Háček history

TGaskin's picture

Does anyone know how the háček developed, or why the c has a háček over it? It seems a little like defining a word by using the word in the definition.

paragraph's picture

In Czech, the háček (caron) softents the pronounciation of a consonant: so 'c' is (roughly, I am no phoneticist) pronounced as 'ts', while 'č' sounds more like 'ch', 's' becomes 'sh', etc.

For sake of everyone's sanity, let's ignore what happens to 'r', it's a certain way to discover a non-native Czech speaker :-)

prgr

Nick Shinn's picture

I do have that character in the Pratt fonts, it's just not supported (presently) by the nevertheless rather clever web application that sets the heads at Typophile.

speter's picture

As for the graphic development, it came from a dot accent (cf. Polish ż).

bukac's picture

"Háček" was invented by Jan Hus - more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hus.

TGaskin's picture

It seems like the word háček should not have a háček in it.

speter's picture

It just means "little hook". It's not cleverly done just to contain a háček.

bukac's picture

“Háček” is the czech word for "little hook" - typo proper "caron".

paragraph's picture

If I remember correctly, the Jan Hus's reform of the written Czech language in the 15th century concerned (among others) replacing multiple-letter combinations with diacritics. So 'cz' became 'č', 'sz' became 'š', etc.

In spite of his endeavour, we can still manage to string together four consonants in a row, as in a popular tongue-twister 'strč prst skrz krk' (which, sadly, means 'insert finger through neck'). Very frustrating to foreigners ... would anyone care to elaborate on the number of possible successive consonants in Polish?

prgr

paragraph's picture

Good on ya, Florian.
prgr

Jongseong's picture

I remember reading that one motivation for reforming the Czech orthography so that digraphs like cz, rz, and sz were replaced with č, ř, and š was to visually distinguish Czech from Polish. I do like the háček solution as it readily applies to other letters like d, n, t, z, etc.

From the tongue-twister example above, I can see that it is indeed helpful to distinguish the combination rz as in skrz from ř.

That said, I might have the facts wrong. Can anyone confirm that ř was historically represented by the digraph rz as in Polish? Yes, I do know that in the current Czech and Polish pronunciations they are completely different.

Strictly speaking, I think Jan Hus used dots above the letters, not the háček. The current háček form was introduced later.

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