Polish President Andrzej Duda vetoed the law recognizing Silesian as a regional language, Source: Depositphotos

Reversal: Poland won’t get a new regional language…for now

Reversal: Poland won’t get a new regional language…for now

Silesian will have to wait for better times after the Polish president vetoed the bill recognizing its special status

Exactly a month ago, we reported the news that the Polish parliament (Sejm) had passed a law recognizing Silesian as a regional language thus expanding the list of these languages in the country to two (together with Kashubian). The joy for people using this language, however, was short-lived as Polish President Andrzej Duda vetoed the bill yesterday with the argument that Silesian was in fact not a language but an “ethnolect”.

The difference between a language and an ethnolect, however, is the domain of professional linguists and even they don’t always agree on that matter, such as the question of whether Silesian is a separate language, an ethnolect or a dialect. Ethnolect refers to a variety of a standard language spoken by an ethnic group with a distinct identity, which used to speak another language in the past.

The term is more often used in the US context where a long history of immigration from different parts of the world has created communities that speak English coloured by some of the peculiarities of their native language that is no longer in use. In that sense, the argument of many linguists, whose opinion was used by the Polish president, was that Silesian is a Polish dialect that has historically been influenced by German.

Not the end of the regional struggle for recognition

During Poland’s most recent census in 2021, some 460,000 people declared that they use Silesian as a mother tongue at home. Receiving official recognition, however, would also allow the language to be used in local administrations and taught in local schools.

President Duda, in addition to the linguistic argument, however, stated that this wasn’t the right time to promote minority identities as this could have a domino effect given the current climate of insecurity and the war happening in neighbouring Ukraine, which has resulted in a large flux of refugees to Poland.

Monika Rosa, the MP whose been among the most outspoken advocates for the recognition of Silesian, however, promised that another bill to that effect would be presented to parliament and signed by the new president who will replace Duda when his final term ends next year.



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