Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Silesian language

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ISO 639-3

Native speakers
510,000 (2011 census)

Silesian language

Native to
Poland (Silesian Voivodeship, Opole Voivodeship), Czech Republic (Moravia–Silesia, Jeseník)

Upper Silesia / Silesia

Language family
Indo-European Balto-Slavic Slavic West Slavic Lechitic Silesian

Silesian or Upper Silesian (Silesian: ślōnskŏ gŏdka, ślůnsko godka (Silesian pronunciation: [ˈɕlonskɔ 'gɔtka]), Czech: Slezština, Polish: język śląski / etnolekt śląski) is a West Slavic lect, part of its Lechitic group. 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.


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 they were either evacuated en masse by German forces towards the end of the war or deported by the new administration afer the Polish annexation of Silesia after World War II.

According to the last official census in Poland in 2011, about 509,000 people declared Silesian as their native language (in census 2002, about 60,000), and in the censuses in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, nearly 0.9 million people declared Silesian nationality.


In 2003, the National Publishing Company of Silesia (Narodowa Oficyna Śląska) commenced operations. 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.

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.

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.

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

On 26 May 2008, the Silesian Wikipedia was founded.

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?).

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

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 as is the Silesian Wikipedia. It is used in a few books, including the Silesian alphabet book.

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.

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, Dź, Dż, Rz, Sz

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

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.


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

Dialects of Silesian

Silesian has many dialects:

  • Dialects spoken on both sides of the Czech–Polish border:
  • Cieszyn Silesian dialect
  • Dialects spoken in areas which are now part of the Czech Republic:
  • Opava Silesian dialect
  • Jabłonków Silesian dialect
  • Lach Silesian dialect
  • Dialects spoken in areas which are now part of Poland:
  • Niemodlin Silesian dialect
  • Gliwice Silesian dialect
  • Kluczbork Silesian dialect
  • Prudnik Silesian dialect
  • Opole Silesian dialect
  • Sulkovian Silesian dialect
  • 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, Juan Lajo, Dr Tomasz Wicherkiewicz and philosopher Dr hab Jerzy Dadaczyński, sociologist Dr Elżbieta Anna Sekuła and sociolinguist Tomasz Kamusella 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. 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. 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.

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

    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.

    Czech Óndra Łysohorsky and his translator Ewald Osers (1949), 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").


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

  • TV and radio stations (for example: TV Silesia, Sfera TV, TVP Katowice, Slonsky Radio, Radio Piekary, Radio Silesia, Radio Fest);
  • music groups (for example: Jan Skrzek, Krzysztof Hanke, Hasiok, Dohtor Miód, FEET);
  • theatre (for example: Polterabend in Silesian Theatre);
  • film (for example: Grzeszny żywot Franciszka Buły ("The Sinful Life of Franciszek Buła")
  • books (for example, the so-called Silesian Bible; poetry: "Myśli ukryte" by Karol Gwóźdź)
  • teaching aids (for example, a Silesian basal reader)
  • Literature

  • Paul Weber. 1913. Die Polen in Oberschlesien: eine statistische Untersuchung. Verlagsbuchhandlung von Julius Springer in Berlin (in German)
  • Norbert Morciniec. 1989. Zum Wortgut deutscher Herkunft in den polnischen Dialekten Schlesiens. Zeitschrift für Ostforschung, Bd. 83, Heft 3 (in German)
  • Joseph Partsch. 1896. Schlesien: eine Landeskunde für das deutsche Volk. T. 1., Das ganze Land (die Sprachgrenze 1790 und 1890; pp. 364–367). Breslau: Verlag Ferdinand Hirt. (in German)
  • Joseph Partsch. 1911. Schlesien: eine Landeskunde für das deutsche Volk. T. 2., Landschaften und Siedelungen. Breslau: Verlag Ferdinand Hirt. (in German)
  • Lucyna Harc et al. 2013. Cuius Regio? Ideological and Territorial Cohesion of the Historical Region of Silesia (c. 1000-2000) vol. 1., The Long Formation of the Region Silesia (c. 1000-1526). Wrocław: ISBN 978-83-927132-1-0
  • Lucyna Harc et al. 2014. Cuius regio? Ideological and Territorial Cohesion of the Historical Region of Silesia (c. 1000-2000) vol. 2., The Strengthening of Silesian Regionalism (1526–1740). Wrocław: ISBN 978-83-927132-6-5
  • Lucyna Harc et al. 2014. Cuius regio? Ideological and Territorial Cohesion of the Historical Region of Silesia (c. 1000-2000) vol. 4., Region Divided: Times of Nation-States (1918-1945). Wrocław: ISBN 978-83-927132-8-9
  • Tomasz Kamusella. 2014.Ślōnsko godka / The Silesian Language. Zabrze: NOS, 196 pp. ISBN 9788360540220.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Robert Semple. London 1814. Observations made on a tour from Hamburg through Berlin, Gorlitz, and Breslau, to Silberberg; and thence to Gottenburg (pp. 122–123)
  • References

    Silesian language Wikipedia

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