Thursday: Hili dialogue and bonus note on “Meow” in Polish

January 2, 2014 • 1:17 am

Today’s Hili Dialogue comes with a language lesson (below):

Hili: Let’s look at the problem from another perspective.
A: What problem?
Hili: It doesn’t matter what problem, what matters is from which perspective we are looking at it.
Hili: Spójrzmy na ten problem z innej strony.
Ja: Na jaki problem?
Hili: Nie ważne na jaki problem, ważne z której strony patrzymy.



Everyone (well, one reader) wants to know how to say “meow” in Polish. The answer is that it varies. Unlike in English, the name for the sound itself and the verb for making it are not identical.  So here, courtesy of Malgorzata, are the answers:

The sound itself: miau.  This is what you would see in a Polish comic coming out of the mouth of a cat (illustration at bottom). Note that this sound is almost universal worldwide except in Japanese, where cats say “nyan.” LOL!

The verb (infinitive): miauczeć

Present tense: he/she miauczy

Past tense: he miauczał; she miauczała

(Note that in the past tense, but not the present, the verb differs by sex.)

The noun: miauczenie

A sentence. “Hili meowed for me” = “Hili zamiauczała dla mnie.” (The “za” in front of the verb indicates that the meowing was a single incident rather than a continuous sound. Without the “za,” it would mean that Hili is continuing to meow.)

Fig. 1. Linguistically correct depiction of Polish cat (Hili as kitten)

18 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue and bonus note on “Meow” in Polish

  1. In fact, the Japanese is not so different. That final ‘n’ is not the same as a final ‘n’ in English, but is more like an ‘ng’ that is created by allowing the back of the tongue to rise towards an ‘ng’ position, but without touching the soft palate; it is close to being a vowel, and it creates a sort of nasal open sound that is similar to the open sound at the end of ‘miaow’ or ‘miau’. Similarly, ‘bow-wow’or ‘woof-woof’ (if I may mention d-gs) is ‘wan-wan’ in Japanese.(‘the ‘w’ and ‘f’ in English function in these cases not as stops, but more as vowels, as suggestions of sounds that are open.
    Initial ‘n’ in the Japanese ‘nyan’ is really not so different from initial ‘m’ in other languages’ attempts to imitate a cat’s voice.

    1. I’ve always thought that bow wow sounds nothing like the sound that dogs make. Woof or arf are much better.

    1. In swedish, most cats go “miau” too.

      [The name for the sound however has nothing (?) to do with the onomatopoetic, it is “jamning” and the verb “jama”.]

        1. Thanks for trying, Dominic. And having studied some Spanish and French (very rusty now though), I can understand the attribution of gender to nouns. But why is there a difference between past tense verbs and present tense, in Polish?

      1. This is the killer for all native English speakers trying to learn another European language.
        I still break out in a sweat remembering my own efforts with the changes caused by gender in German datives or genitives when we lived there for a while.

  2. I learned Polish by talking with my parents and other poles and never learned the grammatical rules so
    check this out = the letter ł is pronounced as a w in English and the letter ó as oo in moo and the rz as sh

    table – stół
    on the table – na stole
    under the table – pod stołem
    near the table przy stole
    over the table – nad stołem

    So what grammar rules apply here??

    Picking up writing was easy because the pronunciation is phonetic, but I stoppet writing in Polish at the age of 7.

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