Slavic Cognate Cognition

as a linguistics major (Northwestern ’98) who doesn’t use his degree for much nowadays, i still nerd out a little at language. while here in poland, i love that i am able to recognize polish words via what i know in other slavic languages. i mean, it’s similar and happens all the time with romance and germanic languages, but i think in this case it’s a bit more special because i’ve only picked up a few words casually, as opposed to studying a language outright.

for instance, what i remember from my visits to the czech republic (czech words first):

  • hlavní → główny “main”
  • staré město  → stare miasto “old town”
  • mostmost “bridge”
  • dobrý dendzień dobry “good day”
  • děkujidziękuję “thank you”


or, i learned čekaj (“wait”) from serbian classmates, which i recognized in slovenian during a trip to ljubljana years ago (above) as čakaj, which in polish is czekać (i heard it in a dubbed movie starring Dean Cain that was on tv).

i can’t think of any from my trip to kiev, but according to this language tree, i should expect to discover more similarities between polish and czech than the rest, and also explains why i haven’t noticed any similarities with ukranian or russian (yet?).

i’m also glad to have had polish friends in grad school so i know that ł sounds like “w” and Wrocław sounds like “vrots-wahv” and the name Grzegorz (Gregory) sounds like “gzhay-gosh”.

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