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Poland campaigns to preserve its complex spelling

Several diacritical marks are on a train station sign in Warsaw. An effort to preserve them is underway.

Alik Keplicz/Associated Press

Several diacritical marks are on a train station sign in Warsaw. An effort to preserve them is underway.

WARSAW — Polish language experts launched a campaign Thursday to preserve the challenging system of its diacritical marks, saying the tails, dots, and strokes are becoming obsolete under the pressure of IT and speed.

The drive, initiated by the state-run Council of the Polish Language, is part of the ­UNESCO International Mother Language Day. The campaign’s Polish name is complicated for a non-Polish keyboard: ‘‘Je,zyk polski jest a,-e,.’’

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That’s a pun meaning that Polish language needs its tails and is top class. Part of the meaning is lost and the pronunciation sounds wrong if the marks aren’t there.

Computer and phone keyboards require users to punch additional keys for the Polish alphabet. To save time, Poles skip the nuances.

As part of the new campaign, some radio and TV stations are playing songs with words stripped of diacritical pronunciation, making them sound odd to the Polish ear.

In Poland, linguist Jerzy Bralczyk said the diacritical marks are a visual, defining feature of the Polish language, and they carry meaning and enrich the speech.

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