Is it Náměstí Republiky or náměstí Republiky? What about Letiště Praha? Or nádraží Praha Smíchov?
Did you know that only the first letter of the first word in Divadlo bez zábradlí is capitalized, while it’s the opposite for divadlo Na Zábradlí?
Welcome to the wonderful world of Czech capitalization.
If you don’t know which Czech word to capitalize in proper nouns, you’re not alone: in a recent survey of 12,000 native Czech speakers, only 59% were familiar with the rules of capitalization.
The examples above come from an article on iDnes.cz, which highlight some inconsistencies in the practical application of capitalization in the Czech language.
In a reader poll on the same article, roughly 70% of respondents currently claim not to understand the rules of capitalization.
In English, words in proper nouns are capitalized outside of articles (like the, a, it), and the first letter of the noun is capitalized regardless: Gone with the Wind, Queen Elizabeth, etc.
In Czech – in general – proper nouns are capitalized except for both articles and general terms like “station” or “street,” and so on. So we have Václavské náměstí and náměstí Republiky. And Kostelec nad Černými lesy (?)
King Arthur is král Artuš, unless you’re talking about the movie, in which case it should be Král Artuš. I think. No… I give up.
Other irregularities exist as in the examples cited at the beginning of this article, and no logical explanation is offered.
Still, while 59% of native speakers were unclear on the rules of capitalization according to the study, 89% opposed reform to the system, reports Blesk.cz.
But reform might be inevitable.
Josef Soukal, Chairman of the Association of Czech High School Teachers, favors a simplification of grammar rules, given that there are so many irregularities in capitalization that it is difficult to teach the rules to students.
It will take time – decades, perhaps – for any changes to take effect, but new rules could soon be on the way.
“As a teacher, I can say with 100% certainty that a simplification would be beneficial,” Soukal told iDnes.
Disclaimer: capitalization of Czech words in this article may not be entirely accurate.