Dialects of Polish Redirected from Polish dialects

A map showing the major Polish dialects: Lesser Polish, Greater Polish, Mazovian, Silesian, and the new mixed dialects in Recovered Territories of western Poland (areas resettled by Polish speakers after World War II). The Kashubian language is also shown.

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

  • Greater Polish, spoken in the west
  • Lesser Polish, spoken in the south and southeast
  • Masovian, spoken throughout the central and eastern parts of the country
  • Silesian[3][4] spoken in the southwest (sometimes also considered a separate language, see comment below)
Early mediaeval tribes, from whom modern Polish dialects are derived.

The regional differences correspond mainly to old ethnic or tribal divisions from around a thousand years ago. As a result of 19th century measures taken by occupying powers, of expulsions plus other displacements of Poles during and after World War II, as well as language policy in the Polish People's Republic, supplemented by broadcast media, the Polish language has become more homogenised than ever before in the second half of the 20th century.

Traditional spoken Polish includes three more distinct dialect groups, adding to a total of eight.[5] The remaining dialects have been put at risk of extinction due to historic geopolitical population movements. They are:

  • Northern Kresy, spoken along the border between Lithuania and Belarus
  • Southern Kresy, spoken in isolated pockets in Ukraine
  • The distinctive Podhale dialect (Góralski) that occurs in the mountainous area bordering the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Gorals highlanders have a distinct culture and dialect. It exhibits some cultural influences from Vlach shepherds[citation needed] who migrated from Wallachia (southern Romania) in the 14th-17th centuries[citation needed]. The language of the coextensive Eastern 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.[6]

Dialect and language distinctions

Although traditional linguistic divisions continue to be cited, especially in Polish sources, the current linguistic consensus tends to consider Kashubian a separate language, or at least as a distinct Slavic lect that cannot be grouped at the same level as the four major modern Polish dialects.[7][8][9][10] Prior to World War II, Kashubian speakers were mainly surrounded by German speakers, with only a narrow border to the south with Polish speakers. Kashubian contains a number of features not found in other Polish dialects, e.g. nine distinct oral vowels (vs. the six of standard Polish), evolution of the Proto-Slavic TorT group to TarT (a feature not found in any other Slavic language) 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 Kresy, the former eastern Polish territories annexed by the Soviet Union in 1945 and currently absorbed into Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine. Both dialect groups have been in decline since World War II as a result of Soviet expulsions of millions of Poles from Kresy. Poles living in Lithuania (particularly in the Vilnius region), in Belarus (particularly in the northwest), and in northeast Poland continue to speak the Northern Kresy dialect, which sounds (in Polish described as zaciąganie z ruska) as if speaking with a Russian drawl, and is quite distinctive.

The majority of Poles expelled from Kresy were settled in newly annexed regions in northern and western Poland, and thereby their manner of speech evolved into so-called new mixed dialects. However, among the declining older generation there are still traces of Kresy dialect with its characteristic Ukrainian or Rusyn sounds, especially in the use of the Russian "L" where standard Polish uses "Ł" and of elongated vowels.


Many linguistic sources relating to the Slavic languages describe Silesian as a dialect of Polish.[1][2] However, many Silesians consider themselves a separate ethnicity and have been advocating the recognition of Silesian as a distinct language. According to the last official census in Poland in 2011, over 0.5 million people declared Silesian as their native language. Many sociolinguistic sources (e.g. Tomasz Kamusella assert that the determination between a language or a dialect is ultimately a matter of extralinguistic criteria, such as national attachment or the political attitudes of its users, and this changes over time.[11] See: Agnieszka Pianka, Alfred F. Majewicz, Tomasz Wicherkiewicz[12][13]) Language organizations such as SIL International and various linguistic resources such as Ethnologue, and Poland's Ministry of Administration and Digitization, recognize Silesian as a distinct language.[14][15][16] In 2007, Silesian was assigned its language code szl within the ISO 639-3 standard.

List of dialects

Greater Polish dialect

Derived from the Western Slavic language spoken by the Polans, the subdialects are:

Mazovian dialect

Derived from the language of the Mazovians[17][18]

  • 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

Derived from the language of the Vistulans, is the most numerous dialectal group in modern Poland.[19] It includes the following sub-groups

Silesian "dialect"

Silesian (Polish: język śląski, dialekt śląski), derived from the language of the Slavic tribe called, Ślężanie[citation needed], in modern times spoken in the regions of Upper Silesia. The United States Immigration Commission in its "Dictionary of races or peoples" published in 1911 counted Silesian as one of the dialects of Polish.[3][4]

Those who regard Silesian as a separate language tend to include the Lach dialects (Polish: gwary laskie) of the Czech Republic as part of this language. However, the standard linguistic sources on Slavic languages normally describe them as dialects of the Czech language,or sometimes as transitional Polish–Czech dialects.[20][21]

Northern Kresy dialect

In modern times the dialect is still spoken mainly by the Polish minorities in Lithuania and in Belarus.[22][23]

  • Wilno dialect (Polish: gwara wileńska)

Southern Kresy dialect

Often considered a derivative of a mixture of old Polish and Old Ruthenian, as was spoken in Red Ruthenia in the Middle Ages.[22][24] See especially, the Lwów dialect, Polish: gwara lwowska.[24]

Unclassified dialects

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

  1. The Gwara poznańska [pl], 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.
  2. Some city dwellers, especially among the less affluent, had their own distinctive dialects — for example the Warsaw dialect, still spoken by some of the people in the Praga district on the eastern bank of the Vistula. (Praga was the only part of Warsaw where the city survived World War II relatively intact.) However, these city dialects are now mostly extinct due to assimilation with standard Polish.
  3. There are several sociolects with distinct pools of thematic vocabulary, e.g. Polish high school students.[25]
  4. Many Poles living in emigrant communities, for example in the USA or Europe, whose families left Poland around World War II, retain a number of features of Polish idiom and accent as spoken in the first half of the 20th century that now come across as archaic to contemporary visitors from Poland.
  5. There are also several circumstantial dialects preserved, of which the best known is grypsera, a language spoken by long-time prison convicts.


  1. ^ a b Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley (2006). The Slavic Languages. Cambridge University Press. P. 530.
  2. ^ a b Robert A. Rothstein (1994). "Polish". The Slavonic Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett. Routledge. Pp. 754-756.
  3. ^ a b Dillingham, William Paul; Folkmar, Daniel; Folkmar, Elnora (1911). Dictionary of Races or Peoples. United States. Immigration Commission (1907-1910). Washington, D.C.: Washington, Government Printing Office. p. 105.
  4. ^ a b Dillingham, William Paul; Folkmar, Daniel; Folkmar, Elnora (1911). Dictionary of Races or Peoples. Washington, D.C.: Washington, Government Printing Office. p. 128.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Magosic, Paul Robert (2005). "The Rusyn Question". Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  7. ^ Jadwiga Wronicz (March–April 2007). "Pozycja dialektu wobec innych odmian polszczyzny". Język polski (in Polish). LXXXVII (2): 91–96.
  8. ^ Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley (2006). The Slavic Languages. Cambridge University Press. Pp. 531–532.
  9. ^ Gerald Stone (1994). "Cassubian". The Slavonic Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett. Routledge. Pp. 759-794.
  10. ^ Bronisław Jakubowski (1999). "Język czy dialekt?". Wiedza i Życie (in Polish) (4).
  11. ^ "Silesia and Central European Nationalisms", 2007. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press ISBN 978 1 55753 371 5
  12. ^ [Języki świata i ich klasyfikowanie"] (en: "Languages of the world and their classification"), Polish Scientific Publishers, Warszawa 1989
  13. ^ "Ekspertyza naukowa dr Tomasza Wicherkiewicza", Language Policy and the Laboratory for Research on Minority, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, 2008
  14. ^ "ISO documentation of Silesian language". SIL International. Archived from the original on 2012-10-03.
  15. ^ "List of languages with ISO codes". Ethnologue. SIL International.
  16. ^ Dz.U. 2012 nr 0 poz. 309 - Internet System of Legal Acts
  17. ^ Bronisław Wieczorkiewicz (1968). Gwara warszawska dawniej i dziś (in Polish). Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy. p. 516.
  18. ^ Halina Karas, Gwary Polskie, Dialects and gwary in Poland Archived 2011-04-14 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Stanisław Urbańczyk, ed. (1992). "Dialekt małopolski". Encyklopedia języka polskiego (in Polish) (II ed.). Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków: Ossolineum. p. 60.
  20. ^ Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley (2006). The Slavic Languages. Cambridge University Press. P. 533.
  21. ^ David Short (1994). "Czech". The Slavonic Languages, edited by Bernard Comrie and Greville G. Corbett. Routledge. P. 530.
  22. ^ a b 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.
  23. ^ Zofia Kurzowa (2006). Szpiczakowska Monika, Skarżyński Mirosław (ed.). Język polski Wileńszczyzny i kresów północno-wschodnich (in Polish). Kraków: Universitas. ISBN 83-242-0738-4.
  24. ^ a b 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.
  25. ^ Choińska, Krystyna, Family as a Student's Microcosm. Reflections Based on Thematic Vocabulary of Children and Youth, retrieved 2017-05-04

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