Polish alphabet

moh07

Member
USA
Could you please be so kind as to provide me with a list of the letters in the Polish alphabet and their pronunciation?
Thank you!
 
  • Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    I can’t open these links, but I hope moh07 can! (It has nothing to do with my computer, but rather with a “paternalistic culture” of my host country...:rolleyes:)

    I know the Polish alphabet, but I’d like those who also use the letters to generate words and phrases. i.e. the Poles themselves, to have a closer look at it. We always take our alphabets for granted. In fact, they are not. They are all chosen arbitrarily and eventually made into a convention which everybody accepts.

    Because my question is unusual – most “heresies” are!...:D – I wouldn’t like it to be dismissed outright. It has to do with the digraphs in use when writing Polish, none of which, however, are reflected in the Polish alphabet. Take cz, rz and sz. Everybody would admit that these represent Polish phonemes. When using diacritics (or the Cyrillic alphabet, which is out of question because of the religious link), such digraphs can be reduced to one letter. The paradox is that digraphs are not being considered as separate entities in a dictionary while phonemes which conventionally happen to be written with one graph are.

    If you look up in a Polish dictionary, there will be hordes of words beginning with s. Towards the end of the letter s, suddenly words beginning with sz crop up as if they phonemically belong to the graph representing /s/. They don’t! So why not separate sz from s?

    In this line of thought it would be logical to have an alphabet with a sequence of letters which, towards the end, would be going like this:
    o, ó, p, r, rz, s, ś, sz, t, u, w, y, z, ź, ż.

    Of course, the same thing could be said about many alphabets. The question is: Did anybody ever think of a more “phonemic sequence” for the Polish one?

    I can only think of Albanian which is highly pragmatic in this respect.
    :) Język polski cieszy się zasłużoną opinią najtrudniejszego języka świata. :eek:
     

    mcibor

    Senior Member
    With English I would even go further.
    in English there are 8 pronunciations of letter "a" - How would you write that down?

    Moreover in Polish there are words where rz is spoken as r z:
    zmarzlina (frozen ground)
    Murzasichle (village near Zakopane)

    Michał
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    [...] In this line of thought it would be logical to have an alphabet with a sequence of letters which, towards the end, would be going like this:
    o, ó, p, r, rz, s, ś, sz, t, u, w, y, z, ź, ż.

    Of course, the same thing could be said about many alphabets. The question is: Did anybody ever think of a more “phonemic sequence” for the Polish one?

    I can only think of Albanian which is highly pragmatic in this respect.
    Do you mean formally?

    I remember when I was learning the alphabet in my elemantary school we had each and every letter in our ABCs. Children who wanted to get better grades had to learn the whole alphabet not the rudimentary one that you come across in the dictionaries.
    :) Język polski cieszy się zasłużoną opinią najtrudniejszego języka świata. :eek:
    Seriously, isn't it a bit of an exaggeration? I mean I do discren a triffle of tongue in cheek here but would you really put it on the pedestal of the hardest ones?

    Tom
     

    Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    Thomas1 said:
    Seriously, isn't it a bit of an exaggeration? I mean I do discren a triffle of tongue in cheek here but would you really put it on the pedestal of the hardest ones?
    Absolutely!
    (I don’t understand).
    Most definitely not! The postscript was in fact a joke – only not from the Pole who wrote it!
    mcibor said:
    Moreover in Polish there are words where rz is spoken as r z:
    zmarzlina (frozen ground)
    Murzasichle (village near Zakopane)
    For etymological reasons, I suppose? sandhi rules do not always operate across syllabic boundaries.
    :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Because my question is unusual – most “heresies” are!...:D – I wouldn’t like it to be dismissed outright. It has to do with the digraphs in use when writing Polish, none of which, however, are reflected in the Polish alphabet. Take cz, rz and sz. Everybody would admit that these represent Polish phonemes. When using diacritics (or the Cyrillic alphabet, which is out of question because of the religious link), such digraphs can be reduced to one letter. The paradox is that digraphs are not being considered as separate entities in a dictionary while phonemes which conventionally happen to be written with one graph are.

    If you look up in a Polish dictionary, there will be hordes of words beginning with s. Towards the end of the letter s, suddenly words beginning with sz crop up as if they phonemically belong to the graph representing /s/. They don’t! So why not separate sz from s?
    Here's my heresy: who said that alphabets have to be made up of phonemes?

    Alphabets are made up of letters, not sounds. I think you're confusing speech with writing. And that isn't very logical. ;)
     

    Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    In another debate I once wrote:

    In Modern Greek there is no aspiration, and any attempt to explain Classical Greek φ as [f] is a waste of time. We should not forget that the Greek alphabet was a masterpiece of relation between sound and letter.​
    – see [URL="http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=232448"]http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=232448[/URL].

    What apparently confuses outsider is the fact that some alphabets are tailored for specific languages while others are not. The Greek alphabet was literally constructed - through trial and error during a period of time - uniquely for the purpose of writing Greek. The Poles took their alphabet from Latin because Latin was – and still is – the holy language of the Catholic church. You had to put the Polish language into this procrustean bed where it didn’t fit at all.

    And here is precisely what this thread is all about: How did “Procrustes” – in casu the Catholic Poles – perform this work?

    Etymologically, by the way, the word heresy, has to do with “a choice” – and a different one at that. The Poles did not really have a choice but to adapt the Latin alphabet. The way they did this could be subject to discussion – to say the least. A different choice of alphabet – or making up their own one independently of the Latin alphabet – might have been considered a “heresy”. That was never an option.
    :) :)
     

    Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    Outsider said:
    [W]ho said that alphabets have to be made up of phonemes?
    Ideally, an alphabet should be based on the phonemic inventory of a language. The Greeks succeeded marvelously in this task, and so did the Arabs.:)

    I was trying to make a point about this fundamental procedure which unfortunately most languages did not follow – mostly because of religious obsequiousness. This is precisely one of the problems behind awkward orthographies in many languages. When people think in terms of religion trying to solve a problem which is basically of a linguistic nature and loaded with enormous practical consequences, they are having preconceptions.

    However, many languages already had a fixed orthography in pre-modern times when such “preconceptions” were quite natural. As a matter of fact, in hindsight we should not use the word preconceptions at all as long as it was quite natural to make a mishmash of written language and religion.

    What this thread is dealing with is to what extent the more or less arbitrary choice of letters and diacritic signs to represent Polish phonemes was a successful one or not. Obviously, it has worked for quite some years by now, and people have got so used to the orthographic mould imposed on them that any change is paramount to heresy. But in the framework of modern language policy it is of some interest to see “how functionally Procrustes actually carried out his work”, so to say. According to the Greek myth, the methods of this innkeeper were pretty tough, but there was a payback, a standardization of everybody, in casu of everybody’s writing, a national symbol in guise of orthography – in spite of the possible inadequacies of the result.

    We are all following the same orthographic way – orthós is Greek meaning “correct”! - when writing a specific language. Those who don’t are either ignorant or idiosyncratic. Unorthodox ideas are not greeted with particular enthusiasm, but then we are not innkeepers.:D.

    * * *
    If we put the Polish graphic conventions representing the three sibilants next to each other, first the unvoiced sibilants and then the voiced ones, which picture do we get?

    I see a mixture of digraphs and letters with diacritics. There is no real consistency.
    :eek: / :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think you are utterly mistaken about the reasons why a people adopts a certain orthography for its language. In most cases, it has little to do with religion. Well, perhaps Eastern Europe is an exception, but more often than not it has to do with culture and history. Ancient civilizations created alphabets that were more or less phonetic* (in their day) because they had no prior history of written culture. In any event, the late-19th-century "phonologist" fad is no less religious than all the others.

    You mentioned Greek as the ideal of how an alphabet should be defined. Well, if modern Greeks were to follow your principles, and switch to a completely new alphabet -- since the pronunciation of Greek has changed significantly -- they would lose the connection with classical and medieval Greek culture. All that phonologist "consistency" manages is to destroy cultures.

    *Actually, even the Greek alphabet had its oddities, such as separate letters for the consonant clusters /ps/ and /ks/.
     

    Spectre scolaire

    Senior Member
    Maltese and Russian
    Outsider said:
    I think you are utterly mistaken about the reasons why a people adopts a certain orthography for its language.
    I am not talking about orthography in terms of an Englishman writing colour while an American writes the same word as color, or why [ekrirε] in French may be represented as écriraient.

    My concern in this thread is how you represent f.ex. шsince I can’t produce the IPA sign for the sound sh (as in English shoe), I might as well use the Cyrillic letter to indicate grosso modo the same sound. In Croatian you write this sound š, in German sch, in Norwegian skj, in French ch, in Italian sci, in Hungarian s (/s/ is being written sz!), in Turkish ş -and particularly why Polish uses sz while equally making use of diacritics.

    This has nothing to do with orthographic conventions reflecting the history of each language, but with the way in which the sounds of a language are being represented graphically – according to an established tradition.

    Outsider said:
    In most cases, it has little to do with religion. Well, perhaps Eastern Europe is an exception, but more often than not it has to do with culture and history.
    Any language can be written with any script, but there is generally a strong link between alphabet and religion. Why would Catholic Greeks (formerly) use the Latin alphabet for writing Greek? –cf. the so-called φραγκοχιώτικα [frangochiotika], i.e. Greek in ‘Franco-Levantine’ way, frango referring to a word meaning “Catholic” in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, etc. Why would a turcophone Greek Orthodox (formerly) write Turkish with the Greek alphabet, the so-called καραμανλίδικα [karamanlídika]? Why would Ashkenazic Jews write Yiddish with Hebrew ‘block letters’? Why would the Russians choose the Cyrillic alphabet in spite of Christianity being introduced into Rus’ Ukraina by the Byzantines (together with their Greek alphabet) if not because there was at that point already a holy language called Church Slavonic? Why is (basically) the same South Slavic language written with the Latin alphabet by Croats and with the Cyrillic one by the Serbs? Why are Persian and Urdu, two Indo-European languages, written with the Arabic alphabet? Why is Polish written with the Latin alphabet when a special alphabet for writing Slavic languages was (allegedly) invented by those two missionaries who first translated the bible into a Slavic tongue?

    And why is not today’s Turkish written with the Arabic alphabet? The answer is that Atatürk broke this religious link in 1928.

    Remember that Warszawa is east of Tirana, the capital of a country which has seen more different alphabets to write its language than most other countries! –at least in Europe. The reason is of course that Albanians belong to three different religions, Greek Orthodoxy, Islam and Catholicism. There was even a mixed Latin-Greek alphabet during a period.

    Your stress on Eastern Europe (for the link between alphabet and religion) is devoid of any significance because the whole of Western Europe was Catholic before the Reformation. All the languages “West of the East” had adopted the Latin alphabet before Luther came around. They still stick to it - with various conventional/national(!) modifications.

    Outsider said:
    You mentioned Greek as the ideal of how an alphabet should be defined. Well, if modern Greeks were to follow your principles, and switch to a completely new alphabet -- since the pronunciation of Greek has changed significantly – they would loose the connection with classical and medieval Greek culture.
    That is precisely the reason why they keep the same alphabet as the one “institutionalized” in 403 BC – even if it is a rather “clumsy tool” for writing Modern Greek. It is not more inadequate, however, than the Arabic alphabet for the purpose of writing Farsi. It is basically because Greek is a “holy language” – cf. the original language of the New Testament – that a change of alphabet among Greeks is out of question.

    Outsider said:
    Actually, even the Greek alphabet had its oddities, such as separate letters for the consonant clusters /ps/[ps] and /ks/[ks].
    I can only guess why you call this highly functional graphemic feature an “oddity”! –but I am too polite to express it.:D If you look at the so-called “sigmatic aorist” of Greek verbs – by far the most common! – it uses the graphemes ξ [ks] and ψ [ps] for all the verbs provided with a consonant stem. The idea behind the digraph ξ was taken over by the Romans. In the shape of an x this sign proved functional for writing Latin. The other Greek digraph was not - the Romans were pragmatic. For other languages using the Latin alphabet, the x may be of no specific value at all, and yet, it is often counted as a letter. The Poles were pragmatic enough to skip it!

    There is another digraph in Classical Greek, ου, originally denoting a long closed . It is a curiosity that Armenian has adopted the same digraph to denote instead of inventing a special sign for it. This is clearly a non-functional Greek influence - a “preconception”, so to say, by Meshrop... There is another stunningly functional feature linked to the Greek alphabet: Letters denoting long and open [e] and [o] - in Greek η and ω - both have morphophonemic value. There is also a phonemic difference in Classical Greek between long and short [y] - in Greek υ - but this is not reflected in the alphabet, and the reason is that this distinction was of no fundamental importance to the verbal system.

    This much just as an indication of logical thought in Ancient Greece. With the introduction of Christianity, logics would be relegated to god.

    To call ξ and ψ “oddities” is with all respect ...odd.:eek:

    I tried to get this discussion back on track with the last passage of my previous posting, but this is like a Sisyphos work...:(
    :) :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    My concern in this thread is how you represent f.ex. ?since I can’t produce the IPA sign for the sound sh (as in English shoe), I might as well use the Cyrillic letter to indicate grosso modo the same sound. In Croatian you write this sound š, in German sch, in Norwegian skj, in French ch, in Italian sci, in Hungarian s (/s/ is being written sz!), in Turkish ? -and particularly why Polish uses sz while equally making use of diacritics.
    So when you said that Polich spelling was inconsistent you were referring to the fact that it uses both diacritics and digraphs? Well, lots of languages use both. French, for instance (ç, ch, etc.)

    This has nothing to do with orthographic conventions reflecting the history of each language, but with the way in which the sounds of a language are being represented graphically – according to an established tradition.
    The two are usually connected...

    Any language can be written with any script, but there is generally a strong link between alphabet and religion. Why would Catholic Greeks (formerly) use the Latin alphabet for writing Greek?
    The real question, though, is whether religion was the cause of those features of Polish orthography which you dislike.

    Why would the Russians choose the Cyrillic alphabet in spite of Christianity being introduced into Rus’ Ukraina by the Byzantines (together with their Greek alphabet) if not because there was at that point already a holy language called Church Slavonic?
    Church Slavonic was actually promoted by the Byzantines, and the Cyrillic alphabet is said to have been invented by Byzantine monks. How do you explain that? Why didn't they just reuse the Greek alphabet?

    Your stress on Eastern Europe (for the link between alphabet and religion) is devoid of any significance because the whole of Western Europe was Catholic before the Reformation.
    And Roman before that. It wasn't religion that brought the Latin alphabet here; it was culture.

    I can only guess why you call this highly functional graphemic feature an “oddity”! –but I am too polite to express it.:D
    Should I be thankful for your "politeness"?

    Look, I like debating as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to waste my time with ill-mannered people. I decided to give you a second chance after your first swipe at me, but as is usually the case with haughty characters such as yourself it wasn't worth it.

    I won't resist correcting two of your pedantic-yet-ironically-ignorant "corrections", though:

    Outsider said:
    You mentioned Greek as the ideal of how an alphabet should be defined. Well, if modern Greeks were to follow your principles, and switch to a completely new alphabet -- since the pronunciation of Greek has changed significantly – they would loose the connection with classical and medieval Greek culture.
    No, it's spelled with just one "o".

    Outsider said:
    ctually, even the Greek alphabet had its oddities, such as separate letters for the consonant clusters /ps/[ps] and /ks/[ks].
    No, it's a sequence of phonemes, not phones.

    Have a nice life, SS. :rolleyes:
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    Time to cool off. :) This thread will be opened later. I hope it returns to the usual WR standard of cordiality.

    Edit: Thread reopened.
     
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