This article's factual accuracy is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help to ensure that disputed statements are reliably sourced. (November 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

PronunciationIPA: [vɨmɨˈsʲøːrɪɕ]
Native toPoland
RegionWilamowice, Silesian Voivodeship, Poland
Native speakers
20 (2017)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3wym
Wymysorys is classified as Critically Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger[2]
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Coordinates: 49°55′N 19°09′E / 49.92°N 19.15°E / 49.92; 19.15

Wymysorys (Wymysiöeryś, pronounced [vɨmɨˈsʲøːrɪɕ, vɨmɨˈɕœ̯ɛrɪɕ]),[3][4] also known as Vilamovian or Wilamowicean, is a West Germanic language spoken by the Vilamovian ethnic minority in the small town of Wilamowice, Poland (Wymysoü in Wymysorys), on the border between Silesia and Lesser Poland, near Bielsko-Biała.[5][6] It is considered an endangered language,[5] possibly the most so of any of the Germanic languages.[7] There are probably fewer than 20[1] native users of Wymysorys, virtually all bilingual; the majority are elderly.[5]

The status of Wymysorys is complex because, genealogically, it belongs to the East Central dialect group of High German. Nevertheless, based on the self-identification of users as a group separate from the Germans and the existence of a literary language (or, more precisely, a microlanguage), it can be considered a separate language.

It belongs to the dialect group of the former Bielsko-Biała language island [pl; de], which includes the Alzenau dialect.


Map of the Bielsko-Biała German language island before WW2
Bielsko-Biała German language island before WW2 (blue line), with some possible Walddeutsche settlements from the Middle Ages and later.

In origin, Wymysorys is traced to derive from 12th-century Middle High German, with a strong influence from Polish, and presumably also some influence from Low German, Dutch, Old English and perhaps Frisian.[5][8][9] The inhabitants of Wilamowice are thought to be descendants of German, Flemish and Scottish settlers who arrived in Poland during the 13th century.[10] Many of the inhabitants claim that they are descended from the people of Flanders, Friesland, and Holland, with others claiming to be descended from the Anglo-Saxons.[7] Although historically derived from the German dialect continuum, Wymysorys is not mutually intelligible with Standard German.[11]: 15  Unlike in other West Germanic enclave communities in Polish-speaking territory, where closely related dialects (e.g. Halcnovian) were spoken, Wymysorys speakers did not self-identify as Germans and used Polish, not German, as Dachsprache.[12]: 12 

Map showing Wymysorys in 1855
Wymysorys on a map from 1855

Wymysorys was the vernacular language of Wilamowice until World War II. However, it seems it has been in decline since the late 19th century. In 1880 as many as 92% of the town's inhabitants spoke Wymysorys (1,525 out of 1,662 people), in 1890 – only 72%, in 1900 – 67%, in 1910 – 73% again.[11]: 10  Although Wymysorys was taught in local schools (under the name of "local variety of German"), since 1875 the basic language of instruction in most schools in Austro-Hungarian Galicia was Polish.[11]: 10  During World War II and the German occupation of Poland Wymysorys was openly promoted by the Nazi administration, but after the war the tables turned: local communist authorities forbade the use of Wymysorys in any form.[11]: 10 [13] The widespread bilingualism of the people saved most local residents from being forcibly resettled to Germany, but many of them stopped teaching their children their language or even using it in daily life.[11]: 12  Although the ban was lifted after 1956, Wymysorys has been gradually replaced by Polish, especially among the younger generation. Most of the inhabitants have the same surnames (Mozler, Rozner, Figwer, Biba, Foks, Sznajder), which led to the use of nicknames (Fliöer-Fliöer, Hȧla-Mockja, i.e. Florian, son of Florian or Maciej, son of Elżbieta).

Nowadays, as part of saving the Wymysorys culture, new songs and lyrics are written in this language. The play Hobbit. Hejn ȧn cyryk was written in Wymysorys, based on the prose of J. R. R. Tolkien, and was staged, among others, at the Polish Theatre in Warsaw in February 2016.[14]

Census map from 1910 showing Wilamowice as a German majority
1910 census map identifying Wilamowice as a majority ethnic German settlement.

Acting on a proposal by Tymoteusz Król, the Library of Congress added the Wymysorys language to the register of languages on 18 July 2007.[15] It was also registered in the International Organization for Standardization, where it received the wym ISO 639-3 code.[6][16] In a 2009 UNESCO report Wymysorys has been reported as "severely endangered" and nearly extinct.[15]

Members of the Wikimedia Polska association were also involved in saving this dying language. As part of the "Wilamowice" project,[17] Wymysorys words read by Józef Gara were recorded, and the Wymysorys dictionary in Wiktionary was supplemented (in 2018, the dictionary consisted of over 7,000 words).[18][19]


A banner at Bielsko-Biała Equality March 2021 with the conjugation of the word to love in Wymysorys
The 'Welcome to Wilamowice' in Wymysorys and Polish
Information about the local church in Polish, Wymysorys and English

Some new revitalisation efforts were started in the first decade of the 21st century, led by speaker Tymoteusz Król, whose efforts include private lessons with a group of pupils as well as compiling language records, standardising written orthography and compiling the first ever dictionary of Wymysorys. Additionally, a new project called The Wymysiöeryśy Akademyj – Accademia Wilamowicziana or WA-AW was established under the "Artes Liberales" program at the University of Warsaw with the intention of creating a unified scholastic body for the study of the Wymysorys language.[20]



Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
ret. pal.
Nasal m n ɲ̟ ŋ
Stop voiceless p t c k
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s (t̠͡s̠) t͡ʃ t͡ɕ
voiced (d͡z) (d̠͡z̠) (d͡ʒ) (d͡ʑ)
Fricative voiceless f s () ʃ ɕ (ç) x h
voiced v z () ʒ ʑ
Trill r
Lateral l
Approximant w j


Front Central Back
Close i y (ɨ) (ʉ) u
Near-close ɪ ʏ
Close-mid e ø ɘ o
Mid ə
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
Open a ɑ
Front Front Back
ascending descending
Close i̯ø
Close-mid ɪ̯ɘ̟ ei̯
Open-mid œʏ̯ ɔi̯
Open ai̯
Triphthong ʏ̯øœ̯


Wymysorys has been for centuries mostly a spoken language. It was not until the times of Florian Biesik, the first author of major literary works in the language, that a need for a separate version of a Latin alphabet arose. Biesik wrote most of his works in plain Polish alphabet, which he considered better-suited for the phonetics of his language.[11]: 24  In recent times Józef Gara (1929–2013), another author of works in the local language, devised a distinct Wymysorys alphabet, consisting of 34 letters derived from the Latin script and mostly based on Polish as well:

Wymysorys alphabet[7]
Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
A AO B C Ć D E F G H I J K Ł L M N Ń O Ö P R S Ś T U Ü W X[21] Y Z Ź Ż
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a ao b c ć d e f g h i j k ł l m n ń o ö p r s ś t u ü w x[21] y z ź ż

Wymysorys orthography includes the digraph "AO", which is treated as a separate letter.

Example words and their relationship to other languages

A sample of Wymysorys words with German, Dutch and English translations. Note that ł is read in Wymysorys like English w (as in Polish), and w like v (as in Polish and German):

English Wymysorys Middle High German Standard High German Dutch Frisian Comment
alone ałan alein(e) allein alleen allinne
and ana, an und(e), unt und en en
bridge bryk brücke, brucke Brücke brug brêge
dolt duł tol, dol 'foolish, nonsensical' toll 'mad, fantastic, wonderful' dol 'crazy' dol 'furious'
hear fulgia volgen hören horen folgje < Frisian; cf. WFris. folgje, EFris foulgje 'to follow'. cf. German folgen, Dutch volgen 'to follow'
wholly ganc ganz ganz gans gâns
court gyrycht geriht Gericht gerecht rjocht cf. German Recht, Dutch recht '(legal) right', English right)
dog hund hunt Hund hond hûn cf. English hound
heaven hymuł himel Himmel hemel himel
love łiwa liebe Liebe liefde leafde
a bit a mikieła michel 'much' ein bisschen een beetje in bytsje Scots mickle, English much; antonymic switch 'much' → 'little'
mother müter muoter Mutter moeder mem
middle mytuł mittel Mitte middel midden/mid
no one nimanda nieman niemand niemand nimmen
no ny ne, ni nein nee(n) nee
picture obrozła -- Bild beeld byld < Slavic; cf. Polish obraz
breath ödum Middle German ādem Atem adem azem cf. archaic/poetic German Odem, Central Franconian Öödem
elephant olifant elefant Elefant olifant oaljefant < Dutch
evening öwyt ābent Abend avond jûn
welcome sgiöekumt wil(le)kōme(n) wilkommen welkom wolkom
write śrajwa schrīben schreiben schrijven skriuwe
stone śtaen stein Stein steen stien
sister syster swester Schwester zuster suster
drink trynkia trinken trinken drinken drinke
world wełt werlt Welt wereld wrâld
winter wynter winter Winter winter winter
seven zyjwa Middle German siven sieben zeven sân
silver zyłwer silber Silber zilver sulver

Sample texts

Lord's Prayer in Wymysorys

A lullaby in Wymysorys with English translation:

See also


  1. ^ a b Wicherkiewicz, Tomasz; Król, Tymoteusz; Olko, Justyna [in Polish] (10 November 2017). "Awakening the Language and Speakers' Community of Wymysiöeryś". European Review. 26 (1): 179–191. doi:10.1017/s1062798717000424. ISSN 1062-7987.
  2. ^ Moseley, Christopher, ed. (2010). Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Memory of Peoples (3rd ed.). Paris: UNESCO Publishing. ISBN 978-92-3-104096-2. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  3. ^ Mojmir, Hermann [in German] (1930), "Wörterbuch der deutschen Mundart von Wilamowice" [Dictionary of the German dialect of Wilamowice], S-Z (in German), Kraków: Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, p. 532
  4. ^ Wolański, Adam [in Polish] (13 January 2020), wilamowicki czy wilamowski? – Poradnia językowa PWN [Wymysorys or Wymysorys?] (in Polish), Polish Scientific Publishers PWN, retrieved 30 April 2020
  5. ^ a b c d "Wymysorys". Ethnologue.
  6. ^ a b "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: wym". SIL International.
  7. ^ a b c d e Andrason, Alexander; Król, Tymoteusz (2016). A Grammar of Wymysorys (PDF). Slavic and East European Resource Center. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University.
  8. ^ Ritchie, Carlo J. W. (November 2012). Some Considerations on the Origins of Wymysorys (BA thesis). University of Sydney.
  9. ^ Andrason, Alexander (2014), "Zarys gramatyczny współczesnego języka wilamowskiego" [A grammatical outline of the contemporary Wymysorys language] (PDF), Małopolska (in Polish), 16: 119–135
  10. ^ Język wilamowski pomoże zachować mowę Azteków [The Wymysorys language will help preserve the speech of the Aztecs] (in Polish), Polskie Radio, 12 June 2014
  11. ^ a b c d e f Wicherkiewicz, op. cit.
  12. ^ Mętrak, Maciej (2019). "Wymysorys (Vilamovicean) and Halcnovian: Historical and Present-Day Sociolinguistic Situation of Microlanguages in a Southern-Polish Language Island". In Rezoničnik, Lidija; Zavašnik, Nina (eds.). Slovani od preloma 19. in 20. stoletja do danes: jezikovne, zgodovinsko-politične spremembe in književni doprinos (The Slavs from the Turn of 19th and 20th Centuries Until Now: Linguistic, Historical and Political Changes and Literature). Ljubljana: Zveza društev Slavistično društvo Slovenije (Študentska sekcija). pp. 7–19.
  13. ^ Żak, Andrzej, Wpływ języka polskiego na zagrożony wymarciem wilamowski etnolekt wymysiöeryś [The influence of the Polish language on the endangered Wymysorys ethnolect wymysiöeryś] (PDF) (in Polish), p. 3
  14. ^ "Cykle i wydarzenia – Wydarzenia – Teatr Polski im. Arnolda Szyfmana w Warszawie" [Cycles and events – Events – Polish Theatre named after Arnold Szyfman in Warsaw] (in Polish). 26 February 2016. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  15. ^ a b Golik, Darek (2010). Wymysiöeryś – jeszcze mowa nie zginęła [Wymysiöeryś – the language has not yet perished] (in Polish). Warsaw: Agencja Fotograficzna Fotorzepa, Rzeczpospolita. Event occurs at 7:25.
  16. ^ Król, Tymoteusz (27 January 2014). "How I started to revitalize my language". Revitalizing Endangered Languages. Retrieved 14 August 2016.
  17. ^ Wilamowice – Wikimedia Polska (in Polish),, retrieved 3 November 2018
  18. ^ Jarosz, Monika (4 January 2013), Świąteczne kolędowanie [Christmas caroling] (in Polish), Website of the Municipal and Communal Cultural Centre in Wilamowice, retrieved 3 November 2018
  19. ^ "Józef Gara nagrodzony przez Wikimedia Polska – Blog Stowarzyszenia Wikimedia Polska" [Józef Gara awarded by Wikimedia Polska – Wikimedia Polska Association Blog], Wikimedia Polska Association Blog (in Polish), 27 December 2012, retrieved 3 November 2018
  20. ^ Ritchie, Carlos (2014). "Wymysorys Language". Revitalizing Endangered Languages.
  21. ^ a b This letter is only used in proper names, even native ones – e.g. the surname Fox. The letters Q and V are not included in the alphabet because they only appear in non-native proper names.
  22. ^ Ynzer Foter

General and cited references

Further reading