Polish has six oral vowels (all "monophthongs) and two "nasal vowels. The oral vowels are /"i/ (spelled i), "/ɨ/ (spelled y), /"ɛ/ (spelled e), /"a/ (spelled a), /"ɔ/ (spelled o) and /"u/ (spelled u or "ó). The nasal vowels are /"ɛ̃/ (spelled "ę) and /"ɔ̃/ (spelled "ą).
The Polish "consonant system shows more complexity: its characteristic features include the series of "affricate and "palatal consonants that resulted from four "Proto-Slavic "palatalizations and two further palatalizations that took place in Polish and "Belarusian. The full set of consonants, together with their most common spellings, can be presented as follows (although other phonological analyses exist):
- "stops /"p/ (p), /"b/ (b), "/t/ (t), "/d/ (d), /"k/ (k), /"ɡ/ (g), and the "palatalized forms "/kʲ/ (ki) and "/ɡʲ/ (gi)
- "fricatives /"f/ (f), /"v/ (w), "/s/ (s), "/z/ (z), /"ʂ/ (sz), /"ʐ/ ("ż, rz), the "alveolo-palatals /"ɕ/ ("ś, si) and /"ʑ/ ("ź, zi), and /"x/ (ch, h) and "/xʲ/ (chi, hi)
- "affricates "/ts/ (c), "/dz/ (dz), "/tʂ/ (cz), "/dʐ/ (dż), "/tɕ/ ("ć, ci), "/dʑ/ (dź, dzi) (these are written here without "ties for browser display compatibility, although Polish does distinguish between affricates as in czy, and stop+fricative clusters as in trzy)
- "nasals /"m/ (m), "/n/ (n), "/ɲ/ (ń, ni)
- "approximants /"l/ (l), /"j/ (j), /"w/ (ł)
- "trill /"r/ (r)
"Neutralization occurs between "voiced–"voiceless consonant pairs in certain environments: at the end of words (where devoicing occurs), and in certain consonant clusters (where "assimilation occurs). For details, see "Voicing and devoicing in the article on Polish phonology.
Most Polish words are "paroxytones (that is, the "stress falls on the second-to-last syllable of a polysyllabic word), although there are exceptions.
The "Polish alphabet derives from the "Latin script, but includes certain additional letters formed using "diacritics. The Polish alphabet was one of three major forms of Latin-based orthography developed for Slavic languages, the others being "Czech orthography and "Croatian orthography, the latter being a 19th-century invention trying to make a compromise between the first two. "Kashubian uses a Polish-based system, "Slovak uses a Czech-based system, and "Slovene follows the Croatian one; the "Sorbian languages blend the Polish and the Czech ones.
The diacritics used in the Polish alphabet are the kreska (graphically similar to the "acute accent) in the letters ć, ń, ó, ś, ź and through the letter in ł; the kropka (superior dot) in the letter ż, and the "ogonek ("little tail") in the letters ą, ę. The letters q, v, x are often not considered part of the Polish alphabet; they are used only in foreign words and names.
Polish orthography is largely "phonemic—there is a consistent correspondence between letters (or "digraphs and "trigraphs) and phonemes (for exceptions see below). The letters of the alphabet and their normal phonemic values are listed in the following table.
|"Ą||ą||/"ɔ̃/, "/ɔn/, "/ɔm/||"N||n||"/n/|
|"Ę||ę||/"ɛ̃/, "/ɛn/, "/ɛm/, /"ɛ/||"S||s||"/s/|
|"I||i||/"i/, /"j/||"W||w||/"v/ (/"f/)|
|"Ł||ł||/"w/, /ɫ/||"Ż||ż||/"ʐ/ (/"ʂ/)|
The following "digraphs and "trigraphs are used:
(before a vowel)
Voiced consonant letters frequently come to represent voiceless sounds (as shown in the tables); this occurs at the end of words and in certain clusters, due to the neutralization mentioned in the Phonology section above. Occasionally also voiceless consonant letters can represent voiced sounds in clusters.
The spelling rule for the palatal sounds /"ɕ/, /"ʑ/, "/tɕ/, "/dʑ/ and "/ɲ/ is as follows: before the vowel i the plain letters s, z, c, dz, n are used; before other vowels the combinations si, zi, ci, dzi, ni are used; when not followed by a vowel the diacritic forms ś, ź, ć, dź, ń are used. For example, the s in siwy ("grey-haired"), the si in siarka ("sulphur") and the ś in święty ("holy") all represent the sound /"ɕ/. The exceptions to the above rule are certain loanwords from Latin, Italian, French, Russian or English—where s before i is pronounced as s, e.g. sinus, sinologia, do re mi fa sol la si do, Saint-Simon i saint-simoniści, Sierioża, Siergiej, Singapur, singiel. In other loanwords the vowel i is changed to y, e.g. Syria, Sybir, synchronizacja, Syrakuzy.
The following table shows the correspondence between the sounds and spelling:
"digraphs and "trigraphs are used:
|Phonemic value||Single letter/Digraph
(in pausa or
before a consonant)
(before a vowel)
(before the vowel i)
Similar principles apply to "/kʲ/, "/ɡʲ/, "/xʲ/ and "/lʲ/, except that these can only occur before vowels, so the spellings are k, g, (c)h, l before i, and ki, gi, (c)hi, li otherwise. Most Polish speakers, however, do not consider palatalisation of k, g, (c)h or l as creating new sounds.
Except in the cases mentioned above, the letter i if followed by another vowel in the same word usually represents /"j/, yet a palatalisation of the previous consonant is always assumed.
The letters ą and ę, when followed by plosives and affricates, represent an oral vowel followed by a nasal consonant, rather than a nasal vowel. For example, ą in dąb ("oak") is pronounced "/ɔm/, and ę in tęcza ("rainbow") is pronounced "/ɛn/ (the nasal assimilates to the following consonant). When followed by l or ł (for example przyjęli, przyjęły), ę is pronounced as just e. When ę is at the end of the word it is often pronounced as just "/ɛ/.
Note that, depending on the word, the phoneme /"x/ can be spelt h or ch, the phoneme /"ʐ/ can be spelt ż or rz, and /"u/ can be spelt u or ó. In several cases it determines the meaning, for example: może ("maybe") and morze ("sea").
In occasional words, letters that normally form a digraph are pronounced separately. For example, rz represents "/rz/, not /"ʐ/, in words like zamarzać ("freeze") and in the name "Tarzan.
Notice that doubled letters represent separate occurrences of the sound in question; for example Anna is pronounced "/anːa/ in Polish (the double n is often pronounced as a lengthened single n).
There are certain clusters where a written consonant would not be pronounced. For example, the ł in the words mógł ("could") and jabłko ("apple") might be omitted in ordinary speech, leading to the pronunciations muk and japko or jabko.
Polish is a highly "inflected language, with relatively free "word order, although the dominant arrangement is "subject–verb–object (SVO). There are no "articles, and subject pronouns are often "dropped.
"Nouns may belong to three "genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. A distinction is also made between "animate and inanimate masculine nouns in the "singular, and between masculine personal and non-masculine-personal nouns in the "plural. There are seven "cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative.
"Adjectives agree with nouns in terms of gender, case and number. "Attributive adjectives most commonly precede the noun, although in certain cases, especially in fixed phrases (like język polski, "Polish (language)"), the noun may come first. Most short adjectives and their derived "adverbs form "comparatives and "superlatives by inflection (the superlative is formed by prefixing naj- to the comparative).
"Verbs are of imperfective or perfective "aspect, often occurring in pairs. Imperfective verbs have a present tense, past tense, compound future tense (except for być "to be", which has a simple future będę etc., this in turn being used to form the compound future of other verbs), subjunctive/conditional (formed with the detachable particle by), imperatives, an infinitive, present participle, present gerund and past participle. Perfective verbs have a simple future tense (formed like the present tense of imperfective verbs), past tense, subjunctive/conditional, imperatives, infinitive, present gerund and past participle. Conjugated verb forms agree with their subject in terms of person, number, and (in the case of past tense and subjunctive/conditional forms) gender.
"Passive-type constructions can be made using the auxiliary być or zostać ("become") with the passive participle. There is also an impersonal construction where the active verb is used (in third person singular) with no subject, but with the reflexive pronoun się present to indicate a general, unspecified subject (as in pije się wódkę "vodka is drunk"—note that wódka appears in the accusative). A similar sentence type in the past tense uses the passive participle with the ending -o, as in widziano ludzi ("people were seen"). As in other Slavic languages, there are also subjectless sentences formed using such words as można ("it is possible") together with an infinitive.
"Yes-no questions (both direct and indirect) are formed by placing the word czy at the start. Negation uses the word nie, before the verb or other item being negated; nie is still added before the verb even if the sentence also contains other negatives such as nigdy ("never") or nic ("nothing"), effectively creating a double negative.
"Cardinal numbers have a complex system of inflection and agreement. Numbers higher than five (except for those ending with the digit 2, 3 or 4) govern the "genitive case rather than the nominative or accusative. Special forms of numbers (collective numerals) are used with certain classes of noun, which include dziecko ("child") and exclusively plural nouns such as drzwi ("door").
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Polish has, over the centuries, borrowed a number of words from other languages. When borrowing, pronunciation was adapted to Polish phonemes and spelling was altered to match Polish orthography. In addition, word endings are liberally applied to almost any word to produce verbs, nouns, adjectives, as well as adding the appropriate endings for cases of nouns, adjectives, "diminutives, double-diminutives, "augmentatives, etc.
Depending on the historical period, borrowing has proceeded from various languages. Notable influences have been "Latin (9th–18th centuries), "Czech (10th and 14th–15th centuries), "Italian (15th–16th centuries), "French (18th–19th centuries), German (13–15th and 18th–20th centuries), "Hungarian (14th–16th centuries) and "Turkish (17th century). Currently, English words are the most common imports to Polish.
The Latin language, for a very long time the only official language of the Polish state, has had a great influence on Polish. Many Polish words (rzeczpospolita from res publica, zdanie for both "opinion" and "sentence", from sententia) were direct borrowings from Latin. "Latin was known to a larger or smaller degree by most of the numerous "szlachta in the 16th to 18th centuries (and it continued to be extensively taught at secondary schools until "World War II). Apart from dozens of loanwords, its influence can also be seen in a number of verbatim Latin phrases in "Polish literature (especially from the 19th century and earlier).
During the 12th and 13th centuries, Mongolian words were brought to the Polish language during wars with the armies of "Genghis Khan and his descendants, e.g. dzida (spear) and szereg (a line or row).
Words from "Czech, an important influence during the 10th and 14th–15th centuries include "sejm, hańba and brama.
In 1518, the Polish king "Sigismund I the Old married "Bona Sforza, the niece of the Holy Roman emperor Maximilian, who introduced Italian cuisine to Poland, especially vegetables. Hence, words from Italian include pomidor from "pomodoro" (tomato), kalafior from "cavolfiore" (cauliflower), and pomarańcza, a portmanteau from Italian "pomo" ("pome) plus "arancio" (orange). A later word of Italian origin is autostrada (from Italian "autostrada", highway).
In the 18th century, with the rising prominence of France in Europe, "French supplanted Latin as an important source of words. Some French borrowings also date from the Napoleonic era, when the Poles were enthusiastic supporters of "Napoleon. Examples include ekran (from French "écran", screen), abażur ("abat-jour", lamp shade), rekin ("requin", shark), meble ("meuble", furniture), bagaż ("bagage", luggage), walizka ("valise", suitcase), fotel ("fauteuil", armchair), plaża ("plage", beach) and koszmar ("cauchemar", nightmare). Some place names have also been adapted from French, such as the "Warsaw borough of "Żoliborz ("joli bord" = beautiful riverside), as well as the town of "Żyrardów (from the name "Girard, with the Polish suffix -ów attached to refer to the founder of the town).
Many words were borrowed from the German language from the sizable German population in Polish cities during medieval times. German words found in the Polish language are often connected with trade, the building industry, civic rights and city life. Some words were assimilated verbatim, for example handel (trade) and dach (roof); others are pronounced the same, but differ in writing schnur—sznur (cord). As a result of being neighbours with Germany, Polish has many German expressions which have become literally translated ("calques). Interestingly, the regional "dialects of "Upper Silesia and "Masuria (Modern Polish "East Prussia) have noticeably more German loanwords than other dialects.
The contacts with Ottoman Turkey in the 17th century brought many new words, some of them still in use, such as: jar ("yar" deep valley), szaszłyk ("şişlik" shish kebab), filiżanka ("fincan" cup), arbuz ("karpuz" watermelon), dywan ("divan" carpet), etc.
From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in 1025 through the early years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was the most tolerant country of Jews in Europe. Known as paradisus Iudaeorum (Latin for "paradise for the Jews"), it became a shelter for persecuted and expelled European Jewish communities and the home to the world's largest Jewish community of the time. As a result, many Polish words come from "Yiddish, spoken by the large "Polish Jewish population that existed until the "Holocaust. Borrowed Yiddish words include bachor (an unruly boy or child), bajzel (slang for mess), belfer (slang for teacher), ciuchy (slang for clothing), cymes (slang for very tasty food), geszeft (slang for business), kitel (slang for apron), machlojka (slang for scam), mamona (money), menele (slang for oddments and also for homeless people), myszygine (slang for lunatic), pinda (slang for girl, pejoratively), plajta (slang for bankruptcy), rejwach (noise), szmal (slang for money), and trefny (dodgy).
The mountain dialects of the "Górale in southern Poland, have quite a number of words borrowed from "Hungarian (e.g. baca, gazda, juhas, hejnał) and "Romanian as a result of historical contacts with Hungarian-dominated "Slovakia and Wallachian herders who travelled north along the "Carpathians.
"Thieves' slang includes such words as kimać (to sleep) or majcher (knife) of Greek origin, considered then unknown to the outside world.
Direct borrowings from Russian are extremely rare, in spite of long periods of dependence on Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union, and are limited to a few "internationalisms, such as "sputnik and "pierestrojka["citation needed]. Russian personal names are transcribed into Polish likewise; thus "Tchaikovsky's name is spelled Piotr Iljicz Czajkowski.
Recent loanwords come primarily from the "English language, mainly those that have "Latin or "Greek roots, for example komputer (computer), korupcja (from 'corruption', but sense restricted to 'bribery'), etc. Slang sometimes borrows and alters common English words, e.g. luknąć (to look). Concatenation of parts of words (e.g. auto-moto), which is not native to Polish but common in English, for example, is also sometimes used. When borrowing English words, Polish often changes their spelling. For example, Latin suffix '-tio' corresponds to -cja. To make the word plural, -cja becomes -cje. Examples of this include inauguracja (inauguration), dewastacja (devastation), recepcja (reception), konurbacja (conurbation) and konotacje (connotations). Also, the digraph qu becomes kw (kwadrant = quadrant; kworum = quorum).
Loanwords from Polish
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The Polish language has influenced others. Particular influences appear in other Slavic languages and in "German — due to their proximity and shared borders. Examples of loanwords include German Grenze (border), "Dutch and "Afrikaans grens from Polish granica; German Peitzker from Polish piskorz (weatherfish); German Zobel, French zibeline, "Swedish sabel, and English sable from Polish soból; and "ogonek ("little tail") — the word describing a diacritic hook-sign added below some letters in various alphabets. "Szmata," a Polish-Ruthenian word for "mop" or "rag" became part of "Yiddish.
Quite a few culinary loanwords exist in German and in other languages, some of which describe distinctive features of Polish cuisine. These include German and English Quark from twaróg (a kind of fresh cheese; see: "quark (dairy product)) and German Gurke, English gherkin from ogórek (cucumber). The word "pierogi (Polish dumplings) has spread internationally, as well as "pączki (Polish donuts) and kiełbasa (sausage) (see e.g. kolbaso in "Esperanto). As far as pierogi concerned, the original Polish word is already in plural (sing. pieróg, plural pierogi; stem pierog-, plural ending -i; NB. o becomes ó in a closed syllable, like here in singular), yet it is commonly used with the English plural ending -s in Canada and United States of America, pierogis, thus making it a "double plural". (A similar situation happened in the opposite direction to the Polish loanword from English czipsy ("potato chips")—from English chips being already plural in the original (chip + -s), yet it has obtained the Polish plural ending -y.)
The word "spruce entered the English language from the Polish name of "Prusy (a historical region, today part of "Poland). It became spruce because in Polish, z Prus, sounded like "spruce" in English (transl. "from "Prussia") and was a generic term for commodities brought to England by "Hanseatic merchants and because the tree was believed to have come from Polish Ducal Prussia.
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|""||Polish edition of "Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|""||Polish edition of "Wikisource, the free library|
|""||Wikivoyage has a phrasebook for Polish.|
- Interpreting Translation Polish-English Site
- Basic Polish Phrases
- Basic Polish Phrases Audio Course
- Polish Pronunciation Audio and Grammar Charts
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- University of Pittsburgh: Polish Language Website
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