The Silesian language in the early 21st century: A speech community on the rollercoaster of politics

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Languages are made and unmade, as nations are. The vagaries of history and politics that create the fluctuating framework in which human groups exist, influence these groups’ thinking about their own speech. Over the course of history Upper Silesia’s Slavophones (a group who, in the modern period, were predominantly bilingual in German) were divided up at different times between Prussia, Austria (that is, the Habsburg lands), Germany, Czechoslovakia (today, the Czech Republic) and Poland, and they had to adapt to these changes. During the last two centuries, with the rise of ethnolinguistic nationalism in Central Europe, it meant either accepting a dominant ethnolinguistic national identity, complete with its specific standard language (especially in the dark period of authoritarianisms and totalitarianism between 1926 and 1989), or inventing a Silesianness, frequently buttressed by the concept of a Silesian language. Against this backdrop, the article considers the emergence of the Silesian (regional, ethnic, national?) movement during the last two decades, with the main focus on efforts to standardize Silesian and have it recognized as a language in its own right.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
JournalDie Welt der Slaven
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Codification
  • Concept of a language
  • Ethnolinguistic nationalism
  • Lachian language
  • Language recognition
  • Northern Moravia
  • Prussian language
  • Silesian language
  • Upper Silesia


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