The Czech Language evolved out of what was known as West Slavic at some point in the 11th century, but this is speculation as there are no surviving historical records. This language is known as Proto-Czech and exists only as a reconstruction based on later developments. Linguists have to perform these sorts of backwards reconstructions very often, as every language eventually disappears from the written record of history and becomes purely theoretical. Czech is one of the first to vanish, however, as many other languages have strong written records from this period of history.
The first documents that contain the Czech language appeared in the middle of the 12th century. This language is designated as Early Old Czech. The earliest examples were single words contained in non-Czech documents. The first sentences don’t appear until the 13th century, and used the Latin alphabet without any modification, which made deciphering the Czech difficult – for example, The letter c was used as the letters k, c, and č. This created a lot of ambiguity when document translation was attempted on these early documents. By the late 14th century the Czech language appeared in official government documents for the first time.
The Road to Modern Czech
The next few hundred years saw a constantly evolving language. In the late 18th century the abolition of serfdom sparked a massive internal migration of the Czech people, which in turn inspired a great upturn in literary and artistic endeavours as the population of the cities swelled. This had a huge effect on the Czech Language, resulting in a renaissance that not only revived interest in the Czech but brought modern innovations to the language and created a specific Czech scientific terminology. The end result of this flurry of activity was a vibrant and still-changing language.
We don’t encounter what we now call Modern Czech until the middle of the 20th century, which was a tumultuous time for the Czech people, no longer known as Bohemians. Published books of grammar and morphology resulted in a more consistent and modern form of the language, which is what you’ll encounter on any trip to that region of the world today.