Polish nasal vowels

Discussion in 'Polski (Polish)' started by olaszinho, Sep 18, 2013.

  1. olaszinho Senior Member

    Central Italian
    Hello everybody.

    I am working with a young Polish guy these days, he is 24 years old. The other day we were talking about Polish pronunciation and he told me that Polish nasal vowels ą and ę are not pronounced like this anymore, he added that only the elderly and probably educated people still pronounce them as nasal sounds. Is that true? It would be a pity if Polish lost these nasal phonemes, it is the only slavic language to retain this kind of vowels, if I am not mistaken. Are there any regional differences in this regard?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  2. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
  3. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    "like this" - what does it mean?

    You can hear the common "street" pronunciation if you try IVONA text to speech software (free trial). Some people have another pronunciation.

    and also here: włączać
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2013
  4. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    In the case of 'ą' and 'ę', I've been told during my Polish-English contrastive phonology lessons, the only nasal element is what they call a 'nasalised glide', that is, a movement from 'a' to 'ą'. So your friend was right insofar as there are no 'true' nasal vowels in Polish.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  5. MasterPolish

    MasterPolish Senior Member

    Polish nasals are asynchronous unlike the French ones, i.e. the nasality comes after the oral part. But they are still used, however people debate whether it's purism or not to use them in certain words. They are often denasalized before certain consonants or consonant clusters — take a look at a compilation I once made:

    But outside of such cases, you still pronounce them like nasals, and there are even memes in Polish written in dialects lacking these nasal sounds.

    Also most people completely denasalize the final vowel in first person singular of the present-future tense conjugation, so that in pronunciation it is identical to the third person singular (only valid for conjugation class I: -ę, -esz type), for example:
    1. ja skaczę
    2. ty skaczesz
    3. on skacze

    According to my uncle who is a proffessional TV narrator, this terminal -ę should have about half of its "default" nasality and this is how educated people I maintain relationships with pronounce it. It is very important, also in writing, as Polish usually skips personal pronouns and the meaning may vary.
  6. Chalk Pot

    Chalk Pot Banned

    итальянский язык
    Hi, what an interesting matter for Slavists. Nasal vowels are typical of Polish, but also Slovene is the other slavic language which has maintained this feature (see f eg Wikipedia - I cannot post links).

    However, if we agree the theory Baltic and Slavic languages to have had a common base ('Balto-Slavic'), also Lithuanian seems to hide nasal vowels in their lenghts (and you can see they also use the cedilla as Polish do); but in a greater sense, also Latin could hide

    - in its Ablative Ā what in Polish is the Instrumental Ą ;
    - and in the Latin Accusative AM the same that in the Polish female Accusative Ę

    meaning that the Nasal has turned into a Long Vowel or into a M/N (like in Sanskrit - Linguists see we're just going around the same point).

    In the facts, it is also known that Polish theatre Actors have to emphasise such sounds like Ł which means that speaking in other situations it is not so necessary, as well as if you might have noticed that Polish guys can avoid writing ą and ę using sms .

    I don't know whether it is 'young' to be 'ignorant' as always; it is highly possible that if the language considers useless to emphasize some sounds, then it can actually tend to transform them, since written language is not the base, but the consequence of the spoken one.
  7. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    We're not in England where pronunciation might be indicative of one's education -- and let me just say that Polish TV presenters make egregrious pronunciation mistakes themselves -- so whether or not there is a 'nasal' quality to your pronuncaition of 'ą' or 'ę' doesn't mean that you're well or poorly educated. Personally, I pronounce /ę/ and /ą/ (I know these are represented by different symbols in the IPA) with a nasalised glide only in careful speech, otherwise I don't bother to do so.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  8. MasterPolish

    MasterPolish Senior Member

    Let me enter into friendly polemics with the post above ;)

    As far as I am concerned, nasals are one of the reasons to think that Slavic languages originated from proto-Baltic languages, and did not have a common Balto-Slavic ancestor. Not being historical linguist myself, I have had some first-hand information on the issue presented to me quite recently. Other than that I agree completely with everything you have wrote =]

    If they came into existence in the first place, this probably isn't a matter of usefulness, but just of ongoing changes ;) It's like arguing which type of language is optimal, while all the data I am aware of points to the conclusion that such typology is a vicious circle:
    analytic =› isolating =› agglutinative =› inflectional-agglutinative =› inflective =› analytyc =› ...
    I believe it's the same way with phonetics, although there are some sounds that have much higher statistical probability to exist in certain combinations within a given phonetic system.

    I hope I didn't bring it too off-topic ;)
  9. Chalk Pot

    Chalk Pot Banned

    итальянский язык
    Thank you for approving; excuse me I didn't get this last part - whether you agree me or not; but I make this personal example:

    - this thread has been made by an Italian speaker like I am; and we both know for example, that in 40 years we have lost the graphic use of the letter j to express the semi-vowel use of letter i (a typical sound of Ukrainian and Russian) like in jeri (yesterday...) now written ieri,

    ... or some other examples of our language, because all of them would now look pedantic, or just appear old fashioned (I use them as a provocation, sometimes).

    And nowadays youths, especially immigrants' sons, will never know about these useless oddities of Italian.

    That would be, as if this thread was made 40 years ago and we puzzled onto those who pronounce the semi-vowel j or not!

    In 40 years Polish would lose the graphic letters ą and ę : a possible future - a possible political party?
  10. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    I don't see that happening, be it in 40 or 400 years. The same goes for other diacritic letters, of which we have quite a few. They are simply needed for correct spelling, and form an intergral part of our letters' inventory. You may see some people on the internet leave them out, but such individuals are largely outnumbered by those who encourage their use.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  11. MasterPolish

    MasterPolish Senior Member

    I said that being useful or not is not a factor/valid question in terms of sounds, agreed with the remainder of comparison =]

    Pardon me for asking, but are you speaking of the future or the past?

    Yes, but it was a time when there wasn't nearly as much text in print as there is now. If u changed ortography now, almost everything on the Internet would be obsolete. Morever, in the ortography reform in 1920 actually influenced pronunciation of certain ending in Polish. Keeping existing vowels in print contributes to their proliferation. It's not a question of usefulness. Usefulness borders on deontic modality ;) As for now, the nasals exist. Perhaps we will lose them all, perhaps we will regain dialectal nasals ĩ, ỹ, õ, ũ, ã instead =]
  12. Chalk Pot

    Chalk Pot Banned

    итальянский язык
    Oh, I'd never be polemic with a Pole about Polish ... and I'd never be about how the world's going to be tomorrow!

    Standard touchpads in mobile phones, sms and chat language do not imply the good or bad culture of those who shorten words/avoid diacritics due to a faster typing - if you can understand me it's Polish enough (or whatever language, I mean).

    Moreover, I agree 100% with

    Yes, sure; but Italians went on considering some diacritics or entire letters no more to be necessary (= useful) to distinguish similar words and as a matter of facts - no more than 40 years ago - we actually LOST a letter of our language (the j - the half way between i and gl') because its usage went slowly decading and neither dictionaries prefer such a nostalgia, because in our language we cannot avoid that pronunciation within the hiatus, so it has been decided to drop that letter out as "useless".

    Therefore it has been said: the matter is not of a certain letter, but of the situations in which a certain letter is pronounced, so we don't strictly need to mark each situation with two different letters.

    So it's on Poles to see (Dreamlike perhaps said it implicitly) whether there is more nasalizations or not in the use of the couples a/ą and e/ę (etcetera) that is,

    - if the nasalization is such costumary that you do not need peculiar diacritics.

    What you say about printing=speaking, in my opinion, is true, but it is just an internal part of the process which does not imply that you can control how people really prefer to speak and understand each other; one day a new language reform will state: this is good, this is good no more - and from then on, that letter will be lost forever. But this neither will be the end of the story!

    I just say: the matter of this thread is highly possible by the technical (read: statistic, neutral) point of view, that's all I can say as a non-specialist and non-Pole.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  13. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    I don't see anything wrong with not using diacritics in text messages, either, given the nature of this type of communication.

    Let's get this straight. In each of these two pairs under discussion -- [a],[ą] and [e],[ę] -- the two letters are represented by markedly different sounds in speech. They are distinct enough to mark the distinction in writing by the very diacriticts. The same is true for every Polish letter using diacritics, and these are, apart from [ą] and [ę], [ć] [ł] [ń] [ó] [ś] [ź] [ż].

    If we were to lose the diacritics, this could lead to a lot of confusion. Compare the minimal pairs of [l] and [ł], provided some time ago by our dear forero Thomas1 in this thread.

    luk -- łuk
    lepka -- łepka
    plotka -- płotka
    los -- łoś
    lasy -- łasy
    palacz -- pałac

    The bottom line being, not only is there no linguistic nor stylistic need to 'drop' diacritics, but also this would be a silly thing to do. I'm quite sure that the sloppiness of some people in writing will not result in us losing the diacritics at some point. I can hardly imagine that. That nasalization of [ą] and [ę] is 'optional' is not all that relevant, because even if you don't nasalize these, they are still different from [a] and [e].

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