I have a problem. I have always used such pronunciation that if a word ends with the sound “zm” (like “feudalizm”), when declining it to the locative case “zm” turns into “źm”, i.e.:

Feudalizm -> Feudaliźmie   (the same sound as in the word “źrebak” (“colt”))

Interestingly, I wouldn't have noticed it at all if the spell checker installed in my web browser hadn't highlighted it.

Is it a linguistic error, linguistic word formation to facilitate pronunciation, a dialect, or perhaps some legacy from older iterations of the Polish language?

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    Apr 2 at 13:04
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2 Answers 2


The suffix -izm is borrowed from Greek via Latin, it's not native Polish, but in the Polish native words z is palatalized to [ʑ] before a palatalized m (mi/mie), cf.:

wezmę ‘I will take’ with z before a non-palatalized m
weźmie ‘he/she/it will take’ with before a palatalized m,

so it's natural for a Pole to pronounce [ʑ] also in the borrowed suffix -izm in the locative case -izmie, and both pronunciations are considered plausible in Polish, although in spelling only -zmie is to be used. See this Wiktionary article on the Polish suffix -izm which has a footnote 1 in the declension chart saying that while the spelling is only -izmie, the pronunciation can be both -izmie and -iźmie.

In Russian the situation is pretty similar, the Soviet leader Khrushchev, who wasn't quite aware of the standard pronunciation norm due to his very low level of education, was famous for palatalizing z in the Russian words for “communism”, “socialism”, and “capitalism” in the locative case, which is quite often exploited in the jokes that parody his way of speaking, Russian grammar and pronunciation being very prescriptive with the palatalized [zʲ] not allowed in that environment.

Also, you might want to have a look at the discussion of a very similar question on Reddit: Pronunciation of "-zmie".


This process is known as assimilation. In this spesific case — by palatalization: when one sound was palatalized, or stands with next voiced palatal approximant, then previous consonants also would be palatalized if they can. Polish, unlike some other Slavic languages, like Ukrainian with the current spelling, usually marks this process in their spelling: miło·ś·ć, mentioned in other answer we·ź·mie against we·z·mę, s·cedować but ś·ciąć. Mentioned by me Ukrainian and by other answer Russian may donʼt mark palatalization not only just phonetic (→ [zʲ] like in Pol. Azja) but as a sound change (→ Ukr. [ʃ], Pol. or Russ. [ʑ]) too, for example зжити (zžıtı) instead жжити (žžıtı).

For some reasons and in some cases, Polish doesnʼt mark, even when it happens with s: zdzielić instead expected ździelić in spelling and pronounce. I guess, z — even as a voiced pair to s — doesnʼt tend to palatalization as a sound change so much, at least for Polish standard orthoepy.

To additional, Polish tends to keep etymological things somewhere, for examples ch as h, or u as ł in some cases as in feudalizm. Again, not with s like it happens with -ysta → -yście.

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