Dialects of Polish

A map showing the major Polish dialects: Lesser Polish, Greater Polish, Mazovian, Silesian, and the new mixed dialects in areas settled after World War II. The Kashubian language is also shown.

Modern sources on the Slavic languages normally describe the Polish language as consisting of four major dialect groups, each primarily associated with a certain geographical region, and often further subdivided into subdialectal groups (called gwara in Polish):[1][2]

Early mediaeval tribes, from which the modern Polish dialects descended.

The regional differences correspond mainly to old ethnic or tribal divisions from around a thousand years ago. As a result of expulsions and other displacements of Poles during and after World War II, as well as language policy in the People's Republic of Poland, the Polish language became far more homogeneous in the second half of the 20th century.

Polish linguistic tradition includes three more dialect groups, for a total of seven:[3]

This traditional division is still cited, especially in Polish sources.[4] Current linguistic consensus, however, tends to consider Kashubian to be a separate language,[5][6] or at least as a Slavic variety that cannot be grouped at the same level as the four major modern Polish dialects.[7] Prior to World War II, Kashubian speakers were surrounded on both sides by German speakers, with only a narrow border to the south with Polish speakers. Kashubian contains a number of features not found in Polish dialects, e.g. nine distinct oral vowels (vs. the five of standard Polish) and (in the northern dialects) phonemic word stress, an archaic feature preserved from Common Slavic times and not found anywhere else among the West Slavic languages.

The two Kresy dialects are spoken in the Kresy, the former eastern Polish territory annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945 and currently forming part of Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. Both dialect groups have been in decline since World War II as a result of Soviet expulsions of millions of Poles from the Kresy. Poles living in Lithuania (particularly in the Vilnius region), in Belarus (particularly the northwest), and in the northeast of Poland continue to speak a Northern Kresy dialect, which sounds "slushed" (in Polish described as zaciąganie z ruska, 'speaking with a Russian drawl'), and is easily distinguishable.

The majority of Poles expelled from the Kresy were settled in newly annexed regions in northern and western Poland, adopting so-called new mixed dialects. However, among the older generation is still found a type of Kresy dialect which resembles Ukrainian or Rusyn in some ways, especially in the "longer" pronunciation of vowels.

Many linguistic sources about the Slavic languages describe Silesian as a dialect of Polish.[1][2] However, many Silesians consider themselves a separate ethnicity and have been advocating for the recognition of a Silesian language. According to the last official census in Poland in 2011, above 0.5 million people declared Silesian as their native language. Many sociolinguistic sources (e.g. by Tomasz Kamusella,[8] Agnieszka Pianka, Alfred F. Majewicz,[9] Tomasz Wicherkiewicz[10]) assume that whether something is considered to be a language or a dialect ultimately is a matter of extralinguistic criteria, such as the sentiment of its users or political motivations, and thus changes over time. Also, language organizations like SIL International[11] and various linguistic resources like Ethnologue,[12] and others, like Poland's Ministry of Administration and Digitization,[13] recognize the Silesian language. In 2007, Silesian was assigned the language code szl within the ISO 639-3 standard.

List of dialects

Greater Polish dialect

Descending from the Western Slavic language once spoken by the Polans.


Mazovian dialect

Main article: Masovian dialect

Descending from the language of the Mazovians[14][15]

  • Białystok dialect (Polish: gwara białostocka)
  • Suwałki dialect (Polish: gwara suwalska)
  • Warmia dialect (Polish: gwara warmińska)
  • Kurpie dialect (Polish: gwara kurpiowska)
  • Masurian dialect (Polish: gwara mazurska)
  • Malbork-Lubawa dialect (Polish: gwara malborsko-lubawska)
  • Ostróda dialect (Polish: gwara ostródzka)
  • Near Mazovian dialect (Polish: gwara mazowsze bliższe)
  • Far Mazovian dialect (Polish: gwara mazowsze dalsze)

Lesser Polish dialect

Main article: Lesser Polish dialect

Descending from the language of the Vistulans, is the most numerous dialectal group in modern Poland.[16] It includes the following sub-groups


Main article: Silesian language

Silesian (Polish: język śląski, dialekt śląski), descending from the language of the Slavic tribe of Ślężanie , in modern times spoken in the regions of Upper Silesia.

Those who regard Silesian as a separate language tend to include the Lach dialects (Polish: gwary laskie) in the Czech Republic as part of this language. However, the standard linguistic sources on the Slavic languages normally describe them as dialects of the Czech language,[17][18] or sometimes as transitional Polish–Czech dialects.

Northern Kresy dialect

In modern times spoken mainly by the Polish minority in Lithuania and the Polish minority in Belarus ,[19][20]

  • Wilno dialect (Polish: gwara wileńska)

Southern Kresy dialect

often considered a descendant of a pidgin of the Polish language and Old Ruthenian language spoken in Red Ruthenia in the Middle Ages,[19][21]

Unclassified dialects

A number of dialects are not easily classifiable according to the above scheme. Among the most notable of them:

  1. The distinctive Podhale dialect (Góralski) occurs in the mountainous area bordering the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Gorals (highlanders) take great pride in their culture and the dialect. It exhibits some cultural influences from the Vlach shepherds who migrated from Wallachia (southern Romania) in the 14th-17th centuries. The language of the coextensive East Slavic people, the Lemkos, which demonstrates significant lexical and grammatical commonality with the Góralski dialect and Ukrainian, bears no significant Vlach or other Romanian influences. Some urban Poles find this very distinct dialect difficult to understand.[22]
  2. The Poznanski dialect, spoken in Poznań and to some extent in the whole region of the former Prussian annexation (excluding upper Silesia), with characteristic high tone melody and notable influence of the German language.
  3. Some city dwellers, especially the less affluent population, had their own distinctive dialects — for example the Warsaw dialect, still spoken by some of the population of Praga on the eastern bank of the Vistula. (Praga remained the only part of Warsaw where the population survived World War II relatively intact.) However, these city dialects are now mostly extinct due to assimilation with standard Polish.
  4. Many Poles living in emigrant communities (for example in the USA), whose families left Poland just after World War II, retain a number of minor features of Polish vocabulary as spoken in the first half of the 20th century that now sound archaic, however, to contemporary visitors from Poland.
  5. There are also several professional dialects preserved, of which the best known is grypsera, a language spoken by long-time prison convicts.


  1. 1 2 Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley (2006). The Slavic Languages. Cambridge University Press. P. 530.
  2. 1 2 Robert A. Rothstein (1994). "Polish". The Slavonic Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett. Routledge. Pp. 754-756.
  3. Zofia Kurzowa (2007). Szpiczakowska Monika, Skarżyński Mirosław, ed. Z przeszłości i teraźniejszości języka polskiego (in Polish). Kraków: Universitas. p. 726. ISBN 978-83-242-0691-9.
  4. Jadwiga Wronicz (March–April 2007). "Pozycja dialektu wobec innych odmian polszczyzny". Język polski; Organ Towarzystwa Miłośników Języka Polskiego (in Polish). LXXXVII (2): 91–96.
  5. Gerald Stone (1994). "Cassubian". The Slavonic Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett. Routledge. Pp. 759-794.
  6. Bronisław Jakubowski (1999). "Język czy dialekt?". Wiedza i Życie (in Polish) (4).
  7. Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley (2006). The Slavic Languages. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 531–532.
  8. "Silesia and Central European Nationalisms", 2007. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press ISBN 978 1 55753 371 5
  9. [Języki świata i ich klasyfikowanie"] (en: "Languages of the world and their classification"), Polish Scientific Publishers, Warszawa 1989
  10. ["Ekspertyza naukowa dr Tomasza Wicherkiewicza", Language Policy and the Laboratory for Research on Minority, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, 2008
  11. "ISO documentation of Silesian language". SIL International.
  12. "List of languages with ISO codes". Ethnologue. SIL International.
  13. Dz.U. 2012 nr 0 poz. 309 - Internet System of Legal Acts
  14. Bronisław Wieczorkiewicz (1968). Gwara warszawska dawniej i dziś (in Polish). Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. p. 516.
  15. Halina Karas, Gwary Polskie, Dialects and gwary in Poland
  16. Stanisław Urbańczyk, ed. (1992). "Dialekt małopolski". Encyklopedia języka polskiego (in Polish) (II ed.). Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków: Ossolineum. p. 60.
  17. Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley (2006). The Slavic Languages. Cambridge University Press. P. 533.
  18. David Short (1994). "Czech". The Slavonic Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett. Routledge. P. 530.
  19. 1 2 Zofia Kurzowa (2007). Szpiczakowska Monika, Skarżyński Mirosław, ed. Ze studiów nad polszczyzną kresową (in Polish). Kraków: Universitas. p. 518. ISBN 978-83-242-0683-4.
  20. Zofia Kurzowa (2006). Szpiczakowska Monika, Skarżyński Mirosław, ed. Język polski Wileńszczyzny i kresów północno-wschodnich (in Polish). Kraków: Universitas. ISBN 83-242-0738-4.
  21. 1 2 Zofia Kurzowa (2006). Szpiczakowska Monika, Skarżyński Mirosław, ed. Polszczyzna Lwowa i kresów południowo-wschodnich do 1939 (in Polish). Kraków: UNIVERSITAS. p. 439. ISBN 83-242-0656-6.
  22. Magosic, Paul Robert (2005). "The Rusyn Question". Retrieved 2008-01-30.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.