niedziela, 18 czerwca 2017

On Non-Existence of Polish Nasal Vowels

 Being suggested by orthography, many Polish laymen – and, unfortunately, some linguistists too – think that the Polish language phonological system includes some nasal vowels, namely ę (nazal e), ą (not nasal a, but nasal o, written so for historical reasons) like those of French language. It was true maybe a century ago, but it is no longer; so-called nasal vowels have clearly nonsynchronous pronunciation, which means they are diphthongs (a vowel + semivowel) or simply sets of a vowel and a consonant.
The first segment is an oral or slightly nasalized (but this nasalization is not phonemically relevant) /ɔ/ or /ɛ/ and the second one depends on phonetic context; we will describe rules of this variation. What is interesting, those rules apply also to other Polish vowels, so if we talk about diphtong /ɔɰ̃/ in są (“(they) are”), there is also /iɰ̃/ in instytut (“institute”).

Before /p/ and /b/ the second segment is /m/: trąba /trɔmba/.
Before /t/, /d/, /t͡s/, /d͡z/, /t͡ʂ/, /d͡ʐ/ consonants it is /n/: wątroba /wɔntroba/.
Before /k/ and /g/ it is [ŋ]: bąk [bɔŋk].
Before /f/, /v/, /s/, /z/, /ʂ/, /ʐ/, /x/ and at the end of a word it is [ɰ̃]: /sɔɰ̃/.
Before /d͡ʑ/ and /t͡ɕ/ it is /ɲ/:

Before /ɕ/ and /ʑ/ it is [j̃] or [ɰ̃]: gęś [gɛj̃ɕ] or [gɛɰ̃ɕ].

sobota, 17 czerwca 2017

Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari

A few weeks ago, I watched a Russian film by Aleksei Fedorchenko – “Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari” (Russian: Небесные жёны луговых мари, /nʲɪˈbʲesnɨje ʐɨˈnɨ lʊɡɐˈvɨx ˈmarʲɪ/; Meadow Mari: Олык марий пылвомыш вате-влак, /ˈolɤk ˈmarij pɤlˈβomɤʃ βaˈteβlak/; Polish: “Niebiańskie żony łąkowych Maryjczyków”).
The Maris are an ethnic minority of Russia and have an autonomous republic on their own: the Mari El Republic. They are Volga Finns, like the Mordvins; there are distinguished two subgroups of Maris: the Hill (Western) and the Meadow (Eastern) Mari; those are also names of two standardized dialects of the Mari language.
The Meadow Maris are an unique phonomenon for entire Europe: they are called the last Pagans of Europe, however, it is a small exaggeration, because there are also other Pagan groups with some degree of continuity of their religion, but they are usually much smaller. According to the national survey of 2012, 6% of the population of the Mari El Republic are adherents of politheistic Native Mari religion, based on worship of forces of nature, but some estimations say that the majority of ethnic Maris practice the old beliefs in some way, often alongside their nominal Orthodox Christianity.

The film, created in surrelistic convention and based on Mari legends, tells us story about mythical world of Pagan believes, which resembles to me the “Game of Thrones”. If someone wants the journey to the lost world of our ancestors, the films will give them what they want; I will reveal only that the first scene involves a redhead girl praying to a birch.

sobota, 1 kwietnia 2017

II/3: Singular “They” in English

On one occasion I have noticed an interesting usage of their pronoun on a website: X has changed their profile photo. “Has” and “their”? The important fact may be that it was a Russian website translated to English so the original possessive pronoun was probably своё. This Russian form provides us no information about the gender of possessor (it tells us about the gender of the possessed object); probably this is the reason of using a singular gender-neutral pronoun in English translation.
The singular “they” is not a product of modern-era political correctness, but an old phenomenon that occurred in English since the 14th century. However, until recently it was not accepted by traditional prescriptivist grammarians and its correctness is still disputed; on the other hand, the English Wikipedia provides us in the article about Singular They (including its derivatives: their etc.) an example from such a formal text like... the Canadian Criminal Code:

if a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that, because of their physical condition, a person may be incapable of providing a breath sample...
(subparagraph 254(3)(a)(ii)); an amendment form 2008

The article quotes also, for instance, George Bush:

If anyone tells you that America's best days are behind her, then they're looking the wrong way. President George Bush, 1991 State of the Union Address

The rival pronoun used in situation when we do not know the gender of person we are talking about, is generic he:

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. — Article 15, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

However  its usage is dropping and some people reject it (because of its alleged sexism), as well as some reject singular they. One another proposition for gender-neutral pronoun, that applies mainly to written English, namely he or she, is also often rejected as clumsy, awkward and overly political correct.

poniedziałek, 27 marca 2017

II/2: A-prefixing in English

A couple weeks ago I have read – and  listened as well – a song of the newest (2016) Noble Prize winner on literature, Bob Dylan. The lyrics was entitled “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and the title itself contained a strange grammatical form which attracted my attention, and I am not talking about the use of alveoral nasal /n/ instead of velar nasal /ŋ/ in the present participle suffix -ing, marked by -in' notation. This allomorph is quite common for informal English. But why a-?

Obviously, Bob Dylan used it for purpose of obtaining the number of syllables he wanted, but it is not like that he invented an non-existing form or added an accidental syllable. In fact, he used an archaic or – depends on context – a regional form.

There are at least two prefixes having form of a- /ə/ in English, one of Ancient Greek origin (along with its prevocalic allomorph an- /æn-/, used also before the letter 'h'; pronounciated in some words as /eɪ̯/; meaning “not”, used to form antonymes) and one(s) of Germanic origin and it will particularly interest us. For the record, there is also one or three a- originating in Latin ab-, ad- or ex- but they are rare and no longer productive as well as... absent in the Bob Dylan's lyrics.

The Germanic a- has several etymologies confused during development of the Modern English. The Oxford English Dictionary states as follows:

“[I]t naturally happened that all these a- prefixes were at length confusedly lumped together in idea, and the resultant a-looked upon as vaguely intensive, rhetorical, euphonic [nice-sounding], or even archaic, and wholly otiose [pointless].”

One of these a- prefixes can be found in such words as arise or ashame; the second one formed e.g. await; the third one is found in anew.; all of them are no longer productive and, I presume, were confused several centuries ago. The fourth and latter one originating in the preposition a and one of its meaning is “in the act or process of”. We can found the a-prefixing in some folk songs like A-Hunting We Will Go or religious ones like Here We Come A-wassailing; moreover, it is still common in present-day Appallachian and Ozark English (both are subdialects of Southern American White English) until today. You can learn more about this phenomenon here:

niedziela, 12 marca 2017

II/1: Polish loanwords in English, Part One

English, being an international and hegemonic language on a level never known before on planet Earth, has a great impact on nearly every possible alive human language. Recently, the largest amount of loanwords (and even suffixes, at least in some slangs) in Polish comes from English; it is also the main source of internationalisms (even if, sometimes, roots of a word are Ancient Greek or Latin). The Polish loanwords in English are not so many. However, the opposite direction is also possible; Polish language is even, sometimes, source of internationalisms. We will look at some examples of them.

1. ogonek /ə'gɔːnɛk/ or /ə'gɒnɛk/ plural: ogoneks – from Polish «ogonek» [ɔ'ɡɔnɛk] (literally: 'a little tail', the diminutive form of ogon – 'a tail'). In English it means «˛», a diactical mark resembling a hook attached beneath (bottom down corner or directly under) a vowel letter of some languages using the Latin alphabet usually to indicate nasalization (with exception of Lithuanian language). It is used also in some scholarly phonetic notations (of Slavic languages, including Old Church Slavonic, Proto-Germanic language, Vulgar Latin and Native American languages), then only in order to indicate nasalization.
Langugages that use ogonek:
From among European languages: Polish, Kashubian (a Lechitic language formerly considered to be a dialect of Polish), Lithuanian (historically to indicate nasalisation, now for the vowel length), Elfdalian (a Scandinavian language traditionally regarded as a dialect of Swedish),
From among Native American languages: Cayuga (a severely endangered Iroquioan language of Canada and United States), Winnebago (a Siouan language of the Great Plains), Dogrib (an Athabascan language of the Northwest Territories of Canada), Creek (a Muscogean language of United States), Navaho (an Athabascan language of United States), Western Apache (closely related to the former one), Mescalero-Chiricahua Apache, Tutchone (a threatened Athabascan language of Canada), Gwich’in (another one Athabascan language, spoken in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories).
The ogonek is clearly an internationalism.

wtorek, 24 stycznia 2017

[9] The Abrahamic religions - a brief introduction. Part Five: Chalcedon and the Great Schism

The second schism took place in 451. Sees of Alexandria and Antioch seceded after the Council of Chalcedon under the pretext of very small christological differencies with Rome and Constantinople. Armenian state church took the chance of independence from Rome as well. The so-called Oriental Orthodox Church came into being. Today many Oriental Orthodox Churches now view the Chalcedonian Schism as having resulted from a difference in semantics rather than actual doctrine. But I think that the true reason was imperial politics of Constantinople that wanted to dominate whole eastern part of the Empire.
There is also an interesting fact about the Oriental Orthodoxy. Maybe during your childhood you heard a joke: „How do two popes greet each other?” And if you have said „I don't know” or some like that, the joke teller laughed at you saying „Ha-ha-ha, silly you, there's only one pope in the world”. So, today you will be able to response that it is not true. And not only because of abdication of His Holiness Benedict 16th. There is an another bishop who uses a title of pope. He also resides in the Holy See, but in Alexandria in Egypt. He is the head of Coptic Orthodox Church as well as the whole Oriental Orthodox Church. Other churches within the Oriental Orthodox Communion are: the Armenian Apostolic Church, headed by the Catholicos of All Armenians, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Malankara Orthodox Church existing in India, the Ethopian Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Church. Each of them are autocephalus but recognise the Pope of Alexandria as the first among equals. There are also various small schismatic churches of Oriental Orthodox tradition like for example the Celtic Orthodox Church that claims to have roots in ancient Celtic Christianity in the British Isles.
The story of schism repeated once again in 1054. This event is called the Great Schism. Constantinople rejected to recognise the primate of Roman Pope. The two biggest churches in the world came into being: one called „Roman Catholic Church” and the second one called „Eastern Orthodox Church”.
But there were in ancient times also some churches outside the Empire in the Western Europe. The best example is the mentioned Celtic Christianity that seceded due to geographic isolation and reunited with Rome in the Middle Ages. Today's Anglicanism consider itself to be a succesor of these churches.

sobota, 21 stycznia 2017

[8] The Abrahamic religions - a brief introduction. Part Four: Early Schisms

Catholicism and the Early Schisms
After the First Council of Nicea there were another councils convened in order to condemn several new heresies. Nevertheless, these heresies were short-lived and not very influential, and they slightly differed from the Orthodoxy. In 380 AD, however, a completely new chapter in the history of Christianity began. The Christian Church was established as a state religion of the Roman Empire, and it was the second state church in (the) history (the first was Armenian Church). Afterwards, Christianity became a political issue and, as a result, some problems usually attached to politics aroseA phenomenon of schisms came into existence, a the phenomenon that finally led to the birth of Anglicanism. A schism is an institutional division between two or more churches not caused by the differencies in their faiths, but usually resulting from political and other non-religious reasons such as geographic isolation.
In the 4th and 5th century, the Roman Empire was not the only state where Christianity existed. When it eventually became the state religion of the Empire, Christians began to be regarded as the agents of Rome within the states that had rocky relations with the Empire. I mean here the Sassanid Empire in today's Iran. In 424, local bishops recognised their leader as the patriarch and cut ties with the Roman Church. The Persian Church became later the Church of the East which exists to the present and is one of the main branches of Christianity. During the Middle Ages it formed the second great Christian world beside Christianity in Europe, but it was almost unkown to the Western World. It was present from Persia as far as India and China, but later it declined. Until the twentieth century, it was widespread among hereditary patriarchs (the post passed from uncle to nephew due to celibacy). Another schism took place in the 20th century, however, concerning this and other issues. The Church of the East is now divided into the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East. Contrary to a popular belief, the doctrine of the Church of the East is not based on Nestorian teachings condemned in the Council of Ephesus. They claim that Nestorianism is a heresy and consider calling them „Nestorians” offensive.
However, the existence of a formal schism between the Roman Church, its successor churches and the Church of the East seems doubtful when we recall a story that happened seven centuries later. A Mongolian monk from the Church of the East arrived on a diplomatic mission to Rome and received the Holy Communion from the hands of the Roman Pope! It is impossible for a person regarded as schismatic to receive the Holy Communion in the Roman Catholic Church. This story has led me to the conclusion that the statement of Persian patriarchs that they were not in the communion with the Roman Church was a lie whose purpose was to avoid persecutions. Real schism took place many years later, mostly due to geographical isolation.
At the very beginning of Christianity as a state religion of the Roman Empire, there were five major episcopal sees: one in Rome, one in Constantinople, one in Alexandria, one in Antioch and the last one in Jerusalem. The bishops of these sees were called patriarchs. Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were already prominent from the time of early Christianity, while Constantinople came to the fore upon becoming the imperial residence in the 4th century. Thereafter, it was ranked consistently just after Rome. Jerusalem received a ceremonial place due to the city's importance in the early days of Christianity. The first four of them were also strong political centers in the Empire; only Jerusalem did not form a separate political entity. The cities were also driven by a desire to dominate each other and it finally led to other schisms.