July 3, 2011 | Polish
In Polish, Accent Marks Roam Freely
They show up boldly wherever they like.
Accent marks in Polish throw me. They show up in places where I don’t expect them.
First, in consonants. I am most definitely not used to consonants with accents. They are especially audacious in the Polish word for “song”: pieśń.
Accent Marks Congregating
An accent mark makes me want to stress the syllable in which it appears. I am used to them on vowels. I am used to them in Spanish.
Yeah, I know in French they are used to indicate pronunciation—e is pronounced differently from è and é—but for some reason that fact never dislodged my original association of accent mark with syllable stress.
With respect to the Polish for “song”: an s with an accent on it is pronounced roughly sh in Polish. The n with the accent I am still kind of figuring out, but it seems to give you a little lift, almost like a ni sound but without the i being thoroughly pronounced/noticeable? So “song” would be roughly PYESH-ni?
Polish speakers, please feel free to correct me. I have found some of the instructions I have received on that accented n a bit mysterious.
Although they look more familiar than accented consonants, accented Polish vowels sometimes throw me more.
Take the word samochód, which means “car.” When I look at that word, it makes me want to stress the last syllable. As in sah-mo-HODE.
But in fact, the stress falls on the second-to-last syllable, and what the accent does is change the pronunciation to an oo sound—so the word is roughly sah-MO-hood.
When I write it, I keep trying to put the accent mark on the first o. I have to restrain myself.