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Lesson Transcript

Martin: Hi everyone! Welcome back to CzechClass101.com. Martin here!
Brandon: And I’m Brandon! This is Pronunciation, lesson 3 - Czech Intonation. In the last two lessons, you learned how to pronounce the 8 native consonants of Czech. We also learned about diacritics, assimilation of words, the 13 single vowels, and the 3 diphthongs that make up the Czech language. You’re doing well, listeners!

Lesson focus

Martin: That’s right, and in this lesson, we’re going to talk about intonation.
Brandon: In Czech, intonation is crucial, because it helps to distinguish between a simple statement and a question in sentences where the word order remains the same.
Martin: Right. In Czech, the word order in a sentence is more flexible than in English, and some sentences can look the same. But in fact, the sentences have very different meanings!
Brandon: So intonation helps you recognise what type of sentence it is. Martin will show you examples of sentences that are the same in terms of word order and vocabulary, but that differ based on intonation. If you have them in front of you, please take a look at the lesson notes for this lesson now, because we have underlined words that require rising intonation.
Martin: All right. But first, let’s hear what happens when the intonation goes down. Our first sentence is “ona to řekla”, meaning “she said that”. It’s a statement. The intonation here goes down at the end, similar to English.
Brandon: The second sentence has the same word order, but is a question.
Martin: That’s right. It’s “Ona to řekla?”. Can you hear how the intonation here rises at the end? This is how we indicate it’s a question.
Brandon: Did you catch how the intonation changed?
Martin: Now listen to this third sentence too - “Ona to řekla”. The intonation goes up at the beginning of the sentence and falls down at the end. This is an exclamatory sentence.
Brandon: I see. The raising or falling intonation really makes a difference to what type of sentence we hear.
Martin: It does. As for statements, when you’re making a statement, the intonation naturally goes down.
Brandon Only when you’re emphasizing a word within a sentence does your voice rise up a little to place stress on that particular word. Can you give us some more examples?
Martin: Sure, I will do the simple declarative statement first, followed by the question version that places emphasis on the word.
Brandon: Okay!
Martin: Alright, so two plain statements now both mean “grandma is here” with a different word order, but the same meaning - Babička je tady.Je tady babička.
Brandon: It’s really true that the word order is not strict in Czech.
Martin: And now, let me read them again with different intonation.
Babička je tady. Je tady babička.
The difference between these two sentences is that the first one emphasizes the word tady meaning “here”, which indicates that grandma has finally arrived.
Brandon: It’s like ‘Grandma is finally HERE.”
Martin: That’s right. And the second sentence emphasizes the word “babička” meaning “Grandma”, indicating that it is grandma who has arrived and nobody else.
Brandon: “Grandma is finally here.” All right. Now, let’s look at the question sentences and intonation.
Martin: Intonation in question sentences differs depending on whether the sentence starts with a question word, such as “kde” meaning “where” or “kdo” meaning “who”, or not.
Brandon: Sentences starting with a question word mostly have a falling intonation, because the question word already indicates it is a question sentence.
Martin: Yes. Only at the end of the sentence, you can slightly raise the intonation.
Brandon: It’s the same in English too. When you start a question using a word like “Who”, you don’t need to raise the intonation at the end, you just say “Who’s this?”
Martin: Here’s the example.
Kde je babička.: (“where is grandma?”)
Brandon: Okay. Now let’s talk about a question that doesn’t use the question word. Sentences without a question word have more rising intonation towards the end of the sentence. They can also show a pattern of low to high intonation with falling intonation at the end.
Brandon: Can we hear them again to make sure we get this right?
Martin: Sure. Here are two examples…Je tady babička?
Brandon: which means "Is grandma here?”
Martin: And the next one is... “Je babička tady?
Brandon: “Is grandma here?”


Brandon: Well, that’s all for this lesson. Make sure to check the lesson notes, and leave us a comment at CzechClass101.com. Thanks for listening, everyone, and we’ll see you next time. Bye!
Martin: Ahoj!


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CzechClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 06:30 PM
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Hello Listeners! Is the Czech intonation similar to the intonation you use in your language?

CzechClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 02:08 AM
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Hello Pleinta!

Thank you for your comment. The words indeed should be underlined in the examples. I am in touch with our IT team and we are working on fixing the problem.

In any case, if you take a look at the examples which follow you will notice, that

1. "Ona to řekla." is a statement. When making a statement, the intonation is naturally falling down. (Unless you want to emphasize a word in the sentence.)

2. "Ona to řekla?" ia a question. Since there is no questoin word (such as kde, kdo) at the beginning of the sentence, you need to use the following rule: Sentences without a question word have more rising intonation toward the end of the sentence. Which in this case means you should rise the intonation towards the word "řekla".

3. "Ona to řekla!" is an exclamation. When emphasizing a word within the sentence, your voice may rise up a little, putting stress on that particular word. In that case it would be the either "ona" or "řekla" depending which you intend to emphasize.

Let me know in case you have any questions regarding this.



Team CzechClass101.com

Tuesday at 11:57 AM
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Rising intonation is on the underlined words:

Statement: Ona to řekla. ("She said that.")

Question: Ona to řekla. ("She said that?")

Exclamation: Ona to řekla. ("She said that!?")

where is underlined words ?

Thursday at 06:41 PM
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Hello Gao Ke,

Thank you for your message. It's interesting to hear that Czech language can be easier for a Chinese person than his/her own mother tongue. But indeed, Czech language is not a tonal language like Chinese and the intonation is not one of the hardest. I'm glad you tried out Czech language and wish you all the best with your learning.

Don't hesitate to contact us again with comments or questions.



Team CzechClass101.com

Gao Ke
Saturday at 10:56 PM
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Actually, for me, a Chinese, the intonation of Czech is much easier than my mother tongue. In Mandarin Chinese, there are always 4 tones for nearly every combination of Pinyin. When I learned them at my early age, it wasn't really a easy thing!!