ł and l

MIODRAG

Banned
none -- all languages I use are equally "foreign" to me
Why is it that only some "l" in Polish (the one crossed through, a bit like "t" only tilted -- I don't have the letter here or cannot find it) becomes a [w] sound, and the rest of the "l"s remain similar to other languages [l]?

Does it have something to do with the position in the word (before a consonant or a front vowel etc.) or with the origin from different sounds in Proto-Slavonic?
 
  • slavic_one

    Senior Member
    Croatian (štokavski, jekavski)
    Why is it that only some "l" in Polish (the one crossed through, a bit like "t" only tilted -- I don't have the letter here or cannot find it) becomes a [w] sound, and the rest of the "l"s remain similar to other languages [l]?

    Does it have something to do with the position in the word (before a consonant or a front vowel etc.) or with the origin from different sounds in Proto-Slavonic?

    I think the ł has it's etimological meaning. At first it sounded different, but because it was quite hard to pronounce it right even for Polaks, it became something like english "w". I've read somewhere that even now in theatre they pronounce it in old-fashioned way.
     

    MIODRAG

    Banned
    none -- all languages I use are equally "foreign" to me
    My question is why it is there at all, different from "l".

    Do they come from different Proto-Slavonic phonemes or is the difference due to the position in a word?
     

    JakubikF

    Senior Member
    My question is why it is there at all, different from "l".

    Do they come from different Proto-Slavonic phonemes or is the difference due to the position in a word?

    Actually in other Slavic languages exist two variants of that sound: the one is soft and the other hard. However they are represented by the same letter BUT with additional signs e.g. l' or in Cyrillic ль. They are similar to Polish "l". Ł sound becomes from typical Slavonic "l" but it drifted in other way. In fact it is an extraordinary sounds among Slavonic group (except of upper and lower Sorbian, Kashubian and the dialect of Polish - Silesian).

    It used to be that in Polish the ł sound was almost identical in pronunciation as e.g. л in Russian.
     

    MIODRAG

    Banned
    none -- all languages I use are equally "foreign" to me
    Well, there must be a reason why only some of the Proto-Slavonic l sounds became ł, while some did not and remained l.

    I imagine it is not totally haphazard, so what is the rule?
     

    JakubikF

    Senior Member
    I am not sure whether you understand the point well MIODRAG.
    There are examples which I think may explain you the right pronunciation in modern Polish:

    łapa [
    'wapa] - it used to be [ɫapa] while ɫ-sound is identical to Russian л (it was pronounced like that till the middle of 20th century)

    lot [
    lɔt] - like in English "let"
    lis [ʎis] - Serbocroatian odijeljen [
    ˈodijeːʎen]; Slovak roľa [ˈrɔʎa]
     

    MIODRAG

    Banned
    none -- all languages I use are equally "foreign" to me
    I am not sure whether you understand the point well MIODRAG.
    There are examples which I think may explain you the right pronunciation in modern Polish:

    łapa [
    'wapa] - it used to be [ɫapa] while ɫ-sound is identical to Russian л (it was pronounced like that till the middle of 20th century)

    lot [
    lɔt] - like in English "let"
    lis [ʎis] - Serbocroatian odijeljen [
    ˈodijeːʎen]; Slovak roľa [ˈrɔʎa]

    It seems that it is you who does not understand the question. I am not asking how it is pronounced -- I know that very well. I am interested in the diachronic aspect.

    I'll make it as simple as I can: My question is why today łapa is łapa and not lapa, and why lot is lot and not łot.

    Were there two different original consonants in Proto-Slavonic causing the eventual development to be different -- say a [l] and a [lj], or was it all one same sound in proto-Slavonic (probably a regular [l]) that gave two different results today: a
    ł and a l?

    And if the latter (which seems more reasonable), then what exactly caused it to develop differently -- was it position in a stressed/unstressed syllable, the vowel coming before or after [l], the length of the word, etc?



     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    My question is why it is there at all, different from "l".

    Do they come from different Proto-Slavonic phonemes or is the difference due to the position in a word?

    As far as I know, they do come from different phonemes, namely the soft and hard/dark L (I'm not sure if this terminology is fully precise). The latter became modern Polish ł, i.e. /w/ in pronunciation.

    If you observe Polish cognates with other Slavic languages, you'll find that Polish ł generally corresponds to hard, and l to soft Ls in other languages. For example, Croatian mali and Russian малый have a hard L, and the Polish mały cognate has an ł in the same place.On the other hand, Croatian ljudi and Russian люди have soft Ls (palatalized as a secondary articulation in Russian and a real palatal approximant in Croatian), and their Polish cognate ludzie has a corresponding l.

    However, I'm not sure if this sound change was fully consistent, or if there are perhaps some additional, context-dependent rules for when else it did or did not happen. I'm also not sure what exactly these soft and hard Ls looked like in Proto-Slavic (was the soft one a palatal approximant or just palatalized, and was the hard one velarized?).

    And if the latter (which seems more reasonable), then what exactly caused it to develop differently -- was it position in a stressed/unstressed syllable, the vowel coming before or after [l], the length of the word, etc?

    I think the process is called L-vocalization. Apparently, it's a quite common phenomenon that happened (or is happening) in many other languages too.
     

    Slavista

    New Member
    American English
    MIODRAG

    JakubiFk has it right, they're the same letter, only 2 different variations, the L being the soft and palatalized (cf Pol. lubić and Rus. любовь), where as the Ł is the harder pronunciation of the phoneme L, which drifted in the development of Polish from the other Slavic Languages.
     

    Tolovaj_Mataj

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Slovenia
    Is this l-case really only a Polish issue?

    As I'm not a pro in linguistic I can only observe the behaviour of l in Slovene. We use only one letter, but it represents two sounds, l and w.

    There exist rules how to pronounce letter l in particular cases. It can be found in any grammar book. I'll just right down a few examples for the w-sound:
    polž -> powzh -- a snail
    volk -> vowk -- a wolf
    dolg -> dowg -- long (adjective)
    bel -> bew -- white

    and all l-participles when they really finish in l ie. when used in masculine singular form: delal (delaw), mislil (misliw) ...

    Miodrag, the last case must remind you on Croatian/Serbian: when you replace l with o in l-participles, we do not. We just pronounce them like w. The rest is the same.
     
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    JakubikF

    Senior Member
    I said few posts above that letter ł exists in few Slavonic languages (upper and lower Sorbian, Kashubian and the dialect of Polish - Silesian). It is not unique for Polish. Considering Slovenian as you mentioned w-sound exists but is not represented by ł letter. However, obviously ,Slovenian belongs to the group of Slavic languages which have such sound.
     

    Athaulf

    Senior Member
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    Is this l-case really only a Polish issue?

    As I'm not a pro in linguistic I can only observe the behaviour of l in Slovene. We use only one letter, but it represents two sounds, l and w.

    There exist rules how to pronounce letter l in particular cases. It can be found in any grammar book. I'll just right down a few examples for the w-sound:
    polž -> powzh -- a snail
    volk -> vowk -- a wolf
    dolg -> dowg -- long (adjective)
    bel -> bew -- white

    and all l-participles when they really finish in l ie. when used in masculine singular form: delal (delaw), mislil (misliw) ...

    While this is also an instance of L-vocalization, it is actually a different sound change, which is (I think) specific to South Slavic languages.

    In all these examples, /l/ has disappeared in Shtokavian dialects too (including standard BCS), and the letter l doesn't even appear in the written form of these words because of the more phonemic BCS orthography. I'm not sure about the exact form of the sound change law here, but in the BCS cognate words of these examples, /ol/ has turned onto /u/, and the word-final /l/ has turned into /o/: puž, vuk, dug, mislio... I can think of some exceptions to this latter rule, some of which are even different between standard Croatian and Serbian, e.g. sol vs. so "salt", but I don't have the time to look up the exact details now.

    In contrast, my above examples from post #9 about BCS and Russian vs. Polish should hold for Slovenian vs. Polish too. (I'm not 100% sure about this, so you might want to correct me, but I'd bet $50 that they do. :))
     

    Tolovaj_Mataj

    Senior Member
    Slovene, Slovenia
    In contrast, my above examples from post #9 about BCS and Russian vs. Polish should hold for Slovenian vs. Polish too. (I'm not 100% sure about this, so you might want to correct me, but I'd bet $50 that they do. :))

    I can't correct you. I can only write down our words and leave the conclusion to you.

    Croatian mali
    Russian малый
    Polish mały
    Slovene mali

    Croatian ljudi
    Russian люди
    Polish ludzie
    Slovene ljudje


    In both examples l represents l sound (not w).
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Actually in other Slavic languages exist two variants of that sound

    Yes, many (or most or all?) Slavonic languages have two distinct variants of most consonants:
    - a 'soft' variant in which the tongue approaches the roof of the mouth (the palate), and
    - a 'hard' variant in which it does not.
    This was a characteristic of Proto-Slavonic. Originally the soft variant appeared between e, i and other front vowels, and the hard variant appeared between a, o, u and other back vowels.

    As time went by, in Proto-Slavonic (and later), many vowels changed from front to back and vice versa, but the consonants preceding them remained the same, so the soft variants came to be used before back vowels in some words, and the hard variants came to be used before front vowels in some words.

    Exceptionally in Polish, the hard l came to be pronounced /w/ and the soft l came to be pronounced (hard) /l/. But if you compare a Polish word with, for example, a corresponding Russian word (as Tolovaj has above), you will usually find that
    - Polish ł corresponds to Russian hard л (that is, the л before a, o, y, ы), and
    - Polish l corrresponds to Russian soft л (that is, the л before e, ю,и, ь, я).
     
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    WannaBeMe

    Senior Member
    Serbian (ijekavian)
    Thanks a lot people, now I understand Polish a lot more than before.
    It find also interesting that only Polish and Serbian ( but not Croatian) have the hard pronountion of cz and č while other slavic languages pronounce the same consonant as Polish and Serbian ć.
    Do you know perhaps, if this is the case in Sorbian, too.
    If positive, it would indicate the contact or collectivity of Serbs and Sorbs or Serbs and Polish tribes in the ancient slavic habitat.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It find also interesting that only Polish and Serbian ( but not Croatian) have the hard pronountion of cz and č while other slavic languages pronounce the same consonant as Polish and Serbian ć.
    On the contrary, I was taught at university that in Russian the sounds /ʧ/, /∫/ and /ʒ/ are always pronounced 'hard' (unpalatalized, like Polish cz), though Russian spelling tends to suggest the opposite.
     

    kknd

    Senior Member
    polski / Polish
    Ultimately you should consider ł and l different letters/sounds anly loosely connected with each other (they shift to each other sometimes in declensions and conjugations). Exemplified mały has other form like mali; ł can be found in verb's endings in singular 3rd person (masc.: , fem.: -ła, neut.: -ło), where you can rarely (or even never) find -l, on the other hand you can find it in it often in 3rd person plural nonfem. (as they teach in school or: masc. and neut. which coincide): -li.

    It's just nature of this sounds, as you see conditioned by ethymology. Your question is quite academic; for Poles it's treated like other pairs: g-ż; o-ó; etc.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    While this is also an instance of L-vocalization, it is actually a different sound change, which is (I think) specific to South Slavic languages.
    I think too that this kind of sound shift (which depends on position) only happens in South Slavic languages - it is different from Polish /ł/ as this changed sounds independent of position it seems.
    In South Slavic (standard BCS and Slovenian; I wouldn't know about Bulgarian and Macedonian) it is limited to VLC (vocal-L-consonant) positions and at the end of a word (sometimes old syllabic /l/ also is affected historically, like BCS "vuk" = Slovenian "volk", as you've already mentioned above).

    (The sound [w] by the way also exists in Slovak, but there I think only as a positional allophone of [v] not unsimilar to Slovene, if I remember correctly.)

    And as for why Polish /ł/ still is written as "an l" - well, this obviously is the case for historical reasons.
     

    slavian1

    Member
    Poland, Polish
    I don't understand the havoc concerning the 'Ł' and 'L' sounds. It's as simple as pronunciation of English words "white" (łajt) and "light" (lajt). So where is a problem?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    But there is another aspect, as Sokol noted: the original pronunciation of this phoneme was different. So, the "ł" is an etymological spelling.
     

    mcibor

    Senior Member
    Moreover it couldn't be written as /w/, because /w/ letter is used to write sound /v/

    In Polish there are no /q/ nor /v/ letters.

    /q/ is written as kw and /v/ is written as /w/

    Strange thing is that Polish is one of the few languages witch use letter /w/. But there was already a post about that somewhere on the forum.
     

    DANCHO DANILOV

    New Member
    USA
    USA English
    It's quite interesting this subject of the concept of changing hard L into a "w" sound. There is a manner of speaking in Bulgaria amongst some Bulgarians (newer generations) where a hard L is being replaced by a "w" sound. Maybe it is something natural in speaking in which a hard L can be replaced by a "w" sound, I don't know.

    For example,
    ябълка - "Jabylka" would be pronounced as "Jabyłka" by some people. (apple)
    дявол - "djavol" would be pronounced as "djavoł" by some people. (devil)

    however . . .
    леля - "lelja" is always pronounced "lelja" (aunt) never "łelja" even by those who change their l's to ł's in speaking.

    This manner of speaking in Bulgarian is considered as "uncultured" by some however, it seems to be a common trend amongst people nowadays to speak like this. I wonder if it has to do anything with phonetics in just changing the "L" sound to a "ł" sound subconsciously...
     
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