Contrasting selected aspects of Polish and English Phonetics

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1.                                  Consonants

       1.1.              English

The set of English consonants is traditionally considered to comprise 24 consonants, i.e.

 

17 obstruents:

6 plosives:    /p/ pɪn pin, /b/ bɪn bin, /t/ tɪn tin, /d/ dɪn din, /k/ kɪn kin, /g/ gɪv give

9 fricatives:  /f/ fɪn fin, /v/ vɪm vim,

 /s/ sɪn sin, /z/ zu: zoo, /ʃ/ ʃɪn shin, /ʒ/ ˈmeʒə measure, /hɪt/ hɪt hit,

 /θ/ θɪn thin, /ð/ ðɪs this

2 affricates:  // tʃɪn chin, // dʒɪn gin

7 sonorants:

3 nasals:      /m/ mɒk mock, /nɒt/ nɒt not, /ŋ/ θɪŋ thing

2 liquids:     / r/ rɒk rock, /l/ lɒŋ long

2 semivowel glides: /w/ wɒsp wasp, /j/ jɒt yacht

 

 

       1.2.              Polish

Polish consonant system comprises 29 phonemes

 

21 obstruents:

6 plosives:    /p/ pik pik, /b/ bit bit, /t/ test test, /d/ dɨm dym, /k/ kit kit, /g/ gen gen

9 fricatives:  /f/ fAn fan, /v/ vilk wilk,

 /s/ sɨk syk, /z/ zbir, /ʃ/ ʃɨʃkA szyszka, /ʒ/ kAʒdɨ każdy, /x/ xɨmn hymn,

 /ɕ/ ɕfit świt, /ʑ/ ʑle źle

6 affricates:  /ʧ/ ʧɨn czyn, /ʤ/ ʤem dżem,

 /ʦ/ ʦAʦkɔ cacko, /ʣ/ ʣvɔn dzwon, /ʨ/ ʨmA ćma, /ʥ/ ʥvik dźwig

8 sonorants:

4 nasals:      /m/ mɨʃ mysz, /n/ nAʃ nasz, /ŋ/ tɨŋk tynk,

 /ɲ/ kɔɲ koń

2 liquids:     /r/ rɨk ryk, /l/ luk luk

2 semivowel glides: /w/ wɨk łyk, /j/ jAk jak

 

 

       1.3.              Contrasting Polish and English consonantal systems

                1.3.1.            Different manners and places of articulation

 

 

bilab

lab-den

api-dent

dent

alv

post-alv

pal-alv

alv-pal

pal

vel

glot

plosiv

p  b

 

 

t  d

 

 

t  d

 

 

 

 

k  g

 

affric

 

 

 

ʦ ʣ

 

ʧ ʤ

 

 

 

 

ʧ ʤ

ʨ ʥ

 

 

 

 

fricat

 

f  v

 

Ɵ ð

s  z

 

ʃ  ʒ

s  z

 

 

ʃ  ʒ

ɕ  ʑ

 

 

x

 

 

 h

nasals

m

 

 

n

 

 

n

 

 

ɲ

 

 

ŋ

 

liquids

 

 

 

 

l

 

r

 

 

 

 

 

glides

w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

j

 

 

trills

 

 

 

 

r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polish-specific pronunciations are listed in left parts of split cells, English-specific - in right parts of split cells. Pronunciations common to Polish and English are given in non-split cells. Pronunciations specific to either English or Polish are in bold type.

 

                1.3.2.            Voicing differences between Polish and English consonants

1.3.2.1.    In Polish voiced obstruents do not occur in word-final position whereas in

English they do
This difference is a frequent source of underdifferentiation of word-final obstruents on the part of Polish learners of English, and overdifferentiation on the part of English learners of Polish.
e.g.

Polish kod and kot are pronounced as /kɔt/, whereas English cod and caught as /kɔːd/ and /kɔːt/ respectively; Polish error: E. cod /kɒt/, English error: P. kod /kɒd/.

Polish word-final devoicing may also affect sonorants

e.g.

[l] in myśl, may be realised as [l8], and in casual speech may be dropped altogether: [mɨɕ]. When transferred into English, this may results in errors like people [piùp].

1.3.2.2.    Polish regressive voicing assimilation vs. English progressive voicing

assimilation

In English obstruent clusters, the direction of voicing assimilation is rightwards, in Polish leftwards. In cases where English progressive assimilation occurs, Poles tend to apply word-final devoicing and regressive assimilation,

e.g.

Polish error: loves /lʌfs/, dogs /dɒks/

 

1.3.2.3.    Clusters of obstruents in Polish always agree in voicing whereas in English

they can disagree in voicing.

Poles make two basic kinds of errors:

·         they devoice voiced consonants in English voiced-voiceless obstruent clusters

e.g.

grandparents, bagpipe, newsprint, ragtime

·         and voice unvoiced consonants in English voiceless-voiced obstruent clusters
e.g.

lifeboat, Afghan, Miss Brown, misjudge

Given that most English voiced-voiceless and voiceless-voiced obstruent clusters occur across word or morpheme boundary, and given the rule 1.3.2.1, the second type of error should be easier to eradicate (remains to be checked!). Notice that because of the voicing agreement in Polish, we’ve lexicalised e.g. the Greek word ανέκδοτο as anegdota; we can see the regressive assimilation of voicing operating here: [ unvoiced ¬ voiced ] Þ [voiced voiced], cf. 1.3.2.2.

1.3.2.4.    Some more differences between Polish and English consonants

·         presence of double consonants in Polish, absence in English (e.g.: panna vs. pana)

·         Polish voiceless stop phonemes /p, t, k/ in onsets of stressed syllables (e.g. pan P. /pAn/, E. /pʰæn/) and in utterance-final position (e.g. cap P. /ʦAp/, E. /kæpʰ/) do not get so much aspiration as their English counterparts

2.                                  Vowels

       2.1.              English

 

 

front

central

back

unrounded

round

high

i:   i

 

 

u:   ʊ

mid

e

ɜ:   ə

 

ɔ:

low

Q

ʌ

A:

ɒ(BE)  ɒ:(US)

       2.2.              Polish

 

 

 

front (unrounded)

central

back (rounded)

high

oral

i

ɨ

u

mid

oral

ɛ

 

ɔ

nasal

ɛ̃ʊ̃

 

ɔ̃ʊ̃̃

low

oral

 

A

 

 

Some examples of Polish nasals: /ʒɛ̃ʊ̃sA/ żęsa, / vɔ̃ʊ̃̃ski/ wąski, /prẽʊ̃ʒɨʨ/ prężyć, /vʑɔ̃ʊ̃̃fʃɨ/ wziąwszy

       2.3.              Contrasting English and Polish vowel systems

 

Polish (bracketed) and English monophthongs, Sobkowiak 1996:46

·         English does not use nasality for contrastive purposes as Polish does: kot /kt/ vs kąt /k̃Ũt/

·         English vowels receive only a modest degree of nasalisation

·         English uses quantity for contrastive purposes whereas modern Polish does not: pot /pɒt/ vs port /p:t/; (till the 15th c. there existed long and short vowel opposition in Polish)

·         English diphthongs have no counterpart in Polish (cf.Polish vowel + glide, nasals)

·         12 vowels in English vs 6 in Polish, (excluding English diphthongs and Polish nasals)

·         no mid-central vowel in Polish; Polish vowels do not get reduced to mid-central vowel similarly to the reduction of English vowels to /ə/.

 

 

3.                                  Vowels vs consonants

       3.1.              Proportions of vowels to consonants in Polish and English

There are differences in the proportion of consonants and vowels P and E have in their

inventories of phonemes and in the frequencies of consonants and vowels found in P and E

texts.

 

% of C in the inventory of phonemes

% of C in texts

Polish

78.4 (29C,8V)

59.9

English

52.2 (24C,22V)

63.7 (24C,20V)

 

It is often assumed that if consonants constitute not less than 70% in the phoneme

inventory of a given language, this language is of a consonantal type. Otherwise it is

vocalic (Gołąb et al. 70). From the above is follows, that Polish is a consonantal

language. English (depending on the adopted phoneme inventory) is usually

considered a vocalic language. Notice, however, that in real speech English uses

consonants more often than Polish.

       3.2.              Most frequent phonemes in Polish and English

10 most frequent phonemes in Polish general texts are (Jassem & Łobacz 1971):

e, a, o, t, j, n, ɨ, m, i, v

10 most frequent phonemes in the English lexicon are (Higgins 93):

ɪ, t, s, n, w, l, r, k, d, z

Since both studies are based on different material, their results are not fully comparable; in spoken English texts schwa would probably appear closer to the top of the frequency list.

4.                                  Suprasegmental differences

       4.1.              Word stress
In both Polish and English at least 3 levels of word stress can be distinguished. Differences between P and E word stress include

                4.1.1.            Constitutive features of Polish and English words stress
In Polish (Jassem 1962:68) the increase of fundamental frequency is the main component of word stress. Changes in intensity and duration are less regularly correlated with word stress. In this respect Polish is very similar to English. In English, modifications of fundamental frequency are the most important feature of word stress. Additionally, perhaps English word stress makes more use of duration to distinguish stressed syllables from unstressed ones.

                4.1.2.            Stress placement
In Polish, mostly penultimate syllable. English stress placement rules are more complex. English word stress may be assigned to the last, second, third, forth (‘agriculture) and fifth (e.g. ‘speculatively) syllable from the end of the word.

                4.1.3.            Rhythm
Polish is considered a syllable-timed language whereas English a stress-timed language. It means that Polish tends to have equal distances between peaks of syllables whereas English tends to have equal distances between stressed syllables.

       4.2.              Differences and similarities between Polish and English intonation (see presentation by J.Rutkowska & M.Raczkowska)

                4.2.1.            STRUCTURAL differences

Some structures of nuclear pitch patterns are present in language but absent in

another

                                                                1.                                  high-low (HL) not present in English

                                                                2.                                  extra-low (xL) not present in English

                                                                3.                                  middle-high (MH) not present in Polish

                                                                4.                                  low-high-low (LHL) not present in Polish

                                                                5.                                  middle-high-low (MHL) not present in Polish

                                                                6.                                  high-low-high (HLH) not present in Polish

                                                                7.                                  middle-low-high (MLH) not present in Polish

                4.2.2.            REALISATIONAL difference between Polish and English intonation

Similar intonation patterns appear in different languages, but they are

realised in different ways

                                                                8.                                  Low-middle (LM) tone is realised differently in English and in Polish: in Polish the increase of fundamental frequency occurs most often at the end of a phrase whereas in English it can occur at the beginning of a phrase

                4.2.3.            SEMANTIC differences between Polish and English intonation

Intonation patterns can be structurally similar, but they can have different

meaning

                                                                9.                                  Low-high (LH) pattern can mean different things in Polish and in English.

In English LH does not indicate a question. In the expression

|It isn't as bad as all //that.

LH pattern indicates opposition.

In Polish the expression

\\Wcale nie jest znowu taka zła.
     
would be probably realized with falling intonation pattern of HL


EXERCISES

What errors are Poles likely to make in the following words:

1.    apple, article, battle, bicycle, special, atheism, pessimism, cataclysm.

2.    bagpipe, wildcat, woodchuck, Winsford, Hobson, jigsaw, obstacle, sandstorm, handful, eggshell, foghorn

3.    Give graphemic equivalents                    4. Give phonemic equivalents 

a)    /klɛ̃ʊ̃skA/     = <........>             a) /......../  =  <dążyć>

b) /kɔ̃ʊ̃saʨ/     = <........>             b) /......../  =  <węch>