Preposition Vocalization in Czech

Preposition vocalization in Czech (v > ve, s > se, pod > pode, etc.) is a complex matter which is drastically over-simplified in most Czech and foreign textbooks, grammars, and dictionaries (cf. Slovník spisovné češtiny pro školu a veřejnost, Filipec et al., 1994; Mluvnice češtiny, Dokulil et al., 1987; Chcete mluvit česky, Čechová et al., 1997). Very few grammars have attempted to put forth a systematic description—a clear exception being Travniček’s 1951 Mluvnice spisovne čestiny. In his work, Travniček gives an extensive description of the conditions under which preposition vocalization always, usually, occasionally, and never occurs in literary Czech (and to a lesser extent in non-standard variants of Czech), and provides phonetic and historical reasons for some of these.

In the half century since the publication of Travniček’s grammar, some of these norms have changed and are exhibiting more predictable patterns. In my analysis, I will discuss the major trends of change, the instances in which variation exists, as well as discussing more elaborate articulatory, phonological, and historical reasons for the modern situation. Because of the numerous complications associated with analysis of the variants of spoken Czech, I have limited my study to various forms of printed materials. As a summary, I will make comparisons to other Slavic languages and will posit topics for further research and their implications to various subfields in Czech and Slavic linguistics.