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Czech Morphological Categories

Number of nouns expresses the opposition of Singular and Plural; the latter is also rendered by forms that originally had the value of Dual with pair nouns: ruce 'hands', nohy 'legs', prsa 'breast', ramena 'sholders', kolena 'knees' (with oči 'eyes', uši 'ears' the Plural forms belong to the Feminine gender, although in singular they are Neuters). With adjectives, the categories of number, case and gender exprress grammatical agreement with their governing nouns, and in the Instrumental case the Dual forms still differ from Plural proper: dlouhýma nohama 'with long legs'.

Nouns denoting groups and material (uncountable) lack Plural forms (členstvo 'members', mládež 'youth', mouka 'flour', víno 'wine'); exceptions concern kinds or portions (Kupoval vína různých značek 'He bought wines of different marks'). Some nouns display only the forms of Plural, even when referring to a single object: jedny/dvoje brýle, 'one/two [pairs of] glasses, kalhoty 'trousers', kamna 'stove'. Singular is used also in distributive contexts: Žáci nosí do školy sešit a pero (or: ...sešity a pera) 'Pupils carry notebooks and pens to school'. In the generic meaning (i.e. referring to the class as a whole), either Singular or Plural can be used: Lev je šelma 'The lion is a predator' or Lvi jsou šelmy; however, in certain positions Plural is obligatory: Kočka chytá myši 'The cat catches mice'; Kočka chytá myš 'The cat catches a mouse' is not generic.

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Gender of nouns

Each noun belongs to one of the following genders: Masculine Animate (MA), Masculine Inanimate (MI), Feminine (F) or Neuter (N); with the latter two, the opposition of animacy is not grammatically marked. With human names usually the natural gender is decisive: muž 'man' is MA, žena 'woman' is F, syn 'son' is MA, dcera 'daughter' is F, etc.; dítě 'child' is N. With nouns denoting professions, the derivation of F nouns from M ones is very productive and frequent also with loan words: e.g. ministryně, senátorka, psycholožka, gynekoložka, etc. Some nouns expressing negative attitudes to the referee lack such derived forms (lakomec 'miser', opilec 'drunkard'). With animal names often the MA noun is unmarked (and thus used with the generic meaning), e.g. holub 'pigeon' vs. holubice 'dove', medvěd 'bear' vs. medvědice 'she-bear', also in the case of suppletive pairs such as pes 'dog' vs. fena 'bitch', but the opposite relationship concerns e.g. kočka 'cat' vs. kocour 'tom-cat', husa 'goose' vs. houser 'gander', kráva 'cow' vs. býk 'bull'. Nouns denoting inanimate objects usually belong to the gender corresponding to the final part of the stem (those in -a are F, those in -o are N, those ending with a non-palatal consonant are MA or MI), but there are forms that are not specific in this respect (-l and -c are MA, MI or F, -e can be F or N, etc.).

Some nouns display two alternative gender values MI/MA, the Nominative Plural forms then being e.g. činitele/é 'factors/agents' or uzenáče/i 'herrings'; the MA forms e.g. with names of mushrooms have an expressive value. Semantically, gender is also present with the so-called genderless pronouns já 'I', ty 'you', my 'we', vy 'you-Plur.', which is shown by such agreement constructions as Já jsem měla hlad 'I was (F) hungry'.

Degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs exhibit forms derived by affixes, although being paradigmatic, fully productive with adjectives and adverbs of quality (with those of relation, e.g. italský 'Italian' they are absent): mladý 'young' - Comparative mladší 'younger' - Superlative nejmladší 'youngest', nebezpečný 'dangerous', - nebezpečnější 'more dangerous' - nejnebezpečnější 'most dangerous'. The use of the 'absolute' Comparative (denoting a limited degree of the quality) is rather restricted (e.g. Vstoupil starší pán 'An elderly gentleman entered'). The negated Superlative is used as a eufemism for the positive quality (Už není nejmladší '(S)he is not youngest any more'); the elative use of Superlative is frequent e.g. with různý 'various'.

The functions of cases of Czech nouns concern the functions of nouns in the sentence patterns. Among the many theoretical approaches to case functions we can choose the views of J. Kurylowicz, who classifies Nominative (N), Genitive (G) and Accusative (A) as typical syntactic cases, which primarily express the subject, the noun adjunct and the object, respectively. The typical semantic (adverbial) cases are Dative (D), Instrumental (I), Locative (L - in Czech always connected with a preposition), and the other prepositional cases (every case except N and V occurs with prepositions; a basic semantic distinction concerns the directional meaning of A, which differs from L (and I), when preceded by a preposition such as v 'in(to)' or na 'on', (or nad 'over' and pod 'under'. (The latter express locative meaning). The Vocative differs from the other cases in having an appellative function (addressing a person or, just in metaphorical use, an inanimate object). With other word classes (adjectives, pronouns, numerals), the case is determined by grammatical agreement.

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