In phones, you now can use speech to do VAD (Voice Activated Dialing). As in, "Call Bob". This works fine in isolating languages.

I was told that in Polish (pl-PL), it is more natural to say "Call Dawida" when the name is Dawid.

In languages that decline given names, how strange is it to say "Call Dawid" when talking to a phone?

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    I find it stranger that they'd say "call" instead of "dzwoń" but I suppose I could be wrong about that. Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 0:29
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    Welcome to Linguistics.SE, csmba! I'm sorry, but I'm failing to see how this question relates to linguistics. Are you just asking about a cell phone feature or is there something more to it? Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 0:56
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    @OtavioMacedo The questioner is asking about what case is used for the name of the person being called; i.e., nominative vs accusative. This may not be obvious to non-speaker of Polish.I will answer to clarify. However, then it may be too specific to a single language to qualify. Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 1:14
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    I agree with @MarkBeadles, the answer to this question is related to the (linguistic) concept of case system. Myself, before I learnt linguistics I also wondered why some languages modifies people's name and the name can change in different situation.
    – Louis Rhys
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 3:46
  • @MarkBeadles Questions for single languages are now on topic. So no problem on that side. I have removed the part about the phones function but I'm tempted to close this: it's not looking for Linguistics answers, but rather if it's ordinary to or not to use a certain expression on the phone.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 9:39

2 Answers 2


I don't know how the phone system works in Poland, and besides that's a question for a telephony user group or something, not a linguistics question. So I will address the linguistic point.

Many languages other than English have a case system for marking the grammatical roles of words like nouns. In most instances this also applies to proper nouns like personal names. Case-marking in Polish takes the form of suffixes that are appended to the base form of the word. For the masculine name Dawid, the forms are:

Nominative Dawid = David as a subject
Accusative Dawida = David as a direct object, to David
Dative Dawidowi = David as an indirect object, to/for David
Genitive Dawida = David's, of David
Instrumental Dawidem = with/by David
Locative Dawidzie = at/on/to David
Vocative Dawidzie = O David!

Apart from that, there exist prepositions, as English to, from etc. The verb (za)dzwonić 'call' takes the preposition do 'to' which requires the genitive, so the whole phrase is (za)dzwoń do Dawida 'call to David-Gen.'.

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    I took the liberty of editing your post. Please see the change to make sure you accept it.
    – kamil-s
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 8:10
  • @KamilS. Thanks - I always get confused by prepositions and their governed cases. Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 16:05
  • What does the (za) represent? Just that there are two equivalent related words for this use, dzwonić and zadzwonić? Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 12:24

Commenters above are right in pointing out that the question is not entirely linguistic, but since it's already been asked and the linguistic part answered, I'll complete it with the non-linguistic bit.

It's very uncommon for people in Poland to use VAD. It's not really faster than choosing the person from the list and is usually considered showing off, sort of like using a mobile in the early nineties. But whenever anyone does use it, the phones usually let them record their own call, so they end saying (za)dzwoń do Dawida, or just simply Dawid. (The za- bit is aspect; with it, it's perfective, without it, it's imperfective. In this particular situation both can be used.)

I will admit, however, that I did see a good couple of years ago someone say zadzwoń Dawid. I presume his phone required the call and David bits to be recorded separately, and he preferred to say zadzwoń Dawid than zadzwoń Dawida because somehow it seems less ungrammatical, and he simply didn't think of recording do Dawida for 'David'.

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    Your last paragraph is quite interesting and raises a broader linguistic point. In isolating languages like English, computers can simply string words together in a certain order and it will be grammatical. So in English I can record "call" and "Kamil" separately, and "Call" + "Kamil" will be a grammatical utterance. But in declined languages, this doesn't work, as you point out with "zadzwoń Dawid". The computer just regards it as a burst of noise, and doesn't have any clue that it can or should be declined. This might be a known issue in speech recognition/synthesis. Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 16:10
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    @MarkBeadles I've never played much with speech recognition because it hardly ever seems to understand what I'm saying. Also, I don't know how NLP and friends deal with it. But I have some experience with software localization, and I can say for sure more awareness of the issue among programmers would be greatly welcome. Imagine call, calling and David are three variables; there's no way one can make it into the grammatically correct zadzwoń do Dawida and Dawid dzwoni.
    – kamil-s
    Commented Mar 10, 2012 at 17:12

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