|Number of speakers|
Latin alphabet (Polish variant)
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Polish Language Council
Polish language (język polski, polszczyzna) is a Lechitic language of the West Slavic language family spoken by about 44 million people particularly in Poland, but also in other countries of Europe and with minorities in other countries. Its writing system is the Polish alphabet, which basically corresponds to the Latin alphabet with some additions. Polish-speakers, sometimes referred to as Poles, use the language in a consistent manner throughout most of Poland.
Despite pressure of non-Polish administrators residing in Poland, who have tried to suppress the language numerous times, a rich literature has been created over centuries and the language is currently the largest in terms of speakers of various West Slavic languages. It is the third most widely spoken Slavic language, only being surpassed by Russian and Ukrainian.
- For more information, see Evolution of the Polish language.
Polish originated indirectly from the Old Polish language, as it developed into the Middle Polish language. The shape of the language was formed by political history of the country. With Gniezno as the Capital and the role of Greater Poland in general, this region and its speech became the base for the literary language. This fact caused, that such a distributed feature as Mazurzenie doesn't occur in the standard language. When the capital was moved to Cracow, the Polish language was then influenced by the Lesser Polish dialect.
Almost 97 percent of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their original mother language. Ethnic Poles compose significant minorities in the countries of Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine. Among the Lithuanian minorities, it is widely used as a minority language in Vilnius County, spoken by about 26 percent of the population, according to the results of the 2001 census. It is also present in the other nine counties. In Ukraine, the Polish language is often spoken in Lviv and Lutsk. In western Belarus, there is a significant Polish minority, particularly in the Brest and Grodno regions.
Speakers of the Polish language also reside in: Argentina, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, China (Harbin), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Peru, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam (including during school breaks when Polish-Vietnamese children spend their time in Vietnam speaking in Polish to siblings and friends; there are about 50,000 Polish-Vietnamese).
In the United States, it is estimated that the number of Polish Americans exceeds 11 million, but many of these people no longer speak Polish fluently. According to the 2000 United States Census, 667,414 of ages 5 years and over reported Polish as the language spoken at home: about 1.4 percent of the population who speak languages other than English, or 0.25 percent of the U.S. population. The largest concentrations of Polish speakers reported in the census occur in three states: Illinois (185,749), New York (111,740), and New Jersey (74,663).
Historic geographic distribution
As a result of World War II, Poland's borders were changed significantly, which was accompanied by a series of migrations (World War II evacuation and expulsion, German expulsions, Operation Vistula). Ethnic cleansing of the Poles as a result of the Massacres of Poles in Volhynia (Rzeź wołyńska) was also a result of significant demographic changes. Territories occupied by the Polish added by the Soviet Union after World War II retained a significant population of Poles unwilling or unable to migrate to post-1945 Poland.
- See also: Dialects of the Polish language
The dialects of the Polish language have become far more similar during the second half of the 20th century, partly due to the mass-migration of millions of Polish citizens from the eastern to the western part of Poland after the Soviet addition of the Kresy during 1939, and the acquisition of former German territory prior to World War II. This tendency towards similarity also stems from the integrated nature of the authoritarian of the People's Republic of Poland.
Residents of different parts of Poland still speak "Standard" Polish somewhat differently, though the differences between these broad "dialects" appear to be slight. First-language speakers of the Polish language never experience in mutual understanding, however, non-native speakers of the Polish language have difficulty determining regional variations.
The Polish language has three to five main dialects, depending on opinion if Kashubian and Silesian are considered one of the dialects. These dialects are:
- Greater Polish, spoken in the west in Greater Poland.
- Kashubian, spoken in the north in Kashubia (controversial).
- Lesser Polish, spoken in the south and southeast in Lesser Poland.
- Masovian, spoken in the central and eastern parts of Poland in Masovia.
- Silesian, spoken in the southwest in Silesia (controversial).
Some other characteristic but less widespread dialects include:
- Podhale (Góralski) – is occuring in the mountainous area of Poland bordering the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The highlanders of the region, known as Gorals, take pride in their culture and dialect. It displays some cultural influences from the Vlach shepherds who migrated from Wallachia, which is nowadays located in southern Romania, during the 14–17th centuries. The language of the coextensive East Slavic group, the Lemkos which displays significant lexical and grammatical commonality with the Podhale dialect and Ukrainian, includes no important Vlach or Romanian influences. Most urban Poles find this distinct dialect hard to understand.
- Kashubian, spoken in Pomerania is considered a separate language by most observers, but some have declared it as a dialect of the Polish language. However, it displays several significant differences to convince its classification as a separate language; for example, it is not easily understandable to Polish speakers unless written. There are about 53,000 speakers of Kashubian according to the 2002 census.
- Silesian, spoken in Silesia, is considered as a separate language to observers, as well as a dialect of the Polish language. However, it displays several significant differences to convince its classification as a separate language; for instance, it is not easily understandable to Polish speakers. According to the 2002 census, there are about 60,000 speakers.
- The Poznanski dialect, spoken in Poznan and to some extent the whole region of the former Prussian annexation. It has a characteristic high tone melody and notable influence on the German language.
- In the northern and western, formerly German regions where Poles from the territories added by the USSR resettled after World War II, the older generation speaks a dialect of Polish-like characteristics of the Eastern Borderlands which resembles the Ukrainian or Rusyn language, especially in the "longer" pronunciation of vowels.
- Poles living in Lithuania, Belarus, and northeast Poland continue speaking the Eastern Borderlands dialect which sounds "slushed" (described as being zaciąganie z ruska in Polish, or "speaking with a Russian drawl"), and is easily distinguished.
- Some urban residents, especially the less wealthy population, had their own distinctive dialects; for example, the Warsaw dialect, which is still spoken by some of the population of Praga, which remained the only part of Warsaw where the population survived World War II generally intact. However, city dialects are now nearly extinct due to assimilation with standard Polish.
- Many emigrant Poles, such as ones living in the United States, whose families left Poland prior to the events of World War II, keep a number of minor features of the Polish vocabulary as spoken in the first half of the 20th century, but which now sound archaic to visitors from Poland.
- See also: Polish phonology
Polish contains six oral and two nasal vowels. The system of consonants shows to be more complex, including characteristic features of affricates and palatal consonants that have resulted from four Proto-Slavic palatilizations and two other palatilizations which effected Polish and Belarusian. Stress falls mainly on the penultimate, or second to last, syllable.
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- See also: Polish orthography, Polish alphabet
The Polish alphabet is derived from the Latin alphabet, but includes diacritics, such as kreska (similar to the acute accent), kropka (superior dot), and ogonek ("little tail"). It is one of the two main forms of Latin-based orthography created for Slavic languages, with the other being Czech. Slovak, as well as Slovene and Croatian used the Czech-based system, while Kashubian uses a Polish-based system, and Sorbian combines both.
|Name of the letter||Usual
|Ą||Ą||ą||ą||ą||[ɔɰ̃]||[ɔ], [ɔm], [ɔn], [ɔŋ], [ɔɲ], [ɔȷ̃]|
|E||e||e||[ɛ]||[e] after and between palatalized consonants|
|Ę||Ę||ę||ę||ę||[ɛɰ̃]||[ɛ], [ɛm], [ɛn], [ɛŋ], [ɛɲ], [ɛȷ̃]|
|H||h||ha||[x]||[ɣ], [ɦ] (Eastern Borderlands, Silesia)|
|I||i||i||[i]||[i̯], mute (softens preceding consonant)|
|L||l||el||[l]||[lʲ] in older pronunciation and eastern dialects|
|Ł||Ł||ł||ł||eł||[w]||[ɫ] in older pronunciation and eastern dialects|
|Ó||Ó||ó||ó||"o kreskowane", "o z kreską", "u z kreską", or "u zamknięte"
("lined o", "o with line", "lined u", or "closed u")
|U||u||"u", "u zwykłe" or "u otwarte"
("simple u" "opened u")
Polish orthography also includes seven digraphs:
|Dz||dz||[d͡z]||[t͡s], [d͡ʑ], [d-z]|
|Rz||rz||[ʐ]||[ʂ], [r-z], [r̝] or [r̝̊] (in some dialects),|
- "Polish language - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/467443/Polish-language. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
- Język polski on Językowa Wiki
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
- Britannica Encyclopaedia "Lekhitic languages, also spelled Lechitic , group of West Slavic language composed of Polish, Kashubian and its archaic variant Slovincian, and the extinct Polabian language. All these languages except Polish are sometimes classified as a Pomeranian subgroup. In the early Middle Ages, before their speakers had become Germanized, Pomeranian languages and dialects were spoken along the Baltic in an area extending from the lower Vistula River to the lower Oder River."
- US Census 2000
- Statistics Canada: 2006 Census
- Magosic, Paul Robert (2005). "The Rusyn Question". http://litopys.org.ua/rizne/magocie.htm. Retrieved 2008-01-30.