Český jazykový atlas

Český jazykový atlas. 5 vols. Vol. 1, ed. by Jan Balhar and Pavel Jančák. Prague: Academia,1992. Pp. 427; Vol. 2, ed. by Jan Balhar and Pavel Jančák. Prague: Academia, 1997. Pp. 507; Vol. 3, ed. by Jan Balhar. Prague: Academia, 1999. Pp. 577; Vol. 4, ed. by Jan Balhar. Prague: Academia, 2002. Pp. 626; Vol. 5, ed. by Jan Balhar. Prague: Academia, 2005. Pp. 680. ISBN 8020000135.

Reviewed by Zdenek Salzmann, Northern Arizona University

The linguistic atlas of the Czech language (hereafter Atlas) has been prepared by the dialectological team of the Institute for the Czech Language of the Czech Republic’s Academy of Sciences. It is based on research conducted between 1964 and 1976 in 420 rural communities and 57 cities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Completed last among the atlases of West Slavic languages, it offers several important features: it contains information about the speech of urban youth and the generation of their grandparents, includes data concerning the state of spoken Czech in the cities of the border areas resettled after World War II, and enhances its broad coverage by covering several aspects of Czech syntax. In addition, the Atlas makes references to the Czech dialects spoken in several places outside the Czech Republic—in Poland (one community), Croatia (4), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1), Yugoslavia (2), and Romania (5).

The first three volumes record the geographical distribution of selected words of a number of semantic domains, among them those pertaining to kinship terms, body parts, diseases, bodily activities, foods, kitchen utensils, gardens and orchards, fauna, flora, landscape, time and weather, villages in the past and at present, amusements, customs, farmsteads, farm work, livestock, and poultry. Altogether 774 headwords and thousands of their regional or local dialectal equivalents are discussed and their geographical distribution shown on maps. A thorough commentary accompanying each map consists of six sections: (i) a list of all elicited responses; (ii) a definition of the headword and the results of the field inquiry; (iii) the geographical distribution of the headword and of its dialectal equivalents from a linguistic viewpoint; (iv) an analysis of the lexemes shown on the maps in order to explain the development of the dialectal variants over time, using as sources the existing dictionaries of Old Czech, dictionaries published during the period of the national revival (from the end of the eighteenth century to the 1880s), modern dictionaries of Standard Czech, dictionaries of regional dialects, and etymological dictionaries of Czech; (v) relevant documentation from the dialects of Czech-speaking enclaves outside the Czech Republic; and (vi) references to other linguistic atlases, primarily West Slavic.

Vol. 4 concentrates on dialectal differences in morphology. The word classes examined here are nouns, adjectives, pronouns, numerals, and verbs. The commentaries correspond to those of the preceding volumes but in addition draw on historical grammars of Czech.

Vol. 5 is divided into sections dealing with phonology, syntax, adverbs, and supplementary research of urban localities. The inclusion of syntactic phenomena is a noteworthy innovation. Some of the items in this section (458–504) illustrate the means of expressing the relationship between clauses or parts of a sentence—for example, natož ‘let alone, even’, an adverb used to intensify the meaning of what follows, has seventeen main dialectal variants and several dozen additional subvariants. The final section is a set of summary maps based on the maps of all five volumes. These offer a new and more detailed classification of Czech dialects and reveal relationships between the bundles of isoglosses and the various administrative boundaries of the past that facilitated or hindered communication among speakers of the various regional or local dialects.

The large-sized volumes (12 x 8.5 in.) are well-designed and printed and contain well over 1,600 two-color maps. The Atlas offers a complete picture of the regional differentiation of spoken Czech and supports it with clear illustrations and rich commentaries. The staff of the Institute for the Czech Language has produced a truly impressive work.