Gdansk with beautiful old town over Motlawa river at sunrise, Poland.

Language of the Month August 2021: Polish

After 19 long months of being stuck in domestic travel, I was finally able to make it abroad last week. While I will not share my mother’s maiden name here, I can assure you the “ski” at the end of her name makes it abundantly clear that on my mother’s side I am nearly entirely Polish. With this said, a return to one of my native lands felt appropriate for my return to international travel.

What struck me most on this trip is the sheer resilience of the Polish people. Only becoming their own independent country recently on a global scale, they have endured occupations, two world wars, countless regional conflicts, and more. In spite of Russian and German being languages of their oppressors or occupants at any point, the Polish language has not only endured, but evolved, and thrived. 

With about 38 million first language speakers, Polish even linguistically represents its rich diverse heritage. A West Slavic language, written in Latin script, Polish is considered to have its own alphabet, with the standard 26-letter Latin alphabet in addition to 9 “Polish letters” (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż); likewise, while not part of any natively Polish words, x, q, and v are recognized as the extended full alphabet. Dialects have led to some unique variations in the language itself; double consonants can be pronounced as one long consonant or pronounced separately, and the natural inflections of speech may lead words to be pronounced in common and even formal speech separately than what their written word would express. 

Grammatically, Polish represents its origins as an amalgamation of languages. Like Latin, nouns are gendered, including a neutral gender more commonly found in Germanic languages. However, Polish excludes articles entirely, and includes special rules regarding masculine nouns for animate vs. nonanimate and and human vs nonhuman. Polish also includes what many English speakers would think of as a “double negative,” the tag word nie is included in a sentence even when other words that would indicate negation, such as nigdy (never) appear. 

Although a language on its own emerged most formally by the 10th century, we saw the beginning of modern Polish in the 17th century, and today can see influences ranging from Latin and Romance languages, including the alphabet, Germanic languages, and even Yiddish. A deep linguistic study would see not only a large amount of loanwords, from German to Greek and beyond, but have also discovered clusters of such words. For example, many of the German loanwords entered the language in medieval times, and there are even heavy influences from the Mongolians during the 12th and 13th centuries. Polish as a language is a great cultural tool to explore how important Polish and its speakers were to a cosmopolitan Europe during the middle ages and Renaissance. 

Although not as globally used as a language today, Polish still represents a Europe in constant flux, and the importance of communication with its neighbors. Even today, it’s still used as a common language in Eastern Europe, with many Slavic countries using it as a lingua franca nearly as prominently as Russian.

Further Reading:

https://omniglot.com/writing/polish.htm

Demo Title

Demo Description


My first Popup

This will close in 20 seconds

Fanni is Radnóti's wife
Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.