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Version 1 as at September 27, 2008
Origin of the Bessarabian families: Polish pronunciation

Content

Preface

In the Polish church records which are writen in both, Polish and Latin, the German names in parts have been written in Polish or Latin. Because of this it is often hard to find the right records. Hence it is most important to know the Polish pronunciation. When reading Polish records one should be aware of this and always - at least in mind - pronounce the names which are not clearly recognizable and try to recognize the correct German name. You also need to consider that in Polish there are no German Umlaute (ä, ö ü) and also no ß.

The Polish Reverend wrote the names as he understood them and here and there he added also an -ow. In this manner the name Köler changes to Kiler or Keler. But you need to be aware that Keler can easily be misinterpreted as Keller. Other examples are Grünzweig = Gryncwajk, Fischer = Fiszer, Heger = Hegier, Lehmann = Lejman, Neumann = Naymanow, Scharf = Szarf, Schindler = Syndler, Schmied = Szmit, Schneider = Sznajder, Schulz = Szulcow, Stuber = Sztubow, Vogel = Fogiel, Zoller = Coller. For women often an -owna (or similar) was put at the end, and thereby Rath changes to Ratowna, Schwab to Szwabowna, Schindler to Szyndleruwna. Many different notations are possible. I have found Böttcher written as: Bedkie, Bekierow, Betcher, Bethcke, Bethier, Bethierów, Bethke, Betka, Betke, Betkier, Betkierow, Betnerkow, Bettner, Bötcher, Boetger, Boethke, Böttcher. For Grünwald you can find Grinevald, Grundvaldin, Grumbaldt, Grumvaldt, Grombwaldow; Fandrich is also written as Faenrychow, Fandre, Fandri, Fandrych, Fandrychywa, Fendrychow, Fenrych.

In addition some names are "translated" directly into Polish or Latin, and hence Gottlieb changes to Bogumil, Boguslaw or Boguslaus; Gottfried to Deogratus; Johann to Jan and Adelbert to Woyciech. This happens also to surnames, and as example Kirsch can change to Wisniewski and Biermann to Piwowarski [1]. Böttcher can also be written as Bednarz, Bednareck, Bednarkowa and other similar spellings.

The same problems you will have to face when searching for a village which for example was written down in Bessarabia. If you are looking for example for the village "Tromszyn" (and most likely it is the same for the similar natations Tromtschin or Tromtin) you will end up in the village Trąbczyn (pronunced "Tromtschin" in German) in the "Kalischer Land" (area of Kalisch): The ą in front of a b is pronunced as om. [1]

Polish pronunciation

The following description is based on Wikipedia [2] and Wikibooks [3]. Please go there to get more details. Audio samples are also available.

Polish letter / combination Pronunced like Remarks
a star, smart, under
ą French: Gascoigne, Bon voyage, DuPont. No such sound in English, but can be approximated as on or om. In front of f, w, s, ś, sz, rz, z, ż ź and ch a nasal o, in front of b and p like om, in front of g and k as in Congo otherwise like on.
b As in English
c cats Like a German z. No such sound in English, but can be roughly approximated as ts. Polish c is to English s like English ch to English sh. In front of an i like ć
ch German: machen, Scottish: Loch Harder than English 'h' and never silent.
cz cherry, rich
ć Similar to german: Mädchen, Entchen No such sound in English or other common western language. Can be approximated as a very, very soft tch. Similar to but clearly softer than cz.
d As in English
dz cads ---
gene No such sound in English or other common western language. Can be approximated as a very, very soft g or j. Somewhat similar to gene. Similar to but softer than dż.
Pager, Jazz
e seldom
ę French: Petain No such sound in English, but can be approximated as en or em: in front of f, w, s, ś sz, rz, z, ż ź and ch a nasal e, in front of b and p like em, in front of g and k like German eng or Enkel, otherwise like en.
f As in English
g Mango, good, game
h German: machen, Scottish: Loch Harder than English 'h' and never silent.
i feet Like English ee, but not necessarily so long
j yellow, yaw, eye, yes
k As in English
l As in English let, never as in fool
ł water, world, town
m As in English
n As in English. In front of i like ń
ń new, onion Similar to Spanish ñ and French gn.
o walk, honor, rock, author but unlike no or phone
ó tool, soup
p As in English
r Trilled, as in Spanish or Italian. Similar to Scottish 'r'.
rz vision Like vision (with very rare exceptions)
rz vision, treasure Always after p, t, k and ch rz is pronunced like treasure
s stork, size, mass Always soft like in silk. It should never be pronounced like a z. In front of i like ś
sz sharp, shell, Washington
ś German: ich, Küche, Märchen No such sound in English or other common western language. Can be approximated as a very, very soft sh. Comparable to German ich in some dialects.
t As in English
u tool, soup
w never, vision Pronounced like v. Before certain (voiceless) consonants, it may be pronounced as f.
y ship Like English ship, but even harder and not necessarily as short. Somewhat similar to sit or myth. It should never be pronounced ee.
z As in English, in front of i like ź
ź --- No such sound in English or other common western language. Can be approximated as a very, very soft French j.
ż vision, treasure

Footnotes

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