So I decided to compare the languages Czech and Polish. The devolving of voiced consonants to voiceless consonants are pretty much the same. However, one of the differences were, words with [g] written with "k" in Czech were written with "g" in Polish. For example, "kdyby" is written "gdyby" in Polish. Why does Polish use G for [g] more than Czech does. In Czech, G is generally only used in loanwords. Why can't "gbur" be written "kbur" in Polish? What's this aspect of using K instead of G for [g] in Czech but not in Polish?


1 Answer 1


It is just a convention. An etymological one, if you want. The pronunciation is of course /gd/.

In Proto-Slavic there was a yer between the k and the d or t: kdy < *kъdy.

In Czech all these pronouns begin with k. Also, in certain dialects (and in Slovak) you can have a vowel between the k and the d which makes it more apparent. E.g.: "kedy" for "kdy". This is reminds the original yer and makes the pronunciation to really use /k/. "Kdyby" comes from "kdy" + "by".

In Polish they decided to write it closer to the pronunciation, but it is just a convention as well. One possible choice.

The origin of "gbur" is German and hence the "g" is original. Of course, loanwords can adopt a different orthography, but there is very little reason for doing that here.

The reason why Polish has no problem with G is because the original Slavic G did not become H as in Czech, Slovak or Ukrainian. For this reason, Czech only has /g/ due to voicing assimilation while Polish has loads of them where Czech has /h/.

And I forgot the "anekdota" from the title, as it was not mentioned in the question itself. This is again etymological orthography in Czech similar to French or English "anecdote" originally from Greek. And in Polish the decision was to adjust spelling in relation to the pronunciation.

  • gbur is with g like in German, and so is gwałt, but kształt is with k. They were all borrowed from Middle High German, if we believe Wiktionary. In German pronunciations, the following consonant often affects how that prefix is pronounced. Maybe preceding a voiceless consonants make the g unvoiced in German or Polish? Dec 9, 2023 at 12:50
  • Is it because, Polish spelling is more focused on phonetic spelling while Czech, etymological? Dec 9, 2023 at 12:55
  • @AdamBittlingmayer Due to the voising asimilation a word like kštalt or křtalt (existing in Old Czech) has unvoiced /k/ due to the unvoiced /š/ or /ř/. In Polish it is the same. Dec 9, 2023 at 16:13
  • @AkshatGoswami At least in this particular case. But I would like to stress the analogy with other pronouns like kudy, kam, který... It is important. Dec 9, 2023 at 16:15
  • Fun fact: In some cases the [k] became a [g]. For example jn 13th century, Kde had the K making a [k] sound but in 15th century, it became voiced [g]. But K was retained probably for etymology/tradition. However, Anekdota became Anegdot, spelling it the phonetic way. That's why, Polish is considered more phonetic than Czech. It's also spelled gdo in Serbo Croatian. Kdo could be really written "gdo" like in Serbo Croatian and Polish. It's a more phonetic spelling It would look strange at first but so did anegdota when it superseded Anekdota. Half of the time, K is just a G in Czech. Dec 9, 2023 at 16:39

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