West Slavic language spoken by some 12 million people in the historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and southwestern Silesia, all now in the Czech Republic, and in émigré communities, including perhaps a million speakers in North America. The earliest Old Czech texts date from the late 13th century. The distinctive orthographic system of Czech, which adds diacritics to letters of the Latin alphabet to denote consonants that did not exist in Latin and to mark vowel length, was introduced in the early 15th century and is associated with the religious reformer Jan Hus. The system was later adopted by other Slavic languages that use the Latin alphabet, including Slovak, Slovene, and Croatian (see Serbo-Croatian language). When Czech was revived as a literary language in the early 19th century, Josef Dobrovský based his codification of the language largely on the norms of 16th-century Czech, as exemplified in the Kralice Bible (1579–93), an authoritative translation. This decision has resulted in a wide gulf between Standard Czech, the literary language, and Common Czech, the spoken language.
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