Polish phonology

Polish phonology

:"For assistance in making phonetic transcriptions of Polish for Wikipedia articles, see ."


The Polish vowel system is relatively simple with only six oral and two nasal vowels. All Polish oral vowels are monophthongs, which are shown to the right.The IPA|/ɨ/ and IPA|/i/ have largely complementary distributions. Except for after labial consonants, which can be followed by both IPA|/ɨ/ and IPA|/i/, IPA|/i/ is usually pronounced after an alveolo-palatal consonant(IPA|/ʎ/, IPA|/kʲ/, IPA|/gʲ/, or IPA|/j/) and IPA|/ɨ/ appears elsewhere (see #Soft vs. hard consonants below).In some phonological descriptions of Polish that phonemically distinguish labials with palatalization, IPA|/ɨ/ and IPA|/i/ can be treated as allophones. Vowels IPA|/ɨ/ and IPA|/i/ also rhyme in Polish poetry.

Similar allophony, though finer, applies to certain other vowels. Next to the soft consonant and especially between two soft consonants or between a soft consonant and IPA|/j/, IPA|/ɛ/ is often near-close (IPA| [e] ) and IPA|/a/ is more front (that is, cardinal IPA| [a] rather than IPA| [ä] ). [Harvcoltxt|Jassem|2003|p=106] These distinctions are not represented in the spelling and native speakers are mostly not aware of the differences.

# The retroflex consonants are also transcribed with IPA|/ʃ/, IPA|/ʒ/, etc. However, laminal retroflex is more accurate. [Harvcoltxt|Hamann|2004|p=65]
# and IPA|/gʲ/ are less commonly transcribed as IPA|/c/ and IPA|/ɟ/. IPA|/ɲ/, IPA|/t​͡ɕ/, IPA|/d​͡ʑ/, IPA|/ɕ/, and IPA|/ʑ/ are alveolo-palatal
# In some Polish dialects, IPA|/ɦ/ is distinguished from IPA|/x/ (see below).

Within this consonant system one can distinguish three series of fricatives and affricates:

* alveolar, aka "hissing" ("ciąg syczący"): "z s dz c"
* laminal retroflex, aka "rustling" ("ciąg szumiący"): "ż sz dż cz"
* alveolo-palatal, aka "hushing" ("ciąg ciszący"): "ź ś dź ć"

In some Polish dialects, for example Masurian, the consonants of the rustling series are replaced by those of the hissing series.

The phoneme IPA|/x/, apart from the voiceless allophone IPA| [x] has also a voiced allophone (voiced velar fricative) IPA| [ɣ] , which appears obligatorily whenever IPA|/x/ is followed by a voiced obstruent (also across a word boundary), e.g. "dach" is [dax] but "dach domu" is IPA| [daɣ dɔmu] . The occurrence of a voiced glottal fricative IPA| [ɦ] is found only in the speech of those people from Eastern Borderland and (Upper) Silesia who distinguish between the pronunciation of and . The same can be said about the velarized alveolar lateral approximant, the so-called "dark l" (IPA| [ɫ] ), which is a former standard pronunciation of <ł> (now usually IPA| [w] ).

This table is by no means of historical importance. In many inflectional patterns, the hard consonants change accordingly to the table into their soft counterparts. Examples:

:'brother' — in nominative: "brat", in locative: "o bracie":'river' — in nominative: "rzeka", in locative: "o rzece"

In some morphological processes, the soft counterparts of certain hard consonants are different than those given in the table.

Consonant clusters

Polish, like other Slavic languages, permits complex consonant clusters, which historically arose after the disappearance of yers (certain short vowels existing in late Proto-Slavic):
*"bezwzględny" IPA| [bɛzvzglɛndnɨ] ('absolute')
*"przestępstwo" IPA| [pʂɛstɛmpstfɔ] ('crime')
*"Strwiąż" IPA| [strfʲɔ̃ʂ] (name of a river)
*' IPA| [fst.ʂ"'ɔ̃s] ('shock')The existence of complex clusters is, however, not an exclusively Slavic feature; even bigger clusters can be found in Georgian or Salishan languages.

Polish distinguishes between affricates and plosive + fricative consonant clusters, for example:
* ' IPA| [ˈt​͡ʂɨsta] ('clean' fem.) vs ' IPA| [ˈt.ʂɨsta] ('three hundred')
* ""' IPA| [d​͡ʐɛm] ('jam') vs "drzem" (part of word "drzemka" meaning 'nap') IPA| [ˈd.ʐɛm] , also the imperative of "drzemać", ('to have a nap').

In consonant clusters, adjacent obstruents are either all voiced or all voiceless. That is, a consonant cluster cannot contain both voiced and voiceless obstruents. All the obstruents are either voiced (if the last obstruent is normally voiced) or voiceless (if the last obstruent is normally voiceless). This is also true across a word boundary. Word-final obstruents are also pronounced voiceless if the following word starts with a vowel. This rule does not apply to sonorants - a consonant cluster may contain voiced sonorants and voiceless obstruents. Some regional variations of pronunciation, especially in Western and Southern Poland, make voiceless obstruents voiced if the following word starts with a sonorant (for example IPA| [ˈbrad ˈojca] instead of the expected IPA| [ˈbrat ˈojca] )


* "" IPA| [ˈwutka] ('boat'), IPA|/d/IPA| [t] ("k" is normally voiceless)
* "" IPA| [ˈkafka] ('jackdaw'), IPA|/v/IPA| [f] ("k" is normally voiceless)
* "" IPA| [ˈtagʐɛ] ('also'), IPA|/k/IPA| [g] ("ż" is normally voiced)
* "" IPA| [ˈjagbɨ] ('as if'), IPA|/k/IPA| [g] ("b" is normally voiced)
* "" IPA| [krul] ('king'), IPA|/k/ does not change ("r" is a sonorant)
* "" IPA| [vart] ('worth'), IPA|/t/ does not change ("r" is a sonorant)

The consonants "w" and "rz" are normally voiced, but if a consonant cluster ends with "w" or "rz" and the preceding consonant is normally voiceless, then the whole consonant cluster is voiceless. "W" remains voiced after a voiceless consonant in dialects of Wielkopolska and Kresy Wschodnie, but is devoiced in other varieties.


* "" IPA| [kʂak] ('bush'), IPA|/ʐ/IPA| [ʂ] ("k" is normally voiceless)
* "" IPA| [ɔtˈtfɔʐɨt​͡ɕ] ('to reproduce'), IPA|/d/IPA| [t] & IPA|/v/IPA| [f] ("t" is normally voiceless)

The most popular Polish tongue-twister, a fragment of the poem "Chrząszcz" by Jan Brzechwa, may serve as yet another example:

:"":IPA| [fʂt​͡ʂɛbʐɛʂɨɲe xʂɔ̃ʂt​͡ʂ bʐmi ftʂt​͡ɕiɲe] :"In [the town of] Szczebrzeszyn a beetle buzzes in the reed."


In Polish the stress falls generally on the penultimate (second to last) syllable, for example "zrobił" ('he did'), "zrobili" ('they did').

Exceptions in cultivated speech include:

* verbs in first and second person plural past tense, for example "zrobiliśmy" ('we did') - the stress is on the third syllable from the end
* verbs in conditional, for example "zrobiłbym" ('I would do') - stressed on the third syllable from the end
* verbs in first and second person plural conditional, for example "zrobilibyśmy" ('we would do') - the stress is on the fourth syllable from the end
* some words borrowed from Latin (for example "matematyka", "fizyka") are also stressed on the antepenultimate (third syllable from the end), although this has been falling out of use during the last 50 years.

The explanation for the irregular verbal stress is that these endings are clitics, not verbal inflections: "zrobili=śmy, zrobił=bym, zrobili=byśmy." They are remnants of the auxiliary "być" ('to be'). This can be demonstrated with phrases such as "Kogo=ście zobaczyli?" (in spoken Polish "Kogo zobaczyli=ście?") ('Who did you see?'), where the clitic attaches to the word "kogo" 'who' rather than to a verb ("Kogo zobaczyli=ście?"), but "kogo" maintains its normal stress. However, these endings are in the process of being reanalyzed as suffixes, and as this happens, the stress is shifting to penultimate position in colloquial speech (though by prescriptive grammarians this is still considered an error): "zrobiliśmy, zrobiłbym, zrobilibyśmy." [ [http://www.coli.uni-saarland.de/~dominika/icphs_1002.pdf Phonetics and Phonology of lexical stress in Polish verbs] ,Dominika Oliver, Martine Grice, Institute of Phonetics, Saarland University, Germany]



title=Retroflex fricatives in Slavic languages
journal=Journal of the International Phonetic Association

last = Jassem
first = Wiktor
year= 2003
journal=Journal of the International Phonetic Association

See also

* Polish alphabet
* Polish orthography
* Polish language

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Polish language — Polski redirects here. For the car brand, see Polski Fiat. Polish język polski Pronunciation [ˈpɔlski] Spoken in …   Wikipedia

  • Polish orthography — For assistance in making phonetic transcriptions of Polish for Wikipedia articles, see . The Polish alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet but uses diacritics, such as the kreska (graphically similar to an acute accent), the kropka (overdot),… …   Wikipedia

  • Polish alphabet — The Polish alphabet is the script of the Polish language. It is based on the Latin alphabet but uses diacritics such as the kreska , which is graphically similar to an acute accent ( ć , ń , ó , ś , ź ), the dot above ( ż ), the ogonek ( ą , ę ) …   Wikipedia

  • Phonology — (Greek φωνή (phōnē), voice, sound + λόγος (lógos), word, speech, subject of discussion) is the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use. Just as a language has syntax… …   Wikipedia

  • History of Polish orthography — Poles adopted the Latin alphabet in the 12th century. This alphabet, however, was ill equipped to deal with Polish phonology, particularly the palatal consonants (now written as ś, ź, ć, dź), the retroflex group (now sz, ż, and cz) as well as the …   Wikipedia

  • English phonology — See also: Phonological history of English English phonology is the study of the sound system (phonology) of the English language. Like many languages, English has wide variation in pronunciation, both historically and from dialect to dialect. In… …   Wikipedia

  • Navajo phonology — is the study of how speech sounds pattern and interact with each other in that language. The phonology of Navajo is intimately connected to its morphology. For example, the entire range of contrastive consonants is found only at the beginning of… …   Wikipedia

  • Modern Hebrew phonology — Main article: Hebrew language For assistance with IPA transcriptions of Hebrew for Wikipedia articles, see WP:IPA for Hebrew. This article is about the phonology of the Hebrew language based on the Israeli dialect. It deals with current phonology …   Wikipedia

  • Russian phonology — For assistance in making phonetic transcriptions of Russian for Wikipedia articles, see This article discusses the phonological system of standard Russian based on the Moscow dialect (unless otherwise noted). For discussion of other dialects, see …   Wikipedia

  • Standard Chinese phonology — The phonology of Standard Chinese is reproduced below. Actual production varies widely among speakers, as people inadvertently introduce elements of their native dialects. By contrast, television and radio announcers are chosen for their… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”