15

This is particularly interesting to me as I can't seem to find any information on the topic, but, having listened to numerous Polish speakers from both sexes, the male─female pronounciational split is very distinctive to my Russian ears.

In particular, here are some differences that I have observed:

  1. Palatalisation. Women tend to palatalise their soft consonants (and so most often pronounce e.g. "wiedzieć" as [vʲedzʲetsʲ] or [vʲeɟec]), while men keep the consonants hard but add a short "i" or "j" sound after "b", "p", "m", "w", "f", "g", or "k" or palatalise the consonants completely to turn them into hushing sounds in cases of "ś", "ź", "ć", or "dź" (and so most often pronounce "wiedzieć" as [wjedʑetɕ] or [wiedʑetɕ]). For example, compare this male voice with this female voice.
  2. Nasalisation. Men tend to nasalise their "ę"s and "ą"s before sibilants and sometimes at the end of words or pronounce them as [ɛw̃], [ɔw̃] or [ɛw], [ɔw], while women tend to replace them with [ɛn], [ɛm], or [ɛ] and [ɔm] more often. I have found this rule to be less consistent than others.
  3. The letter ł. Women tend to raise their tongue when pronouncing this letter, so that it sounds closer to an [ɫ], while men tend to pronounce it as a clear [w]. For example, compare this female voice this male voice.

I believe there are other differences, such as vowel reduction and vowel fronting, but I wanted to keep this question short and concise, so I only went through the main differences that I have observed.

I have known a few languages other than Polish throughout my lifetime, which include Russian, English, French, Greek, and Hebrew, but in none of them have I observed any consistent difference between male and female speakers. Why is it that Polish has this interesting feature? Are the reasons psychological, biological, cultural, or some combination of these?

7
  • 7
    See also Gender differences in Japanese.
    – tchrist
    Jan 2 at 21:27
  • 1
    Do you have any systematic study that would show that it isn't just a random or perhaps regional or dialectal variability?
    – Vladimir F
    Jan 2 at 21:48
  • 1
    @VladimirF the statement "I can't seem to find any information on the topic" would suggest to me that is not the case.
    – LjL
    Jan 2 at 22:06
  • 1
    In that case I think the null hypothesis is the right one. BTW, the girl in your link youtube.com/watch?t=176&v=scO3ZCEJQYM&feature=youtu.be describes herself as #Ukrainka #wPolsce ... (a female Ukrainian in Poland in case someone does not understand...)
    – Vladimir F
    Jan 2 at 22:44
  • @VladimirF As suggested by Ljl, I do not, but I have heard hundreds of Poles from all over the country, and the differences that I have noted in the post have proven to be pretty consistent. If anyone knows of any studies on the topic, I would appreciate it a lot if you could share them with me.
    – Max
    Jan 2 at 22:52
4

I have known a few languages other than Polish throughout my lifetime, which include Russian, English, French, Greek, and Hebrew, but in none of them have I observed any consistent difference between male and female speakers.

The differences are almost surely there. They may be subtle, or quite variable because they interact with other sociolinguistic markers. But in general, dimensions of the speech signal that are not needed to mark linguistic meaning are very likely to get recruited to mark important social categories. So if gender is an important social category to the speech community, then it is very likely that you will find some sociolinguistic differences that reflect gender expression/performance.

Why is it that Polish has this interesting feature?

I would assume because gender is an important social construct for Polish speakers.

Are the reasons psychological, biological, cultural, or some combination of these?

Since gender is a cultural construct, the reasons are cultural.

3
  • 1
    "Since gender is a cultural construct, the reasons are cultural." it doesn't mean anything that men and women differ not only in genitals, but also their timbre, tone and strength of voice are biologically different? :> I don't want to dive into the meaning of the word "gender" and neologistic using of this, i prefer "sex". Oct 13 at 21:03
  • @Пилум The term "gender" refers to the social qualities that have been traditionally associated with women. It has little to do with biological sex per se. Therefore, a biological man can easily assume feminine gender roles and vice versa.
    – Max
    yesterday
  • Max, like as - to bear children and sing a soprano voice ? the nonsense :) or here this word is used out of place and not to the essence of the issue. 11 hours ago
-1

There are no male or female accents in Polish. The way words are pronounced by men and women is exactly the same.

If you are hearing differences in how men and women speak Polish, then I would assume it's just you. It certainly is true that individual people pronounce certain sounds slightly differently, but it is not a gender characteristic.

Also, in your third example, the female voice is actually a Ukrainian woman, so I don't think comparing a non-native Polish speaker to a native Polish speaker is viable here. EDIT: It seems you already know that, looking at the comments here, fair enough :-)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.