The Polish Alphabet (Q, V, and X are not used in native words)
"The Polish alphabet derives from the Latin script, but includes certain additional letters formed using diacritics. The Polish alphabet was one of three major forms of Latin-based orthography developed for Slavic languages, the other being Czech orthography and Croatian orthography, the latter being a 19th-century invention trying to make a compromise between the first two. Kashubian uses a Polish-based system, Slovak uses a Czech-based system, and Slovene follows the Croatian one; the Sorbian languages blend the Polish and the Czech ones.
The diacritics used in the Polish alphabet are the kreska (graphically similar to the acute accent) in the letters ć, ń, ó, ś, ź and through the letter in ł; the kropka (superior dot) in the letter ż, and the ogonek (‘little tail’) in the letters ą, ę. The letters q, v, x are often not considered part of the Polish alphabet; they are used only in foreign words and names.
Polish orthography is largely phonemic—there is a consistent correspondence between letters (or digraphs and trigraphs) and phonemes.
Voiced consonant letters frequently come to represent voiceless sounds; this occurs at the end of words and in certain clusters, due to the neutralization. Occasionally also voiceless consonant letters can represent voiced sounds in clusters.
The spelling rule for the palatal sounds /ɕ/, /ʑ/, /tɕ/, /dʑ/ and /ɲ/ is as follows: before the vowel i the plain letters s, z, c, dz, n are used; before other vowels the combinations si, zi, ci, dzi, ni are used; when not followed by a vowel the diacritic forms ś, ź, ć, dź, ń are used. For example, the s in siwy (pronounced /śiwy/—’grey-haired’), the si in siarka (pronounced /śarka/—’sulphur’) and the ś in święty (pronounced /święty/—’holy’) all represent the sound /ɕ/. The exceptions to the above rule are certain loanwords from Latin, Italian, French, Russian or English—where s before i is pronounced as s, e.g. sinus, sinologia, do re mi fa sol la si do, Saint-Simon i saint-simoniści, Sierioża, Siergiej, Singapur, singiel. In other loanwords the vowel i is changed to y, e.g. Syria, Sybir, synchronizacja, Syrakuzy.
Polish has six oral vowels (all monophthongs) and two nasal vowels. The oral vowels are /i/ (spelled i), /ɨ/ (spelled y), /ɛ/ (spelled e), /a/ (spelled a), /ɔ/ (spelled o) and /u/ (spelled u or ó). The nasal vowels are /ɛ̃/ (spelled ę) and /ɔ̃/ (spelled ą).
The Polish consonant system shows more complexity: its characteristic features include the series of affricates and palatal consonants that resulted from four Proto-Slavic palatalizations and two further palatalizations that took place in Polish and Belarusian. The full set of consonants, together with their most common spellings, can be presented as follows (although other phonological analyses exist):
- plosives /p/ (p), /b/ (b), /t/ (t), /d/ (d), /k/ (k), /ɡ/ (g), and the palatalized forms /kʲ/ (ki) and /ɡʲ/ (gi)
- fricatives /f/ (f), /v/ (w), /s/ (s), /z/ (z), /ʂ/ (sz), /ʐ/ (ż, rz), the alveolo-palatals /ɕ/ (ś, si) and /ʑ/ (ź, zi), and /x/ (ch, h) and /xʲ/ (chi, hi)
- affricates /ts/ (c), /dz/ (dz), /tʂ/ (cz), /dʐ/ (dż), /tɕ/ (ć, ci), /dʑ/ (dź, dzi) (these are written here without ties, for browser display compatibility, although Polish does distinguish between affricates as in czy, and stop+fricative clusters as in trzy)
- nasals /m/ (m), /n/ (n), /ɲ/ (ń, ni)
- approximants /l/ (l), /j/ (j), /w/ (ł)
- trill /r/ (r)
Neutralization occurs between voiced–voiceless consonant pairs in certain environments: at the end of words (where devoicing occurs), and in certain consonant clusters (where assimilation occurs).
The stress falls generally on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable of a polysyllabic word, although there are exceptions.
Polish is a highly inflected language, with relatively free word order, although the dominant arrangement is subject–verb–object (SVO). There are no articles, and subject pronouns are often dropped.
Nouns may belong to three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. A distinction is also made between animate and inanimate masculine nouns in the singular, and between masculine personal and non-personal nouns in the plural. There are seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative.
Adjectives agree with nouns in terms of gender, case and number. Attributive adjectives most commonly precede the noun, although in certain cases, especially in fixed phrases (like język polski, ‘Polish language’), the noun may come first. Most short adjectives and their derived adverbs form comparatives and superlatives by inflection (the superlative is formed by prefixing naj- to the comparative).
Verbs are of imperfective or perfective aspect, often occurring in pairs. Imperfective verbs have a present tense, past tense, compound future tense (except for być ‘to be’, which has a simple future będę etc., this in turn being used to form the compound future of other verbs), subjunctive/conditional (formed with the detachable particle by), imperatives, an infinitive, present participle, present gerund and past participle. Perfective verbs have a simple future tense (formed like the present tense of imperfective verbs), past tense, subjunctive/conditional, imperatives, infinitive, past gerund and past participle. Conjugated verb forms agree with their subject in terms of person, number, and (in the case of past tense and subjunctive/conditional forms) gender.
Passive-type constructions can be made using the auxiliary być or zostać (‘become’) with the past participle. There is also an impersonal construction where the active verb is used (in third person singular) with no subject, but with the reflexive pronoun się present to indicate a general, unspecified subject (as in pije się wódkę ‘vodka is drunk’—note that wódka appears in the accusative). A similar sentence type in the past tense uses the past participle with the ending -o, as in widziano ludzi (‘people were seen’). As in other Slavic languages, there are also subjectless sentences formed using such words as można (‘it is possible’) together with an infinitive.
Yes-no questions (both direct and indirect) are formed by placing the word czy at the start. Negation uses the word nie, before the verb or other item being negated; nie is still added before the verb even if the sentence also contains other negatives such as nigdy (‘never’) or nic (‘nothing’).
Cardinal numbers have a complex system of inflection and agreement. Numbers higher than five (except for those ending with the digit 2, 3 or 4) govern the genitive case rather than the nominative or accusative. Special forms of numbers (collective numerals) are used with certain classes of noun, which include dziecko (‘child’) and exclusively plural nouns such as drzwi (‘door’).” Read More