Silesian language

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Upper Silesian
ślōnskŏ gŏdka
ślůnsko godka
Native to Poland (Silesian Voivodeship, Opole Voivodeship), Czech Republic (Moravia–Silesia, Jeseník)
Region Upper Silesia / Silesia
Native speakers
510,000 (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 szl
Glottolog sile1253[3]
Linguasphere 53-AAA-cck, 53-AAA-dam
Range of Silesian on a map of East-Central Europe (marked as G1 and G2, in southern Poland and the eastern Czech Republic).

Silesian or Upper Silesian (Silesian: ślōnskŏ gŏdka, ślůnsko godka, Czech: Slezština, Polish: język śląski / etnolekt śląski) is a West Slavic lect, related to Polish[citation needed] and Czech. Its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by Central German due to the existence of numerous Silesian German speakers in the area prior to World War II and after, until the 1990s.[4]

There is no consensus on whether Silesian is a separate language or a somewhat divergent dialect of Polish.[citation needed]


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.

Lower Silesian, a variety of Central German, was spoken by the ethnic German majority population of that region until their mass deportation to Germany after World War II.

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[5]), and in the censuses in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, nearly 0.9 million people declared Silesian nationality.[1][6][7][8]


In 2003, the National Publishing Company of Silesia (Narodowa Oficyna Śląska) commenced operations.[9] This publisher was founded by the Alliance of the People of the Silesian Nation (Związek Ludności Narodowości Śląskiej) 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.[10]

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.[11]

The first official National Dictation Contest of the Silesian language (Ogólnopolskie Dyktando Języka Śląskiego) took place in August 2007. In dictation as many as 10 forms of writing systems and orthography have been accepted.[12][13]

On 30 January 2008 and in June 2008, two organizations promoting Silesian language were established: Pro Loquela Silesiana and Tôwarzistwo Piastowaniô Ślónskij Môwy "Danga".[14]

On 26 May 2008, the Silesian Wikipedia was founded.[15]

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?" (Śląsko godka — jeszcze gwara czy jednak już język?).[16]

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;[17] however, in a November 2013 amendment to the regulation, Silesian is not included.[18]

Writing system

Ślabikŏrzowy szrajbōnek 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 Górnośląska. Ubuntu translation is in this alphabet[19][not specific enough to verify] as is the Silesian Wikipedia. It is used in a few books, including the Silesian alphabet book.[20]

Letters: A, Ã, B, C, Ć, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ł, M, N, Ń, O, Ŏ, Ō, Ô, Õ, P, R, S, Ś, T, U, W, Y, Z, Ź, Ż.[20]

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, Ć, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ł, M, N, Ń, O, P, R, S, Ś, T, U, Ů, W, Y, Z, Ź, Ż
Digraphs: Au, Ch, Cz, Dz, , , Rz, Sz

Based on the Steuer alphabet, in 2006 the Phonetic Silesian Alphabet was proposed:[21]

Letters: A B C Ć Č D E F G H I J K L M N Ń O P R Ř S Ś Š T U Ů W Y Z Ź Ž.

Silesian's phonetic alphabet replaces the digraphs with single letters (Sz with Š, etc.) and does not include the letter Ł, whose sound can be represented phonetically with U. It is therefore the alphabet that contains the fewest letters. Although it is the (phonetically) most logical and hence the most intuitive writing of Silesian, 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.[20]


While the morphological differences between Silesian and the neighboring language of Polish have been researched extensively, grammatical differences have not been studied in great depth. One example is that, in contrast with Polish, Silesian retains the pluperfect (joech śe była uobaliyła — "I had slipped") and separate past conditional (jo bych śe była uobaliyła — "I would have slipped").

Another major difference is in question-forming. In Polish, questions that do not contain interrogative words are formed either by using intonation or the interrogative particle czy. In Silesian, questions that 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 mapie?); there is no interrogative particle.


The Lord's Prayer in Silesian, Polish and Czech.

Silesian (Steuer spelling) Polish Czech
Uojcze nasz, kery jeżeś we ńebje,
bydź pośwjyncůne mjano Twoje.
Przińdź krůlestwo Twoje,
bydź wola Twoja,
jako we ńebje, tak tyż na źymji.
Chlyb nasz kożdodźynny dej nům dźiśej.
A uodpuść nům nasze winy,
jako a my uodpuszczůmy naszym wińńikům.
A ńy wůdź nos na pokuszyńy,
nale zbow nos uode złygo.
Ojcze nasz, któryś jest w niebie,
święć się imię Twoje,
przyjdź królestwo Twoje,
bądź wola Twoja
jako w niebie tak i na ziemi.
Chleba naszego powszedniego daj nam dzisiaj.
I odpuść nam nasze winy,
jako i my odpuszczamy naszym winowajcom.
I nie wódź nas na pokuszenie,
ale zbaw nas ode złego.
Otče náš, jenž jsi na nebesích,
posvěť se jméno Tvé
Přijď království Tvé.
Buď vůle Tvá,
jako v nebi, tak i na zemi.
Chléb náš vezdejší dej nám dnes
A odpusť nám naše viny,
jako i my odpouštíme naším viníkům
a neuveď nás v pokušení,
ale zbav nás od zlého.

Dialects of Silesian

Grave inscription at Lutheran cemetery in Střítež near Český Těšín. The inscription, which says "Rest in Peace", is in the Cieszyn Silesian dialect.

Silesian has many dialects:

Dialect vs. language

Opinions are divided among linguists about whether Silesian is a distinct language or a dialect of Polish. The issue can be contentious, because some Silesians consider themselves to be a nationality within Poland. Some linguists from Poland such as Jolanta Tambor,[22][full citation needed] Juan Lajo,[23][full citation needed] Dr Tomasz Wicherkiewicz[24][full citation needed] and philosopher Dr hab Jerzy Dadaczyński,[25][full citation needed] sociologist Dr Elżbieta Anna Sekuła[26][full citation needed] and sociolinguist Tomasz Kamusella[27][28] support its status as a language. According to Stanisław 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.[29][original research?] Other Polish linguists, such as Jan Miodek and Edward Polański, do not support its status as a language.[citation needed] Jan Miodek and Dorota Simonides, both of Silesian origin, prefer conservation of the entire range of Silesian dialects rather than standardization.[30] The German linguist Reinhold Olesch was eagerly interested about the "Polish vernaculars" of Upper Silesia and other Slavic varieties spoken by few people, such as Kashubian and Polabian.[31][32][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]

A similar disagreement exists concerning the neighboring Lach varieties, sometimes considered separate languages and sometimes dialects of Czech, but the latter opinion appears currently dominant.[39][40][41]

Czech Óndra Łysohorsky and his translator Ewald Osers (1949),[42][43] were interested in Lach dialects.

Gerd Hentschel wrote "Das Schlesische ... kann somit ... ohne Zweifel als Dialekt des Polnischen beschrieben werden" ("Silesian ... can thus ... without doubt be described as a dialect of Polish").[44][45]


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


  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2014.Ślōnsko godka / The Silesian Language. Zabrze: NOS, 196 pp. ISBN 9788360540220.[50]
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2014. Warszawa wie lepiej Ślązaków nie ma. O dyskryminacji i języku śląskim [Warsaw Knows Better – The Silesians Don’t Exist: On Discrimination and the Silesian Language]. Zabrze, Poland: NOS, 174 pp. ISBN 9788360540213.[51]
  • 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.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2011. Silesian in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: A Language Caught in the Net of Conflicting Nationalisms, Politics, and Identities (pp 769-789). 2011. Nationalities Papers. No 5.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2011. Language: Talking or Trading Blows in the Upper Silesian Industrial Basin? (pp 3-24). Multilingua. No 2. DOI 10.1515/mult.2011.002.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2009. Échanges de paroles ou de coups en Haute-Silésie: la langue comme ‘lieu’ de contacts et de luttes interculturels [Exchange of Words or Blows in Upper Silesia: Language as a "Place" of Contacts and Intercultural Struggles] (pp 133-152). Cultures d'Europe centrale. No 8: Lieux communs de la multiculturalité urbaine en Europe centrale, ed by Delphine Bechtel and Xavier Galmiche. Paris: CIRCE.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2007. Uwag kilka o dyskryminacji Ślązaków i Niemców górnośląskich w postkomunistycznej Polsce [A Few Remarks on the Discrimination of the Silesians and Upper Silesia’s Germans in Postcommunist Poland]. Zabrze, Poland: NOS, 28 pp. ISBN 978-83-60540-68-8.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2006. Schlonzsko: Horní Slezsko, Oberschlesien, Górny Śląsk. Esej o regionie i jego mieszkańcach [Schlonzsko: Upper Silesia. An Essay on the Region and Its Inhabitants] (2nd, corrected and enlarged edition). Zabrze, Poland: NOS, 148 pp. ISBN 978-83-60540-51-0.[52]
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2009. Codzienność komunikacyjno-językowa na obszarze historycznego Górnego Śląska [The Everyday Language Use in Historical Upper Silesia] (pp 126-156). In: Robert Traba, ed. Akulturacja/asymilacja na pograniczach kulturowych Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej w XIX i XX wieku [Acculturation/Assimilation in the Cultural Borderlands of East-Central Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries] (vol 1: Stereotypy i pamięć [Stereotypes and memory]). Warsaw: Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN and Niemiecki Instytut Historyczny.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2009. Czy śląszczyzna jest językiem? Spojrzenie socjolingwistyczne [Is Silesian a Language? A Sociolinguistic View] (pp 27-35). In: Andrzej Roczniok, ed. Śląsko godka - jeszcze gwara czy jednak już język? / Ślōnsko godko – mundart jeszcze eli już jednak szpracha. Zabrze: NOŚ.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2006. Schlonzska mowa. Język, Górny Śląsk i nacjonalizm (Vol II) [Silesia and Language: Language, Upper Silesia and Nationalism, a collection of articles on various social, political and historical aspects of language use in Upper Silesia]. Zabrze, Poland: NOS, 151 pp. ISBN 83-919589-2-2.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2005. Schlonzska mowa. Język, Górny Śląsk i nacjonalizm (Vol I) [Silesia and Language: Language, Upper Silesia and Nationalism, a collection of articles on various social, political and historical aspects of language use in Upper Silesia]. Zabrze, Poland: NOS, 187 pp. ISBN 83-919589-2-2.[53]
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2004. The Szlonzokian Ethnolect in the Context of German and Polish Nationalisms (pp. 19-39). Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. No 1. London: Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism. DOI: 10.1111/j.1754-9469.2004.tb00056.x.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2001. Schlonzsko: Horní Slezsko, Oberschlesien, Górny Śląsk. Esej o regionie i jego mieszkańcach [Schlonzsko: Upper Silesia. An Essay on the Region and Its Inhabitants]. Elbląg, Poland: Elbląska Oficyna Wydawnicza, 108 pp. ISBN 83-913452-2-X.[54]
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 1999. Język a Śląsk Opolski w kontekście integracji europejskiej [Language and Opole Silesia in the Context of European Integration] (pp 12-19). Śląsk Opolski. No 3. Opole, Poland: Instytut Śląski.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 1998. Das oberschlesische Kreol: Sprache und Nationalismus in Oberschlesien im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert [The Upper Silesian Creole: Language and Nationalism in the 19th and 20th Centuries] (pp 142-161). In: Markus Krzoska und Peter Tokarski, eds. . Die Geschichte Polens und Deutschlands im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Ausgewählte Baiträge. Osnabrück, Germany: fibre.
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 1998. Kreol górnośląski [The Upper Silesian Creole] (pp 73-84). Kultura i Społeczeństwo. No 1. Warsaw, Poland: Komitet Socjologii ISP PAN.
  • Andrzej Roczniok and Tomasz Kamusella. 2011. Sztandaryzacyjo ślōnski godki / Standaryzacja języka śląskiego [The Standardization of the Silesian Language] (pp 288-294). In: I V Abisigomian, ed. Lingvokul’turnoe prostranstvo sovremennoi Evropy cherez prizmu malykh i bolshikh iazykov. K 70-letiiu professora Aleksandra Dimitrievicha Dulichenko (Ser: Slavica Tartuensis, Vol 9). Tartu: Tartu University.

See also


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      • Review: Jerzy Tomaszewski. 2007. Czy istnieje naród śląski? [Does the Silesian Nation Exist] (pp 280–283). Przegląd Historyczny. No 2. Warsaw: DiG and University of Warsaw.
      • Review: Jerzy Tomaszewski. 2007. Czy istnieje naród śląski? [Does the Silesian Nation Exist] (pp 8–12). 2007. Ślůnsko Nacyjo. No 12, Dec. Zabrze: NOŚ.
      • 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). Głos Ludu. Gazeta Polaków w Republice Czeskiej. No 69, June 11. Ostrava, Czech Republic: Vydavatelství OLZA.
      • Review: Walter Żelazny eo:Walter Żelazny. 2003. Niech żyje śląski lud [Long Live the Silesian People] (pp 219–223). Sprawy Narodowościowe. No 22. Poznań, Poland: Zakład Badań Narodowościowych PAN.

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