Silesian Language
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Silesian Language

Range of Silesian on a map of East-Central Europe (marked as G1 and G2, in southern Poland and the eastern Czech Republic).
A Silesian speaker, recorded in Poland.

Silesian[a] or Upper Silesian is a West Slavic lect of the Lechitic group,[2] spoken in Silesia. Its vocabulary was significantly influenced by Central German due to the existence of numerous Silesian German speakers in the area prior to World War II and after.[4] Some regard it as one of the four major dialects of Polish,[5][6][7][8] while others classify it as a separate language, distinct from Polish.[9][10][11][12][13]


Silesian speakers currently live in the region of Upper Silesia, which is split between southwestern Poland and the northeastern Czech Republic. At present Silesian is commonly spoken in the area between the historical border of Silesia on the east and a line from Syców to Prudnik on the west as well as in the Rawicz area.

Until 1945, Silesian was also spoken in enclaves in Lower Silesia, where the majority population spoke Lower Silesian, a variety of Central German. The German-speaking populace was either evacuated en masse by German forces towards the end of the war or deported by the new administration upon the Polish annexation of Silesia after World War II. Before the war, most Slavic speakers also spoke German and, at least in eastern Upper Silesia, many German-speakers were acquainted with Slavic Silesian.

According to the last official census in Poland in 2011, about 509,000[1] people declared Silesian as their native language (in census 2002, about 60,000[14]), and in the censuses in Poland, Czechia and Slovakia, nearly 0.9 million people declared Silesian nationality.[1][15][16][17]


Although the morphological differences between Silesian and Polish have been researched extensively, other grammatical differences have not been studied in depth.

A notable difference is in question-forming. In standard Polish, questions which do not contain interrogative words are formed either by using intonation or the interrogative particle czy. In Silesian, questions which do not contain interrogative words are formed by using intonation (with a markedly different intonation pattern than in Polish) or inversion (e.g. Je to na karcie?); there is no interrogative particle.


According to Jan Miodek, standard Polish has always been used by Upper Silesians as a language of prayers.[18] The Lord's Prayer in Silesian, Polish, Czech, and English.

Silesian[19] Polish Czech English
Ôjcze n?sz, kery je?e? we niebie,
byd? po?wiync?ne miano Twoje.
Przi?d? kr?lestwo Twoje,
byd? wola Twoja,
jako we niebie, tak ty? na ziymi.
Chlyb n?sz kdodziynny dej n?m dzisi?k.
A ôdpu? n?m nasze winy,
jako a my ôdpuszcz?my naszym winnik?m.
A niy w?d? n?s na pokuszyniy,
nale zb?w n?s ôde z?ygo.
Ojcze nasz, który? jest w niebie,
?wi si? imi? Twoje,
przyjd? królestwo Twoje,
b?d? wola Twoja
jako w niebie tak i na ziemi.
Chleba naszego powszedniego daj nam dzisiaj.
I odpu nam nasze winy,
jako i my odpuszczamy naszym winowajcom.
I nie wód? nas na pokuszenie,
ale nas zbaw ode z?ego.
Ot?e ná?, jen? jsi na nebesích,
posv se jméno Tvé
P?ij? království Tvé.
Bu? v?le Tvá,
jako v nebi, tak i na zemi.
Chléb ná? vezdej?í dej nám dnes
A odpus? nám na?e viny,
jako i my odpou?tíme na?ím viník?m
a neuve? nás v poku?ení,
ale zbav nás od zlého.
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Dialects of Silesian

Map showing the distribution of the Silesian dialects

Silesian has many dialects:

Dialect vs. language

Grave inscription at Lutheran cemetery in St?íte? near ?eský Tín. The inscription, which says "Rest in Peace", is in the Cieszyn Silesian dialect.
Goral Silesian lect and Czech in Cieszyn, Poland. The text notifies that people under the age of 18 will not be served alcohol.


Opinions are divided among linguists regarding whether Silesian is a distinct language, a dialect of Polish, or in the case of Lach, a variety of Czech. The issue can be contentious, because some Silesians consider themselves to be a distinct nationality within Poland. When Czechs, Poles, and Germans each made claims to substantial parts of Silesia as constituting an integral part of their respective nation-states in the 19th and 20th centuries, the language of Slavic speaking Silesians became politicized.

Some, like Óndra ?ysohorsky, a poet and author in the Czechoslovakia, saw the Silesians as being their own distinct people, which culminated in his effort to create a literary standard he called the "Lachian language". Silesian inhabitants supporting the cause of each of these ethnic groups had their own robust network of supporters across Silesia's political borders which shifted over the course of the 20th century prior to the large-scale ethnic cleansing in the aftermath of World War II.


Some linguists from Poland such as Jolanta Tambor,[20][full ] Juan Lajo,[21][full ] Dr Tomasz Wicherkiewicz[22][full ] and philosopher Dr hab Jerzy Dadaczy?ski,[23][full ] sociologist Dr El?bieta Anna Seku?a[24][full ] and sociolinguist Tomasz Kamusella[25][26] support its status as a language. According to Stanis?aw Rospond, it is impossible to classify Silesian as a dialect of the contemporary Polish language because he considers it to be descended from the Old Polish language.[27][original research?] Other Polish linguists, such as Jan Miodek and Edward Pola?ski, do not support its status as a language.[] Jan Miodek and Dorota Simonides, both of Silesian origin, prefer conservation of the entire range of Silesian dialects rather than standardization.[28] The German linguist Reinhold Olesch was eagerly interested in the "Polish vernaculars" of Upper Silesia and other Slavic varieties such as Kashubian and Polabian.[29][30][31][32]

United States Immigration Commission in 1911 classified it as one of the dialects of Polish.[33][34]

Most linguists writing in English, such as Alexander M. Schenker,[35] Robert A. Rothstein,[36] and Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley[37] in their respective surveys of Slavic languages, list Silesian as a dialect of Polish, as does Encyclopædia Britannica.[38]

Gerd Hentschel wrote as a result of his paper about the question whether Silesian is a new Slavic language, that "Silesian ... can thus ... without doubt be described as a dialect of Polish" ("Das Schlesische ... kann somit ... ohne Zweifel als Dialekt des Polnischen beschrieben werden").[39][40][41]

In Czechia, disagreement exists concerning the Lach dialects which rose to prominence thanks to Óndra ?ysohorsky and his translator Ewald Osers.[42] While some have considered it a separate language, most now view Lach as a dialect of Czech.[43][44][45]

Writing system

There have been a number of attempts at codifying the language spoken by Slavophones in Silesia. Probably the most well-known was undertaken by Óndra ?ysohorsky when codifying the Lachian dialects in creating the Lachian literary language in the early 20th century.

?labik?rzowy szrajb?nek is the relatively new alphabet created by the Pro Loquela Silesiana organization to reflect the sounds of all Silesian dialects. It was approved by Silesian organizations affiliated in Rada Górno?l?ska. Ubuntu translation is in this alphabet[46] as is the Silesian Wikipedia. It is used in a few books, including the Silesian alphabet book.[47]

Letters: A, Ã, B, C, ?, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, ?, M, N, ?, O, ?, ?, Ô, Õ, P, R, S, ?, T, U, W, Y, Z, ?, ?.[47]

One of the first alphabets created specifically for Silesian was Steuer's Silesian alphabet, created in the Interwar period and used by Feliks Steuer for his poems in Silesian. The alphabet consists of 30 graphemes and eight digraphs:

Letters: A, B, C, ?, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, ?, M, N, ?, O, P, R, S, ?, T, U, ?, W, Y, Z, ?, ?
Digraphs: Au, Ch, Cz, Dz, D?, D?, Rz, Sz

Based on the Steuer alphabet, in 2006 the Phonetic Silesian Alphabet was proposed:[48]

Letters: A, B, C, ?, ?, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, ?, O, P, R, ?, S, ?, ?, T, U, ?, W, Y, Z, ?, ?.

Silesian's phonetic alphabet replaces the digraphs with single letters (Sz with ?, etc.) and does not include the letter ?, whose sound can be represented phonetically with U. It is therefore the alphabet that contains the fewest letters. Although it is the most phonetically logical, it did not become popular with Silesian organizations, with the argument that it contains too many caron diacritics and hence resembles the Czech alphabet. Large parts of the Silesian Wikipedia, however, are written in Silesian's phonetic alphabet.

Sometimes other alphabets are also used, such as the "Tadzikowy muster" (for the National Dictation Contest of the Silesian language) or the Polish alphabet, but writing in this alphabet is problematic as it does not allow for the differentiation and representation of all Silesian sounds.[47]


Silesian has recently seen an increased use in culture, for example:


Bilingual sign in Katowice (Katowicy): Polish Kwiaciarnia ("florist") and Silesian Blumy i Geszynki ("flowers and gifts"). The latter also exemplifies the Germanisms in Silesian (cf. German Blumen und Geschenke).

In 2003, the National Publishing Company of Silesia (Narodowa Oficyna ?l?ska) commenced operations.[55] This publisher was founded by the Alliance of the People of the Silesian Nation (Zwi?zek Ludno?ci Narodowo?ci ?l?skiej) and it prints books about Silesia and books in Silesian language.

In July 2007, the Slavic Silesian language was given the ISO 639-3 code szl.[56]

On 6 September 2007, 23 politicians of the Polish parliament made a statement about a new law to give Silesian the official status of a regional language.[57]

The first official National Dictation Contest of the Silesian language (Ogólnopolskie Dyktando J?zyka ?l?skiego) took place in August 2007. In dictation as many as 10 forms of writing systems and orthography have been accepted.[58][59]

On 30 January 2008 and in June 2008, two organizations promoting Silesian language were established: Pro Loquela Silesiana and Tôwarzistwo Piastowaniô ?lónskij Môwy "Danga".[60]

On 26 May 2008, the Silesian Wikipedia was founded.[61]

On 30 June 2008 in the edifice of the Silesian Parliament in Katowice, a conference took place on the status of the Silesian language. This conference was a forum for politicians, linguists, representatives of interested organizations and persons who deal with the Silesian language. The conference was titled "Silesian - Still a Dialect or Already a Language?" (?l?sko godka - jeszcze gwara czy jednak ju? j?zyk?).[62]

In 2012, the Ministry of Administration and Digitization registered the Silesian language in Annex 1 to the Regulation on the state register of geographical names;[63] however, in a November 2013 amendment to the regulation, Silesian is not included.[64]

See also

External links


  1. ^


  1. ^ a b c "Raport z wyników: Narodowy Spis Powszechny Ludno?ci i Mieszka? 2011" [Report of results: National Census of Population and Housing, 2011.] (PDF). Central Statistical Office of Poland (in Polish). 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Ethnologue report for language code: szl". Ethnologue. Languages of the World.
  3. ^ Silesian language at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
  4. ^ Tomasz Kamusella. 2013. The Silesian Language in the Early 21st Century: A Speech Community on the Rollercoaster of Politics (pp 1-35). Die Welt der Slaven. Vol 58, No 1.
  5. ^ Gwara ?l?ska - ?wiadectwo kultury, narz?dzie komunikacji. Jolanta Tambor (eds.); Aldona Skudrzykowa. Katowice: ,,?l?sk". 2002. ISBN 83-7164-314-4. OCLC 830518005.CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ ,,S?ownik gwar ?l?skich". Opole, Bogus?aw Wyderka (eds.)
  7. ^ ,,Dialekt ?l?ski" author: Feliks Pluta, publication: Wczoraj, Dzisiaj, Jutro. - 1996, no 1/4, pp 5-19
  8. ^ ,,Fenomen ?l?skiej gwary" author: Jan Miodek publicationl?sk. - 1996, no 5, pp 52
  9. ^ Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford 1996 pp 1233
  10. ^ [httpss:// Resource: SDU/Kategoria:?l?ska_Wikipedia Resource: SDU/Kategoria:?l?ska resource (2008) {Discussion on the inclusion of Silesian-language articles in the Polish Wikipedia. Main Opinion: Not, because Silesian is a separate language in its own right}]
  11. ^ Ekspertyza naukowa dra Tomasza Wicherkiewicza
  12. ^ Ekspertyza naukowa dra Tomasza Kamuselli
  13. ^ Jolanta Tambor. Opinia merytoryczna na temat poselskiego projektu ustawy o zmianie Ustawy o mniejszo?ciach narodowych i etnicznych oraz o j?zyku regionalnym, a tak?e niektórych innych ustaw, Warszawa 3 maja 2011 r.
  14. ^ [httpss:// "Ludno wed?ug j?zyka u?ywanego w kontaktach domowych i deklaracji narodowo?ciowej w 2002 roku"] [Population by language used at home and declarations of nationality in 2002] (in Polish). Main Statistical Office of the Polish Government: report of Polish census of 2002. Archived from the original (XLS) on 6 June 2011.
  15. ^ [httpss:// "Obyvatelstvo podle národnosti podle kraj?"] (PDF). Czech Statistical Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 January 2012.
  16. ^ [httpss:// "Národnost ve s?ítání lidu v ?eských zemích"] (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 2012.
  17. ^ National Minorities in the Slovak Republic - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic
  18. ^ "Jan Miodek: Dyskusja o j?zyku ?l?skim w pi?mie jest ?enuj?ca". 26 March 2011.
  19. ^ "Endangered Languages Project - Upper Silesian - Ôjcze nasz". Retrieved 2021.
  20. ^ "Ekspertyza naukowa prof. U? Dr hab. Jolanty Tambor" (en: "Scientific expertise by Juan Lajo"), 2008
  21. ^ "Ekspertyza naukowa pana Juana Lajo" (en: "Scientific expertise by Juan Lajo"), 2008
  22. ^ "Ekspertyza naukowa dra Tomasza Wicherkiewicza" (en: "Scientific expertise by Tomasz Wicherkiewicz"), 2008
  23. ^ "Ekspertyza naukowa ks. dra hab. Jerzego Dadaczy?skiego") (en: "Scientific expertise by Jerzy Dadaczy?ski"), 2008
  24. ^ "Ekspertyza naukowa dr El?biety Anny Seku?y" (en: "Scientific expertise by El?bieta Anna Seku?a"), 2008
  25. ^ Tomasz Kamusella (2005). Schlonzska mowa - J?zyk, Górny ?l?sk i nacjonalizm [Silesian speech - language, Upper Silesia and nationalism] (in Polish). ISBN 83-919589-2-2.
  26. ^ Tomasz Kamusella (2003). "The Szlonzoks and their Language: Between Germany, Poland and Szlonzokian Nationalism" (PDF). European University Institute -- Department of History and Civilization and Opole University.
  27. ^ "Polszczyzna ?l?ska" - Stanis?aw Rospond, Ossolineum 1970, p. 80-87
  28. ^ "The Silesian Language in the Early 21st Century: A Speech Community on the Rollercoaster of Politics Tomasz Kamusella". 11 December 2012. Retrieved 2015.
  29. ^ Ernst Eichler (1999). Neue deutsche Biographie [New German biography] (in German). p. 519.
  30. ^ Reinhold Olesch (1987). Zur schlesischen Sprachlandschaft: Ihr alter slawischer Anteil [On the Silesian language landscape: their old Slavic share] (in German). pp. 32-45.
  31. ^ Joanna Rostropowicz. ?l?ski by? jego j?zykiem ojczystym: Reinhold Olesch, 1910-1990 [Silesian was his mother tongue: Reinhold Olesch, 1910-1990] (in Polish).
  32. ^ Krzysztof Kluczniok, Tomasz Zaj?c (2004). ?l?sk bogaty ró?norodno?ci? - kultur, narodów i wyzna?. Historia lokalna na przyk?adzie wybranych powiatów, miast i gmin [Silesia, a rich diversity - of cultures, nations and religions. Local history, based on selected counties, cities and municipalities]. Urz?d Gm. i M. Czerwionka-Leszczyny, Dom Wspó?pracy Pol.-Niem., Czerwionka-Leszczyny. ISBN 83-920458-5-8.
  33. ^ Dillingham, William Paul; Folkmar, Daniel; Folkmar, Elnora (1911). [httpss:// Dictionary of Races or Peoples]. United States. Immigration Commission (1907-1910). Washington, D.C.: Washington, Government Printing Office. pp. 104-105.
  34. ^ Dillingham, William Paul; Folkmar, Daniel; Folkmar, Elnora (1911). [httpss:// Dictionary of Races or Peoples]. Washington, D.C.: Washington, Government Printing Office. p. 128.
  35. ^ Alexander M. Schenker, "Proto-Slavonic", The Slavonic Languages (1993, Routledge), pages 60-121.
  36. ^ Robert A. Rothstein, "Polish", The Slavonic Languages (1993, Routledge), pages 686-758.
  37. ^ Roland Sussex & Paul Cubberley, The Slavic Languages (2006, Cambridge University Press).
  38. ^ "Silesian". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  39. ^ Gerd Hentschel. "Schlesisch" (PDF) (in German).
  40. ^ Gerd Hentschel (2001). "Das Schlesische - eine neue (oder auch nicht neue) slavische Sprache?". Mitteleuropa - Osteuropa. Oldenburger Beiträge zur Kultur und Geschichte Ostmitteleuropas. ISBN 3-631-37648-0.
  41. ^ Gerd Hentschel: Das Schlesische - eine neue (oder auch nicht neue) slavische Sprache?, Mitteleuropa - Osteuropa. Oldenburger Beiträge zur Kultur und Geschichte Ostmitteleuropas. Band 2, 2001 ISBN 3-631-37648-0
  42. ^ Ewald Osers (1949). Silesian Idiom and Language. New York.
  43. ^ Du?an ?losar. "Tschechisch" (PDF) (in German).
  44. ^ Aleksandr Dulichenko. "Lexikon der Sprachen des europäischen Ostens" [Encyclopedia of Languages of Eastern Europe] (PDF) (in German).
  45. ^ Pavlína Kuldanová (2003). [httpss:// "Útvary ?eského národního jazyka"] [Structures of the Czech National Language] (in Czech). Archived from the original on 2 September 2012.
  46. ^ [httpss:// ""Silesian Ubuntu Translation" team"]. 5 July 2009. Retrieved 2015.
  47. ^ a b c Miros?aw Syniawalabik?rz niy dl? bajtli. Pro Loquela Silesiana. ISBN 978-83-62349-01-2
  48. ^ ?l?nski alfabyt f?nety?ny> Phonetic Silesian Alphabet described on Silesian Wikipedia
  49. ^ httpss://
  50. ^ "SlonskyRadio". SlonskyRadio.
  51. ^ "Po ?l?sku w kaplicy" [Once in the chapel of Silesia] (in Polish). Retrieved 2012.
  52. ^ [httpss:// "Stanis?aw Mutz - Polterabend"] (in Polish). Silesian Theatre. Archived from the original on 24 June 2007.
  53. ^ [httpss:// Jednoaktówki po ?l?sku]
  54. ^ (in Silesian) Przemys?aw Jedlicki, Miros?aw Syniawa (13 February 2009). "?labikorz dlo Sl?nzok?w". Gazeta Wyborcza Katowice. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009.
  55. ^ [httpss:// "Narodowa Oficyna ?l?ska"] [National Publishing Company of Silesia] (in Silesian). Archived from the original on 4 September 2007.
  56. ^ "ISO documentation of Silesian language". SIL International.
  57. ^ Dziennik Zachodni (2008). "?l?ski w?ród j?zyków ?wiata" [Silesian Among the Languages of the World] (in Polish). Our News Katowice.
  58. ^ (in Silesian and Polish) "National Dictation contest of the Silesian language".
  59. ^ Ortography: diacritic, Czech, phonetic, Hermannowa, Polish, Polish plus, Steuer's, Tadzikowa, Wieczorkowa, multisigned.
  60. ^ "?l?ski w?ród j?zyków ?wiata" [The Silesian language is a foreign language]. Dziennik Zachodni (in Polish). 2008. Archived from the original on 20 June 2008.
  61. ^ "?l?ska resource ju? dzia?a" [Silesian resource already operating]. Gazeta Wyborcza-Gospodarka (in Polish). 2008.
  62. ^ (in Polish) "Katowice: konferencja dotycz?ca statusu ?l?skiej mowy" [Katowice: Conference concerning the status of the Silesian language]. Polish Wikinews. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 2012.
  63. ^ Dz.U. 2012 nr 0 poz. 309 - Internet System of Legal Acts
  64. ^ Dz. U. z 2013 r. poz. 1346


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  3. ^
      • Review: Anon. 2010. The Sarmatian Review. Sept. (p 1530).
      • Review: Svetlana Antova. 2007. Bulgarian Ethnology / Bulgarska etnologiia. No 4 (pp 120-121).
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      • Review: Kai Struve. 2007. Recenzyjo Instituta Herdera [Herder-Institute's Review] (pp 26-27). ?l?nsko Nacyjo. No 5, Jul. Zabrze: NO?.
      • Review: Jerzy Tomaszewski. 2007. Czy istnieje naród ?l?ski? [Does the Silesian Nation Exist] (pp 280-283). Przegl?d Historyczny. No 2. Warsaw: DiG and University of Warsaw.
      • Review: Jerzy Tomaszewski. 2007. Czy istnieje naród ?l?ski? [Does the Silesian Nation Exist] (pp 8-12). 2007. ?l?nsko Nacyjo. No 12, Dec. Zabrze: NO?.
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      • Review: Andreas R Hofmann. 2002. Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung. No 2. Marburg, Germany: Herder-Institut (p 311).
      • Review: Anon. 2002. Esej o naszym regionie [An Essay on Our region] (p 4). G?os Ludu. Gazeta Polaków w Republice Czeskiej. No 69, 11 June. Ostrava, Czech Republic: Vydavatelství OLZA.
      • Review: Walter ?elazny eo:Walter ?elazny. 2003. Niech ?yje ?l?ski lud [Long Live the Silesian People] (pp 219-223). Sprawy Narodowo?ciowe. No 22. Pozna?, Poland: Zak?ad Bada? Narodowo?ciowych PAN.

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