The Polish Language and Its Different Dialects

Since its initial development, the size of the ethnic Polish language has not changed significantly to this day. However, Poland’s geographical parameters, as well as the nature of these borders, have changed quite a bit.

Poland’s Development throughout History

The four main changes that affected the geography of Poland were:

1. The full integration of the Kashubian region, in the North West.

2. The major loss of land as a result of Germanization along the western border, and the recovery from World War II.

3. The colonization of land that was originally counted as Baltic, the areas east of the lower Vistula River, and the partial loss of these areas as a result of WWII.

4. The significant gain of areas to the east, primarily as a result of colonization, and the subsequent creation of large urban agglomerations, like Lvov or Vilnius.

Affiliation and Division

Slavic languages are traditionally classified into three groups, and the Polish language belongs to the West Slavonic category. Dialects that fall into this criterion include: Czech-Slovak, Serbian, Lekhian (located on the north-western periphery of the Slavs), and Polish dialects (ranging from Pomeranian to Polabian).

Lekhian Dialect

The group of West Slavic dialects that transition between the Polish and Czech languages are spoken in parts of Czech Silesia, the Hlučín Region, and northeastern Moravia, as well as in some adjacent villages in Poland. Most Czech researchers consider Lekh a dialect of Czech, whereas Polish dialectologists tend to ascribe Polish origins to Lekh. Despite intensive research over the past decades in the field, little is known about the mode of synthesis of expressive participation of geography or the word formation process of the Lekhian dialect.

Here is a sentence in Lekhian:

Lašsky jazyk, w širokych rysach, je młuva ludu w sewerowychodnej Morawě, w starym “Rakuskym Ślónsku” a w Hučinsku.

In Polish:

Język laski, w szerokim zarysie, to mowa ludu na północno-wschodnich Morawach, na starym “Śląsku Austriackim” i w rejonie Hulczyna.

And in English:

The Lekhian language, generally characterized, is the speech of the people of northeastern Moravia, old “Austrian Silesia,” and the Hlučín district.

Typical Characteristics of Polish Dialects

Due to the wide span of territory the Polish language covers, there are a large number of different polish dialects. Here are a few characteristic features that are of great importance, and a few examples:

  • The old Pomeranian linguistic innovations, also registered as the oldest innovation of the Eastern Pomerania, which carries a broader historical meaning of the term Kashubian, (i.e. the changes ę> į>i carried out in the thirteenth century, are living today in the form of lexis).

Example: kamy “kamień” ; szczełuść ‘’szczęka’’

  • The further west the dialect is used, the more the axis of organizing vowel system is opposition / + / – labialization, which is result of, inter alia, very common pronunciation of diphthong vowels, especially in the onset and after consonant peripherals.

Example: the w>v change in Kashuby and Wielkapolska; mixing of o-/wo- in Kashuby, Wileka polska and Śląsk; and the change of e>o and the missing of the umlauts ew/ow with the central articulation o.

  • One of the oldest features that individualized Wielkopolska, was the pronunciation of nasal vowels, i.e. relatively early differentiations of their color, which depends on the amount of time and the central pronunciation of nasal short vowel.

Example: the type ę in the place of ą/å

Conclusions and Extracts

The waveforms of older isoglosses, both reconstructed on the basis of historical monuments, as well as those who had been full, and today largely actual, explicitly speak of the existence of five old language centers that gave them sources of innovation, and acted as a passive barrier to innovation spreading from other sources. It seems that, in earlier eras of recorded history, Kashuby and Mazovia were dominated by horizontal waveforms that separated them from Wielkopolska, Malopolska and Silesia. Mazovia was the most innovative of them all.

The formation of the five main dialects of Polish crowned two important innovations, both in the phonological plane. Each of these innovations should be understood as a series of interdependent processes implemented gradually over a long period.

It is frequently emphasized in literature that the special position Kashubian holds (in light of modern linguistic facts) is to a lesser extent than the fact that it is a remnant of complex Germanized dialects of the north-western Lekhian, and to a greater extent derived from their isolation and the fact that they were cut off from the influence of the general Polish language in more recent centuries.

Today we observe the rapid retreat of dialects under the influence of a main language. With Polish, this process progresses from the center to the periphery of the language area, where few (mostly in the Kashubian region) can observe the development of the dialects.

How this Affects Translation

This material is of great significance for all Polish language translators looking to translate website content for a Polish audience because, through the study of Polish dialects and their distinctive features and changes, it is easy to improve the quality of translation and increase their understanding of Polish speakers.