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Stefan Ramułt's Dictionary of the Pomeranian (Kashubian) language, published in Kraków, 1893.
For the Low German dialects also called Pomeranian, see Pommersch.

Pomeranian language is a group of dialects from a Lechitic cluster of the West Slavic languages spoken by Pomeranians living on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. The classification of Pomeranian ethnolect seems problematic. It was classified by Aleksander Bruckner as one of the Old Polish dialects. At the same time he classified the extant Kashubian and Slovincian dialects as those belonging to the Modern Polish Language. Other linguists relate the Pomeranian language to the Polabian group of dialects (forming the Pomeranian-Polabian group). There is also the third view on this matter, according to which the Pomeranian language is related neither to the Old Polish language nor to the Polabian language.

Since the Early Middle Ages the Pomeranian language area has been shrinking. Nowadays, the only two extant Kashubian dialects are spoken in few districts of Pomeranian Voivodeship. However, just after the Second World War it was a dominating language in family and social life in the areas today known as Puck County, Wejherowo County, Kartuzy County, Kościerzyna County and parts of Chojnice County, Tuchola County and Bytów County. Now the language is likely to become extinct as handing it on from generation to generation in families was nearly stopped in the 1960s and the 1970s.

Contents

Terminology

The Pomeranian language is very often identified with the Kashubian language, which, in fact, is only a set of dialects belonging to Pomeranian. The presence of several terms describing the same language and identifying the whole language with its strongest dialect is sometimes the case with minority languages, which are diversified, but, because of the political obstacles, cannot form one general standard language, which would gain a strong position in the country they are spoken in.

This situation is similar to the Occitan and Low German languages. The Occitan language is often called Provencal. Provencal dialects, though, are just a part of Occitan, but have had the strongest literary tradition. Low German (Nederdüütsch, Plattdüütsch) is often identified with its Low Saxon dialect (Nedersassisch, Low Saxon) because it has much stronger position than the other dialects.

After Slovincian and all the Pomeranian dialects except Kashubian became extinct, the “Kashubian language” has been the term most often used in relation to the language spoken by Pomeranians. However, it is still not clear where the words “Kashubians” and “Kashubian” (Polish: “Kaszubi” and “Kaszubski”) originated from and how they were brought from the area near Koszalin to Pomerania. None of the theories proposed has been widely accepted so far. There is also no indication that Pomeranians wandered from the area of Koszalin to Pomerania. It is proved, though, that medieval inhabitants of Pomerania, who were the ancestors of present Kashubians, did not call themselves Kashubians. It is not mentioned in preserved sources how they called their language then. The analysis of geographical names in written sources shows that in the Early Middle Ages Slavic inhabitants of the whole Pomerania used various dialects of one language. Today, linguists usually refer to these dialects as “Pomeranian dialects”. According to chronicles, the only common name for this territory was “Pomerania” and for its inhabitants “Pomeranians”.

While the Western Pomerania was being Germanized, the Germans (both colonizers and Germanized descendants of Slavic Pomeranians) started using the words “Pomeranian” (German: Pommersch; Polish: pomorski) and “Pomeranians” (German: Pommern; Polish: Pomorzacy) referring to their own population. This part of Pomeranian population which kept the Slavic language was called Wends (German: Wenden) or Kashubians (German: Kashuben). As the West was losing its Slavic character, those two terms were more often used in the East. In 1850, in the preface to his Kashubian-Russian dictionary Florian Ceynowa wrote about the language of Baltic Slavic Peoples:

Usually it is called <Kashubian language>, although <Pomeranian-Slovenian dialect> would be a more proper term

The word dialect was probably used by Ceynowa because he was a follower of Pan-Slavism, according to which all the Slavic languages were dialects of one Slavic language. However, in his later works Ceynowa called his language "kaszébsko-słovjinsko móva".

In 1893, Stefan Ramułt, Jagiellonian University linguist, referred to the early history of Pomerania, publishing “Dictionary of the Pomoranian i.e. Kashubian Language”. In the preface Ramułt wrote:

As Kashubians are direct descendants of Pomeranians, it is right to use words Pomeranian and Kashubian as synonyms. Especially as there are other reasons for it as well…

and

Kashubians and Slavs are what only remained after once powerful Pomeranian tribe and they are the only inheritors of the name Pomeranians”.

Friedrich Lorentz (the author of “Pomeranian Grammar” and “The History of Pomeranian/Kashubian Language”) referred in his works to Ramułt’s dictionary. After Lorentz died, Friedhelm Hinze published a great Pomeranian dictionary in five volumes (Pomoranishes Worterbuch), which was based on Lorentz’s writing.

The influence of the Pomeranian language on other dialects

The Pomeranian language influenced the formation of Polish language’s other dialects, such as: Kociewski, Borowiacki, Krajniacki. There is no doubt that they belong to the Polish language, but they also have some features common with the Pomeranian language, which proves that their character was transitional.

Friedrich Lorentz supposed that Kociewski and Borewiacki dialects first belonged to the Pomeranian language and was then Polonized as a result of Polish colonization of the territories. According to Lorentz, Krajniacki dialect most probably was originally a part of the Polish language.

The common feature of Kociewski dialects and the Kashubian language is, for example, a partial preservation of so called “TarT” group and a part of lexis as well. For Borewiacki dialects and the Pomeranian language the common feature was affrication of dorsal consonants.

The Pomeranian language also influenced Low German dialects, which were used in Pomerania. After Germanisation, population of Western Pomerania started to use Low German dialects. Those dialects, though, were based on Pomeranian language (Slavic). Most words originating from Pomeranian can be found in vocabulary connected with fishery and farming. The word Zeese / Zehse may serve as an example. It describes a kind of a fishing net and has been known in Low German dialects of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern till today. The word comes from the old Pomeranian word of the same meaning- seza. It moved to Kashubian and Slovincian dialects through Low German and appeared in Pomeranian dictionaries as ceza meaning “flounder and perch fishing net”. Thus, it is so called “reverse loan-word” as the Pomeranian language borrowed the word from Low German in which it functioned as “pomeranism” (a borrowing from the Pomeranian language).

A borrowing from the Pomeranian language which has been used in everyday German language and has appeared in dictionaries is a phrase “dalli, dalli” (it means: come on, come on). It moved to the German language through the German dialects of West Prussia and is also present in the Kashubian language (spelled: dali, dali)

The status of Pomeranian today

The Pomeranian language, and its only surviving form, Kashubian, traditionally have not been recognized by the majority of Polish linguists and have been treated in Poland as "the most distinct dialect of Polish". Some Polish linguists ridiculed the attempts to create a standardized form of Kashubian/Pomeranian, and tried to discredit those Kashubian authors who worked on it. However, there have also been some Polish linguists who treated Pomeranian as a separate language. The most prominent of them was Stefan Ramułt and Alfred Majewicz who overtly called Kashubian a language in the 1980s.

Following the collapse of communism in Poland, attitudes on the status of Kashubian have been gradually changing. It is increasingly seen as a full-fledged language, as it is taught in state schools and has some limited usage on public radio and television. A bill passed by the Polish parliament in 2005 recognizes Kashubian as the only regional language in the Republic of Poland and provides for its use in official contexts in ten communes where Kashubian speakers constitute at least 20 percent of the population.

References

  • Friedhelm Hinze, Wörterbuch und Lautlehre der deutschen Lehnwörter im Pomoranischen (Kaschubischen), Berlin 1965
  • Friedrich Lorentz, Geschichte der Pomoranischen (Kaschubischen) Sprache, Berlin and Leipzig, 1925
  • Friedrich Lorentz, Pomoranisches Wörterbuch, Band I-V, Berlin 1958-1983
  • Stefan Ramułt, Słownik języka pomorskiego, czyli kaszubskiego, Kraków, 1893
  • Jan Trepczyk, Słownik polsko-kaszubski, Gdańsk 1994

See also








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