Word of the Day

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crazy Czech consonants

Some Czech words have consonants that are not expected in other languages. It has mostly to do with voiced and voiceless consonants, and something tells me that German (dialect? Austrian dialect?) influence has had something to do with it since Czech consonants are unaspirated as Romance ones, thus if Czech has gotten such words directly from French, no drastic changes would have been necessary. Czech has bažant (pheasant), piškoty (biscotti) and the worst of all: pugét (bouquet). I suspect it was like this: a German heard French bouquet, just to give an example, with its unaspirated consonants as pugé and passed it on to Czech, which retains the t, pronounced in Czech, maybe due to etymology. Nonetheless, standard German has Bouquet, with a mute t. This reminds me of what I read in a German book set in Italy once: the author wrote bappo instead of babbo (daddy in Italian). I'm not sure if the perception of aspirated and unaspirated and voiced and voiceless consonants by German speakers explains it, but it's the only thing I've been able to come up with.

Or maybe the word has evolved entirely in Czech, like barva (color), from German Farbe. This word must have been taken so long ago that it has had time to change from farba, as it still is in Slovak, to barva through metathesis and voicing.

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