Wymysorys (''Wymysiöeryś'' or ), also known as Vilamovian, is a West Germanic
language spoken by the ethnic Vilamovian
minority in the small town of Wilamowice
(''Wymysoü'' in Wymysorys), on the border between Silesia
and Lesser Poland
, near Bielsko-Biała
It is considered an endangered language
possibly the most so of any of the Germanic languages. There are probably fewer than 20
native users of Wymysorys, virtually all bilingual; the majority are elderly.
In origin, Wymysorys appears to derive from 12th-century Middle High German
, with a strong influence from Low German
, Old English
and perhaps Frisian
The inhabitants of Wilamowice are thought to be descendants of German
settlers who arrived in Poland during the 13th century. However, the inhabitants of Wilamowice always denied any connections with Germany and proclaimed their Flemish origins. Although related to German, Wymysorys is not mutually intelligible
with Standard German (that is the case for most other German dialects
[Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p.15]
Wymysorys was the vernacular
language of Wilamowice until World War II
. However, it seems it has been in decline since the late 19th century. In 1880 as many as 92% of the town's inhabitants spoke Wymysorys (1,525 out of 1,662 people), in 1890 - only 72%, in 1900 - 67%, in 1910 - 73% again.
[Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p.10]
Although Wymysorys was taught in local schools (under the name of "local variety of German"), since 1875 the basic language of instruction in most schools in Austro-Hungarian Galicia
During World War II
and the German occupation of Poland
Wymysorys was openly promoted by the Nazi administration, but after the war the tables turned: local communist
authorities forbade the use of Wymysorys in any form.
The widespread bilingualism of the people saved most local residents from being forcibly resettled
to Germany, many of them stopped teaching their children their language or even using it in daily life.
[Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p.12]
Although the ban was lifted after 1956, Wymysorys has been gradually replaced by Polish, especially amongst the younger generation.
Acting on a proposal by Tymoteusz Król, the Library of Congress
added the Wymysorys language to the register of languages on July 18, 2007.
It was also registered in the International Organization for Standardization
, where it received the ''wym'' ISO 639-3
In a 2009 UNESCO
report Wymysorys has been reported as "severely endangered" and nearly extinct.
Wymysorys was the language of the poetry
of Florian Biesik
, during the 19th century.
Some new revitalization efforts were started in the first decade of the 21st century, led by speaker Tymoteusz Król, whose efforts include private lessons with a group of pupils as well as compiling language records, standardizing written orthography and compiling the first ever dictionary of Wymysorys. Additionally, a new project called The Wymysiöeryśy Akademyj – Accademia Wilamowicziana or WA-AW was established under the "Artes Liberales" program at the University of Warsaw
with the intention of creating a unified scholastic body for the study of the Wymysorys language.
* Voiced stops, sibilant fricatives and affricates are regularly devoiced or voiceless in final position.
*The sounds of and are interchangeable among different speakers. The use of is typically heard at the beginning of a word, possibly due to the influence of Polish, even though historically in Germanic languages, the glottal fricative is typically heard.
* The series of palato-alveolar and alveolo-palatal fricative and affricate sounds, are heard interchangeably among various speakers.
* is heard in word-final position, as an allophone of .
* The voiced affricates are only heard in Polish loanwords.
*A series of flat post-alveolar sibilants and affricates , are also heard in Polish loanwords, interchangeably with alveolar-palatal sounds .
*The labial-velar approximant is pronounced with a lesser degree of lip rounding than in English, and is more similar to the Polish pronunciation of ''ł'' .
* The close-mid sound is phonetically more fronted as .
* Mid central vowel sounds are also heard close central sounds , among speakers.
Wymysorys has been for centuries mostly a spoken language. It was not until the times of Florian Biesik
, the first author of major literary works in the language, that a need for a separate version of a Latin alphabet arose. Biesik wrote most of his works in plain Polish alphabet
, which he considered better-suited for the phonetics of his language.
[Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p. 24]
In recent times Józef Gara
(1929–2013), another author of works in the local language, devised a distinct Wymysorys alphabet, consisting of 34 letters derived from the Latin script
and mostly based on Polish as well:
Wilamowicean orthography includes the digraph
"AO", which is treated as a separate letter.
Example words and their relationship to other languages
A sample of Wymysorys words with German, Dutch and English translations. Note that ł is read in Wymysorys like English w (as in Polish), and w like v (as in Polish and German):
in Wymysorys with English translation:
* Maria Katarzyna Lasatowicz, ''"Die deutsche Mundart von Wilamowice zwischen 1920 und 1987"''. Opole
, 1992: Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna
* Hermann Mojmir, ''"Wörterbuch der deutschen Mundart von Wilamowice" (Dictionary of a German dialect of Wilamowice)''
, 1930-1936: Polska Akademia Umiejętności
* Ludwik Młynek, ''"Narzecze wilamowickie"''
. 1907: J.Pisz.
Wymysiöeryś – jeszcze mowa nie zginęła
. Agencja Fotograficzna Fotorzepa. Rzeczpospolita
The founding ceremony of the Accademia Wilamowicziana
A documentary about Wymysorys and the associated revitalization efforts
Central Europe's Most Mysterious Language
Category:High German languages
Category:Endangered Germanic languages
Category:Languages of Poland