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Reviewed by:
  • Schlonzska mowa. Język, Górny Śląsk i nacjonalizm, 1. , and: Zbornik polsko-ślůnski/Słownik polsko-śląski, 1: A–K, 2: L–P
  • Robert A. Rothstein
Tomasz Kamusella, Schlonzska mowa. Język, Górny Śląsk i nacjonalizm, 1. Zabrze: Narodowa Oficyna Śląska, 2005. pp. 188.
Andrzej Roczniok, Zbornik polskoślůnski/Słownik polskośląski, 1: A–K, 2: L–P. Zabrze: Narodowa Oficyna Śląska, 2008. pp. 216 + 248.

Poland officially recognizes nine “national minorities” (mniejszości narodowe) and four “ethnic minorities” (mniejszości etniczne). The thirteen groups specified in a January 2005 law share most of the characteristics that the legislation uses to define minorities: they are numerically minorities; they differ significantly from other citizens in language, culture or tradition; they strive to preserve their language, culture or tradition; they are aware of their own national (or ethnic) community (wspólnota) and are dedicated to expressing and protecting it; their ancestors have lived in the present territory of Poland for at least one hundred years. National minorities differ, however, from ethnic minorities in that the former are identical to a group (nationality) that has its own state, while the latter are not.

The nine official national minorities mentioned in the 2005 law are (in order of size according to their 2002 census totals): German (147,094); Belarusian (47,640); Ukrainian (27,172); Lithuanian (5,639); Russian (3,244); Slovak (1,710); Jewish (1,055); Czech (386), and Armenian (262). The four official ethnic minorities are Roma (12,731); Łemko (5,850); Tatar (447), and Karaim (43). The 2005 law also adopted the definition of “regional language” given in the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The Charter says that a regional language is one that is “traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State’s population” and is “different from the official language(s) of that State; it does not include either dialects of the official language(s) of the State or the languages of migrants.” The 2005 law recognized one such language, namely, Kashubian, which [End Page 145] most Polish linguists had previously (before the 1990s) viewed as a dialect of Polish.

The two works under review deal with a speech variety that was not recognized by the 2005 law, namely the so‐called schlonzska mowa or ślōnsko godka of Upper Silesia (Górny Śląsk), which in what follows will be referred to for simplicity’s sake as “Silesian.” Upper Silesia is the southeastern part of a territory that historically has been claimed by Germans, Czechs, and Poles, but since the end of World War II lies almost entirely in Poland. The northwestern part, Lower Silesia (Dolny Śląsk), is now mostly populated by Poles who lived elsewhere in Poland before the War and their children and grandchildren. The older generations include Poles repatriated from the former eastern Polish borderlands (Kresy) which are now in Ukraine and Belarus. The inhabitants of Lower Silesia, by and large, speak standard Polish or dialects thereof.

The linguistic and ethnic situation is different in Upper Silesia. The 2002 census showed the following distribution of “declared nationality” in the two provinces of Upper Silesia, województwo opolskie and województwo śląskie: Polish–5,232,237; German–138,737; Silesian (śląska)–172,743. For home language the statistics were as follows: Polish–5,534,161; German–137,045; Silesian–56,577. Despite these results from an official state census, Poland does not recognize the existence of a Silesian ethnic minority or of a Silesian regional language, viewing Silesian as a dialect of Polish. Dr. Kamusella, who is a lecturer in the School of History of the University of Saint Andrews (Scotland), reports in his book that as of 2005, a Union of the Population of Silesian Nationality (Związek Ludności Narodowości Śląskiej, organized in 1996) had been unable to achieve official registration. Further checking by this reviewer has shown that Polish courts have continued to support the denial of registration on the grounds that to register...


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