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Stenka and stęka - on alleged non-existence of nasal vowels in spoke Polish


gumishu 11 | 5,016
17 Jan 2012 #1
How do you think Stenka* or stęka are/should be pronounced: the same or differently?

Stenka is a surname of a Polish actress Danuta Stenka
exonie 1 | 4
18 Jan 2012 #2
I've been wondering about this myself. I'm not Polish but i'll share my thoughts nevertheless.
First of all - same/different and nasal/not nasal are two distinct questions. Obviously it could be pronounced differently whether or not it is nasal.

Often you'll be told <ę> is read, in the middle of words, like /en/ but in more detailed explanations they'll tell you that it's actually /e/ followed by something like a nasal glide. A glide is something like the /j/ sound as in the name Maya. Characteristic of glides is that they can be articulated at different places and act as something like a "bridge" to the surrounding sounds - they "glide" from one to the other. That's why <ę> before back consonants is articulated at the back /eŋ/ which is different from the articulation of <en> like /en/ at the front (alveolar). <ę> before fricatives like /s/ and /z/ does not even touch the roof of the mouth as it just glides to a consonant that doesn't touch the roof either. And finally - before alveolar plosives - /t/ and /d/ - <ę> will sound like /en/ just because it will be forced by the consonants to be articulated in the same way as <n>. In front of the labial plosives /p/ and /b/ it will sound like /em/ for the same reason. So, in some circumstances, it sounds the same as <en> or <em> but in others not. Perhaps in the past it had a more pronounced nasality than today. The language is alive and there're dialects where <ę> at the end of the word is still nasal while most other people pronounce it just /e/. I guess <ę> has lost some of its nasality, especially in certain sound configurations, but the spelling persists so we have to remember for each word if /e/ at the end of a word is written <ę> or <e> (well there're certain rules that help of course) or in other words is it <ent> or <ęt>, etc.. Perhaps in the future <ę> will lose its nasality altogether. As a comparison <ą> is more "stubborn" and is still nasal at the end of words :)

As for the question is it nasal or not - it's more a matter of classification/definition rather than actual difference in opinions about how it's articulated. I mean, probably most phoneticians will agree on the way it is articulated but it's just that they explain it in different terms. It's hard to give discrete/differentiated definitions about linguistic matters when things in linguistics usually exhibit a continuous spectrum of possibilities. Let's say it's a nasal that's in the process of losing its nasality :)
OP gumishu 11 | 5,016
18 Jan 2012 #3
hey'll tell you that it's actually /e/ followed by something like a nasal glide. A glide is something like the /j/ sound as in the name Maya.

the 'w' ('ł', short u)) is the glide in this case that is made nasal not the 'y' ('j') - but overall your knowlegde is impressive (definitely way more structured than mine - you must be seriously studying Polish, aren't you?)

Let's say it's a nasal that's in the process of losing its nasality :)

Polish people can perfectly pronounce nasal vowels - the thing is it slows down the speech (it's also called hypercorrect pronounciation because noone speaks that way normally) - and in our normal ways of speech the articulation becomes 'asynchronous' (more or less) where you can more or less distinguish a clear vowel and a nasal glide - as for losing nasality - it's been losing nasality for ages so I don't expect it to lose nasality altogether (not in the age when language patterns are reinforced by the TV)

First of all - same/different and nasal/not nasal are two distinct questions. Obviously it could be pronounced differently whether or not it is nasal.

this is also true - you recognize the issue very well

anyway in Stenka the 'e' vowel is not discerneably nasal coloured - what is more the 'n' when pronounced in Polish is quite unlike the 'n' that English people use in 'nk' groups (as in 'bank') (I don't know how to go about entering the IPA signs - but I'm sure you know what I mean)
exonie 1 | 4
18 Jan 2012 #4
i was giving /j/ as an example of a glide in general because it's better known, didn't mean it's the glide when articulating <ę> :)

hmm, didn't actually know how the Polish pronounce <n>, honestly those nasals sound the same to me..

And you are right - media and i should add - education, are killing language evolution. for the better or not.. i think that if we are to get so conscious about our language and disrupt natural evolution then we should take control of it ourselves and make it better. but instead, people oppose any changes to the language. i like Esperanto :)
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
22 Jul 2013 #5
Stenka is pronounced with a full n sound, whilst Stęka would not be nasal but would sound as if spelt Steńka.


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