Pomeranian is a hypothetical West Slavic language belonging to the Lechitic language subgroup. During medieval times, it referred to the dialects spoken by the Slavic Pomeranians. Currently, however, the term refers to a combination of the Kashubian language or dialect, Slovincian, and the West Pomeranian dialect, which was absorbed by Low German.
- For more information, see Pomerania during the Early Middle Ages, Ancient Pomeranian
During the early medieval Slavic migrations, the area between the Oder and Vistula rivers was settled by tribes known as the Pomeranians. Their dialects, which are often referred to as Ancient Pomeranian, had temporary character between dialects of the Polabian language spoken west of Pomerania, and the dialects of the Old Polish language spoken to the southeast. While no surviving documents written in Pomeranian exist, medieval Pomeranian names are mentioned in other languages at the same time period.
- Main articles: Kashubian, Slovincian
- For more information, see Pomerania during the High Middle Ages, Ostsiedlung
During the High Middle Ages, German immigration and assimilation of the Slavic Pomeranians, a process known as Ostsiedlung, introduced Low German Pomeranian dialects which eventually became dominant, except for some areas of the East, where the inhabitants largely remained Slavic, and continued the use of the Slavic Pomeranian language. This was especially the case in the region of Pomerelia, where the population of Slavic people became known as the Kashubians, and their language accordingly as Kashubian. An isolated Slavic Pomeranian dialect spoken northwest of Kashubia until the 1900s became known as Slovincian. It is disputed whether or not Slovincian may be regarded as a dialect of Kashubian or its own separate language. Likewise, it is disputed whether Kashubian may be regarded as a dialect of the Polish language or a separate language.
Influence on other languages
Pomeranian influenced the formation of other Polish dialects, such as the Kociewski, Borowiacki, and Krajniacki dialects. There is no controversy that these dialects do belong to the Polish language, but also share some common features with the Pomeranian language, which proves that their character was transitional.
Friedrich Lorentz believed that Kociewski and Borowiacki dialects first belonged to the Pomeranian langauge, but were then Polonized as a result of Polish colonization in these territories. According to Lorentz, the Krajniacki dialect was most likely originally a part of the Polish language.
Pomeranian also influenced the Low German dialects, which were also spoken in Pomerania. After Germanisation, a majority of citizens of Western Pomerania started using these Low German dialects. Those dialects, though, were influenced by the Slavic Pomeranian language. Most words that originated from Pomeranian are usually found in vocabulary relating to fishery or farming. The Low German word Zeese / Zehse may serve as an example, describing some sort of fishing net. This word comes from the old Pomeranian word of the same meaning, seza. It moved to Kashubian and Slovincian through Low German, and appeared in Pomeranian dictionaries as ceza, meaning "flounder and perch fishing net". Thus, it is called a "reverse loan-word", as the Pomeranian language borrowed this word from Low German, in which it functioned as "pomeranism".
An example of a word derived from Pomeranian used in the everyday German language is the phrase "dalli, dalli", meaning "come on, come on". It was moved to the German language through German dialects of West Prussia, and is also currently present in Kashubian (spelled dali, dali).
There are several conceptions concerning the existence of Pomeranian as its classification is problematic. Aleksander Brückner classified it as an Old Polish dialect, and during the same time classified Kashubian and Slovincian as dialects of the modern Polish language. Other linguists have related the Pomeranian language to Polabian dialects, hypothetically forming the Pomeranian-Polabian group. A third view is that the Pomeranian language is not related to either Old Polish or Polabian.
Today, Pomeranian is often identified with Kashubian. The presence of multiple terms describing the same language and identifying the whole language with its strongest dialects is sometimes the case with minority languages, which are broken apart, but because of political obstacles, they cannot create one general standard language, which could obtain a strong position in the area or country they are spoken. This situation is similar to Occitan and Low German. Occitan is often considered Provençal, though these dialects are just a part of Occitan, but have had a very strong literary tradition. Low German is sometimes identified with its Low Saxon dialect because it has a much stronger position than any of the other dialects.
After all of the Pomeranian dialects, except for Kashubian became extinct, the "Kashubian language" is the most common term used in relation to the language spoken by the Pomeranians. However, it remains unclear where the words "Kashubians" and "Kashubian" (Polish: kaszubi, kaszubski; Kashubian: Kaszëbi, kaszëbsczi) originated from, and how they were brought from an area near Koszalin over to Pomerelia. No proposed theories have been widely accepted so far. There is also no indication that Pomeranians moved from the area near Koszalin to Pomerania. It has, however, been proved that the medieval inhabitants of Pomerania, who were ancestors of present Kashubians, did not designate themselves, Kashubian. It is not mentioned in any preserved sources, though, what the inhabitants called their language. Analyzing geographic names in written sources shows that during the Early Middle Ages, Slavic inhabitants of the entire region of Pomerania used several dialects of one language, which are known today as "Pomeranian dialects" by scientists. According to chronicles, the only common name for this area was called "Pomerania", and its inhabitants, "Pomeranians".
During the Germanisation of Western Pomerania, the Germans started using the words, "Pomeranian" (German: Pommersch; Polish: pomorski), and "Pomeranians" (German: Pommern; Polish: Pomorzacy) referring to their own population. The portion of the Pomeranians that kept their Slavic langauge were designated as Wends (German: Wenden) or the Kashubians (German: Kaschuben). As the west lost its Slavic character, both terms were more often used in the East. In 1850, Florian Ceynowa in the preface to his Russian-Kashubian dicionary, wrote about the language of the Balto Slavic people:
“Usually it is called the <Kashubian language>, although the <Pomeranian-Slovenian dialect> would be a more proper term”
The word dialect was most likely used by Ceynowa, as he was a follower of Pan-Slavism, according to which all Slavic languages were dialects of a single Slavic language. However, in later works, Ceynowa called his language "kaszébsko-słovjinsko móva", which possibly refers to an umbrella term for Slovincian and Kashubian.
In 1893, Stefan Ramułt referred to early history of Pomerania, publishing the “Dictionary of the Pomoranian i.e. Kashubian Language”. In the preface, he wrote:
“As Kashubians are the direct descendants of Pomeranians, it is right to use the words Pomeranian and Kashubian as synonyms. Especially as there are other reasons for it as well…”
“Kashubians and Slavs are what remains of the once powerful Pomeranian tribe and they are the only inheritors of the name Pomeranians”.
Friedrich Lorentz (author of "Pomeranian Grammar" and "The History of Pomeranian/Kashubian Language") referred his works to Ramułt's dictionary. After Lorentz's death, Friedhelm Hinze published a five-volume Pomeranian dictionary, of which he named "Pomoranishes Worterbuch", based off of Lorentz's work.
- For more information, see Kashubian
All of the dialects of the hypothetical Pomeranian language have gone extinct except for Kashubian, which is generally unrecognized by a majority of Polish linguists, and has been treated in Poland as "the most distinct dialect of Polish". Some Polish linguists outlaughed attempts to create a standardized form of Kashubian/Pomeranian, and tried discrediting the Kashubian authors that worked on it. However, there are also some Polish linguists who treated Pomeranian as a separate language. The most important were Stefan Ramułt and Alfred Majewicz, who had called Kashubian a language during the 1980s.
After the collapse of communism in Poland, attitudes on Kashubian's status have changed gradually. It is increasingly seen as a full-fledged language, being taught in some state schools and with some limited usage on public radio and television. A bill passed by the Polish parliament in 2005 recognized Kashubian as the only regional language spoken in Poland, and provides for its use in official contexts in ten communities where Kashubian speakers compose of at least 20 percent of the population.
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- Słownik języka pomorskiego czyli kaszubskiego / The dictionary of Pomeranian i.e. Kashubian language
- Grupa pomorska języków lechickich on Językowa Wiki
- Friedhelm Hinze, Wörterbuch und Lautlehre der deutschen Lehnwörter im Pomoranischen (Kaschubischen), Berlin 1965
- Friedrich Lorentz, Geschichte der Pomoranischen (Kaschubischen) Sprache, Berlin and Leipzig, 1925
- Friedrich Lorentz, Pomoranisches Wörterbuch, Band I-V, Berlin 1958-1983
- Stefan Ramułt, Słownik języka pomorskiego, czyli kaszubskiego, Kraków, 1893
- Jan Trepczyk, Słownik polsko-kaszubski, Gdańsk 1994