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I would like to know what are the distinctive sounds of Upper Silesian Polish. Not the dialects, but the regular official language spoken by an upper silesian person with his regional accent.

Do they pronounce some sounds or some words in a distinctive fashion, as opposed to someone from any other region of Poland? Do they have a different vocabulary for some commonly used words?

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Native Polish born in Upper Silesia here. Here is my answer: When a native Silesian of older generation (say, 60+) speaks standard Polish, he/she has a strong regional accent which includes following features:

  1. Nasal vowel ę before consonants, is completely decomposed and shifted towards 'yn'. Std. Polish 'ręka' is typically pronounced renka with a slightly nasal 'e' and a weakly pronounced 'n'. The Silesian pronounciation is 'rynka'.

  2. Nasal vowel ą is decomposed to 'ón' or 'óm' Dąb: standard Polish 'Domp' with slightly nasal o and a weak m, Silesian Polish: Dómp.

  3. Combinations 'en', 'em', 'on', 'om' are pronouced as 'yn', 'ym', 'ón', 'óm', for instance "Cyntrum", 'Kónkuryncja' etc.

  4. Difference between u and ó is maintained while speaking standard Polish.

  5. There is a difference in pitch (intonation), especially in questions, which have a falling intonation (in Polish, the intonation rises). I can provide you with audio examples per Skype:)

For younger generation, the regional features are not so strong, some people are completely 'bilingual' and swich to std Polish with absolutel no accent. However, people who speak Silesian at home usually are not able to eliminate the above listed features while speaking Polish.

The answer given above 'jo myśla' instead of 'ja myślę' is not true: it refers to the dialect, and the question was about the regional pronounciation of standard Polish. Today, almost all speakers of Silesian are able to switch to standard Polish, and they would say 'ja myślę'. However, the differences listed as 1-5 will be maintained.

There is also some vocabulary and very little grammar stuff which Silesian maintain even while speakig standard Polish: 1. Kołaczyk (pl: drożdżówka) 2. Tyta (pl: does not exist: a paper conic tube with sweets which is given to children on their first school day). 3. Zalecki (pl. Wypominki) 4. Familok: a typical working class house 5. Brat od Zosi (pl. Brat Zosi), Zosia's brother: here the German influence: Der Bruder von Zosia. 6. Tego nie idzie zrobić (pl. tego nie da się zrobić): again German influence: Das geht nicht zu machen 7. Szkrobać (pl. skrobać)

Features 5-6 are actually incorrect in Polish and the educated people avoid these expressions. Perhaps the list is longer but I do not remember more at the moment. Generally, it is quite common to include some dialect words into standard Polish (Some more popular words which are sometimes used even by non-native Silesians are: 'ja', 'kiecka', 'hasiok', 'wyciepnóńć', 'fajrant', 'kołocz', 'modro kapusta', 'farorz', 'wodziónka', 'krupnioki', 'kopalnioki')

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  • "Tyta" also correlates to German "Schul-Tüte". – vectory Jul 29 '19 at 5:36
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Some time has passed, but I can share my point of view. I'm not a professor of linguistics and I have no theoretical knowledge about Silesian, but Polish is my mother language and I can just tell you how I feel it.

Most differences between Silesian and Polish come from their germanised vocabulary. They use words that mean nothing in Polish (e.g. fater - ger. der Vater for father, pol. ojciec) and often change suffixes (e.g. Polish 'Ja myślę' - I think - they say as 'Jo myśla'), but it's a minor thing and does not block the understanding in most cases. There are no major pronounciation or grammatical differences.

In my opinion as a 'regular' Polish speaker it's not a problem to communicate and understand Silesian people, but you can hear that you're talking with them after a first/second sentence.

If there's anything more you want to know please ask, I will always at least try to answer :)

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As I am a native speaker of both Silesian and Polish and a profesional linquist living in Central Poland (Warsaw) and taking conclusions from some research which was carried out at my university and from conversations with people speaking only Polish I can say that the distance between Silesian and Polish is like between Polish and Slovakian. Of course there are many similarities - both these ethnolects have common roots (they belong to the lechitic languages' group) but there are also many varieties of Silesian - some of them are more understandable to the Poles and the others less (for example the varieties of Silesian in Czechia).

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    Thanks for your response - do you have any examples of key differences in phonology, syntax, or lexicon? – Mark Beadles Jul 23 '19 at 13:30
  • I am a native speaker of Slovak and speak some Polish (though my exposure to Silesian consists of reading articles about it, Wikipedia in it and watching Winnetou dubbed into it), and I'd argue that the distance (whatever that means) between Polish and Slovak is significantly greater than between Silesian and Polish - the former two are only somewhat mutually intelligible, certainly not on a functional level, but the latter two are much closer (of course, sociolinguistic factors play a significant role). I'd compare the distance of Polish vs. Silesian to that of Czech vs. Slovak. – Radovan Garabík Nov 7 '19 at 12:06
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Difficult question (and probably politically loaded) because upper Silesian people regard their dialect as a language, see, e.g., the Wikipedia article on the Silesian language and references therin. The German Wikipedia lists a few phonological differences to standard Polish that are not really big. The lexical differences are more significant.

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  • This is why I ruled out dialects explicitly - as far I know the official language there is Polish, people do their schools in Polish and use books in Polish, and probably uses Polish at work and in medias, even if they might use their dialect for everyday conversations (assuming a situation similar to other countries where dialect usage is widespread, such as german speaking Switzerland). – Bregalad Feb 10 '16 at 14:12

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