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German Words in Polish

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by LilianaB, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    This thread has been inspired by another thread in this forum. I would be really interested to find out more about it. Apparently there were 4,000 German words in Polish in the 19th century, and now there are only a few hundred (in use) and some of them only vaguely resemble their ancestors. Does anyone know more about -- which words these would be? (just some examples). Were the 4,000 words in literary Polish, or just Polish in certain regions that now belong to Poland -- like the parts of the Prussian or the Austrian Empires. How were they used -- declined as Polish words, or some other way?
  2. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    German & AmE
    Just a short list of the ones I know (some might be dialectal and probably obsolete):

    kształt (Gestalt)
    malować (malen)
    flaszka (Flasche)
    urlop (Urlaub)
    burmistrz (Bürgermeister)
    dach (Dach)
    wanna (Wanne)
    mebel (Möbel)
    tankować (tanken)
    szminka (Schminke)
    druk (Druck)
    plac (Platz)
    reszta (Rest)
    kumpel (Kumpel)
    gwałt (Gewalt)
    rura (Rohr)
    sznurek (Schnur)
    wihajster (Wie heißt er?)
    handel (Handel)

    And of course they are declined and conjugated as Polish nouns and verbs. The verbs are even adjusted to the Polish system by adding the imperfective suffix -ować. And I don't know if you'd like to know this, too, but I also know of two words of Polish origin in German.

    Gurke (Ogórek)
    Grenze (Granica)
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  3. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Hi, Roy. yes, Thank you. These I know most, of course I would not ordinarily think about the origin of such words as szminka, if I were to use this word. I am just wondering how they came up with 4,000 words in the 19th century. Most likely some dialects such as Poznanian and Silesian (no matter if considered a dialect of Polish or not) into consideration. Did Mickiewicz, or Slowacki, (the the pillars of the Polish language) use the type of Polish that contianed 4,000 German words?

    As to the words used in contemporary Polish -- "flaszka" is slang, or standard in Silesian (maybe some other dialects as well).
    "Wihajster" is probably only Silesian. My feeling is that they adopted all dialects for the purpose of this classification.

    Another thing -- how did these words get there and when? Were there any periods when they were being absorbed by the hundreds?
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  4. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    For almost one millennium you had regions with mixed populations of speakers of German and of West-Slavic dialects which at the point of its greatest extent reached from the Neman River in the NE and Galicia in the SE to the Bavarian and Bohemian forests in the SW and the former East German-West German border in the NW. It would be extremely funny if there were "only" a few hundred loan words on either side.
  5. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Hi, Berndf. Are there a lot of Slavic words in German? I never really analyzed the etymology of German words, but it seems like there might not be that many -- unless their German phonology had made them almost unrecognizable. I know there have always been a lot of German words in certain Slavic dialects, such as Silesian, for example, especially from Upper Silesia, but literary Polish is based more on the languages used in the Eastern part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and later mostly what went to the Russian Empire and Austrian, to some extent (Krakow). This is why I was wondering if in the language used by the most prominent Polish writers of the 19th century, mostly from what is now Lithuania or Ukraine, there were also so many German words. And which words exactly did they have in mind (3,600 -- approximately, that were used in the 19th century but are not in use anymore.)
  6. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It is most obvious in toponyms. In the Berlin region, e.g., at least 1/3 of all place names are Slavic. Slavic words have certainly greatly influenced the regional language. By grandfather, e.g., who was born in East-Prussia always said we went "rabotten" when he went to work.
  7. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    He must have been from Koningsberg, because this is how some older people from there used to speak. I think there are some more hybrids like that -- Polish(or other Slavic)-German words from that area.
  8. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    No, he is not. But he is from another town in what used to be called East-Prussia.
  9. Roel~ Junior Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    How come that nowadays Polish only has like a few hundred words which are similar instead of the 4,000 words which were there first? Was there a language policy of some sort?
  10. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    My understanding is that Polish was systematically de-Germanised after the Second World War.
  11. Roel~ Junior Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    So, it's a bit the same like Luxembourgish which became a totally different language after the war.
  12. ryba

    ryba Senior Member

    Nope. I'm sure it's more General Polish than not.
    Partly true, but I wouldn't overestimate the importance of the institutionalized or conscious part of the process. In the 1950s or 1960s (Wikipedia isn't clear on that), there was a contest organized by a Polish periodical, aiming at finding another word for szlafrok (< Schafrock). The word that won the contest was podomka, which nevertheless never came anywhere close to the level of popularity szlafrok enjoys. The policy of the communist government aiming at showing Germans as the incarnation of evil and Russians as our good and generous brothers might have (just might have) added to the general feeling of resent towards Germans after what they did, but the effect must have been extremely marginal. The szlafrok action was an isolated one, and, as I said, I wouldn't overstate the anti-German feelings part of the puzzle, either. People don't usually think (or know) that much about etymology. ;) So, I'd say, nature took its course. Some germanisms didn't make it into the general standard and stayed dialectal (e.g. nakastlik). Some did make it, many of them alternating with their Slavic synonyms (fajerwerki VS. sztuczne ognie), yet alive and kicking. Some remained as the only option. Many of them have been around for some 800-600(500) years, as the period when Polish absorbed most German words corresponds to the 13th-15th(16th) centuries, when a high number of Germans came and settled in various Polish cities, many of them founded on Magdeburg Rights. That period roughtly corresponds to the period of (the most) intense Middle Low German influence on Danish (cf. Hanseatic League). German colonization and immigration continued up until 1945, and, during the Partitions period, it did not limit itself to the Prussian or Austrian Partitions. The point being, there is a huuuuge difference between lajsnąć sobie (< sich leisten) and words like ratusz (< rāthūs, modern High German Rathaus). Lajsnąć sobie is characteristic of the Poznań variety of the Greater-Poland dialect, is perceived as slangy and doesn't seem to have caught on with the younger generation. No idea how old it is, might as well be like 150 years old, I don't know. I'd say it's moribund now. But, come on, many Slavic dialectal/slang words are moribund, too. Ratusz, on the other hand, must have been part of every Pole's lexicon for several hundred years. So, Liliana, if the estimates you've read come anywhere close to reality, then it must be (urban) dialect/slang lexical items they're talking about. But, in any case, I would take any such estimates with a huge pinch of salt. How exactly do you "count germanisms"? How do you count lexical items, overall? How do you classify them as having or not fallen out of use?
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
  13. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    Yes, it definitely was to some extent, especially with regards to proper names. German was not even taught in certain parts of Poland -- that were questionable areas as to which country, or even just culture, it should belong. First names and last names were often changed in certain parts of post-war Poland, so the older people, like my maternal grandparents, would have totally different names in their birth certificates and different in post-war passports. I am not sure, if they actually removed many words from the language -- other than proper names. I was never aware that there were quite many German words in Polish -- if you read the 19th century literature, for example, the language does not strike you that it had many German words. Most of the literature of the pst centuries was written in the Lithuanian part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, what later became the Russian Empire for some time, so the language showed more influences from Russian, than from German.

    And to Ryba -- I read this number 3,000-4,000 of German words in the etymology forum somewhere here, which kind of surprised me. That really might be true for the Poznan dialect, or Silesian, which apparently is a separate language these days, but not for standard Polish. There is no way the Poznan dialect can be considered a literary, standard Polish. So, I am not sure if we can really generalize that there are 4,000 German words in Polish -- it depends what someone means by Polish. I don't think it is true about literary Polish. As to the Poznan dialect -- it may have many more German words, than 4,000. Most nouns are German, as far as I know. Most people, however, speak a high quality literary Polish (from Wielkopolska) in Poznan.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  14. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Thank you Ryba and Liliana for the clarification. I was told by a Polish friend about how in the post-war period "kartofel" was displaced by the newly coined "ziemniak". Is that correct?
  15. LilianaB Senior Member

    US New York
    They still say kartofel in Silesia, even when they speak Polish, I think -- the Silesian people. It is ziemniak in Polish, but in different regional dialects, it may be something totally different, even like bulba (bulva Lit.) by the Lithuanian border, or pyry in Poznan. The literary word is ziemniak. I am not sure if it has ever been kartofel in literary Polish.
  16. ryba

    ryba Senior Member

    Touché !

    Actually, what surprises me more is the other estimate. I'd expect germanisms to be more numerous than just "a few hundred", not to mention loan translations, which seem to be quite omnipresent.
    Not really displaced. ;) Ziemniak is now perceived as the least dialectally marked term, that's true, but many people (in Wielkopolska, Śląsk…) alternate it with kartofel, some only say kartofel. And everyone in Poland understands kartofel, I assure you. I've grown up using both. Oh, and ziemniak is by no means a newly-coined word (cf. Slovak ziemiak). The thing is, as can be seen here, there have been (and still are) many regional words meaning 'potato'. I've read the term kartofel (along with the crop itself) was popularized in Poland during the Saxon times.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2013
  17. ryba

    ryba Senior Member

    A tiny correction:
    The Polish Wikipedia article "Germanizm" features a couple of wordlists that might interest you, in case you haven't stumbled upon them before. From a philologist's point of view, the lists have the drawback of pointing to modern Standard High German words as the source of borrowing, while in many cases it seems plausible to think the loanwords come from Low German (e.g. "szuflada od Schublade", while -f- seems to suggest a Low German origin; "smak od Geschmack i schmecken", cf. e.g. Low German Smaak), from another variety of High German ("szpic od (die) Spitze (wierzchołek, czubek)", cf. Bavarian da Spiez), or from another variant of a High German word. In many cases, it is clear they come from a period when the German word did not sound the same as its modern counterpart ("szlifować od schleifen", cf. Middle High German slîfen < Old High German slîfan, ‹î› (= ‹ī›) = /i:/).
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  18. marrish Senior Member

    اُردو Urdu
    Don't forget Dutch in this discussion. I think there were some Dutcth in Poland. I'm learning Polish and it is noticeable that there are so many calques, same like Dutch.

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