West Slavic languages

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West Slavic
Central Europe
Linguistic classification: Indo-European
ISO 639-5: zlw
Glottolog: west2792[1]
  Countries where a West Slavic language is the national language
Balto-Slavic languages.
Groups and dialects

The West Slavic languages are a subdivision of the Slavic language group that includes Czech, Polish, Slovak, Kashubian, Lower Sorbian and Upper Sorbian. West Slavic is usually divided into three subgroups, Czecho-Slovak, Lechitic and Sorbian, as follows:[2]

Distinctive features[edit]

Some distinctive features of the West Slavic languages, as from when they split from the East Slavic and South Slavic branches around the 3rd to 6th centuries AD, are as follows:[3]

  • development of proto-Slavic tj, dj into palatalized ts, (d)z, as in modern Polish/Czech noc ("night"; compare Russian ночь);
  • retention of the groups kv, gv as in Polish gwiazda ("star"; compare Russian звезда; but note also Russian цвет vs. Ukrainian квіт, "flower");
  • retention of tl, dl, as in Polish/Czech radlo/rádlo ("ard"; compare Russian рало);
  • palatized h (ich-Laut) developed into š, as in Polish musze (locative case of mucha, "fly");
  • the groups pj, bj, mj, vj developed into (soft) consonant forms without the epenthesis of l, as in Polish kupię ("I shall buy"; compare Russian куплю);
  • a tendency towards fixed stress (on the first or penultimate syllable);
  • use of the endings -ego for the genitive and dative singular of the adjectival declension;
  • use of the pronoun form tъnъ rather than , leading to Polish/Czech ten ("this" (masc.); compare Russian тот);
  • extension of the genitive form čьso to nominative and accusative in place of čь(to), leading to Polish/Czech co ("what", compare Russian что).

The West Slavic languages are all written using Latin script, in contrast to the Cyrillic-using East Slavic branch, and the South Slavic which uses both.


The early Slavic expansion reached Central Europe in c. the 7th century, and the West Slavic dialects diverged from Common Slavic over the following centuries. West Slavic polities of the 9th century include the Principality of Nitra and Great Moravia. The West Slavic tribes settled on the eastern fringes of the Carolingian Empire, along the Limes Saxoniae. The Obotrites were given territories by Charlemagne in exchange for their support in his war against the Saxons. In the high medieval period, the West Slavic tribes were again pushed to the east by the incipient German Ostsiedlung, decisively so following the Wendish Crusade in the 11th century. The Sorbs and other Polabian Slavs like Obodrites and Veleti came under the domination of the Holy Roman Empire and were strongly Germanized.[4]

The central Polish tribe of the Polans created their own state in the 10th century under the Polish duke Mieszko I, incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire as the Kingdom of Poland in the 11th century.[5] Similarly, the Bohemian state was incorporated as the Kingdom of Bohemia in the 13th century. The Slovaks, on the other hand, never became part of the Holy Roman Empire in the medieval period, being incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary instead and so falling under Habsburg rule along with Bohemia in the 16th century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "West Slavic". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ chapter 12
  3. ^ Zenon Klemensiewicz, Historia języka polskiego, 7th edition, Wydawnictwo naukowe PWN, Warsaw 1999. ISBN 83-01-12760-0
  4. ^ Christiansen, Erik (1997). The Northern Crusades. London: Penguin Books. p. 287. ISBN 0-14-026653-4.
  5. ^ Bolesław I the Brave declared by Holy Roman Emperor Otto III as Frater et Cooperator Imperii ("Brother and Partner in the Empire")Rez. MA: M. Borgolte (Hg.): Polen und Deutschland vor 1000 Jahren - H-Soz-u-Kult / Rezensionen / Bücher