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Widespread diminutivisation in Polish hard for learners or not?

Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
26 May 2017 #1
Polish is known for its widespread use of diminutives, versions of nouns that makes people pr things sound smaller, cuter, daintier, more endearing, etc. than the standard form. It can be done with most any noun, and many nouns have multiple forms. Pies can be piesek, piseczek, piesiunio, psina. But there are also augmentatives making things sound bigger, tougher, older: Psisko can mean a big, old, possibly clumsy dog.

German makes wide use of the diminutive endings -lein and -chen for this purpose, but English is largely deficient. There are a few using a French ending such as superette (small super market), dinette (downsized dining room). laundrette (small laundry) or from baby talk: kitty-cat, puppy-dog. But back to Polish.

How many diminutives do you know for the following (without Googling)?
matka, brat, siostra, ojciec, dziadek, babka, ciotka, córka, syn, dom, stół, książka, jabłko, kartofel, masło, chleb....
Lyzko 25 | 7,139
26 May 2017 #2
Frankly, I think the diminutivization is part of the charm of Polish! Hard? Not for me, at any rate. I struggled with plenty, but not with diminutivization:-)
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
26 May 2017 #3

Interstingly, some diminutivised forms have evolved into standard forms. For instance, córka is now the standard form of daughter although originally it was córa. That term is used today mainly for a "córa Koryntu" (prostutute). Ciotka used to be ciota, but now that is slang for a homo. Dziad used to be grandfather and still can mean ancestor but usually we now use the diminutive dziadek.

Augmentatives are mainly limited to the -sko ending: babsko (big, nasty old hag), kocisko (big, mangy, old tomcat), bucisko (big, clumsy shoe), szwabisko (nasty, good-for-nothing kraut {German}). Other than -sko occasionally other endings occur, eg piach for piasek (sand).

An interersting ending is -ina/-yna which is used to denote something poor, shabby, negative: eg dziennikarzyna (poor excuse for a journalist), aktorzyna (poor man's actor), chałupina (small, ramshackle cottage), kaczyna (sickly, underfed, pitiful-looking duck), etc. Would you know whether any non-Slavic language has anything similar.
Lyzko 25 | 7,139
27 May 2017 #4
Yet it's so built into the language, without using them properly and appropriately, Polish just isn't Polish.

Once knew a gent in grad school named Stanislaw and we got on rather well, I thought. We spoke a mixture of Polish sometimes and English, yet I inadventently called him "Stanislaw", after all, it was his name. However, when he asked me once whether or not I was annoyed at him for some reason and I answered no, he then asked, "No, Marku, dlaczego mnie nie nazywasz "Stasio"?

I think this is much more exaggerated than here in the States, where scores of kids I knew said they preferred, for instance, "David" to "Dave" or "Davey" etc.
OP Polonius3 1,000 | 12,448
27 May 2017 #5

Stanisław is a favourite Polish Christian name and has generated numerous endearing diminutives: Staś, Stasio, Stasiu, Stach, Stachu, Staszek, Stasiek, Stasieczek, Stanek and probably a few more personalised family verisions.Using the full first name the way you did was a common way of addressing servantrs before WW2. "Niech Stanisław wypuści psa" for example.
Lyzko 25 | 7,139
27 May 2017 #6
Wow!! Never knew that. Learnin' stuff every day, dude! Keep it comin:-))

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