Demonstration of Silesians demanding autonomy rights, Source: Kris Duda, on Flickr (BY 2.0 DEED)

Poland is about to get a new regional language

Poland is about to get a new regional language

Silesian is spoken by about half a million people in the south of the country

It looks like soon Poland might become a multi-lingual country, as the Sejm (Polish Parliament) approved a bill last week to make Silesian officially recognized as a regional language. The law still has to be approved by the Senate and if that becomes a fact then Poland will officially have one national and two regional languages.

In last year’s Polish census, some 460,000 people declared to be native speakers of Silesian and that they use it at home for daily communication. This prompted the new government to finally take steps to allow for some form of recognition of this minority living in the region of Upper Silesia in the south of the country.

Such official recognition allows a regional language to be taught in schools and used in local administration in municipalities where at least 20% of the population declared in the last census that they speak it.

Language or a dialect? Linguists can’t agree

Poland already has one other official regional language and that is Kashubian. This is a small minority language spoken by about 87,000 people on the Baltic coast near Gdansk. It has enjoyed that status since 2005.

The situation with Silesian, however, has been more complex and controversial since many linguists think that it is a dialect of Polish rather than a separate language. Silesian has been heavily influenced by German lexicography, even though it has a grammar structure similar to Polish.

Using some of the linguists’ theories as an argument, the conservative and far-right political parties in the Sejm voted against the bill granting Silesian an official status.

Literature in Silesian has been published since the beginning of the 21st century and there are now TV and radio channels using that language in their programmes. Likewise, in Upper Silesia, many road and information signs have already been written in Silesian.



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