Czech senators have approved an amendment to allow women to remove the suffix -ová, which denotes the grammatical gender, from their surname.
If signed into law by President Miloš Zeman, parents could also decide to keep the masculine form (thus without the suffix –ová) of their daughters’ surname.
In the Czech language, the ending “-ova” is added to all surnames for women, so Mr. Novak’s daughter becomes Ms. Novakova.
Women have only been able to drop the “-ova” ending in limited circumstances, such as if they have foreign nationality or live with a foreigner.
The Senate will now vote on the change. The proposal was brought forward by former Justice Minister Helena Valkova.
Current rules mean that the wife or daughter of a Czech man has the -ova suffix added to her name, such as tennis star Petra Kvitova.
The pattern is similar to that seen in other Slavic languages and is also applied to foreign leaders and politicians – including former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Pirate Party MP Ondřej Profant, who backed the bill, said a survey carried out at a registry office in Prague showed that around 28% of women would prefer to use the masculine form of their surname.
Some Czech linguists however insist that dropping the “-ová” suffix could lead to confusion and would be incoherent from a grammatical point of view.
“Compared to English, the structure of the Czech sentence is different,” explained linguist Karel Oliva. We don’t distinguish such categories such as sentential subject or sentential object by the position in a sentence, but by case endings.”
“If we do not attach something like -ová or a similar suffix to Czech women’s names, we will be unable to express the case but also to express the gender.”