Personifying the neuter gender

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Czwartek
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Personifying the neuter gender

Postby Czwartek » 2010-08-16, 22:13

It's been a few years since I first started learning Polish, but there's one thing I still wonder. While past-tense verbs inflect for gender and person, is it possible to personify a gender-neutral noun by giving it first or second person endings? For example, in a hypothetical conversation with a tree: Pytałem drzewa: "Drzewo, skąd pochodziłoś?" A drzewo odpowiedziało: "Byłom ziarnem, a rosłom z ziemi."

Aside from the bizarreness of a talking tree, would such a construction be grammatically acceptable, with the combination of personal verb endings in conjunction with the neuter gender 'o'? If it's not grammatical, how would such dialogue be handled in Polish? I've never seen it used before, nor indeed seen a situation where it would be used before.
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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby arti » 2010-08-17, 7:12

Hi Czwartek :)

Check that link, we discussed that topic a bit :)
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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby bibax » 2010-08-17, 14:50

Słoneczko drogie, co wczoraj robiłoś – Świeciłom dzień cały, suszyłom rosę i łzy dziecięce. A ty, lato, co robiłoś? – Wyzłacałom kłosy zbóż, rumieniłom jabłka w sadach.

For some reasons such verbal forms like robiłoś, świeciłom, ... don't sound natural for most Poles. In Czech it is quite common to speak to objects of neuter gender in the fairy tales, songs, sometimes even in the real life, and it sounds completely natural. The possible candidates are mainly: sun, mirror, summer, spring (neuter in Czech), animals of the neuter gender (like speaking chickens, little pigs, ...), etc.

From my childhood I remember a fairytale written by N. Nosov (the Polish title is "Nieumiałek w Słonecznym Mieście"). One night Nieumiałek (Nieznajka, Knows-nothing) couldn't sleep and was disputing with his obtrusive conscience. The word 'conscience' is neuter in Czech as well as in Polish (sumienie). Nieumíałek was using verbs in the past tense as well. Maybe the Polish version avoided the past tense neuter forms in the dialogue.
:|
Last edited by bibax on 2010-08-18, 12:47, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby Czwartek » 2010-08-17, 21:43

Thank you very much for the replies! That was an interesting thread you linked to, Arti. ;)
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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby Cosi » 2010-08-18, 8:26

bibax wrote:From my childhood I remember a fairytale written by N. Nosov (the Polish title is "Nieumiałek w Słonecznym Mieście").

[offtopic]
Great book, btw. :)
[/offtopic]

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby mafke » 2010-08-18, 10:58

As far as I can tell, forms like byłom, robiłoś etc are more potential than real. A quick look also finds that Polish philologists are divided as to whether they can or should be used in fairytales. In real usage, certainly no Polish adult asks children Co robiłoś? (or even Coś robiło? which sounds slightly less odd to me, a non-native speaker).

http://www.rjp.pan.pl/index.php?option= ... &Itemid=73

Another potential problem (which might have something to do with their non-use). In some kinds of non-standard colloquial use, unstressed a tends to turn to o, so that byłoś could be mistaken for a substandard pronunciation of byłaś. IME most Polish speakers consciously avoid forms that they even suspect might sound sub-standard.

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby bibax » 2010-08-18, 12:36

The Czech authors of the fairytales and animated films force the little poor animals and speaking things of neuter gender to use the neuter gender consistently, even in plural (as Czech distinguishes three genders in plural as well). It applies to all parts of speech that distinguish gender. For instance the three little pigs - "tři malá prasátka" (they are feminine in Polish: "trzy małe świnki") - are well aware of their neutral nature (in the animated cartoons they usually speak with the falsetto voice). This grammatical hyper-correctness in the fairytales is so common that we are used to it.

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby silmeth » 2010-08-23, 23:07

I'm sure that forms like "robiłom" are used by Maja Lidia Kossakowska in her fantasy book "Siewca wiatru". So sometimes they are used by modern authors, but they sound really oddly for me. It is different case than in Czech, where past forms are considered two different words (dělalo jsi - two words, both of them normally used in everyday talks, while in Polish you have robiłoś - one word, never used naturally, could a native Czech tell me if shortened form like "dělalo's" sounds natural for him?), so however historically, etymologically they are the same, for native speakers of both languages they are considered in different way.
polszczyzna jest moją mową ojczystą (pl), Is Gaelainn na Mumhan atá á foghlaim agam (ga) ((ga-M)), mám, myslím, dobrou znalost češtiny, rozumím a něco mluvím (cs), Jeg lærer meg bokmål på Duolingo (no-nb) (og eg ville lære nynorsk ein gong (no-nn))

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby bibax » 2010-08-26, 9:06

Yes, the contracted form dělalos (< dělalo jsi = robiłoś) sounds natural in Czech. Somewhere I read "Milé Rakousko, udělalos dobře!" - Dear Austria, you've done it well (when Austria unofficially rejected the membership of Turkey in the EU). The name of Austria is a neuter noun (as well as of Poland, Russia, Slovakia, ...), it is another opportunity to speak to objects of neuter gender in Czech.

Necessary to add that the auxiliary verb in the Czech past tense is unstressed, mostly on the second position, commonly pronounced without j. There is no big difference between Polish and Czech, especially in plural, for example:

Kde jste byli? - Byli jsme v ...

which is pronounced

Gdeste byli? - Bylisme v ... (Gdzieście byli? - Byliśmy w ...)

The main difference: we write the auxiliary separately and we still say that the past tense is formed by an l-participle and the auxiliary to be.

The contracted -s (< jsi) in the 2nd person sing. (written without apostrophe) is a direct equivalent of the Polish ending -ś:
cos dělal, kdes byl, žes nepřišel;
Rakousko, udělalos dobře (= ... urobiłoś ...);
Rakousko, dobřes udělalo;

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby Milya0 » 2010-08-26, 11:41

I think it will sound more natural, when you move personal suffix:
Co robiłoś? -> Coś ty robiło?
Ja świeciłom. -> Jam świeciło.
Byłom ziarnem, a rosłom z ziemi. -> Jam było ziarnem i rosło z ziemi.
Skąd pochodziłoś? -> Skąd(ż)eś pochodziło?
And, as said here, it would sound even more natural (but not so correct) using "że":
Co żeś robiło?
(Ja) żem świeciło.
Żem było ziarnem i rosło z ziemi.
Skąd żeś pochodziło?

Maybe in future it will be new auxiliary verb in Polish: żem, żeś, -, żeśmy, żeście, -?
Qroo₃₁ kaa₄ cro₂ kraa₃ kaa₄ qo₄₁ cra₄₁ ka₄ qoo₄₂ krá₄₂.

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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby pittmirg » 2010-08-26, 15:22

mafke wrote:In some kinds of non-standard colloquial use, unstressed a tends to turn to o, so that byłoś could be mistaken for a substandard pronunciation of byłaś.


Unstressed a to o? More like Old Polish long a > o, I think (therefore miáł > mioł but miała > miała). I've never heard about any Polish dialects with such a reduction (though there are eastern dialects with unstressed o > u or unstressed o > a).

OTOH I've read about dialects which have shifted unmarried women to the original neuter gender. So there might be (or have been) areas where a girl would say about herself "poszłom do domu", while a married woman "poszłam do domu".

silmeth wrote:I'm sure that forms like "robiłom" are used by Maja Lidia Kossakowska in her fantasy book "Siewca wiatru".


This reminds me how Dukaj in his Perfekcyjna niedoskonałość introduced a "posthuman" gender which has -u as the past tense desinence.

Jacek Dukaj wrote:De la Roche nie przesuwału się też po Plateau, nie wysyłału sensynów na Pola Gnosis i McPhersona, bo wiedziału, że potem, w ramach śledztwa, Cesarz sprawdzi naj­drobniejsze drgnięcia błony. Czekału więc cierpliwie, mrużyłu oczy od słońca, piłu Pesque i odkłaniału się uprzejmie gościom.


Milya0 wrote:I think it will sound more natural, when you move personal suffix


Except that you risk sounding overly biblical if you are overusing things like "jam" ;)
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Re: Personifying the neuter gender

Postby silmeth » 2010-09-01, 19:59

[offtopic]
(written without apostrophe)

I'm sure I've seen this in some book with apostrophe... But yeah, more often it was without, so "dělalos", not "dělalo's". ;-)
[/offtopic]
polszczyzna jest moją mową ojczystą (pl), Is Gaelainn na Mumhan atá á foghlaim agam (ga) ((ga-M)), mám, myslím, dobrou znalost češtiny, rozumím a něco mluvím (cs), Jeg lærer meg bokmål på Duolingo (no-nb) (og eg ville lære nynorsk ein gong (no-nn))


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