Thursday, June 6, 2013

Phrasal Reinforcement

I have found that once one experiences an initial exposure to a word, that word's meaning is often reinforced with its use in a two- or three-word (or sometimes longer) phrase containing the word. This is also one reason why I try to give examples with some of these reinforcing phrases in my blog posts.  These phrases are the bread and butter of language and assist in demonstrating how words fit together to provide meaning as well as show the various cases in Polish that are used in different situations (though some phrases will undoubtedly modify their case when used in a different sentence placement).

I'll provide some examples of reinforcing phrases so you can see how they reinforce word meanings and so you can improve your learning of Polish words.

Probably some of the most common reinforcing phrases are noun phrases (I call these "noun phrases" because they are clauses where the unit functions as a noun) consisting of an adjective and a noun, or a noun with a prepositional clause functioning as an adjective phrase.

For example: once you know that "koszt" means "cost" and "utrzymanie" means "maintenance" or "livelihood", then both of these words are reinforced by the noun phrase "koszty utrzymania" or
"cost of living."

bujna wyobraźnia - vivid imagination
szkoda słów - waste of breath
wzięty lekarz - popular (in demand) doctor
język nowożytny - modern language
płatek ucha - earlobe
odruch ssania - sucking reflex
szafka na buty - shoe cabinet
lęk wysokości - fear of heights
pracownik umysłowy - while-collar worker
członek załogi - crew member
produkcja prądu - energy production
przywódca opozycji - opposition leader
dostawy wojenne - war provisions
skrajna nędza - dire poverty

There are also many other useful reinforcing phrases.

Verb phrases (the unit functions as a verb) frequently consist of a verb and a direct or indirect object:

odebrać telefon - to pick up the phone
przegrać z kimś - to lose against somebody
podpisać kontrakt - to sign a contract
pójść na marne - to go to waste
zmarnować okazję - to miss an opportunity
robić pomiary - to take measurements, to survey
umierać na raka - to die of cancer
spoglądać po sobie - to glance at each other
wziąć zamach - to take a swing

Adjectival phrases (the unit functions as an adjective) usually consist of an adverb or adjective modifying an adjective:

śmiertelnie znudzony - bored to death
politycznie poprawny - politically correct

Adverbial phrases (the unit functions as an adverb) can have varied constructions, but often are adjective/adverb or adverb/adverb:

mimo że, mimo iż - even though, despite the fact that

Prepositional clauses (the unit often functions as an adjective or adverb, or as an interrogative or declarative phrase) consisting of preposition/noun or preposition/adjective/noun are fairly common, and are also useful for reinforcement:

od miesiąca - for a month
ze strachu - out of fear
na wypadek - in case of
ponad cztery godziny - more than four hours
po drodze, w drodze - on the way
w jakim sensie? - in what sense?
w poprzednich latach - in previous years
na bezludnej wyspie - on a deserted island
bez trudu - effortlessly
od tej pory - from that time
z niewiadomych przyczyn - for no obvious reason

Short, complete sentences are also illustrative of interplay between word meanings.  Often these consist of subject and verb (possibly also with an object), but can have a number of variations:

oszukał mnie - he deceived me
to wystarczy - that will do
w czym kłopot? - what's the problem?

Idiomatic clauses or sentences are usually best considered as a single, self-contained unit of meaning.  They are good for learning poetic or metaphoric constructs of the language, whereby the meaning of the words on their face can be spun into literary fabric to reach the enhanced meaning of the phrase as a whole:

kiedy bądź - any time
poza tym - besides, otherwise
co ty na to - what do you think/say
nie ma sprawy - no problem
nie waż się - don't you dare
w sumie - all in all, altogether
mijać się z prawdą - to be untruthful
nie kojarzę - I don't get it (I don't associate)
puszczać coś mimo uszu - to let something pass (literal translation: to let go of something without ears)
każdy orze, jak może - you do what you can (literal translation: each [person] plows as he/she may)
gdzie Rzym, a gdzie Krym? - what does that have to do with anything? (literal: where is Rome? and where is Crimea?)
z deszczu pod rynnę - out of the frying pan and into the fire (literal: from the rain under the gutter)
co ty na to, żeby wilk był syty i owca cała? - what would you say if you could have your cake and eat it too? (literal: what do you say if the wolf is full and the sheep whole?)

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