Why does the Polish language not use the letters Č, Š, and Ž, and instead uses Cz, Sz, and Ż/Rz? Why has the Polish language never adopted the Czech convention to use caron/háček, despite being similar to Czech? Which are reasons for that?

  • 1
    I couldn't say, but if you look at the recent history of native language orthographies for Northwest Coast languages, which resemble one another greatly, and are often closely related historically, you will find that each group has settled on its own orthography, some using IPA symbols, others adding non-letters, still others imitating English spellings. There are languages with Č and Š, languages with CH and SH, and languages with < and > (though not for those sounds). My guess is that it was politically inadvisable to look like Czech at the time.
    – jlawler
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 17:58
  • My guess is that it has to do with printing conventions, where there might not have been space for the diacritics. In situations where diacritics are unavailable or undesirable, there is usually a longer form available. In German, for example, umlauts can be spelled ae, oe and ue (this was their origin). I'd wager Polish diacritics started out as digraphs as well and those are thus used in these situations.
    – siride
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 19:25
  • Polish can perfectly use Č,Š,Ž etc. I wrote a Word macro that transliterates Polish to an adapted version of Czech (or should I say "Čech"?) alphabet :-P
    – Eleshar
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


"Tradition" is the best explanation. Czech, Polish, Slovak and even Hungarian face similar problems of having consonants lacking Latin equivalents. When the Latin alphabet was first introduced, there was a certain amount of chaos in dealing with the palatals. Originally, Czech used some of the spelling conventions also used in Polish – both languages randomly used digraphs as well as diacritics on s and z. Czech benefited from a work Orthographia bohemica published between 1406 and 1412, which eliminated the digraphs and trigraphs in favor of diacritics, eliminating rzss, zr, sr, rzs and so forth. This caught on in a number of other languages, but not as much in Polish, which also had an orthographic reform later at the end of the 18th century. (Unrelated) Hungarian underwent the opposite reform, converting (some) earlier diacritics to digraphs.

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