k, p, t - aspirated or unaspirated?

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by Jianfeng, Aug 17, 2009.

  1. Jianfeng Junior Member

    Are they pronounced like k,t,p in Deutsch(aspirated) or in Francais(unaspirated)? Thanks.
  2. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    They are unaspirated, like in French. I am not sure if any Slavic language has aspirated consonants.
  3. kknd Senior Member

    Polska / Poland
    polski / Polish
    I'll try not to trick you: I think there are but as some kind of 'approximants', ie. pchać (to push), where p seems to be aspirated because of following ch. I'm more not sure of that: you can treat pch as aspirated p, but as stated above, lone p (or any other consonant) is not aspirated.
  4. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member

    I'm not an expert on the issue you're asking about, but after repeating the sounds several times, in different contexts, I think they are not. It seems to me that kkd hit the nail on the head: The sounds that follow, for example, "p" might add a certain amount of air. However, it could be misleading, due to the amount of alcohol in my veins.:D
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2009
  5. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    They generally become aspirated before a vowel or an aspirated consonant due to the process called regressive assimilation (in Polish: upodobnienie wsteczne, asymilacja).

    EDIT: please see below for explanation.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2009
  6. jemp New Member

    Hello Jianfeng,

    Polish stops are unaspirated. Though a minor qualification can be made here – some speakers of Polish do occasionally use aspiration (in stressed syllables) for emphasis. But this usage is not very frequent, I think.

    This is an interesting observation, kknd, but I’d still keep to the generalization that there is no aspiration in Polish. The reason for this is that even though you do hear some ‘noise’ after /p/ in words such as ‘pchać’, this sound comes only from the velar voiceless fricative (not approximant) /x/, and not from any ‘puff of air’ which we could treat as an ‘impressionistic’ correlate of aspiration.
    Another argument is that aspiration is an effect, among others, of increased muscle tension in the articulators, and (in my case at least ;)), I don’t think I pronounce the [p] in ‘pchać’ with such additional tension.

    You seem to be confusing aspiration with voicing (because you use the term ‘regressive assimilation’), but even if you mean voicing, then it’s still not true: after all, stops in Polish don’t automatically get voiced before vowels. But it is true that a voiceless stop becomes voiced before another voiced stop.

    Best regards :),
  7. I agree. Plosives, as I was taught, are generally not aspirated in Polish.

    The only example I can think of (one that my phonetics teacher told us a long time ago ;) ) is when you're talking to your father, and you say the word "tato"... In an appropriate context, the first /t/ becomes aspirated, and the following sound is relatively longer.
  8. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Welcome, Jemp. :)

    Thanks for your clarification. :thumbsup: I don't know why I confused these two things.:eek:

    Is there any rationale for when k, p, t become voiced before vowels?
    It seems to me that they do in the following examples:

    Are you sure we use on a regular basis voicless-plosive voiced-plosive combinations, that is kg, kb, kd, pb, pg, pd, td, tg, tb, in Polish?

    In consonant clusters, where k, p, t occur before a voiced consonant, they generally become voiced, otherwise they remain voiceless:


  9. BezierCurve Senior Member

    If voiced, those would be pronounced as ['gɔwɔ], ['bɔrɛnt͡ʂ] and ['dat͡ʂkʲi]. That happens only when you have a really strong cold. ;)

    There are not that many of them, but they're still common, for example "jakby" ['jagbɨ] or "jakże" ['jagʐɛ]
  10. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Thanks for the answer, Bezier, very helpful.:thumbsup:

    It looks like this thread is a good lesson on Polish phonetics for me:cool: so let me dispell some more doubts I have:
    According to the definition of "regressive assimilation" the first letters in the first words in pairs given should become voiced:


    Obviously, they don't. Even though Polish "r" is voiced.

    Now, there seems to be another thing to it that determines whether an unvoiced consonant becomes voiced or not. Because why the "k" in "jakby" becomes voiced and why not in "krowa", in spite of the fact that it comes before a voiced consonant in both cases. Do some additional qualities of a consonant come to play? If so, what are they?
  11. BezierCurve Senior Member

    As for "kszt-", "pszcz-", "tk-" - none of those following k,p and t are voiced, hence there is no reason for making the preceding sound voiced.

    This rule does not apply to sonorants (i.e. sounds produced without really obstructing the air flow). So, you won't make voiced any of those voiceless consonants neither before l, ł, m, j, n. Polish 'r' as a trill does not obstruct the air the same way as b, d or g. This also explains pronunciation of "krowa", "prycza" and "traktor".
  12. Jianfeng Junior Member

    Thanks all. When I listen to some polish songs, I find that some singers pronounce k, t and p aspirated. Mostly k is pronounced /kh/ but not /k/. Even when I listen to the audio textbook, I find such problem too. If k, t and p are not stressed for example spoko, this sounds /spokho/ to me...
  13. BezierCurve Senior Member

    It is possible that in some situations (like songs) you will hear them aspirated, also some people might pronounce words in a specific way (maniera), which will be close enough to it, but you can always treat them as allomorphs.

    Most of the speakers do not pronounce k,p and t aspirated, so I wouldn't worry about it.

    Anyway, could you give an example of a song with aspiration? It is possible that we (natives) wouldn't notice it without someone pointing it out.
  14. Jianfeng Junior Member

    Byc spoko by DNA i Gal
  15. BezierCurve Senior Member

    Yes, I've found it on YouTube. So, it looks like you were right about the aspiration. And that's because of the emphatic way of singing, maybe also trying to sound a bit like English speaking (singing) artists.

    Anyone talking like that in an everyday conversation would be considered either weird or joking. You can try doing that once in a while when emphasizing something or just losing your patience though.
  16. kknd Senior Member

    Polska / Poland
    polski / Polish
    I think that because of your mother tongue features you can tell as more about aspiration or lack of it in common use. The reason is that aspiration is not a distinctive feature of Polish langauge like it is in Chinese.

    Sometimes people say spokho just by realising tension from k stop (kind of 'lax' speaking), sometimes they utter it correctly by ending it immediately giving spok-o, but this needs a little bit more attention (which people tend to not have when speaking on a daily basis).

    In my opinion the best answer is: in common Polish (or any other language) speaking shouldn't be awkward, if it's easier to you to aspirate, then aspirate; if not, then don't! :) Again: this doesn't generally matter in Polish.

    Now I think that aspiration needs more awarness in speaking (as said above) than most of Poles have when speaking their mother tongue (they have to remember about it, because it not natural in this language, when learning Korean for example).
  17. jemp New Member

    This is a great example, majlo! Thanks for sharing it :)

    Hello, Thomas1 :)

    I'm not sure if I understand your question properly, but I wrote that "a voiceless stop becomes voiced before another voiced stop", so I didn't say that we could combine voiceless and voiced plosives in one cluster - quite the contrary, I said that clusters of stops must agree in terms of voicing (that is to say, combinations such as /gb/ (two voiced stops) and /kp/ (two voiceless stops) are allowed, but not e.g. /kb/ or /gp/ - of course, we’re talking now about pronunciation, and not spelling, in which sequences such as {kb} and {gp} are fine; by the way, spelling is always a major distracter in phonology ;)). BezierCurve has already given the example of 'jakby' /'jagbɨ/, and there are a lot of other words in which clusters of plosives agree in voicing, e.g. 'Magda', ‘ptak’, ‘klatka’, but no words in which the plosives in such clusters would have different voicing specifications. This is all because Polish has the requirement of voice agreement - clusters of obstruents must agree in terms of voicing.

    This requirement is satisfied in Polish by means of regressive voice assimilation. This process affects all obstruents (i.e. plosives, fricatives and affricates): they acquire the voicing specification of the following consonant.

    Let's do a little bit of phonology here :):
    the word 'żaba', contains the voiced stop /b/, and the structure of this word is żab+a (the stem meaning 'frog' + feminine suffix 'a'). Now think about the diminutive form 'żabka' (structure: żab+ka, where 'ka' is a diminutive suffix, like in lamp+ka). There is a sort of conflict here, which is reflected in the spelling of the word - voiced /b/ is now adjacent to voiceless /k/, and the Polish phonological system does not allow such sequences. This is where regressive voice assimilation comes in, producing /pk/.

    (Let me also point out that this process is not restricted to the context inside words, but it also operates also across word boundaries, e.g.: ‘pies Bartka’ is pronounced ['pʲjɛz 'bartka].)

    Gosh, this whole voice assimilation thing is a mammoth of a subject (e.g. sometimes there are additional interfering processes, which complicate the picture, and there is also some regional variation), so maybe I'll stop right here ;)

    Very good point - native speakers of Polish are not very sensitive - or not sensitive at all - to aspiration because they don't have it in their own language (that is to say, it is by no means 'obligatory', and so some speakers never use it). But I think that if you went for aspiration and consistently used it in every voiceless stop while speaking Polish, then it would eventually begin to attract attention to itself, and would start to be perceived, at least by some Poles, as a sort of 'idiosyncrasy'.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2009
  18. Jianfeng Junior Member

    Thank you all! I think maybe I should listen to the radio or watch more movies (btw, I love Pora Umierac). Then maybe I will find the "sense of language".
  19. kknd Senior Member

    Polska / Poland
    polski / Polish
    It seems that aspiration is mistaken with voiceness above. This happens not only to you (but because of other circumstances). We use p/b, t/d, k/g pairs to distinguish among voiceless and voiced counterparts of some sounds. In Chinese romanization (latynizacja in Polish!), most popular pinyin, these pairs are used to tell apart unaspirated and aspirated sounds.

    Because of different use of those signs Beijing is often read in English (and Polish) like there was voiced consonant 'b' in the begining when there is an aspirated 'p' (because of that we have Pekin in Polish, this is quite similar to original lesson, definitely much better than popular English one)—Jianfeng can surely tell more about it!
  20. Jianfeng Junior Member

    Well, since in Chinese the p/b, k/g and t/d pairs are not pronounced as those in Polish, so it is not easy for most Chinese to learn Polish, Russian, Francais etc. I have ever studied Hindi and Francais, so I can understand this well. I have ever read some books about Slavic languages so I think in Polish p, t and k SHOULD be pronounced unaspirated, but when I listen to the music (most of the songs are rap, maybe the rappers don't pronounce properly), I find that these letters are not pronounced clearly unaspirated as in francais, russian or Hindi. I even thought they might be influenced by German or English. But..Well it's OK, maybe I've made it too strict.
  21. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    I think that we should mention one important thing: even if aspiration of consonants can occur in Polish, this has no phonemic effect, that is it can not change the meaning of the word. On the other side, the Polish speakers can be easily sorted out speaking germanic tongues because aspiration is generally one of the last things they learn mastering a foreign language.
  22. Can it in Chinese? It cannot in English, as far as I know.

    True. And on the other hand, once they do, they might pass as a native speaker. ;)
  23. BezierCurve Senior Member

    Yes, I've done that, sir :)
  24. kknd Senior Member

    Polska / Poland
    polski / Polish
    Of course (see above). It's distinguished there like voiceness in Indoeuropean language family. As far as I remember Chinese don't tell apart voiceness in all of 'dialects'.

  25. Thank you, kknd. I know some stuff about Chinese, but that I wasn't aware of.

    Are you sure? Voicing doesn't change the meaning of the word in Polish, for example.

    One thing, if I may be of assistance again, it's "voicing," not "voiceness". :)
  26. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Yes, Chinese has no phonemic opposition between voiced and unvoiced consonants, but it has an opposition between aspirated and unaspirated. That's why (among others) Chinese is so difficult to learn for most speakers of other tongues. In addition, the Pinyin romanization of Chinese contributes to the difficulty by using latin characters for voiced (unaspirated) and unvoiced (aspirated). Q for example denotes a consonant similar to Polish c', but aspirated, while J the same consonant but unaspirated. That's why our Cinese friend was so concerned about aspiration in Polish.

    What concerns passing as a native speaker in English - the stress based rhytm and specific intonation is also difficult to master, and its lack reveales most of foreigners.

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