ERIU Member Zuzanna Grala comments on the situation of Silesian language in Poland and the fight of an official status in the parliament.
The Silesian language (Ślůnsko godka) is spoken in the Upper Silesia and Czech Silesia by around 500 thousand people. Right now, in Poland, it is legally classified as a regional dialect of Polish. Linguistically, there is no consensus as to whether it is a dialect or a separate language. From a sociolinguistic point of view, the Silesian culture and language are separate enough from the polish that it could be considered a regional/minority language, similarly to Kashubian in Poland, or Lower and Upper Sorbian in Germany.
This Saturday (15.06.19), the bill proposing the legal recognition of the Silesian as a regional language was rejected by the Polish parliament. It was the 5th time in 12 years. 254 votes were against, 172 for the bill. A great majority of the members of the leading party PiS voted against. With the current position of the polish parties, even if all the members of other parties voted for the bill, it would still be denied.
Monika Rosa submitted the bill over 1.5 years ago, and it has not been mentioned or worked upon until the moment of the vote. The vote was not preceded by debate or discussion, and the request for a break and opportunity of the consultation was denied. The people voting did not have the time to consider what their vote would mean for the Silesian people and the Silesian language and simply voted according to the party’s politics.
Monika Rosa announced that she will continue to work for the regional language status for the Silesian language. She and other activists hope that by the next cadence, the political parties will lose some of their prejudice against the language. They are going to work on promoting the use of Silesian in public places, normalising the use of it as a first language and destroying the harmful stereotypes about it.
For now, the public and political mood in Poland grows more nationalistic and conservative, against anything that would be considered different or diverse. There is a common view that when Silesian becomes an independent language, the Silesians will want to be considered an independent country, or join Germany (sic!). While this reads like a conspiracy theory and is not a part of the aims that the Silesian activists have at all, it influences the public opinions about Silesian and discourages the populist parties from supporting the cause. What is perhaps most striking about this case, is that the bill, so important for the language and people of Silesia, was completely disregarded by the parliament. The vote took place at 20 on a Saturday evening, after a whole day of debates, and the whole presentation of it and results can be watched in a 6 minutes clip. The media outside of specific Silesian language ones barely mention that the vote happened. In case of most other social issues, there is a media discussion, debates, arguments and accusation, but it seems like the part of the society which is not directly involved simply does not care about the Silesian language.
ERIU Leipzig © 2019