Upper Silesian
ślōnskŏ gŏdka
ślůnsko godka[1]
Pronunciation[ˈɕlonskɔ ˈɡɔtka]
Native toPoland (Silesian Voivodeship, Opole Voivodeship)
Czech Republic (Moravia–Silesia, Jeseník)
Native speakers
457,900 (2021 census)[2]
Latin script (Steuer's alphabet and ślabikŏrzowy szrajbōnek)[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3szl
ELPUpper Silesian
Linguasphere53-AAA-cck, 53-AAA-dam
Range of Silesian on a map of East-Central Europe (marked as G1 and G2, in southern Poland and the eastern Czech Republic).
Distribution area of the Silesian language
A Silesian speaker, recorded in Poland

Silesian,[a] occasionally called Upper Silesian, is an ethnolect[4][5] of the Lechitic group spoken by part of people in Upper Silesia. Its vocabulary was significantly influenced by Central German due to the existence of numerous Silesian German speakers in the area prior to World War II and after.[6] The first mentions of Silesian as a distinct lect date back to the 16th century, and the first literature with Silesian characteristics to the 17th century.[7]

Linguistic distinctiveness of Silesian has long been a topic of discussion among linguists.[8] Some regard it as one of the four major dialects of Polish,[9][10][11][12] while others classify it as a separate regional language, distinct from Polish.[13][14][15] According to the official data from the 2021 Polish census, about 500 thousand people consider Silesian as their native language.[2]

In April 2024, the Polish Sejm took a significant step by approving a bill that recognizes Silesian as an official regional language in Poland.[8] This recognition, if accepted by the Senate and signed by the president, will allow for the inclusion of Silesian in school curricula and its use within local administration in municipalities.[8]


Silesian speakers currently live in the region of Upper Silesia, which is split between southwestern Poland and the northeastern Czech Republic. At present Silesian is commonly spoken in the area between the historical border of Silesia on the east and a line from Syców to Prudnik on the west as well as in the Rawicz area.

Until 1945, Silesian was also spoken in enclaves in Lower Silesia, where the majority spoke Lower Silesian, a variety of Central German. The German-speaking population was either evacuated en masse by German forces towards the end of the war or deported by the new administration upon the Polish annexation of the Silesian Recovered Territories after its end. Before World War II, most Slavic-language speakers also knew German and, at least in eastern Upper Silesia, many German speakers were acquainted with Slavic Silesian.

According to the last official census in Poland in 2021, about 460,000[2] people declared Silesian as their native language, whereas in the country's census of 2011, the figure was about 510,000.[16] In the censuses in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, nearly 900,000 people declared Silesian nationality; Upper Silesia has almost five million inhabitants, with the vast majority in the Polish part speaking Polish and Czech in the Czech part and declaring themselves to be Poles in the former and Czechs in the latter.[16][17][18][19]


Main article: Silesian grammar

Although the morphological differences between Silesian and Polish have been researched extensively, other grammatical differences have not been studied in depth.

A notable difference is in question-forming. In standard Polish, questions which do not contain interrogative words are formed either by using intonation or the interrogative particle czy. In Silesian, questions which do not contain interrogative words are formed by using intonation (with a markedly different intonation pattern than in Polish) or inversion (e.g. Je to na karcie?); there is no interrogative particle.


According to Jan Miodek, standard Polish has always been used by Upper Silesians as a language of prayers.[20] The Lord's Prayer in Silesian, Polish, Czech, and English:

Silesian[21] Polish Czech English

Ôjcze nŏsz, kery jeżeś we niebie,
bydź poświyncōne miano Twoje.
Przińdź krōlestwo Twoje,
bydź wola Twoja,
jako we niebie, tak tyż na ziymi.
Chlyb nŏsz kŏżdodziynny dej nōm dzisiŏk.
A ôdpuś nōm nasze winy,
jako a my ôdpuszczōmy naszym winnikōm.
A niy wōdź nŏs na pokuszyniy,
nale zbŏw nŏs ôde złygo.

Ojcze nasz, któryś jest w niebie,
święć się imię Twoje,
przyjdź królestwo Twoje,
bądź wola Twoja
jako w niebie tak i na ziemi.
Chleba naszego powszedniego daj nam dzisiaj.
I odpuść nam nasze winy,
jako i my odpuszczamy naszym winowajcom.
I nie wódź nas na pokuszenie,
ale nas zbaw od złego.

Otče náš, jenž jsi na nebesích,
posvěť se jméno Tvé
Přijď království Tvé.
Buď vůle Tvá,
jako v nebi, tak i na zemi.
Chléb náš vezdejší dej nám dnes
A odpusť nám naše viny,
jako i my odpouštíme naším viníkům
a neuveď nás v pokušení,
ale zbav nás od zlého.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

Dialects of Silesian

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Map showing the distribution of the Silesian dialects

Silesian has many dialects:

Dialect vs. language

Grave inscription at Lutheran cemetery in Střítež near Český Těšín. The inscription, which says "Rest in Peace", is in the Cieszyn Silesian dialect.
The Silesian language in public space: a banner at the 2022 gay pride in Katowice. "We want Silesia, where every boy can take a vow to his chosen one in the Silesian language."
The Silesian language in public space: a warning sign "Watch for trams" on the sidewalk in Chorzów
Goral Silesian lect and Czech in Cieszyn, Poland. The text notifies readers that people under the age of 18 will not be served alcohol.


Opinions are divided among linguists regarding whether Silesian is a distinct language, a dialect of Polish, or, in the case of Lach, a variety of Czech. The issue can be contentious, because some Silesians consider themselves to be a distinct nationality within Poland. When Czechs, Poles, and Germans each made claims to substantial parts of Silesia as constituting an integral part of their respective nation-states in the 19th and 20th centuries, the language of Slavic-speaking Silesians became politicized.

Some, like Óndra Łysohorsky (a poet and author in Czechoslovakia), saw the Silesians as being their own distinct people, which culminated in his effort to create a literary standard which he called the "Lachian language". Silesian inhabitants supporting the cause of each of these ethnic groups had their own robust network of supporters across Silesia's political borders which shifted over the course of the 20th century prior to the large-scale ethnic cleansing in the aftermath of World War II.


Some linguists from Poland, such as Jolanta Tambor,[22][full citation needed] Juan Lajo,[23][full citation needed] Tomasz Wicherkiewicz,[24][full citation needed] philosopher Jerzy Dadaczyński,[25][full citation needed] sociologist Elżbieta Anna Sekuła,[26][full citation needed] and sociolinguist Tomasz Kamusella,[27][28] support its status as a language. According to Stanisław Rospond, it is impossible to classify Silesian as a dialect of the contemporary Polish language because he considers it to be descended from Old Polish.[29][original research?] Other Polish linguists, such as Jan Miodek and Edward Polański, do not support its status as a language.[citation needed] Jan Miodek and Dorota Simonides, both of Silesian origin, prefer to see the preservation of the entire range of Silesian dialects rather than standardization.[30] The German linguist Reinhold Olesch was greatly interested in the "Polish vernaculars" of Upper Silesia and other Slavic varieties such as Kashubian and Polabian.[31][32][33][34]

The United States Immigration Commission in 1911 classified it as one of the dialects of Polish.[35][36]

In their respective surveys of Slavic languages, most linguists writing in English, such as Alexander M. Schenker,[37] Robert A. Rothstein,[38] and Roland Sussex and Paul Cubberley[39] list Silesian as a dialect of Polish, as does Encyclopædia Britannica.[40]

On the question of whether Silesian is a separate Slavic language, Gerd Hentschel wrote that "Silesian ... can thus ... without doubt be described as a dialect of Polish" ("Das Schlesische ... kann somit ... ohne Zweifel als Dialekt des Polnischen beschrieben werden").[41][42][43]

In Czechia, disagreement exists concerning the Lach dialects which rose to prominence thanks to Óndra Łysohorsky and his translator Ewald Osers.[44] While some have considered it a separate language, most now view Lach as a dialect of Czech.[45][46][47]


Main article: Silesian orthography


Oral Vowels
Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Close-mid o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a
Nasal Vowels
Front Central Back
Open-mid ɔ̃
Open ã


Labial Dental/
Retroflex (Alveolo-)
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʂ t͡ɕ
voiced d͡z d͡ʐ d͡ʑ
Fricative voiceless f s ʂ ɕ x
voiced v z ʐ ʑ
Trill r
Approximant (w) l j w

Writing system

Main article: Silesian orthography

There have been a number of attempts at codifying the language spoken by Slavophones in Silesia. Probably the most well-known was undertaken by Óndra Łysohorsky when codifying the Lachian dialects in creating the Lachian literary language in the early 20th century.

Ślabikŏrzowy szrajbōnek is the relatively new alphabet created by the Pro Loquela Silesiana organization to reflect the sounds of all Silesian dialects. It was approved by Silesian organizations affiliated in Rada Górnośląska. Ubuntu translation is in this alphabet[48] as is some of the Silesian Wikipedia, although some of it is in Steuer's alphabet. It is used in a few books, including the Silesian alphabet book.[49]

Letters: A, Ã, B, C, Ć, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ł, M, N, Ń, O, Ŏ, Ō, Ô, Õ, P, R, S, Ś, T, U, W, Y, Z, Ź, Ż.[49]

One of the first alphabets created specifically for Silesian was Steuer's Silesian alphabet, created in the Interwar period and used by Feliks Steuer for his poems in Silesian. The alphabet consists of 30 graphemes and eight digraphs:

Letters: A, B, C, Ć, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, Ł, M, N, Ń, O, P, R, S, Ś, T, U, Ů, W, Y, Z, Ź, Ż
Digraphs: Au, Ch, Cz, Dz, , , Rz, Sz

Based on the Steuer alphabet, in 2006 the Silesian Phonetic Alphabet [szl] was proposed:

Letters: A, B, C, Ć, Č, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ń, O, P, R, Ř, S, Ś, Š, T, U, Ů, W, Y, Z, Ź, Ž.

Silesian's phonetic alphabet replaces the digraphs with single letters (Sz with Š, etc.) and does not include the letter Ł, whose sound can be represented phonetically with U. It is therefore the alphabet that contains the fewest letters. Although it is the most phonetically logical, it did not become popular with Silesian organizations, with the argument that it contains too many caron diacritics and hence resembles the Czech alphabet. Large parts of the Silesian Wikipedia, however, are written in Silesian's phonetic alphabet.

Sometimes other alphabets are also used, such as the "Tadzikowy muster" (for the National Dictation Contest of the Silesian language) or the Polish alphabet, but writing in this alphabet is problematic as it does not allow for the differentiation and representation of all Silesian sounds.[49]


Silesian has recently seen an increased use in culture, for example:


Examples of books in Silesian, e.g. translations of The Hobbit, The Little Prince or A Christmas Carol
Bilingual sign in Katowice (Katowicy): Polish Kwiaciarnia ("florist") and Silesian Blumy i Geszynki ("flowers and gifts"). The latter also exemplifies the Germanisms in Silesian (cf. German Blumen und Geschenke).

In 2003, the National Publishing Company of Silesia (Narodowa Oficyna Śląska) commenced operations.[57] This publisher was founded by the Alliance of the People of the Silesian Nation (Związek Ludności Narodowości Śląskiej) and it prints books about Silesia and books in Silesian language.

In July 2007, the Slavic Silesian language was given the ISO 639-3 code szl.[58]

On 6 September 2007, 23 politicians of the Polish parliament made a statement about a new law to give Silesian the official status of a regional language.[59]

The first official National Dictation Contest of the Silesian language (Ogólnopolskie Dyktando Języka Śląskiego) took place in August 2007. In dictation as many as 10 forms of writing systems and orthography have been accepted.[60][61]

On 30 January 2008 and in June 2008, two organizations promoting Silesian language were established: Pro Loquela Silesiana and Tôwarzistwo Piastowaniô Ślónskij Môwy "Danga".[62]

On 26 May 2008, the Silesian Wikipedia was founded.[63]

On 30 June 2008 in the edifice of the Silesian Parliament in Katowice, a conference took place on the status of the Silesian language. This conference was a forum for politicians, linguists, representatives of interested organizations and persons who deal with the Silesian language. The conference was titled "Silesian – Still a Dialect or Already a Language?" (Śląsko godka – jeszcze gwara czy jednak już język?).[64]

In 2012, the Ministry of Administration and Digitization registered the Silesian language in Annex 1 to the Regulation on the state register of geographical names;[65] however, in a November 2013 amendment to the regulation, Silesian is not included.[66]

On 26 April 2024, the Sejm voted 236-186 with five abstentions to recognise Silesian as a regional language.[67][68][69]

See also



  1. ^


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