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New Dialects in Western and Northern Poland


Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
12 Feb 2012  #1
Dear members of the Polish Forums,

I am from Frankfurt/Germany and very interested in Polish-German relations and their development over the centuries.

Last week I was going to work by subway sitting next to a very old German couple talking to each other. I was listening to them and soon I figured out they were born and raised in Lower Silesia, maybe in Breslau/Wrocław. I always liked the German Silesian dialect but I haven't heard it for years. It made me kind of sad listening to them because I know in only one or two decades, when everybody who remembers the time before WW II, will be dead, the old German dialects of Silesia, East Brandenburg, Farther Pomerania as well as East and West Prussia will be extinct and lost forever.

This brings me to my question: What Polish dialects are now spoken in Silesia, Pomerania, Lubusz and Warmia and Masuria? Did new dialects evolve there or are the people living there relatively dialect free? Can you tell the difference between an person from Szczecin or Kołobrzeg for instance? In German times the cities of Stettin and Kolberg had there own city dialects and could easily be recognized. What happened to the old Kresy dialects. Will they be lost, too in twenty years from now or did you Poles somehow manage to "transplant" the dialects from Lwów and Wilna to the west? I learned that people from Lwów were moved to Wrocław. So could their dialect be saved?

I would be delighted if somebody could help me finding answers to this questions.
gumishu 11 | 4,902    
  12 Feb 2012  #2
Did new dialects evolve there or are the people living there relatively dialect free?

they are almost totally dialect free and speak a television Polish (formerly literary Polish) - I know because I live in Opole region and lived in Wrocław good couple of years also travelled a bit around Lower Silesia (there is a Silesian dialect in Opole region among the autochtonous population but it is a different story) - I would believe it's the same with Szczecin and Kołobrzeg (I was in Szczecin only once and know just a couple of people from there but haven't noticed any difference in the manner of speech) - the old Kresy dialects die out with their users in these areas

it is however different with Gdańsk area (some Kashubian traits and specific flavour to their speech - there is also some evening of all Polish northern dialects in Gdańsk I would say) and also with Warmia and Mazury (those have north-eastern characteristics with prolonged accented vowels i.e. bigger length contrast between accented and unnaccented vowels; it's called 'zaciąganie' in Polish)

yes, true Kresy dialects will be lost

So could their dialect be saved?

don't think so - the thing is populations were mixed - and a homogenous speech manner (literary) arose with the new generations (actually I don't really know where the so called Polish literary originates - because except for the 'Recovered Territories' (and not all of them as I have already pointed) every region had their own specific dialect - maybe it was a educated people speak - don't know it really)
Wroclaw 44 | 5,398    
12 Feb 2012  #3
I would be delighted if somebody could help me finding answers to this questions.

the problem is the continuous movement of people.

in the uk the bbc and others have been recording old folk as they speak. it's all because the old language is dying out. an example in the uk would be cornish. no longer spoken, but thankfully recorded.

folks would have to act quickly to preserve any differences in Polish language, before those differences disappear.
OP Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
13 Feb 2012  #4
Dear gumishu, dear Wrocław,

Thank you very much for your answers.

So you still have strong recognizable dialects in those areas that were continously settled by Poles, while in most parts of the new gained territories in the west and north you hardly find any dialectal differences.

A dialect is very helpful to give people something like a feeling for a spiritual home or what the Germans call "Heimat". So can be said that people from the western and northern wojewodships are not as attached to their home areas like Poles from "Poland proper" a.k.a. Greater Poland, Lesser Poland or Masowia? A dialect is also a good carrier for traditions and stuff like that. I figured out that people from Central and Eastern Poland are more traditional and conservative than the Poles in the West and North as you could see during the last Polish elections when Tusk won the majority of votes in the new won territories. Problably the lack of dialects plays a role here.

By the way: In Germany, even three and four generations after the expulsion of Germans from what is now Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia, it can be seen, that the decendents of those refugees still are much more mobile than the old-established population of West Germany. In fact some social scientists have the theory that the enormous economic success of West Germany was only possible because around 1950 there were 8 Million people in Germany with no attachment to a home. So they were willing to move without hesitation to any place were there was work, while classic West Germans prefered to stay close to areas where they were born.

What about Poland? Can be said that people from small villages in Lower Silesia, Lubusz or Western Pomerania are more mobile than people from Masowia or Lublin?
gumishu 11 | 4,902    
13 Feb 2012  #5
So can be said that people from the western and northern wojewodships are not as attached to their home areas like Poles from "Poland proper" a.k.a. Greater Poland, Lesser Poland or Masowia?

yes, I believe so (and I am pretty sure it shows in various statistics and sociological research)

What about Poland? Can be said that people from small villages in Lower Silesia, Lubusz or Western Pomerania are more mobile than people from Masowia or Lublin?

it's not that straightforward as in Germany after the war - in those Western and Northern territories there used to be numerous state-owned farms (PGR - państwowe gospodarstwo rolne) - statistacally the people who used to work in these state-owned farms and lived in small settlements (estates) in the countryside were initialy not very mobile (with low level of education, significant alcohol issues etc etc, neither were they enterprising) - (mobility issue in Poland was also hugely influenced by massive unemployment - you just stood little chance of finding a job anywhere) - people from eastern and central Poland were comparatively more mobile and more enterprising in those times - since then there has been a generation shift and the new generation are generally more mobile and willing to go where jobs are (including or even preferably abroad) - now the situation may reversed with people in western Poland more mobile
a.k.    
13 Feb 2012  #6
while in most parts of the new gained territories in the west and north you hardly find any dialectal differences.

In North they have their own language Kashubian but hardly anyone uses it on daily basis. However there is a radiostation in Kashubian and one can pass Matura (Abitur) in Kashubian too.

As for Silesia, Silesians have their own dialect but I don't know if they use it on daily basis. Certainly they can speak proper Polish too.
OP Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
15 Feb 2012  #7
a.k.

So I guess Kashubian is a servilely endangered language because everybody who is able to speak Kashubian speaks Polish as well?

As you probably know in the German states of Saxony and Brandenburg there is still a Slavic speaking minority, the Sorbs. The last remnant of the old Slavic population that lived between Elbe/Labe and Oder/Odra.

Although since 1945 the GDR and reunified Germany are willing to endorse the language, it is very unlikely that Sorbian in going to survive the 21. century, because every Sorbian speaker also speaks German on a native-language level. So if one German speaker communicates with 19 Sorbian speakers their whole conversation is going to switch to German. The biggest problem is that the young Generation, although they learn it in school, has problems to learn Sorbian as good as German because with only 25.000 speakers there simply are not enough speakers anymore to practice the language. Besides the Sorbian language is divided in Upper Sorbian (closer to modern Czech) and Lower Sorbian (closer to modern Polish).

Since Sorbian and Polish are very close West Slavic languages you guys might be able to unterstand it. Here is Sorbian in written langugage: mdr.de/serbski-program/wuhladko/zasle-wusylanja/index.html and here is spoken Sorbian in a television program: mdr.de/mediathek/fernsehen/a-z/wuhladko102_letter-W_zc-59d7b54a_zs-dea15b49.html. My czech collegue laughed a lot about this programm. She said it sounds like Germans with a terrible German accents try to speak Slavic.
delphiandomine 86 | 17,388    
15 Feb 2012  #8
and one can pass Matura (Abitur) in Kashubian too.

Do you know if all the exams are in Kashubian, or just the mother tongue one?
Trevek 26 | 1,703    
11 Mar 2012  #9
There are still a few older people around Olsztyn who speak Warmian. I even know a young guy who has studied and speaks it rather fluently.
OP Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
11 Mar 2012  #10
You mean the Polish Warmian dialect I guess, which is pretty close to almost extinct Polish Masurian, and not the German "Ermländisch", also called High Prussian?
boletus 30 | 1,367    
11 Mar 2012  #11
Dialects of Warmia are now classified, with reservations, as part of the dialects of Mazovia. The basis of the Warmia dialects were dialects of Chełmno-Dobrzyń region, which subsequently have been influenced by Mazovia dialects. As a result of the postwar population movements Warmia dialects disintegrated and now are mainly historical.

However, there are still aficionados and propagators of the Warmia dialects, such as Edward Cyfus, born in Dorotowo village - a geographical centre of the Warmia region.

On this page, you will find plenty of information about Warmia and its surviving dialect, including five written samples from Dorotowo, which you can also listen to as spoken by Edward Cyfus

Warmia is a historical region situated in the north of Poland, in the basin of the middle Lyna and Pasłęka, at the junction of geographical regions such as: Embankment Gdansk, Plain Staropruska, Lake Wschodniopomorskie and Mazury Lake District. Its boundaries on the west rely on the river Pasłęka, south on sources Pasłęka and Lyna, in the east dates back to Reszel, and in the north to the Vistula Lagoon. Administratively Warmia lies in what is now the province of Warmia and Mazury and is within the counties of Olsztyn, Lidzbark and Braniewo.

gwarypolskie.uw.edu.pl/index.php?option=com_content&task=category&sectionid=6&id=17&Itemid=28

By the way, here is the 19th century Warmian version of the Polish anthem "Jeszcze Polska nie zginóła."

Jeszcze Polska nie zginóła.
Bżałoczerwóna kukarda.
Mniejwa łufnoszcz w Bogu,
Nam została tylko wzgarda.

Bo Bóg dobry sprawiedliwy,
Nie dopuszczy tego,
Żeby Polok nieszczeszliwy
Ni mniał kraju swego".
Ironside 47 | 9,338    
11 Mar 2012  #12
and here is spoken Sorbian in a television program

Sound like archaic Polish with German accent !
boletus 30 | 1,367    
  11 Mar 2012  #13
So I guess Kashubian is a serverly endangered language because everybody who is able to speak Kashubian speaks Polish as well?

Yes, but there is more to it as well.

According to some sources, Kashubian is considered seriously endangered; spoken in Poland by 53,000 speakers (Polish 2002 Census),

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_endangered_languages_in_Europe

A Kashubian born traveller to Kashubia observes:

..it transpires that few aficionados of the Kashubian culture speak the language, and the language is marginally present only in small, rural communities. Outside these communities, it is extremely rare to hear Kashubian spoken.

linguistlist.org/fund-drive/2009/hometown-tour/Luiza

The estimates of the Kashubian speaking people significantly vary. For example this source, academia.pan.pl/pdfen/lifeforce_zieniuk.pdf estimates number of Kashubs is at 300,000-500,000, while the number of those who use Kashubian in speaking - at 150,000-300,000.

As many other sources stress, including the last two, Polish has functioned among the Kashubs as a language of literature, linguistic communication on an intellectual level, and education, while their native language has been used within the family and in local oral communication.

There is also serious fragmentation of Kashubian into geographical-based dialects, which cause problems for communication amongst the Kashubs themselves, as speakers from the southern dialect-area have difficulty in understanding those from the northern one.

It is well understood that for Kashubian ethnolect (this is a compromise word between "language" and "dialect") to survive a literary form of the language should be actively developed.

Certain religious texts (books and manuscripts) from the 16th and 17th century have been recognized as literary monuments of the Kashubian language, although they are in fact written in the Polish language of that time and only "inlaid" with Kashubian vocabulary and grammatical forms.

Attempts to create a Kashubian literary language per se date back to the mid-19th century. The first to write in the Kashubian ethnolect was Florian Ceynowa, who considered Kashubian to be a separate language, with Polish as its "elder brother."

Attempts at establishing a literary standard for Kashubian have subsequently been repeated in the 19th and 20th centuries. Beginning in the 1970s, other efforts have also been made towards normalizing, unifying spelling and "intellectualizing" the Kashubian language. Literary output, encompassing sacral and secular texts by authors of all generations, has increased significantly since 1990 and has been actively promoted by such institutions as the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association, the Kashubian Institute (Instytut Kaszubski), as well as media sources and educational institutions.

academia.pan.pl/pdfen/lifeforce_zieniuk.pdf

All of those things are also nicely described in details in Polish wikipedia,, pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Język_kaszubski#cite_note-ele-2

However, the above sources do not give any proper credit to Aleksander Majkowski - a pre-war activist of Kashubian culture, a developer of Kashubian grammar, and an author of "Life and adventures of Remus" (Pol.: Życie i przygody Remusa, Kasz.: Żëcé i przigòdë Remùsa), a Kashubian epos; a novel considered the greatest example of Kashubian literature. I read, with difficulties of course, few stories from that book (available on line) and I liked them. Nowadays, "Remus" is available in various forms (old and modified spelling), including audiobooks.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksander_Majkowski
pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Życie_i_przygody_Remusa

One more thing: Originally, Kashubian language used to recorded with Polish alphabet (eg Hieronim Derdowski), but Polish did not provide full phonetic features of Kashubian. Here is for example, a famous "Marsz kaszubski" (Kashubian March) written and transcribed by Hieronim Derdowski, based on Polish national anthem:

Tom, gdzie Wisła do Krakowa
W Polscie morze płynie,
Polsko wiara, Polsko młewa,
Nigde nie zadzinie.

Nigde do zgube
Nie przyndu Kaszebe,
Marsz, marsz za wrodziem,
Me trzemume z Bodziem.
Trevek 26 | 1,703    
11 Mar 2012  #14
You mean the Polish Warmian dialect I guess, which is pretty close to almost extinct Polish Masurian, and not the German "Ermländisch", also called High Prussian?

Yes, just as boletus mentions

However, there are still aficionados and propagators of the Warmia dialects, such as Edward Cyfus, born in Dorotowo village - a geographical centre of the Warmia region.

The lad in question does a lot with Mr Cyfus. I didn't realise Dorotowo was geographical centre (it's just outside of Olsztyn for those who don't know it).
ifor bach 12 | 152    
12 Mar 2012  #15
This may be of interest: szczecinian.eu/index.php/2012/03/the-riddle-of-polish-speaking-germans-a-short-history-of-the-mazurians/
OP Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
  13 Mar 2012  #16
This may be of interest:

Good article! Thank you!

This reminds me of the Alemannic speaking Alsatians in Eastern France. For those who don't know: Alemannic is the one of the main German dialects spoken in South-West Germany, Western Austria, Liechtenstein, the German speaking part of Switzerland and Eastern France.

After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/1871 the area was annexed by the new founded German Empire, but the majority of Alsatians still emphazised their French nationality although many of them didn't even speak French fluently. Prussian officials, many of them with Slavic or Polish family names by the way, were not able to understand that and reacted frustrated.

Many of you problably know the Mazurian ethnographer Krzysztof Celestyn Mrongowiusz (German: Christoph Cölestin Mrongovius). The Mazurian city Mrągowo (German: Sensburg; Old Polish name: Ządźbork) was named after him after 1945. He spent years of his life to cherish and archive this Polish dialect in order to keep and safe it for the Polish nation. He problably would be pleased to see that Mazuria is now a part of Poland but probably would be puzzled about the fact that practically everybody of his countrymen now lives west of the Rivers Oder and Neisse and therefore the old Polish dialect he loved so much is close before extinction.

The same is true for Slovincian or Leba Kashubian. Due to the oppression of all Slavic languages within Germany from 1871 to 1945, only very few people around present day Slupsk and Leba were able to speak it. But when the Red Army arrived in Slupsk and Leba in 1945 many Germans there tried to communicate with the Russians with the last words of Slowincian they knew, trying to prove to the Russians they were true Slavs in order not to get their women and daughters raped. After 1945 Polish officials tried to keep the Slowincians in the country - because they were the only remnant of the old Slavic Pomeranian native population that proved that all of the area was Slavic speaking before they gradually all got Germanized from the 1200 until 1945. But all of them chose to leave for Germany and their language got extinct in the 1970s or 1980s.
Ironside 47 | 9,338    
13 Mar 2012  #17
But all of them chose to leave for Germany and their language got extinct in the 1970s or 1980s.

pity !
FS good posts, quality posts.
polishmama 3 | 280    
13 Mar 2012  #18
I'm no expert on it, but one of my Cioci lives in Central Poland (she moved because she married) in a small village and some of the words used by the locals are completely different and their accent is different as well, compared to the Polish I've ever heard. Another Ciocia married a man and moved to SouthEast Poland and, same thing. One example that I recall was the word Bowl. I can't remember what word was used. Then again, I have no contact with that side of the family anymore and won't in the future.
OP Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
14 Mar 2012  #19
the-riddle-of-polish-speaking- germans-a-short-history-of-the-mazurians/

A couple of years ago on one of the fleemarkets of my hometown of Frankfurt I saw a late 19th century Mazurian prayer book.

The prayers were all in Polish (probably it was Mazurian but I really can't tell the difference) but as lettering they did use the Old German Fraktur:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraktur

It was funny to see that old German lettering but with all the Polish aditional characters: Ą ą Ć ć Ę ę £ ł Ń ń Ó ó Ś ś - ź Ż ż.
gumishu 11 | 4,902    
  14 Mar 2012  #20
It was funny to see that old German lettering but with all the Polish aditional characters: Ą ą Ć ć Ę ę £ ł Ń ń Ó ó Ś ś - ź Ż ż.

I don't know about written language but spoken language of the Mazurians was very similar to the Polish dialects just across the border like Kurpian dialect (Masurian settlers simply originated from lands more to the south and filled the void that was created by extermination of Jotvingians - btw the term Mazur itself meant an inhabitant of Mazowsze originally)
boletus 30 | 1,367    
  16 Mar 2012  #21
German Fraktur: It was funny to see that old German lettering but with all the Polish aditional characters: Ą ą Ć ć Ę ę £ ł Ń ń Ó ó Ś ś - ź Ż ż.

Joseph Skvorecky, Czech-Canadian from Toronto, in his novel "The Bride of Texas" about Czech participants in American Civil War, describes how some of the Czech immigrants had become illiterate after reaching American shores. And he did not mean just the English language, but also the alphabet. You see, those Czechs were taught from books printed in an old fashioned German typeface, and they had problems getting used to typefaces of America.
Andreas Zuehlke - | 1    
1 Aug 2013  #22
Hello,

I read with interest some of what you wrote in the discussion. My question might not be of interest to you and others at this forum, which I understand. My grandparents were from a village near Mogilno, and I wonder what variety of German was spoken there. My grandfather apparently spoke Polish, but my grandparents were part of a small German community in the area. Thanks for any information!
numberlearner    
21 Aug 2013  #23
Dear everyone,

Hello! I am very interested in learning numbers (1-10) and I am interested in Polish dialects too! Is it possible for anyone here to help me to find those numbers in the 7 dialects? I find it hard to find them because I can't read polish! Thanks a lot!
OP Funky Samoan 2 | 181    
26 Aug 2013  #24
Dear Anreas,

Mogilno never had a sizable genuine German Population before it became Prussian after the Polish divisions. The Prussians didn't even bother to give the city a German Name. Therefore I would say there was no local German dialect spoken there.

Mogilno though was only 30 Kilometers away from the German-Polish language "border" at that time. I put the word border in quotation marks because at that time there was no clear border to draw, because German and Polish speaking villages were scattered all over "West Prussia" (todays Kujawsko-Pomorskie and Pomorskie proper). Therefore maybe the local German language there might have been influenced by the German dialect of Low Prussian:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_Prussian_dialect


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