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Lesson Transcript

Micheal: What do you call those marks on Polish letters? 
Lukasz: And why doesn't Polish use Cyrillic?
Micheal: At PolishPod101.com, we hear these questions often.
In the following situation Asia Jablonska, a kindergarten student, is studying the alphabet with her teacher (Ania). She sees an unfamiliar letter and asks,
"What letter is that?"
Asia Jablonska: Jaka to litera?
Asia Jablonska: Jaka to litera?
Ania Andrzejewska: To ć.
Micheal: Once more with the English translation.
Asia Jablonska: Jaka to litera?
Micheal: "What letter is that?"
Ania Andrzejewska: To ć.
Micheal: "It's ć."
Micheal: The Polish language uses Polish script, which is the Latin alphabet plus nine additional letters. These additional letters might look familiar to English speakers, but they have been altered with diacritics — marks that have been added to the base character to change their pronunciation. One of these diacritical marks is called the
Lukasz: kreska.
Micheal: It translates as "stroke."
Micheal: Polish letters with this mark include the one Asia is trying to figure out in the dialogue.
Lukasz: Ć pronounced ć.
Micheal: this letter looks like a c with a diagonal line above it. Other letters that contain this diacritical mark are 
Lukasz: ń pronounced ń, ó pronounced ó, ś pronounced ś, ź pronounced ź
Micheal: which look like an n, o, s and z with a diagonal line above them. Yet another diacritical mark is an overdot, or
Lukasz: kropka,
Micheal: which, added above a z, turns it into
Lukasz: Ż pronounced ż.
Micheal: The third diacritical mark is called "the tail," or 
Lukasz: ogonek,
Micheal: and, when placed below the letters a and e, changes them into   
Lukasz: Ą pronounced ą
Micheal: and
Lukasz: Ę pronounced ę.
Micheal: Finally, there's one more stroke, this time drawn through the letter l. This modification gives us the letter 
Lukasz: Ł pronounced ł.
Micheal: In total, there are 32 letters in the Polish alphabet, nine of which are the aforementioned Polish-specific ones incorporating diacritical marks. Importantly, these are considered separate letters of the alphabet and are relevant for alphabetical ordering. The Polish script consists of 23 consonants,
Lukasz: spółgłoska,
Micheal:  and nine vowels. 
Lukasz: Samogłoska.
Micheal: Many people are surprised that Polish uses an alphabet derived from the Latin alphabet rather than Cyrillic, the script used by so many other Slavic languages. How did this come about? The history of written Polish started with the Baptism of Poland,
Lukasz: Chrzest Polski
Micheal:  in AD 966. This event meant that Poland found itself under the influence of the Roman papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. Since Latin was the main language used by this part of the church, it was only natural for Poland to adopt the Latin alphabet. The first written documents were also created in Latin, with only the proper nouns written down in Polish. There are not many written records until the beginning of the fourteenth century, when more documents started to be written in Polish. Summing up, the influence of Poland's western neighbors, who used Latin, was much more profound than the influence of its Eastern neighbours. 
Micheal: Great job. Now you know about the Polish alphabet. That's all there is to it!
Be sure to download the lesson notes for this lesson at PolishPod101.com — and move onto the next lesson!

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