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The Polish Language

The Polish language is the official language of Poland; (a country in the eastern part of Europe) and one of the official languages in the European Union.

Origins of the language

Polish belongs to a West Slavic group of languages and is the most widely spoken of the group. It is estimated to be spoken by some 44 million people as their mother tongue across Poland and other countries inhabited by Poles (so-called Polonia). It is spoken in Poland by 37-38 million native speakers and in countries such as Germany, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Brazil, Australia, Israel, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, USA and Russia by Polish migrants or ethnic minorities and descendants of Poles.

Family classification includes Polish as the language coming from the Indo-European, West Slavic, Slavic and Lechithic family of languages. The most similar languages are from the other West Slavic group such as Czech, Slovak, Kashubian and Serbian. Less related are the languages of the Southern and Eastern Slavic groups, such as Russian, Ukrainian and Serbo-Croatian but even though they are less related, it is still possible to make connections between them.

The writing system of Polish derives from the Latin system.

Dialects

In ethnic Polish, it is possible to distinguish between literary languages, dialects, urban, suburban (folk) and environmental variants of the language. There are several dialects of Polish. These are:

  • Greater Polish (wielkopolski) dialect spoken in west,
  • Lesser Polish - spoken in the south and south-east,
  • Mazovian spoken in central and eastern parts of the country
  • Silesian spoken in the south and south west, and
  • Highlander, which is spoken on the southern border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia and which is strongly influenced by migrants from Romania.

One of the most distinct and still widely spoken variants of the Polish language is the Kashubian language which is spoken in the north of Poland, in Pomerania, from the west of Danzing (Gdansk) on the Baltic Sea. It has long been argued whether Kashubian is a dialect of Polish or, whether, based on the significant differences between Kashubian and Polish, it is a separate language. The Kashubian language, although similar to Polish, cannot be read and understood by Polish speakers unless it is written.

Facts (alphabet, letters, orthography)

The Polish alphabet, is based on Latin and contains 32 letters. The following letters: Qq, Xx, Vv occur in borrowed words or in commercial names of brands only. There is otherwise no need to use these letters, as the juxtaposition of two letters substitutes the sound and is pronounced exactly the same; so Q is replaced with KU; X with KS or GZ; V is read as W.

The Polish alphabet uses diacritics. Unlike other Slavic languages it did not follow the Czech orthography but developed its own orthography. What is interesting in Polish orthography is that some sounds are spelt in two ways:
- the letter H might be pronounced as either an H or CH;
- RZ might be spelt as either RZ or Z;
- and, finally the U sound, is either U or Ô.

Polish grammar has been influenced by Old Slavic case and its nouns, pronouns and adjectives undergo declination, which means their endings change. It is dependent on which function out of seven cases they have in the sentence.

There are two number classes: singular and plural. The system of gender in Polish is complex, and it distinguishes 3 categories. The categories are divided by:
gender: masculine, feminine and neuter,
personhood: personal or non-personal,
animacy: animated or unanimated.

It has resulted in having five gender classes:
1. personal animated masculine,
2. non-personal unanimated masculine,
3. animated masculine, 
4. feminine , 
5. neuter.

Word order usually follows SVO (subject-verb-object) structure, but in Polish due to declination, that changes words’ endings, one can use any order and still will be understood, but different intended meaning of the sentence will be stressed; i.e.
“Kasia ma psa” (Kate has a dog) can be said: 
- Kasia ma psa. She has a dog. 
- Kasia psa ma. It is her dog, and not borrowed. 
- Ma psa Kasia. Kate’s relationship with the dog i sit ownership. 
- Ma Kasia psa. She really does have the dog. 
- Psa Kasia ma. It is just the dog, she has. 
- Psa ma Kasia. The dog is owned by Kate.

Links of Interest

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