Wymysorys language

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Native toPoland
Native speakers
20 (2017)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3wym
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Approximate location where Wymysorys is spoken
Coordinates: 49°55′N 19°09′E / 49.92°N 19.15°E / 49.92; 19.15

Wymysorys (Wymysiöeryś IPA: [vɨmɨsʲøːrɪɕ] or IPA: [vɨmɨɕœ̯ɛrɪɕ]), also known as Vilamovian, is a West Germanic language spoken by the ethnic Vilamovian minority in the small town of Wilamowice, Poland (Wymysoü [vɨmɨsɔy̯] in Wymysorys), on the border between Silesia and Lesser Poland, near Bielsko-Biała.[2][3] It is considered an endangered language,[2] possibly the most so of any of the Germanic languages.[4] There are probably fewer than 20[1] native users of Wymysorys, virtually all bilingual; the majority are elderly.[2]


In origin, Wymysorys appears to derive from 12th-century Middle High German, with a strong influence from Low German, Dutch, Polish, Old English and perhaps Frisian.[2][5] The inhabitants of Wilamowice are thought to be descendants of German, Flemish and Scottish 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.[6] Although related to German, Wymysorys is not mutually intelligible with Standard German (that is the case for most other German dialects as well).[7]

Wymysorys was the vernacular language of Wilamowice until World War 2. 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.[8] 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 was Polish.[8] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] It was also registered in the International Organization for Standardization, where it received the wym ISO 639-3 code.[3] In a 2009 UNESCO report Wymysorys has been reported as "severely endangered" and nearly extinct.[10]

Wymysorys was the language of the poetry of Florian Biesik, during the 19th century.[citation needed]


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.[11]



Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
ret. pal.
Nasal m n ȵ ŋ
Stop voiceless p t c k
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s (t̠͡s̠) t͡ʃ t͡ɕ
voiced (d͡z) (d̠͡z̠) (d͡ʒ) (d͡ʑ)
Fricative voiceless f s () ʃ ɕ (ç) x h
voiced v z () ʒ ʑ
Trill r
Lateral l
Approximant w j
  • Voiced stops, sibilant fricatives and affricates are regularly devoiced or voiceless in final position.
  • The sounds of /x/ and /h/ are interchangeable among different speakers. The use of [x] 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 [h] is typically heard.
  • The series of palato-alveolar /ʃ, ʒ, t͡ʃ/ and alveolo-palatal /ɕ, ʑ, t͡ɕ/ fricative and affricate sounds, are heard interchangeably among various speakers.
  • [ç] is heard in word-final position, as an allophone of /x/.
  • The voiced affricates /d͡z, d̠͡z̠, d͡ʒ, d͡ʑ/ are only heard in Polish loanwords.
  • A series of flat post-alveolar sibilants and affricates [s̠, z̠, t̠͡s̠, d̠͡z̠], are also heard in Polish loanwords, interchangeably with alveolar-palatal sounds /ɕ, ʑ, t͡ɕ, d͡ʑ/.
  • The labial-velar approximant /w/ is pronounced with a lesser degree of lip rounding than in English, and is more similar to the Polish pronunciation of ł [w].[12]


Front Central Back
Close i y (ɨ) (ʉ) u
Near-close ɪ ʏ
Close-mid e ø ɘ o
Mid ə
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
Open a ɑ
  • The close-mid sound /ɘ/ is phonetically more fronted as [ɘ̟].
  • Mid central vowel sounds /ɘ, ə/ are also heard close central sounds [ɨ, ʉ], among speakers.[12]
Front Front Back
ascending descending
Close i̯ø
Close-mid ɪ̯ɘ̟ ei̯
Open-mid œʏ̯ ɔi̯
Open ai̯
Triphthong ʏ̯øœ̯


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.[13] 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:

Majuscule forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)
A Ao B C Ć D E F G H I J K L Ł M N Ń O Ö P Q R S Ś T U Ü V W Y Z Ź Ż
Minuscule forms (also called lowercase or small letters)
a ao b c ć d e f g h i j k l ł m n ń o ö p q r s ś t u ü v w y z ź ż

Wilamowicean orthography includes the digraph "AO", which is treated as a separate letter.

Example words and their relationship to other languages[edit]

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):

English Wymysorys Middle High German German Dutch Comment
alone ałan alein(e) allein alleen
and ana, an und(e), unt und en
bridge bryk brücke, brucke Brücke brug
dolt duł tol, dol ‘foolish, nonsensical’ toll ‘mad, fantastic, wonderful’ dol ‘crazy’
hear fulgia < Frisian; WFris folgje, EFris foulgje ‘to follow’ hören horen cf. German folgen, Dutch volgen 'to follow'
wholly ganc ganz ganz gans
court gyrycht geriht Gericht gerecht cf. German Recht, Dutch recht '(legal) right', English right)
dog hund hunt Hund hond cf. English hound
heaven dyr hymuł himel Himmel hemel
love łiwa liebe Liebe liefde
a bit a mikieła michel ‘much’ ein bisschen een beetje Scots mickle, English much; antonymic switch ‘much’ → ‘little’
mother müter muoter Mutter moeder
middle mytuł mittel Mitte middel
no one nimanda nieman niemand niemand
no ny ne, ni nein nee(n)
breath ödum < Middle German Atem adem cf. obsolete German Odem, Middle Franconian Öödem
elephant olifant < Dutch Elefant olifant
evening öwyt ābent Abend avond
write śrajwa schrīben schreiben schrijven
sister syster swester Schwester zuster
stone śtaen stein Stein steen
drink trynkia trinken trinken drinken
picture obrozła < Slavic; Polish obraz Bild beeld
world wełt werlt Welt wereld
winter wynter winter Winter winter
silver zyłwer silber Silber zilver
seven zyjwa < Middle German siven sieben zeven
welcome sgiöekumt wil(le)kōme(n) wilkommen welkom

Sample texts[edit]

Lord's Prayer in Wymysorys

Ynzer Foter, dü byst ym hymuł,

Daj noma zuł zajn gywajt;

Daj Kyngrajch zuł dö kuma;

Daj wyła zuł zajn ym hymuł an uf der aot;

dos ynzer gywynłichys brut gao yns haojt;

an fercaj yns ynzer siułda,

wi wir aoj fercajn y ynzyn siułdigia;

ny łat yns cyn zynda;

zunder kaonst yns reta fum nistgüta.

[Do Dajs ej z Kyngrajch an dy maocht, ans łaowa uf inda.]


A lullaby in Wymysorys with English translation:

Śłöf maj buwła fest!

Skumma fremdy gest,

Skumma muma ana fettyn,

Z' brennia nysła ana epułn,

Śłöf maj Jasiu fest!

Sleep, my boy, soundly!

Foreign guests are coming,

Aunts and uncles are coming,

Bringing nuts and apples,

Sleep, my Johnny, soundly!

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wicherkiewicz, Tomasz; Król, Tymoteusz; Olko, Justyna (2017-11-10). "Awakening the Language and Speakers' Community of Wymysiöeryś". European Review. 26 (1): 179–191. doi:10.1017/s1062798717000424. ISSN 1062-7987.
  2. ^ a b c d "Wymysorys". Ethnologue.
  3. ^ a b "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: wym".
  4. ^ Andrason, Alexander; Król, Tymoteusz (2016). A Grammar of Wymysorys. Duke University: Slavic and East European Resource Center. https://slaviccenters.duke.edu/sites/slaviccenters.duke.edu/files/media_items_files/wymysorys-grammar.original.pdf
  5. ^ Ritchie, Carlo J. W. (2012). Some Considerations on the Origins of Wymysorys (BA thesis). The University of Sydney.
  6. ^ Knack (PDF). No. 31. 2002 http://www.fil.wilamowice.pl/upload/file/PDF/knack2002.pdf. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p.15
  8. ^ a b c Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p.10
  9. ^ Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p.12
  10. ^ a b Darek Golik (2010). Wymysiöeryś – jeszcze mowa nie zginęła [Wymysiöeryś - the language has not yet perished] (in Polish). Warsaw: Agencja Fotograficzna Fotorzepa, Rzeczpospolita. Event occurs at 7:25.
  11. ^ Ritchie, Carlos (2014). "Wymysorys Language". Revitalizing Endangered Languages.
  12. ^ a b Andrason, Alexander; Król, Tymoteusz (2016). A Grammar of Wymysorys. Duke University: Slavic and East European Resource Center.
  13. ^ Wicherkiewicz, op.cit., p. 24


External links[edit]