and Protestant Slavs. Not surprisingly in the 14th century the diagraph [cz] was employed for writing the phoneme /tʃ/, the diagraph [rz] for /r̝/, or the diagraph [ſſ] for /ʃ/. With his 1406 work De orthographia Bohemica, Jan Hus changed this system by introducing diacritical letters for the extra Slavic phonemes. As a result, in today’s Czech orthography each phoneme is reflected by a single letter, for instance, /tʃ/ is written as [č], /r̝/ as [ř], or /ʃ/ as [š]. The sole exception to this rule is the grapheme [ch] retained to denote the sound /x/.

A page from the Czech-language Kronika trojánská [Chronicle of Troja] published in c 1478
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Nationalism and Human Rights

The particularist nature of nationalism is inherently opposed to the universalist character of human rights. In other words, any loyalty to a group (be it a town, village, nation, state, religion, or economic bloc) is directly opposed to loyalty for all Humankind. It is difficult to love all thy neighbors. One tends to love more those who belong to one’s own group.

May 2017

The Fallacy of National Studies

The studies of national specificity, usually focused on this or that national language originated in the 19th-century central Europe. They grew out from two kinds of pursuits. On the one hand, philologists discovered languages, that is, national languages, or speech communities that were quickly equated with nations. While on the other hand, folklorists (ethnographers) discovered peasantry, seen as the forgotten soul and the true body of the nation. Philologists put themselves to the task of endowing their (usually native) languages with ‘scientific’ dictionaries and grammars, while folklorists were collecting a given peasantry’s songs and customs which they saw as equal in quality or even transcending the ancient Homeric tradition. Both groups of scholars soon propounded that the language of an elite (nobility) was ‘impure,’ due to ‘foreign’ influences, usually from Latin, French or German. But an ethnically correlated peasantry’s speech extolled as an epitome of the ‘pure’ national language posed a problem of easily observed spatial variability. The ‘peasant language’ differed from village to village, from region to region, and not at all was free of ‘foreign impurities,’ either. These problems was ‘explained away’ by nobles’ long-century oppression of peasants through the system of serfdom. As a result, the supposedly pristine culture and language of peasantry were corrupted, and the putative early medieval or even ancient nation was fragmented, as serfs were not allowed to leave their villages or parishes. Simultaneously nobility ‘unjustifiably’ separated themselves from their ethnically kin ‘peasant brethren’ (‘betrayed the people’), by allowing a succession of (nationally) foreign monarchs to assume the throne of the (national) kingdom, and by marrying foreign nobles.

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Does Evil Exist?

A strange question to pose, one might say. Why, of course, evil does exist, we all know. But who are these ‘we’? It is people, humans. They seem to know what evil is, because evil things are done to them and they do evil things to others. The distinction between good and evil yields what is known as morality and ethics. People’s deeds may be assessed as good or bad (evil). But it is sufficient to ask whether a tiger killing and devouring an antelope is guilty of an evil act, or for that matter an elephant that in the course of walking across a wood inadvertently squashes a creature under its foot. The popular opinion is that such acts are ethically neutral, neither bad nor good, because that is the way of nature. Nature is opposed to civilization or culture, which are terms for the human (social) world composed of human groups. Evil exists only in the latter sphere, that is, in relations among people. It is a truism to say that there is no evil on the Moon. Evil is an impossibility there, where no human groups exist.

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What Is Power?

Power is a ubiquitous word, time and again repeated by politicians, journalists, social scientists and people at large. One can lust for power or be a victim of it. In the 19th century ‘great powers,’ or a couple of European polities were known under this moniker, because they had built maritime or continent-wide empires. And in the second half of the 20th century the two ‘superpowers’ played out the Cold War across the entire globe. People or a person can have power, or can be powerless, disempowered.

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Cyberspace and the Social Reality

It is man and human groups – as producers and shapers of languages and the social reality – that should be at the heart of the study of language. Without humans and their groups, there is no language or social reality. Language is never an agent or actor in matters linguistic, but only its creators and users are, that is, humans and their groups.

Social reality

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