Polish phonology

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Polish phonology
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 affricate 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):

stops /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). For details, see Voicing and devoicing in the article on Polish phonology.

Most Polish words are paroxytones (that is, the stress falls on the second-to-last syllable of a polysyllabic word), although there are exceptions.

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Dialects of Polish

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Dialects of Polish

The oldest printed text in Polish – Statuta synodalia Episcoporum Wratislaviensis printed in 1475 in Wrocław by Kasper Elyan.

The Polish alphabet contains 32 letters. Q, V and X are not used in the Polish language.
The Polish language became far more homogeneous in the second half of the 20th century, in part due to the mass migration of several million Polish citizens from the eastern to the western part of the country after the Soviet annexation of the Kresy in 1939, and the annexation of former German territory after World War II. This tendency toward a homogeneity also stems from the vertically integrated nature of the Polish People’s Republic.[citation needed]

The inhabitants of different regions of Poland still speak “standard” Polish somewhat differently, although the differences between regional dialects appear slight. First-language speakers of Polish have no trouble understanding each other, and non-native speakers may have difficulty distinguishing regional variations.

Polish is normally described as consisting of four or five main dialects:

Greater Polish, spoken in the west
Lesser Polish, spoken in the south and southeast
Masovian, spoken throughout the central and eastern parts of the country
Silesian, spoken in the southwest (also considered a separate language, see comment below)
Kashubian, spoken in Pomerania west of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea, is often considered a fifth dialect. It contains a number of features not found elsewhere in Poland, e.g. nine distinct oral vowels (vs. the five of standard Polish) and (in the northern dialects) phonemic word stress, an archaic feature preserved from Common Slavic times and not found anywhere else among the West Slavic languages. However, it “lacks most of the linguistic and social determinants of language-hood”.[19]

Many linguistic sources about the Slavic languages describe Silesian as a dialect of Polish.[20][21] However, many Silesians consider themselves a separate ethnicity and have been advocating for the recognition of a Silesian language. According to the last official census in Poland in 2011, over half a million people declared Silesian as their native language. Many sociolinguistic sources (e.g. by Tomasz Kamusella,[22] Agnieszka Pianka, Alfred F. Majewicz,[23] Tomasz Wicherkiewicz)[24] assume that extralinguistic criteria decide whether something is a language or a dialect of the language: users of speech or/and political decisions, and this is dynamic (i.e. change over time). Also, language organizations like as SIL International[25] and resources for the academic field of linguistics like as Ethnologue,[26] Linguist List[27] and other, for example Ministry of Administration and Digitization[28] recognized Silesian language. In July 2007, the Silesian language was recognized by an ISO, and was attributed an ISO code of szl.

Polish language

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Polish (język polski, polszczyzna) is a West Slavic language spoken primarily in Poland and is the native language of the Poles. It belongs to the Lechitic subgroup of the West Slavic languages.[8] Polish is the official language of Poland, but it is also used throughout the world by Polish minorities in other countries. There are over 55 million Polish language speakers around the world and it is one of the official languages of the European Union. Its written standard is the Polish alphabet, which has 9 additions to the letters of the basic Latin script (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż). Polish is closely related to Kashubian, Silesian, Upper Sorbian, Lower Sorbian, Czech and Slovak.

Although the Austrian, German and Russian administrations exerted much pressure on the Polish nation (during the 19th and early 20th centuries) following the Partitions of Poland, which resulted in attempts to suppress the Polish language, a rich literature has regardless developed over the centuries and the language currently has the largest number of speakers of the West Slavic group. It is also the second most widely spoken Slavic language, after Russian and just ahead of Ukrainian.[9][10]

In history, Polish is known to be an important language, both diplomatically and academically in Central and Eastern Europe. Today, Polish is spoken by over 38.5 million people as their first language in Poland. It is also spoken as a second language in northern Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary, western parts of Belarus and Ukraine, and central-western Lithuania. Because of the emigration from Poland during different time periods, most notably after World War II, millions of Polish speakers can be found in countries such as Israel, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, The United States and New Zealand.

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Arabic and information technology

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Arabic and information technology

Computer ownership in most Arab countries is well below the world average. In Algeria, Egypt, Djibouti, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen it is less than half the world average. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are the only Arab countries where computer ownership exceeds the world average.

Similarly, internet use in the Arab countries, though growing rapidly, is still only about half the world average.

This might seem bad enough, but even more striking is the fact that Arabic-only web pages account for only one-thousandth of the worldwide total: the presence of the Arabic language on the internet is far below what might be expected in relation to the number of Arabic speakers.

Discussing this problem in a chapter on information and communications technology (ICT), the recent Arab Knowledge Report says:

The efforts expended in creating Arabic digital content are also restricted to limited areas, most of which are disconnected from the reality and needs of Arab societies and fail to enrich knowledge related to social or economic development.

Certainly, the domination of some subjects and meagre treatment of others … is out of keeping with the challenges of a highly competitive world; in such a world, marginalisation is the fate of cultures that fail to reproduce themselves adequately through the creation of knowledge and devise new forms for its utilisation.

Creating web pages in Arabic used to be an extremely cumbersome business and the report acknowledges there are still some serious technical problems in working with Arabic on computers (morphological analysis, automatic vocalisation and automated parsing, for example) which affect other processes such as indexing and searching.

Amazingly, though, the report also points out that there is still no universal system for encoding Arabic letters and symbols – and this seems not so much a technical issue as a symptom of the Arab countries’ wider inability to get their act together.

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Introduction to Arabic

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Introduction to Arabic

Arabic is usually ranked among the top six of the world’s major languages. As the language of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, it is also widely used throughout the Muslim world. It belongs to the Semitic group of languages which also includes Hebrew and Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia.

There are many Arabic dialects.

Classical Arabic – the language of the Qur’an – was originally the dialect of Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia.

An adapted form of this, known as Modern Standard Arabic, is used in books, newspapers, on television and radio, in the mosques, and in conversation between educated Arabs from different countries (for example at international conferences).

Local dialects vary considerably, and a Moroccan might have difficulty understanding an Iraqi, even though they speak the same language.

Arabic is not the only language spoken in Arab countries. The two main minority languages. Several varieties of Amazigh are used by the Berbers of North Africa, while Kurdish is spoken in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Arabic’s exact position in the league table of world languages varies according to the methodology used.

The linguists’ website, Ethnologue, places it fourth in terms of the numbers of people who use it as their first language. Other rankings have placed Arabic anywhere between third and seventh.

One of the difficulties is that it is almost impossible to compile accurate data. There are also debates among linguists about how to define “speakers” of a language, and speakers of “Arabic” in particular. Many Arabs, for example, are not proficient in Modern Standard Arabic. The complexities are discussed further in an article by George Weber.

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The strange history behind five everyday Italian words

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If you make even a slight effort to speak Italian, chances are you’ll have uttered at least one of these already today.
But you probably weren’t aware of the strange story behind how that word came to be.

Just like every other aspect of its culture, from architecture to food, every word in the Italian language bears traces of the country’s long history. Here are the strange stories behind five everyday words.

Ciao – hi/bye

Probably the most famous word in the Italian dictionary, the informal greeting has been exported all over the world. But you may not have realized that it comes from the term ‘schiavo’ (slave). The Latin greeting ‘servus humillimus’ (‘your obedient servant) was used when speaking with a superior, and in Venetian dialect this became ‘s-ciao vostro’ – literally translating as ‘your slave’.

However, ‘schiavo’ doesn’t come from ‘servus’, but from the Latin ‘sclavus’ (‘slave’), which is thought to have its origins in the term ‘Slavic’, as this was the ethnicity of most slaves at the time. Over the years, the ‘s’ was dropped from ‘s-ciao’, giving us the modern form ‘ciao’ – which is no longer seen as having any deferential meaning or reference to ethnicity, and is used as an all-purpose informal greeting.

Casa – house

In Latin, the word for house was ‘domus’, and this term has left traces in modern Italian in words like ‘domestico’ (‘domestic’), as well as in Sardinia, where ‘domo’ means ‘house’ (the Italian dialects are, in fact, not descendants or variants on standard Italian, but languages which evolved independently from Latin). ‘Casa’ existed in Latin too, but it referred to a cottage, hut or hovel. So how did it come to mean ‘house’?

The answer for this is that when people began building cathedrals in the Middle Ages, they needed a word to distinguish them from plain old churches. Instead of coming up with a new term, they just borrowed an existing word, calling them ‘domus dei’ (God’s house), which was soon shortened to ‘domus’. But this led to a new problem as they were left without a word for ordinary houses. As more people were moving to the growing towns, there was less of a need to talk about huts and hovels, so they started using ‘casa’ to refer to ordinary houses. As for how ‘domus’ became ‘duomo’, the final ‘s’ was lost over the years like the ‘s’ in ‘sclavus’. In Latin, consonants were used to distinguish the case of a word, but Italian lost the case system and used things like prepositions to show a word’s role in the sentence. The ‘s’ was no longer necessary and was eventually lost because words, like landscapes, often erode over time.

Donna – woman

‘Domus’ has left other traces in the language too; ‘donna’ comes from Latin’s ‘domina’, meaning ‘mistress of the house’, which has a clear root in ‘domus’. ‘Donna’ is another eroded form; try saying ‘domina’ really fast lots of times to see how linguistic erosion turned the middle syllable ‘min’ into a double ‘n’.

In medieval times, ‘donna’ was a term of respect, equivalent to ‘noblewoman’, while ‘femmina’ was the general term used for ‘woman’, derived from the Latin term for breastfeeding. In Sicilian, ‘fimmina’ is still used for ‘woman’, but in standard Italian, ‘femmina’ is usually only used to mean ‘female’ in the sense of biological gender, for example to distinguish the sex of animals. ‘Donna’ is the default word for ‘woman’.

The reason for this is probably because standard Italian has its roots in the courtly love poetry of the likes of Dante. When scholars were trying to choose one of Italy’s many dialects to become its standard language, they were drawn to Florentine because they thought that the many great literary works in Florentine had ennobled this dialect. Dante and co. liked to refer to their muses as ‘donne’ as a way of praising them. In Dante’s Commedia for example, ‘femmina’ is used far less than ‘donna’ and only ever in Hell and Purgatory – it is strongly linked to the woman’s flesh identity rather than her mind or soul. In standard Italian, ‘femmina’ still has a slightly derogatory sense – so for example you might hear an Italian man disgruntled with his romantic life complain that he has met plenty of ‘femmine’ but few ‘donne’.

Testa – head

If you’ve travelled around Italy a lot, you may have noticed that dialects in certain regions use a different word for head – ‘capo’. This comes from Latin ‘caput’, which also meant head, but in standard Italian ‘capo’ is generally used in a non-anatomical sense, for example to refer to a boss or head of department, while ‘testa’ refers to the body part.

The word ‘testa’ did exist in Latin, but it meant a piece of clay or pottery fragment and derived from ‘texō’ (to weave, to do woodwork). Over time, its meaning got extended so that it could refer to a whole pot as well as just a fragment. Then one day, someone realized that with its round shape and two side handles jutting out like ears, a Roman pot resembled a human head, so in vulgar (spoken) Latin that’s what ‘testa’ came to mean.

Cattivo – bad

Anyone who’s tried to get to grips with Italian grammar will be well aware that ‘cattivo’ is an irregular adjective, because in adverbial form it becomes ‘male’ rather than adding the suffix ‘mente’, like most adjectives do. The origin of ‘male’ is easy to trace; it comes directly from Latin ‘malus’ (bad), so why do we now say ‘cattivo’?

In Latin, captīvus meant ‘captive’ or ‘prisoner’ (the verb ‘catturare’ (to capture) derives from the same word) but its meaning morphed over the years. ‘Cattivo’ came to mean ‘bad’ not because prisoners themselves were associated with bad behaviour, but because of the expression in Latin Christian texts ‘captivus diaboli’ (prisoner of the devil), referring to damned souls and sinners. You might have noticed that religion had a huge influence on the development of the Italian language, and it’s no surprise since most early texts were religious and most of the earliest writers were monks.

Understanding the etymology of ‘cattivo’ may be helpful to foreigners trying to get their heads around where to put it in a sentence. When it follows the noun, it retains its original moral meaning (‘bad’ in the sense of ‘evil’), so ‘un attore cattivo’ is a wicked actor, bad to their core. When ‘cattivo’ precedes the noun, it has a more general sense and refers directly to the noun – so ‘un cattivo attore’ might be a morally good person, but hopeless at learning their lines.

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21 mildly interesting facts about the Italian language

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Whether you’re just getting started with Italian or approaching fluency, here are 21 odd, amusing and mildly interesting facts about a language known for its beauty, romance and musicality.
1. There are 21 letters in the Italian alphabet. That’s right: j, k, w, x and y don’t exist in Italian, except for in loan words, meaning ‘jeans’ is often the only entry under ‘j’ in Italian dictionaries. Some of the dialects do use these letters though, particularly ‘j’ and ‘k’, and for that reason they appear in some proper names of people and places.

2. Oops, did we say ‘dialects’? Strictly speaking, that’s wrong, because the regional languages of Italy are just that – languages. Dialects are variants of a standard language, but in Italy these different languages developed from Latin independently, before eventually people decided it made sense to settle on one common tongue.

Twelve Roman dialect words you should know
Nine handy Venetian words for a trip to Venice
Thirteen useful words from the Florentine dialect
3. The language we now call Standard Italian derives from 13th-century Tuscan, or Florentine, to be specific. This choice was made after a few centuries of disputes between linguists, and was down to a number of factors. Florence’s economic and cultural prestige played a part, particularly the works of the three great writers of the day (Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio), and perhaps most crucially, one keen linguist, Pietro Bembo, who created the first ever grammatical manual of the Florentine language. Having the rules written down meant it was easier to adopt Florentine as the national tongue, rather than relying on a variety which was mostly spoken.

4. When it comes to the other regional dialects, the most widely spoken is Neapolitan, with over five million speakers.

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Italian Proverbs

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A cane scottato l ‘acqua fredda pare calda.

English equivalent: A burnt child dreads the fire.
Mawr, E.B. (1885). Analogous Proverbs in Ten Languages. p. 2.
A chi bene crede, Dio provvede.
English equivalent: God listens to those who have faith/ Have faith and God shall provide.
– A chi= those/them/generalising. Bene crede=good faith, decent faith, genuinely. Dio= God provvede=provides.
Strauss, Emanuel (1994). Dictionary of European proverbs (Volume 2 ed.). Routledge. p. 873. ISBN 0415096243.

A chi parla poco, gli basta la metà del cervello.

English equivalent: Least said, soonest mended.
“In private animosities and verbal contentions, where angry passions are apt to rise, and irritating, if not profane expressions are often made use of – the least said, the better in general. By multiplying words, cases often grow worse instead of better.”
Source for meaning of English equivalentPorter, William Henry (1845). Proverbs: Arranged in Alphabetical Order …. Munroe and Company. pp. 125.
Emanuel Strauss (1994). “1383”. Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. II. Routledge. p. 1053. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6.

A chi vuole, non mancano modi.

English equivalent: Where there is a will, there is a way.
If you are sufficiently determined to achieve something, then you will find a way of doing so.
Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 299. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5.
Mawr, E.B. (1885). Analogous Proverbs in Ten Languages. p. 95.

A mali estremi, estremi rimedi.

English equivalent: Desperate times call for desperate measures.
“Drastic action is called for – and justified – when you find yourself in a particularly difficult situation.”
Source for meaning of English equivalent: Martin H. Manser (2007). The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs. Infobase Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-8160-6673-5. Retrieved on 10 August 2013.
Strauss, Emanuel (1994). “797”. Concise Dictionary of European Proverbs. II. Routledge. p. 687. ISBN 978-1-136-78978-6. Retrieved on 27 November 2013.

Italian Writing System

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Italian Writing System
The Italian alphabet is typically considered to consist of 21 letters. The letters j, k, w, x, y are traditionally excluded, though they appear in loanwords such as jeans, whisky, taxi, xenofobo, xilofono. The letter ⟨x⟩ has become common in standard Italian with the prefix extra-, although (e)stra- is traditionally used; it is also common to use of the Latin particle ex(-) to mean “former(ly)” as in: la mia ex (“my ex-girlfriend”), “Ex-Jugoslavia” (“Former Yugoslavia”). The letter ⟨j⟩ appears in the first name Jacopo and in some Italian place-names, such as Bajardo, Bojano, Joppolo, Jerzu, Jesolo, Jesi, Ajaccio, among others, and in Mar Jonio, an alternative spelling of Mar Ionio (the Ionian Sea). The letter ⟨j⟩ may appear in dialectal words, but its use is discouraged in contemporary standard Italian.[72] Letters used in Foreign words can be replaced with phonetically equivalent native Italian letters and digraphs: ⟨gi⟩, ⟨ge⟩, or ⟨i⟩ for ⟨j⟩; ⟨c⟩ or ⟨ch⟩ for ⟨k⟩ (including in the standard prefix kilo-); ⟨o⟩, ⟨u⟩ or ⟨v⟩ for ⟨w⟩; ⟨s⟩, ⟨ss⟩, ⟨z⟩, ⟨zz⟩ or ⟨cs⟩ for ⟨x⟩; and ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩ for ⟨y⟩.

The acute accent is used over word-final ⟨e⟩ to indicate a stressed front close-mid vowel, as in perché “why, because”. In dictionaries, it is also used over ⟨o⟩ to indicate a stressed back close-mid vowel (azióne). The grave accent is used over word-final ⟨e⟩ to indicate a front open-mid vowel, as in tè “tea”. The grave accent is used over any vowel to indicate word-final stress, as in gioventù “youth”. Unlike ⟨é⟩, a stressed final ⟨o⟩ is always a back open-mid vowel (andrò), making ⟨ó⟩ unnecessary outside of dictionaries. Most of the time, the penultimate syllable is stressed. But if the stressed vowel is the final letter of the word, the accent is mandatory, otherwise it is virtually always omitted.

Exceptions are typically either in dictionaries, where all or most stressed vowels are commonly marked. Accents can optionally be used disambiguate words that differ only by stress, as for prìncipi “princes” and princìpi “principles”, or àncora “anchor” and ancóra “still/yet”. For monosyllabic words, the rule is different: when two identical monosyllabic words with different meanings exist, one is accented and the other is not (example: è “is”, e “and”).
The letter ⟨h⟩ distinguishes ho, hai, ha, hanno (present indicative of avere “to have”) from o (“or”), ai (“to the”), a (“to”), anno (“year”). In the spoken language, the letter is always silent. The ⟨h⟩ in ho additionally marks the contrasting open pronunciation of the ⟨o⟩. The letter ⟨h⟩ is also used in combinations with other letters. No phoneme [h] exists in Italian. In nativized foreign words, the ⟨h⟩ is silent. For example, hotel and hovercraft are pronounced /oˈtɛl/ and /ˈɔverkraft/ respectively. (Where ⟨h⟩ existed in Latin, it either disappeared or, in a few cases before a back vowel, changed to [ɡ]: traggo “I pull” ← Lat. trahō.)

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Italian (italiano)

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Italian (italiano)
Italian is a Romance language spoken by about 60 million people in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, Malta and Eritrea. There are also Italian speakers in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, the USA and the UK.

Italian first started to appear in written documents during the 10th century in the form of notes and short texts inserted into Latin documents such as lawsuits and poetry. For a long time there was no standard written or spoken language in Italy and writers tended to write in their own regional dialects. In northern Italy, which was often ruled by the French, French and Occitan were used as literary languages.

During the 13th century such writers as Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Petrarch and Boccaccio were influential in popularising their own dialect of Italian – the Tuscan of Florence (la lingua fiorentina) – as a standard literary language. By the 14th century the Tuscan dialect was being used in political and cultural circles throughout Italy, though Latin remained the pre-eminent literary language until the 16th century.

The first grammar of Italian with the Latin title Regule lingue florentine (Rules of the Florentine language) was produced by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72) and published in 1495.

During the 15th and 16th centuries both Latin and Italian were used for technical and scientific texts. The Italian used was full of Latin words and over time Latin was used less and less as Italian became increasingly popular.

Today the Tuscan dialect is known as Italian (Italiano) and is the offical language of Italy. It is the main language of literature and the media. Each region of Italy also has its own dialect, some of which are so distinct from standard Italian that they are mutually unintelligible. The Sicilian dialect for example, is sometimes regarded as a separate language and has a literary tradition older than Italian itself.

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