Why dzień dobry in Polish?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Roel~, May 30, 2013.

  1. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    The word 'good day' is pretty similar in a lot of languages:

    Goedendag = Dutch (good + day)
    Guten Tag = German (good + day)
    Bonjour = French (good + day)
    Buenos días = Spanish (good + day)
    buongiorno = Italian (good + day)
    bună ziua = Romanian (good + day)
    Good day = English (good + day)
    góður dagur = Icelandic (good + day)
    god dag = Danish (good + day)
    добрый день = Russian (good + day)

    Even a non-Indo European language like Turkish:

    Iyi günler = (good + day)

    Polish is:

    Dzień dobry (day + good) :confused:

    Why does this discrepancy exist and is Polish one of the only languages with this difference? Is this a certain language policy or just a coincidence?
    Last edited: May 30, 2013
  2. Ёж! Senior Member

    This is one of the options, the default one. The other option is to say "день добрый", it's used when the speaker thinks that "день" will do better in the beginning so that the listener won't have to wait for it.
    I do not see any discrepancy. Just some languages have used to speak this way, and other languages have used to speak that way. I don't think there is much of difference between the two ways.

    Last edited: May 30, 2013
  3. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    Well, the discrepancy is that from what I see 'dzień dobry' is most used in Polish and I have not seen 'dobry dzień', although I don't know if it exists in Polish. In all other languages the combination good + day is by far the most used way to say it. I wonder why in the Polish language it is so different from other languages, because dzień dobry is the regular way to say it.
  4. CapnPrep Senior Member

    As a general point, most languages have a preferred order for adjectives, and most of those prefer to put the adjective after the noun. See this map, for example, for a large survey of languages.

    However, keep in mind also that good is such a common, basic adjective in all languages that it may go against the general rule. And fixed expressions like greetings may also have exceptional syntax. Polish normally puts dobry before the noun, so you are right to say that the greeting dzień dobry is a little strange. But it's strange within Polish, not really in comparison to other languages. Because there are plenty of other languages that use "day good": Gaelic, Arabic, Hebrew, Basque, Persian, …
  5. Ригель

    Ригель Member

    I always interpreted Russian "день добрый" as an affirmative statement (It is a) good day since Russian lacks copula, but I don't know enough about Polish to judge if it's the same model or possibly even a loan translation from Eastern-Slavic. I'm under the impression that Polish has copula at least to some extent.
  6. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Language is mostly a convention -- I don't see it as any type of discrepancy. You are right, however, that adjectives have a preferred place in some languages -- in Polish they are usually before the noun, unless for special emphasis.
    Last edited: May 31, 2013
  7. Maroseika Moderator

    Russian день добрый is just a less formal way to greet. The same like вечер добрый.
  8. myšlenka Senior Member

    This is by no means an explanation, only a funny observation. Polish dzień dobry analyzed as a single unit, adheres to the requirement that stress is placed on the penultimate syllable. Dobry dzień on the other hand, leaves the penultimate syllable unstressed. Putting the adjective after the noun gives a better prosodic unit in Polish.

    One can only speculate as to why this is not transferred to other cases, but the answer probably lies in the idiosyncratic nature of greetings. Many of the examples mentioned by Roel~ are "weird" in some sense:

    Spanish buenos días - plural.
    German guten tag - accusative/dative marking on the adjective.
    Icelandic góðan daginn - accusative definite form.
    Norwegian god dag/goddag - adjective has no stress.
  9. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Yes, I agree with you -- I think the only explanation might be esthetic, or just to be in accord with the harmony of the language.
  10. francisgranada Senior Member

    This may be an explanation also for "dobry wieczór" (good evening) in Polish. Wieczór has two syllables, so there's "no need" to change the word order (from the prosodic point of view).
  11. francisgranada Senior Member

    Not merely esthetic. As Myšlenka has explained, as we consider (pronounce) this greeting as a single unit, than dobry dzień would become dobrydzień, with the accent on "bry" that doesn't sound "natural". But in case of dzieńdobry, the accent remains on it's "natural" position.

    The accusative seems to me "logical", e.g. in constructions like "I wish you a/the good day". For curiosity, in Hungarian it is "jó napot" (jó-good, napot-day in accusative).
    Last edited: May 31, 2013
  12. CapnPrep Senior Member

    But it sounds perfectly natural in dobranoc. As others have said, this is probably just a matter of conventionalized usage.
  13. francisgranada Senior Member

    Interesting ... However, there is a difference (I don't know if relevant): dobranoc is already written together (as one word), but dzień dobry is still written separately.
  14. myšlenka Senior Member

    Yes, I am aware of the fact that these are probably eroded expressions which have retained the accusative. I used the term "weird" to point out that there is more going on than a simple combination of good + day.
  15. myšlenka Senior Member

    These are just spelling conventions but it is probably to reflect the difference in pronuncation and meaning:
    Dobra noc - a/the good night
    Dobranoc - Good night! (greeting)
  16. francisgranada Senior Member

    I agree. An example: in Slovak "dobrý deň" can be (formally) interpreted both as nominative and accusative, but "dobrú noc" (good night) is clearly in accusative (the nominative is "dobrá noc").

    Of course :)

    P.S. I can imagine that the Polish dobranoc comes from a former dobrą noc.
    Last edited: May 31, 2013
  17. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Yes, basically esthetic-- the beauty of sound and harmony or phonetic cohesion of a language has to do with the esthetic perception -- doesn't it? It might be also harder to pronounce, if the phrase followed the AN order.

    And as an answer to another question: "dobry dzień" is not used in Polish at all. (as a greeting). "To był dobry dzień" -- it was a good day (but this is a totally different usage).
    Last edited: May 31, 2013
  18. LilianaB Banned

    US New York
    Yes, actually there is a big difference in pronunciation. "Dobranoc" has been spelled together for many years, at least a century, I would think, perhaps longer.

    By the way "dzień dobry' is not in the Accusative. It is the Nominative in my opinion. It would have been: "życzę ci dobrego dnia" (the Genitive), if you wnated to write it out. "Życzę Ci dobrej nocy" (Genitive) not dobrą noc.
    Last edited: May 31, 2013
  19. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    I used the combination good + day just to point out the difference with Polish, I could have mentioned the differences in accusative and so on too, but that wasn't what my question was about.
  20. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    The most plausible explanation must be the better euphony of dzieńdobry than dobrydzień*.
    *This is a hypothetic spelling of a non existent greeting. “Dobry wieczór” is spelled separately, but pronounced as if it were a single word.

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