Sunday, February 26, 2012

Polish phonology

If you've never spoken or studied a language that distinguishes between the two sounds, hearing the difference between a postalveolar fricative and a retroflex postalveolar fricative is definitely something you have to train your ears and your brain to do.

The great thing about Polish is that once I could hear the differences, the orthography matched up really comfortably. I made a phonology chart using Polish orthography, and I noticed some trends in the orthography matching up to the place or mode of articulation. I will try to explain these goofy cues for anyone who may find them helpful:
  • All off the consonants with the kreska (little stroke: ć) are post-alveolar (your tongue is just behind the ridge behind your teeth). 
    • These are the voiced and unvoiced "sh"/"zh" and "ch"/"dzh" sounds: ś, ź, ć, dź
  • Anything with a c or a d is an affricate: c, dz, ć, dź, cz, dż
    • Also, trz. This one just doesn't fit. It's three letters so that makes it special enough to fit in this category?
    • But not d. It's just d.
  • Retroflex sounds:
    • Have a Z with kropka (little dot: ż): ż, dż
    • Are when there are two letters in a consonant pair/cluster with "open space" between them. This is a purely visual cue.
      • sz, cz, rz, trz: You could "color in" the open space between these letters.
      • You can't do that with: dz, because the straight line of the d is like a brick wall.
        • But has a kropka!

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