Silesian: from gwara to language after 1989

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In the past, Silesian was treated as a subdialect of the Polish language (and sometimes of Czech). During the 1990s, following the fall of communism and the establishment of democracy in Poland, most Silesian-speakers decided to treat Silesian as a language in its own right. It became part and parcel of their eff ort to shed the status of second-class citizens that had been imposed on them in the interwar and communist Poland. Warsaw has not recognized this language yet, but, despite suff ering this (quite humiliating) disadvantage, Silesian-speakers have produced a growing number of articles, books, websites, radio and television programmes in their language, winning a recognition for Silesian as a language abroad and among scholars. It appears that the Polish administration’s rigid stance toward the Silesians and their language is dictated by the logic of ethnolinguistic nationalism, which equates the legitimacy and stability of the nation-state with the full ethnolinguistic homogeneity of its population. This article sketches the trajectory of the main events and probes into the state of the discourse on the issue of Silesian language and culture during the quarter of a century after the fall of communism in 1989.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-119
JournalRocznik Polsko-Niemiecki
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Silesian language
  • language standardization
  • language policy
  • Poland
  • Germany
  • Upper Silesia
  • Silesians
  • Ethnic studies
  • Nationalism


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