Silesian language

This article is about the West Slavic variety. For the Germanic variety, see Silesian German. For the ethnic group/nation, see Silesians.

Upper Silesian
ślōnskŏ gŏdka
ślůnsko godka
Native to Poland (Silesian Voivodeship, Opole Voivodeship), Czech Republic (Moravia–Silesia, Jeseník)
Region Upper Silesia / Silesia
Ethnicity Silesians
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 language of the Lechitic group.[2] 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.


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] 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]


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


According to Jan Miodek standard Polish has been always used by Upper Silesians as a language of prayers. [22] The Lord's Prayer in Silesian, Polish, Czech, and English.

Silesian (Steuer spelling) Polish Czech English
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.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

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 (Cieszyn Silesian dialect) poster of a foklore event ("Sheep shearing") in Nýdek
A pub in Piekary Śląskie with Silesian (Gliwice Silesian dialect) name ("Sideboard", "Buffet") and inscriptions ("Watch out. Go down to us here").

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,[23] Juan Lajo,[24] Dr Tomasz Wicherkiewicz[25] and philosopher Dr hab Jerzy Dadaczyński,[26] sociologist Dr Elżbieta Anna Sekuła[27] and sociolinguist Tomasz Kamusella[28][29] 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.[30] Other Polish linguists, such as Jan Miodek and Edward Polański, 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.[31] 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.[32][33][34][35]

Most linguists writing in English, such as Alexander M. Schenker,[36] Robert A. Rothstein,[37] and Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley[38] in their respective surveys of Slavic languages, list Silesian as a dialect of Polish, as does Encyclopædia Britannica.[39]

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.[40][41][42]

Czech Óndra Łysohorsky and his translator Ewald Osers (1949),[43][44] 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").[45][46]


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


See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Raport z wyników: Narodowy Spis Powszechny Ludności i Mieszkań 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 2012-10-21.
  2. 1 2 "Ethnologue report for language code: szl". Ethnologue. Languages of the World.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Silesian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  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. "Ludność według języka używanego w kontaktach domowych i deklaracji narodowościowej 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 2011-06-06.
  6. "Obyvatelstvo podle národnosti podle krajů" (PDF). Czech Statistical Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-31.
  7. "Národnost ve sčítání lidu v českých zemích" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  8. National Minorities in the Slovak Republic - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic
  9. "Narodowa Oficyna Śląska" [National Publishing Company of Silesia] (in Silesian). Archived from the original on 4 September 2007.
  10. "ISO documentation of Silesian language". SIL International.
  11. Dziennik Zachodni (2008). "Śląski wśród języków świata" [Silesian Among the Languages of the World] (in Polish). Our News Katowice.
  12. (Silesian) / (Polish) "National Dictation contest of the Silesian language".
  13. Ortography: diacritic, Czech, phonetic, Hermannowa, Polish, Polish plus, Steuer's, Tadzikowa, Wieczorkowa, multisigned.
  14. "Śląski wśród języków świata" [The Silesian language is a foreign language]. Dziennik Zachodni (in Polish). 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20.
  15. "Śląska Wikipedia już działa" [Silesian Wikipedia already operating]. Gazeta Wyborcza-Gospodarka (in Polish). 2008.
  16. (Polish) "Katowice: konferencja dotycząca statusu śląskiej mowy" [Katowice: Conference concerning the status of the Silesian language]. Polish Wikinews. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  17. Dz.U. 2012 nr 0 poz. 309 - Internet System of Legal Acts
  18. Dz. U. z 2013 r. poz. 1346
  19. ""Silesian Ubuntu Translation" team". 5 July 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  20. 1 2 3 Mirosław Syniawa: Ślabikŏrz niy dlŏ bajtli. Pro Loquela Silesiana. ISBN 978-83-62349-01-2
  21. Ślůnski alfabyt fůnetyčny> Phonetic Silesian Alphabet described on Silesian Wikipedia
  22. "Ekspertyza naukowa prof. UŚ Dr hab. Jolanty Tambor" (en: "The scientific expertise of Juan Lajo"), 2008
  23. "Ekspertyza naukowa pana Juana Lajo" (en: "The scientific expertise of Juan Lajo"), 2008
  24. "Ekspertyza naukowa dra Tomasza Wicherkiewicza" (en: "The scientific expertise of Tomasz Wicherkiewicz"), 2008
  25. "Ekspertyza naukowa ks. dra hab. Jerzego Dadaczyńskiego") (en: "The scientific expertise of Jerzy Dadaczyński"), 2008
  26. "Ekspertyza naukowa dr Elżbiety Anny Sekuły" (en: "The scientific expertise of Elżbieta Anna Sekuła"), 2008
  27. Tomasz Kamusella. Schlonzska mowa — Język, Górny Śląsk i nacjonalizm [Silesian speech — language, Upper Silesia and nationalism] (in Polish). ISBN 83-919589-2-2.
  28. 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.
  29. "Polszczyzna śląska" - Stanisław Rospond, Ossolineum 1970, p. 80–87
  30. "The Silesian Language in the Early 21st Century: A Speech Community on the Rollercoaster of Politics Tomasz Kamusella". 11 December 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  31. Ernst Eichler (1999). Neue deutsche Biographie [New German biography] (in German). p. 519.
  32. Reinhold Olesch (1987). Zur schlesischen Sprachlandschaft: Ihr alter slawischer Anteil [On the Silesian language landscape: their old Slavic share] (in German). pp. 32–45.
  33. Joanna Rostropowicz. Śląski był jego językiem ojczystym: Reinhold Olesch, 1910–1990 [Silesian was his mother tongue: Reinhold Olesch, 1910–1990] (in Polish).
  34. Krzysztof Kluczniok, Tomasz Zając (2004). Śląsk bogaty różnorodnością — kultur, narodów i wyznań. Historia lokalna na przykładzie wybranych powiatów, miast i gmin [Silesia, a rich diversity — of cultures, nations and religions. Local history, based on selected counties, cities and municipalities]. Urząd Gm. i M. Czerwionka-Leszczyny, Dom Współpracy Pol.-Niem., Czerwionka-Leszczyny. ISBN 83-920458-5-8.
  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. Dušan Šlosar. "" (PDF) (in German). External link in |title= (help);
  40. Aleksandr Dulichenko. "Lexikon der Sprachen des europäischen Ostens" [Encyclopedia of Languages of Eastern Europe] (PDF) (in German).
  41. Pavlína Kuldanová (2003). "Útvary Českého Národního Jazyka" [Services of the Czech National Language] (in Czech).
  42. Ewald Osers (1949). Silesian Idiom and Language. New York.
  43. Slavonic Encyclopedia. pp. 1149–51.
  44. Gerd Hentschel. "Schlesisch" (PDF) (in German).
  45. 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.
  46. (Silesian)
  47. "Po śląsku w kaplicy" [Once in the chapel of Silesia] (in Polish). Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  48. "Stanisław Mutz — Polterabend" (in Polish). Silesian Theatre. Archived from the original on 2007-06-24.
  49. (Silesian) Przemysław Jedlicki, Mirosław Syniawa (13 February 2009). "Ślabikorz dlo Slůnzokůw". Gazeta Wyborcza Katowice. Archived from the original on 13 February 2009.
      • Review: Michael Moser (uk). 2013. Zeitschrift für Slawistik (pp 118–119). Vol 58, No 1. Potsdam: Universität Potsdam.
      • Review: Anon. 2010. The Sarmatian Review. Sept. (p 1530).
      • Review: Svetlana Antova. 2007. Bulgarian Ethnology / Bulgarska etnologiia. No 4 (pp 120–121).
      • Review: Kai Struve. 2006. Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung. No 4. Marburg, Germany: Herder-Institut (pp 611–613).
      • Review: Kai Struve. 2007. Recenzyjo Instituta Herdera [Herder-Institute’s Review] (pp 26–27). Ślůnsko Nacyjo. No 5, Jul. Zabrze: NOŚ.
      • 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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