The Masurian ethnolect (Masurian: ''mazurská gádkä''; pl|Mazurski; german: Masurisch), according to some linguists, is a dialect group of the Polish language; others consider Masurian to be a separate language, spoken by the Masurian peoples in northeastern Poland.


Since the 14th century, some settlers from Masovia started to settle in southern Prussia, which had been devastated by the crusades of the Teutonic Knights against the native Old Prussians. According to other sources, people from Masovia did not move to southern Prussia until the time of the Protestant Reformation, Prussia having become Lutheran in 1525. The Masurians were mostly of the Protestant faith, in contrast to the neighboring Roman Catholic people of the Duchy of Masovia, which was incorporated into the Polish kingdom in 1526. A new dialect developed in Prussia, isolated from the remaining Polish language area. The Masurian dialect group has many Low Saxon, German and Old Prussian words mixed in with Polish-language endings. Beginning in the 1870s, Imperial German officials restricted the usage of languages other than German in Prussia's eastern provinces. While in 1880 Masurians were still treated as Poles by the German Empire, at the turn of century the German authorities undertook several measures to Germanise and separate them from the Polish nation by creating a separate identity. After World War I the East Prussian plebiscite was held on July 11, 1920 according to the Treaty of Versailles, in which the Masurians had to decide whether they wanted to be part of the Second Polish Republic or remain in German East Prussia; about 98% voted for Germany. By the early 20th century, most Masurians were at least bilingual and could speak Low Saxon and German; in some areas about half of them still spoke Masurian, at least at home. In 1900, according to the German census there were 142,049 Masurians speaking Masurian. In 1925, only 40,869 people gave Masurian as their native language, many considering German their first language, considering Masurian merely as their domestic dialect, By the early 1920s there were also some Masurians who had their separate identity, claiming that Masurians are a nation. Most of them were members of ''Masurenbund''. Their main goal was to grant Masurians some minority laws inside Germany, but there were also some separatists. In the early 1930s, support for the Nazi Party was high in Masuria, especially in elections in 1932 and 1933. Nazi political rallies were organized in the Masurian dialect during the campaigning. After 1933 the usage of the Masurian dialect was prohibited by the National Socialist authorities. By 1938 most Masurian place and personal names had been changed to "pure" German substitutes. From 1939 on it was forbidden to hold church services in Masurian. The replacement of Masurian in favor of German was not completed by the time the Soviet Red Army conquered Masurian East Prussia in January 1945, in World War II. The territory was transferred to Poland according to the postwar Potsdam Conference. During the wartime fighting and post-war deportations in the subsequent decades, most Masurian-speakers left Masuria for western Germany, especially to post-war West Germany, where they were quickly assimilated into the German mainstream.

Situation in 21st century

According to some scientists such as Andrzej Sakson, there are about 5,000 – 10,000 ethnic Masurians left in Poland. According to the Polish census from 2011 there are only 1,376 of them who identify themselves as Masurians. Most Masurians live in Germany now, but due to the German law the ethnicity and nationality are not determined in their census. There is a lack of surveys on the knowledge of the ethnolect both in Poland and Germany, however the elderly can communicate in Masurian with some fluency. The sole group who speak Masurian on a daily basis are the so-called Russian Masurians, who are the descendants of colonists who arrived to Siberia at the end of the 19th century. They have lived in isolation from the other groups, thus they were neither Germanized nor Polonized, although their speech acquired many Russian loanwords. Nowadays, there are several organizations promoting the dialect. Since 2015, the Sorkwity Masurian Culture Festival started to promote Masurian, locals are starting to create folk music, and some schools are organizing competitions in speaking Masurian. People are also starting to promote the ethnolect via social media. In 2016, the was founded to promote the Masurian ethnolect and culture. Meanwhile, some activists have also started a process of linguistical normalization to promote and save the ethnolect. In 2016, the online dictionary Glosbe introduced Masurian to their data.

Books in Masurian

The oldest book written in Masurian probably is ''Ta Swenta Woyna'', written by Jakub Szczepan in 1900. In 2018, ''The Little Prince'' by Antoine de Saint Exupéry was translated to Masurian.

Dialect or language

Several scientists consider Masurian to be a separate language in its own right; others argue that Masurian is a dialect of Polish, or even just a subdialect.

Linguistic features

* ''Mazurzenie'': the consonants corresponding to Standard Polish ''cz'', ''sz'', ''dż'', ''ż'' are pronounced ''c'', ''s'', ''dz'', ''z'' * Asynchronous pronunciation of soft labials ''b', p', f', w – ''bj''/''bź'', ''pj''/''pś'', ''fj''/''fś'', ''wj''/''wź'' * Sometimes, intensive palatalization of ''k'', ''g'', ''ch'' to ''ć'', ''dź'', ''ś'' (a similar process to the Kashubian palatalization) * Labialization of the vowel ''o'' (sometimes also ''u'') initially * Vowel ''y'' approaching ''i'' * Before ''ł'' vowels ''i'' and ''y'' pronounced like ''u'', e.g. ''buł'', ''zuł'' (''był'', ''żył'') * Denasalization of the nasal vowels ''ą'' and ''ę'' as ''o'' and ''e'' * In some varieties ''ę'' becomes ''ã'' (nasal ''a''), which is pronounced after denasalization ''an'', analogical changes for groups ''eN'', like. ''dzień'' – ''dzian''

Dialects of Masurian

Masurian has three to five dialects: * Ostróda dialect (Ostróda, Olsztynek) – Denasalization of the nasal vowels ''ą'' and ''ę'' as ''o'' and ''e'' – No ''Mazurzenie'' (the consonants corresponding to Standard Polish ''cz, sz, dż, ż'' are pronounced ''c, s, dz, z'') – Common ''á'' – Labialization (''ô, û – uo, uu)'' – Before ''ł'' vowels ''i'' and ''y'' pronounced like ''u'', e.g. ''buł'', ''zuł'' (''był'', ''żył''). * West-Masurian dialect (Działdowo, Nidzica, Szczytno) – Irregularly occurring ''á'' and labialization – ''Mni'' where Polish ''mi'' ( ''mniasto, kamnień)'' – As in Ostróda district appear and have dominant position ''psi, bzi, (w)zi, f(si)'' to ''pchi, bhI'' etc. - Denasalization of the nasal vowels ''ą'' and ''ę'' as ''o'' and ''e.'' * Center-Masurian dialect (Giżycko, Mrągowo, Pisz, Biała Piska) – The most common intermediate ''á'' – The most common archaic ''ř'' (in Polish sound as ''rż'') – Frequent labialization – Appear and have dominant position ''pchi, bhI'' to ''psi, bzi'' etc. - Dominate pronunciation ''ni'' instead of ''mni'' – ''niasto, kanień'' etc. - Soft ''k, g, ch'' when is before ''a'' for example ''kia, gia, chia'' – Polish ''ą'' i ''ę'' like ''ón'', ''on'', ''én'', ''en.'' * East-Masurian dialect (Łek, Ôleck) – Polish ''ś, ć, ź'' pronounced like ''sz'', ''cz'', ''ż'' (for example ''spacz'', ''bÿcz)'' – ''Á'' almost does not exist – Frequently ''a'' is something between ''a'' and ''e'' (''ä – mätkiä'') – Synchronous pronunciation of soft labials ''b', p', f', w change to ''bj,'' ''pj,'' ''fj,'' ''wj'' – ''Ch'' change to ''ś'' (kosianÿ, siätä) – Less frequent ''é'' and ''ó.'' * North-Masurian dialect (Węgorzewo, Gołdap) – in the early 20th century almost disappeared, in the area Węgorzewa known for up to a few percent of the population (in the nineteenth century, more than half), in district of Gołdap 1% (in the nineteenth century, approx. 20%). - Very archaic sound for ''r'' – A relatively frequent ''á.''


Inflectional cases

The verb "to be"

In the singular it is possible to replace ''u'' with ''ÿ'' for example: (Já) buł/bÿł, tÿsź buł/bÿł, (Ón) buł/bÿł. It is also possible to create the future perfect tense with the structure + , for example: ''(Já) Bénde koménderowač''.

Present tense conjugation


The conjugation of regular verbs usually ending in ''-ač'', for example ''znač'' (to know). ''á'' will shorten to ''a'' if the word has more than one syllable. For example: * dumač – to think (dumam, dumas, dumá, dumawa, dumata, dumajó) * kupač – to buy (kupam, kupas, kupá, kupawa, kupata, kupajó)


The conjugation of regular verbs usually ending in ''-eč'', for example ''mÿšléč'' (to think).


The conjugation of regular verbs usually ending ''in -owač'' ", for example "koménderowač" (to give an order to someone).


To create the conditional, as in the majority of Slavic languages, the verb root is taken (i.e. verb endings like ''ač, eč'' are not considered and the respective ending is added for the conditional mode. For example, ''znač'' (to know) ''znabÿ'' (he/she would know). ''bÿ'' in Masurian has also one more function, where it can be placed at the beginning of a sentence to make questions, or also to mean "whether"/"or"/"if". For example, ''Lejduje ni niénso/niéso, bÿ sźwÿnina, bÿ réntozina'' (I like meat, whether it spork or beef), which in standard Polish: ''Lubię mięso, czy to wieprzowinę, czy wołowinę''.

Grammatical differences between Masurian and Standard Polish

Grammatical constructions with sense verbs

Here, the structure is sense verb + object + verb.

Writing system


* ''rż'' – Raised alveolar non-sonorant trill * ''ó'' – Close-mid back rounded vowel * ''á'' – Open back unrounded vowel * ''é'' (after ''i'') – Close-mid front unrounded vowel * ''ä'' – Near-open front unrounded vowel * ''w'' – Voiced bilabial fricative * ''f'' – Voiceless bilabial fricative * ''sz'' – Voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant * ''ż'' – Voiced palato-alveolar sibilant * ''cz'' – Voiceless palato-alveolar affricate * ''dż'' – Voiced palato-alveolar affricate * ''ÿ'' – Near-close near-front unrounded vowel


Small dictionary


Names of months


Lord's Prayer


A short Masurian song.


Réjza siodám ná koło kiej féin pogodá dumám tédÿ nád zÿciem Mazurá ajw násu ziamiá ôddÿcha w dáli ány rÿchtÿk pozwalá mniá do dumániá nád mójá réjzá přéd siébie chućko jidé ná drogách zÿciá chtóré ûmÿká chtórégo nie zabácé po śmiérci, chtóra z latámi přéniká … wsÿtko je féin ajw ji téraz jék budzié po tym co přÿjdzié nié ziém…? jédno jé péwné zé ajw jé féin ná mójéj réjzié ..

See also

* Dialects of the Polish language * Languages of Europe * Polish language * Silesian language


{{reflist Category:Culture of Prussia Category:Languages of Germany Category:Lechitic languages Category:Languages of Poland Category:Polish dialects Category:Extinct languages of Europe