Slavic Saturday

I was not struck by inspiration this week, so today’s Slavic Saturday is going to be a bit silly. I am going to show you the various forms that one word can take in Czech within the various cases.

Our word will be the word for a dog, which in Czech is a noun of the masculine (animate) gender and in its singular form is universal to slavic languages. Btw, Czech has four genders – masculine (animate), masculine (inanimate), feminine and neutral. That means a lot of fun.

Lets start with singular grammatical cases:

pes – nominative
psa – genitive and accusative
psu/psovi – dative, locative
pse – vocative
psem – instrumental

That is not all, there is also plural:

psi/psové – nominative and vocative
psů – genitive and accusative
psům – dative, locative
psech – locative
psy – instrumental

Of course that still is not all, there is also singular diminutive:
pejsek – nominative
pejska – genitive and accusative
pejskovi/pejsku – dative, locative
pejsku – vocative
pejskem – instrumental

And plural diminutive:

pejsci/pejskové – nominative, vocative
pejsků – genitive
pejskům – dative
pejsky – accusative, instrumental

But that is not the only diminutive. There is also alternative diminutive “psík”. And “psíček”. And “pejsánek”. And “pejsáneček”. The “če” you can then add for further diminution in principle ad infinity. It would sound silly to say it more than once, but it is gramatically correct.

And there is also augmentative “psisko”.

And the adjective “psí”. Which has different forms depending on the gender of the noun it qualifies.

But I won’t torture you with all their forms, you are brave enough if you read so far. To learn this is a torture even for native speakers. No wonder foreigners have rather hard time when they try to learn this. But at least we are not the worst, there are languages with more cases even here in Europe (looking sideways at the finno-ugric family).


  1. rq says

    Ugh, as someone who had to learn Latvian grammar, I can sympathize -- native speakers always believe a language is easy, but when you start trying to explain it to a non-speaker, you realize that a lot of the ‘intuitive’ knowledge is actually quite complicated. I was always under the impression that Latvian was easier than English, but then I had to teach someone. And my colleagues always have comments on the various difficulties encountered in English.
    And then I read about Finnish grammar, and feel a lot better. :D

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    My understanding (which could certainly be wrong) is that English lost most of its cases through interaction with Norse, from about the 9th century onwards, when many Danes settled in eastern and northern England. The languages were both Germanic, and close enough that mutual intelligibility was possible, but only if the case endings/inflections were simplified/dropped. So, I guess English is a sort of pidgin.

    Are there any examples of Slavic languages which have undergone a comparable simplification?

  3. Tethys says

    Thank you for the language lesson. I have little formal language training, but I have enough to be able to read in multiple European languages with the help of dictionaries and the internet. . The instrumental case is particularly interesting, and I appreciate having a word to describe this archaic usage I’ve come across in several of the Old High versions of european languages. The Frankenverbsuffix’s are especially confusing when it comes to proper names in the various sagas and epics. OHG also has the ki/ce diminutive, but it’s use seems to imply affection. I see it mostly in names for villages, and as a suffix to make nicknames. It might also be implying a feminine gender and home? It is difficult to tell if it is merely a spelling variation, or if the varient has an additional meaning. It might just reflect the dialect of the writer?

  4. lumipuna says

    BTW, Finnish grammar is generally simplified in everyday speech, while a more complete grammar is required in “proper” writing style, and some cases are probably only used in really pretentious writing. Children learn the colloquial style in home, then spend some time in school getting a hang of literary styles (when English kids would be learning spelling, which again is extremely trivial in Finnish).

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    I’m not sure if I have already linked to this. The brunette isn’t a native Finnish speaker and she makes a few errors, but overall, the video makes quite clear how six of the
    15 Finnish cases go.

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