Stalo se to včera: Trávníček’s Dobrovský Revisited

Charles Mills, Knox College

A number of recent scholarly works investigate the distribution of clitics in Czech (Franks and King 2000; Toman 1993/1996, 1999; Fried 1994, 1999). The subject turns out to be an old one: In 1819, Josef Dobrovský devoted four pages of his seminal Lehrgebäude der Böhmischen Sprache to clitic placement. Formulations of Czech clitic distribution thus go back no less than 181 years. However, in a subsequent influential survey of the scholarly literature up to his day, František Trávníček (1926) concluded that Dobrovský “failed to arrive at a generally valid and correct rule for the placement of enclitics in the clause” (p. 305). This paper reexamines and challenges that conclusion, demonstrating Trávníček to have been mistaken.

Trávníček’s paper repeatedly misrepresents Dobrovský’s position, leading one to conclude that Trávníček must have somehow missed the critical passage in which Dobrovský virtually spells out a view of clitics in 2P, illustrated by Dobrovský with the sentences in (i) and (ii) (#98, 1819:322).

That happened yesterday.
b.To se stalo včera.
c.To se včera stalo.
d.Včera se to stalo.
(ii)*Se to stalo včera.

This new study is important for two reasons. First, it sets the record straight as to Dobrovský’s actual historical position as we approach the 250 anniversary of his birth: According to Dobrovský, clitic distribution is syntactically driven, mediated by phonology—not unlike the positions of Toman (1993/1996) or Fried (1994) today. Theoretically, the paper challenges Trávníček’s central thesis—that Wackernagel’s Law (1892) represents the best account of clitic distribution in Czech. Evidence from adverbials, parentheticals and pauses, and clitics in situ is adduced against Trávníček’s phonology-based analysis. Included is important new data from spoken Czech (Müllerová 1992).

Selected References

Dobrovský, Josef. (1819) Lehrgebäude der Böhmischen Sprache. Prague: Ben Gottlieb Haase.

Müllerová, Olga et al. (1992) Mluvená čeština v autentických textech. Prague: H & H.

Trávníček, František. (1926) “K postavení příklonek ve větě.” In MNHMA: Sborník vydaný na pamět′ čtyřicítiletého učitelského působeni Prof. Josefa Zubatého, pp. 302–316.