Sounds familiar

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been learning the Polish version of Silent Night (Cicha Noc). While trying work out how to pronounce the Polish, I noticed that some of the the Polish consonants are similar to those found in Mandarin Chinese.

For example:

  • Polish c [ts] = Mandarin c, as in 次
  • Polish ć & c+i [ʨ] = Mandarin q, as in 七
  • Polish cz [tʂ] Mandarin ch, as in 吃
  • Polish sz [ʂ] = Mandarin sh, as in 十
  • Polish ś & s+i [ɕ] = Mandarin x, as in 西

Comparing the pronunciation of one language to another isn’t always helpful and can be misleading. In this case though, it gives me a better understanding Polish phonology.

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This entry was posted in Chinese, Language, Polish, Pronunciation.

6 Responses to Sounds familiar

  1. BG says:

    I had noticed that similarity before, but only in that when I was trying to figure out how to pronounce [ɕ], in contrast to [ʃ], and also the retroflexes such as [ʂ] (and all of their associated affricates), I saw on Wikipedia that Polish and Mandarin both had these sounds. I was learning them for Mandarin, I think, but since I had learned the IPA, I had always wondered how [ɕ] was different from [ʃ] and how to pronounce [ʂ] (and retroflexes in general.) The tongue position diagrams on Wikipedia really helped. [ɕ] is behend the front teeth, [ʃ] is in the middle, and [ʂ] is behing the gum ridge. At least that is how I do/remember it. I think there is also a palatization difference. There is also the confusing thing that [ʂ] is used for three different sounds, but they are the same in Polish in Mandarin, but different in Dravidian and Indic languages.

  2. TJ says:

    This is one of the things that really confused me in chinese and polish as well.
    I thought all the time that the “q” in chinese transliteration is supposed to be equal to the arabic letter “ق” mainly because this is how (most of the time) transliterate this letter into english.

    It is a bit hard for me to understand the IPA here. I always wondered whats the difference between “cz” and “ć” and “sz” with “ś”, and also “ź” and “ż” ?

    Now I can see Simon explained some of it but what about the Z thing?

  3. pittmirg says:

    The alveolopalatals (ć, ś, ź, dź, also ń) are even more palatal than English “sh” whereas the retroflexes (cz, sz, ż/rz, dż) lack the palatal element and are pronounced in Polish approximately on the alveolar ridge, with the very end of the tongue’s upper surface. Also, the alveolopalatals are more spread (unrounded). I hope that helps. What Z thing?

  4. TJ says:

    I meant the two Z letters that one has a dot and one has an accent :) i see it sometimes in polish contexts :)

  5. BG says:

    In Polish, is the voiced equivalent of , pronounced [ʑ], while is the voiced equivalent of , pronounced [ʐ]. The first is aveolopalatal, the second is the retroflex and is pronounced the same as , (warning: complex side note that I don’t even fully understand) except when combined with , in which case is an affricate while is simply a consonant cluster. This is difficult to understand but an example in English is the “ts” in tsunami (if you pronounce it that way) and in hits. In tsunami, I pronounce it as an affriacte as in German , whereas in hits it is just a “t” plus an “s”.

    By the way Simon, on the Omniglot Polish page post-aveolars ([ʃ], etc.) are used instead of retroflexes ([ʂ], etc.)

  6. lao jiang says:

    While I agree on the [ʂ] and [ɕ], the other 3 are not nearly the same sound in both languages. The Mandarin c/q/ch, with their strong aspiration, sound alien to a Pole.

    Polish ‘c’ : [ts]
    Mandarin ‘c’ : [tsʰ] ; the strong aspiration does not exist in Polish.
    The Polish ‘c’ is much closer to the Mandarin ‘z’, although in most accents (like that of Shanghai) ‘z’ is a mix of [tz]/[dz].

    Polish ‘ć’ : [ʨ]
    Mandarin ‘q’ : [tɕʰ] ; same story.
    The Polish ‘ć’ is much closer to the Mandarin ‘j’, although in most accents ‘j’ is a mix of [tʑ]/[dʑ].

    Polish ‘cz’ : [tʂ], or rather [ʈʂ]
    Mandarin ‘ch’ : [ʈʂʰ] ; ditto.
    Mandarin ‘zh’ : [ʈʂ], there it’s strictly the same as the Polish ‘cz’.