The Lechitic (or Lekhitic) languages are a language group consisting of Polish and several other languages which are or were spoken in areas of modern Poland and northeastern parts of modern Germany. It is one of the branches of the larger West Slavic language family; the other branches of this family are the Czech-Slovak languages and the Sorbian languages.
The most significant and widely spoken Lechitic language is Polish (ISO 639-1 code: pl, ISO 639-2 code: pol), which has approximately 38 million native speakers in Poland and several million elsewhere. Polish is considered to have several dialects, including Greater Polish, Lesser Polish and Masovian.
The other Lechitic languages are:
- Kashubian (ISO 639-2 code: csb), used today by about 50,000 people in the Polish part of Pomerania;
- Silesian (ISO 639-3 code: szl), used today by over 0.5 million people (2011 census) in the Polish part of Silesia and also in the Czech Republic.
- Slovincian, extinct since the early 20th century, a language formerly spoken in parts of Pomerania, sometimes identified with Kashubian as a single Pomeranian language (which may also be considered a dialect of Polish);
- Polabian (SIL code: pox), extinct since the mid 18th century, a language formerly spoken by Slavic peoples in areas around the Elbe river in what is now the northeast of Germany.
Characteristics of Lechitic languages include:
- Preservation of nasal vowels.
- Development of proto-Slavic ě, e, ę into a, o, ǫ before hard consonants (or other similar differentiations of these vowels depending on dialect). This gives rise to alternations such as modern Polish lato ("summer", nominative) vs. lecie (locative), pięć ("five") vs. piąty ("fifth").
- Vocalization of the syllabic consonants r, r', l', l. Compare modern Polish gardło ("throat") with Czech hrdlo.
- Transposition of or, ol, er, el into ro etc. in many words between consonants. Compare Polish mleko "milk".
- Retention of Proto-Slavic *dz as an affricate, rather than a plain fricative z.
- Lack of the g → ɣ transition. Compare Polish góra, Czech hora ("mountain").
- The so-called fourth palatalization of velars in Polish and Kashubian.
The term Lechitic is applied both to the languages of this group and to Slavic peoples speaking these languages (known as Lechites). The term is related to the name of the legendary Polish forefather Lech and the name Lechia by which Poland was formerly sometimes known. For more details, see Lechites.
- Lekhitic languages, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 2008
- Narodowy Spis Powszechny Ludności i Mieszkań 2011. Raport z wyników - Central Statistical Office of Poland
- Zenon Klemensiewicz, Historia języka polskiego, 7th edition, Wydawnictwo naukowe PWN, Warsaw 1999. ISBN 83-01-12760-0
See also 
- Lechitic language tree at Ethnologue