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Is it ever okay, i.e. where technical circumstances restrict the available character set (e.g. slugified URLs), to systematically substitute cz, dz, lz, nz, rz, sz, tz and zz for Czech and Slovak letters č, ď, ľ, ň, ř, š, ť and ž or is it always preferred to just drop the haček diacritic mark? What about ě? or ?

Just for the record, Polish orthography has cz, dz, rz and sz digraphs, but also and .

PS: I mean, it’s even spelt Czech in English.

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  • What do you mean by "okay"? – OmarL Apr 4 at 16:36
  • 2
    “acceptable to native speakers” or even “expected by”, e.g. it’s unacceptable for native speakers of German to see umlaut does being dropped: they need to be substituted by e digraphs. – Crissov Apr 4 at 16:37
  • For the record, the modern Czech orthography greatly influenced the Yugoslav Latin orthographies (i.e. their fellow Austro-Hungarian Slavic languages), and the answer for them would be the same as for Czech: No, if diacritics are not available, then they're just dropped. (The exception is dj for đ, but it's not as arbitrary.) – Adam Bittlingmayer Apr 5 at 10:09
  • In my book, modern Polish is really an anomaly among Slavic languages - it neither avoids arbitrary digraphs nor avoids rare diacritics. It is not always totally clear how to spell any word, nor is it totally clear how to pronounce every word. In those senses, it is more like German or French. – Adam Bittlingmayer Apr 5 at 10:10
  • Quick note, as a native Czech it would never occur to me writing ď, ť, ň, ľ as dz, tz, nz, lz. dh, th, nh, lh makes more "sense" to me. Just like the shape of your mouth is different for both groups (e.g. š vs. ľ) so is the letter. But we never substitute, anyway. – Eugen Pechanec Apr 5 at 12:03
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No, it is not acceptable and it is never done. It used to be done before the changes that appeared gradually in the 15th century, inspired by a paper most likely written by Jan Hus around 1400.

Before that the orthography did indeed use these digraphs, although somewhat differently.

cz meant c, not č
chz meant č
zz meant s
ss meant š
...

in the older form. It was not unified and it changed over time.

In the younger form

cz could mean either c or č
s could mean either s or š
ss could mean either s or š
...

See https://www.czechency.org/slovnik/SP%C5%98E%C5%BDKOV%C3%9D%20PRAVOPIS

They give this example from Alexandreis:

Knyez Allexander wtu dobu - Kněz Alexander v tu dobu

ſpade v weliku ſyrobu - spade v velikú sirobu.

Otczyka yuz neymyegeſye - Otčíka juž nejmějéše,

matky také newydyeſie - matky také nevidieše…


If you try to use these for modern Czech it will be completely unusual and very difficult to understand to most native speakers. It is never used.

What Czechs do very frequently instead is to just omit the diacritic marks and just use the basic letters (c instead of č, s instead of s, a instead of á, i instead í,...). It is very common in text messages and e-mail. Even at work.

One just writes:

Cau, mohl bys prosim odpovedet...

instead of

Čau, mohl bys prosím odpovědět...

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  • Yeah, if this were implemented, the ambiguity would be almost as bad as in those old orthographies. Just looking at names of cities in Europe, is Plzenz Plzeň or Pľeň? Is Penza Penza or Peňa? Polish digraphs are useful in Polish because there are only precious few cases where those clusters of letters represent the letters' individual sounds. But there's plenty of "lz" and "nz" in Czech, Slovak and Polish. – Szczepan Hołyszewski Apr 5 at 9:37
  • I wonder if there are any dictionary-assisted input methods for Czech and Slovak in widespread use. – Szczepan Hołyszewski Apr 5 at 9:45
  • @SzczepanHołyszewski Do the Android keyboard, Swyft or Hunspell count? – Adam Bittlingmayer Apr 5 at 9:59
  • What do you do if you really need to disambiguate? – Adam Bittlingmayer Apr 5 at 10:00
  • @AdamBittlingmayer it is rarely an issue. Sometimes one misunderstands at the first sight but that realizes there is the other similarly looking word. One can always stop being lazy and use the diacritics. Usually it is indeed just lazyness. – Vladimir F Apr 5 at 12:22

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