The Masurian ethnolect (Masurian: Mazurská gádkä; Polish: Mazurski; German: Masurisch), according to some linguists, is a dialect group of the Polish language; others consider Masurian as a separate language, spoken by Masurians in a part of East Prussia that is now in Poland.
Since the 14th century, some settlers from Masovia started to settle in southern Prussia, which had been devastated by the crusades of the Teutonic Knights against the native Old Prussians. According to other sources, people from Masovia did not move to southern Prussia until the time of the Protestant Reformation, Prussia having become Lutheran in 1525. The Masurians were mostly of the Protestant faith, in contrast to the neighboring Roman Catholic people of the Duchy of Masovia, which was incorporated into the Polish kingdom in 1526. A new dialect developed in Prussia, isolated from the remaining Polish language area. The Masurian dialect group has many Low Saxon, German and Old Prussian words mixed in with Polish-language endings.
Beginning in the 1870s, Imperial German officials restricted the usage of languages other than German in Prussia's eastern provinces. While in 1880 Masurians were still treated as Poles by the German Empire, at the turn of century the German authorities undertook several measures to Germanise and separate them from the Polish nation by creating a separate identity. After World War I the East Prussian plebiscite was held on July 11, 1920 according to the Treaty of Versailles, in which the Masurians had to decide whether they wanted to be part of the Second Polish Republic or remain in German East Prussia; about 98% voted for Germany.
By the early 20th century, most Masurians were at least bilingual and could speak Low Saxon and German; in some areas about half of them still spoke Masurian, at least at home. In 1900, according to the German census there were 142,049 Masurians speaking Masurian. In 1925, only 40,869 people gave Masurian as their native language, many considering German their first language, considering Masurian merely as their domestic dialect, By the early 1920s there were also some Masurians who had their separate identity, claiming that Masurians are a nation. Most of them were members of Masurenbund. Their main goal was to grant Masurians some minority laws inside Germany, but there were also some separatists. In the early 1930s, support for the Nazi Party was high in Masuria, especially in elections in 1932 and 1933. Nazi political rallies were organized in the Masurian dialect during the campaigning.
After 1933 the usage of the Masurian dialect was prohibited by the National Socialist authorities. By 1938 most Masurian place and personal names had been changed to "pure" German substitutes. From 1939 on it was forbidden to hold church services in Masurian.
The replacement of Masurian in favor of German was not completed by the time the Soviet Red Army conquered Masurian East Prussia in January 1945, in World War II. The territory was transferred to Poland according to the postwar Potsdam Conference. During the wartime fighting and post-war deportations in the subsequent decades, most Masurian-speakers left Masuria for western Germany, especially to post-war West Germany, where they were quickly assimilated into the German mainstream.
Situation in 21st century
According to some scientists like Andrzej Sakson, there are about 5,000 – 10,000 ethnic Masurians left in Poland. According to the Polish census from 2011 there are only 1,376 of them who identify themselves as Masurians. Most Masurians live in Germany now, but due to the German law the ethnicity and nationality are not determined in their census.
There is a lack of surveys on the knowledge of the ethnolect both in Poland and Germany, but there are mostly elders who can communicate in Masurian with some fluency. The sole group who speak Masurian on a daily basis are so called Russian Masurians, who are the descendants of colonists who arrived to Siberia at the end of the 19th century. They have lived in isolation from the other groups, thus they were neither Germanised, nor Polonised. Their speech acquired many Russian loanwords, though.
The situation is starting to get better. Since 2015, the Sorkwity Masurian Culture Festival started to promote Masurian dialect, locals are starting to create folk music, some schools are organizing competitions of Masurian speech, and in the Internet people started to promote the ethnolect using social media. In 2016, the Masurian Union was founded to promote the Masurian ethnolect and culture. Meanwhile, some activists have also started a process of linguistical normalization to promote and save the ethnolect.
Books in Masurian
Dialect or language
- Mazurzenie: the consonants corresponding to Standard Polish cz, sz, dż, ż are pronounced c, s, dz, z
- Asynchronous pronunciation of soft labials b', p', f', w' – bj/bź, pj/pś, fj/fś, wj/wź
- Sometimes, intensive palatalization of k, g, ch to ć, dź, ś (a similar process to the Kashubian palatalization)
- Labialization of the vowel o (sometimes also u) in Anlaut
- Vowel y approaching i
- Before ł vowels i and y pronounced like u, e.g. buł, zuł (był, żył)
- Denasalization of the nasal vowels ą and ę as o and e
- In some varieties ę becomes ã (nasal a), which is pronounced after denasalization an, analogical changes for groups eN, like. dzień – dzian
Dialects of Masurian
- Ostróda dialect (Ostróda, Olsztynek) – Denasalization of the nasal vowels ą and ę as o and e – No Mazurzenie (the consonants corresponding to Standard Polish cz, sz, dż, ż are pronounced c, s, dz, z) – Common á – Labialization (ô, û – uo, uu) – Before ł vowels i and y pronounced like u, e.g. buł, zuł (był, żył).
- West-Masurian dialect (Działdowo, Nidzica, Szczytno) – Irregularly occurring á and labialization – Mni where Polish mi ( mniasto, kamnień) – As in Ostróda district appear and have dominant position psi, bzi, (w)zi, f(si) to pchi, bhI etc. - Denasalization of the nasal vowels ą and ę as o and e.
- Center-Masurian dialect (Giżycko, Mrągowo, Pisz, Biała Piska) – The most common intermediate á – The most common archaic ř (in Polish sound as rż) – Frequent labialization – Appear and have dominant position pchi, bhI to psi, bzi etc. - Dominate pronunciation ni instead of mni – niasto, kanień etc. - Soft k, g, ch when is before a for example kia, gia, chia – Polish ą i ę like ón, on, én, en.
- East-Masurian dialect (Łek, Ôleck) – Polish ś, ć, ź pronounced like sz, cz, ż (for example spacz, bÿcz) – Á almost does not exist – Frequently a is something between a and e (ä – mätkiä) – Synchronous pronunciation of soft labials b', p', f', w' change to bj, pj, fj, wj – Ch change to ś (kosianÿ, siätä) – Less frequent é and ó.
- North-Masurian dialect (Węgorzewo, Gołdap) – in the early 20th century almost disappeared, in the area Węgorzewa known for up to a few percent of the population (in the nineteenth century, more than half), in district of Gołdap 1% (in the nineteenth century, approx. 20%). - Very archaic sound for r – A relatively frequent á.
|Dative||ksiát|oju, ochiu, oziu||ksiátám|
|Instrumental||ksiátem||ksiát|ani, amni, ami|
The verb "to be"
In singular it is possible to change u to ÿ for example: (Já) buł/bÿł, tÿsź buł/bÿł, (Ón) buł/bÿł.
It is possible to create future perfect tense putting verb to be in future + infinitive for example "(Já) Bénde koménderowač"
The conjugation in present tense
The conjugation of regular verbs which usually ends with -ač ", with example "znač" (know).
"Á" disappear when word has more than one syllable.
- Other examples:
dumač – think (dumam, dumas, dumá, dumawa, dumata, dumajó),
kupač – buy (kupam, kupas, kupá, kupawa, kupata, kupajó)
The conjugation of regular verbs which usually ends with -eč ", with example "mÿšléč" (think).
The conjugation of regular verbs which usually ends with -owač ", with example "koménderowač" (give orden to someone).
Creating conditional as in majority of slaves languages we take a verb and cut the last part of verb which correspond for infinitive mode (for example verb terminations ač, eč) and then we should add the part that correspond for conditional mode. For example, "znač" (know) -> znabÿ.
"Bÿ" in Masurian has also one more function, can be used making questions at the begging of some sentence or also can mean "whether", "or" and "if". For example, "Lejduje ni niénso/niéso, bÿ sźwÿnina, bÿ réntozina". Translation to Polish: "Lubię mięso, czy to wieprzowinę, czy wołowinę"
Some grammatical differences
|Formal forms||Wÿ/Pan/Pani robziče
|Present tense||Mám, Dám
|Present Pasive Participle||Zrobziónÿ||Zrobiony|
|Reflexive Verb||Zrobzióno bÿło||Zrobiło się|
|Noun ("ja")||Francÿjá, stacÿjá||Francja, stacja|
|Noun ("ka")||Matkia, Dékia||Matka, Nakrycie|
|Accusative case (sing.)||Gádkie, Zÿcherkie||Gadkę, Agrafkę|
|Instrumental case (pl.)||Ludžani / Ludžoma
Łapani / Łapóma
|Genitive (sing.)||Zÿčá, Pisaniá||Życia, Pisania|
|Adjective (in genitive, pl.)||Dobréch
|Adjective (in instrumental, pl.)||Dobrém||Dobrym|
|Adjective (in genitive,
|Adjective (in genitive,
|Adjective (superlative form)||Náziénksÿ||Największy|
|z + s
z + z
|w + w||w Francÿji||we Francji|
Grammatical construction with verb of senses
Verb of senses + object + verb
|In Masurian||Translation to Polish|
|Zidżiáł go stojicź||Widział, jak stał|
|Pozawcor já słÿsała jéch spsiéwacź kole kosźczioła||Przedwczoraj słyszałam ich, jak śpiewali koło kościoła|
|Já wténcas zidżiał go w tÿ jizbzie stojicź||Wówczas widziałem go, jak stał w tym pokoju|
|a, A||pask, Nikołajki|
|g, G||giesz, gesz|
|ś (si), Ś||psiwo, Gołdapś|
|ÿ, Ÿ||-||z, Z||zégáwkä|
|ź, Ź||bzije, gołómbź|
é (after i) – Close-mid front unrouended vowel
Example – Lord's Prayer
Names of months
Example of poem
siodám ná koło
kiej féin pogodá
nád zÿciem Mazurá
ajw násu ziamiá
ôddÿcha w dáli
ány rÿchtÿk pozwalá
mniá do dumániá
nád mójá réjzá
přéd siébie chućko jidé
ná drogách zÿciá
chtórégo nie zabácé
po śmiérci, chtóra z latámi
wsÿtko je féin
ajw ji téraz
jék budzié po tym co přÿjdzié
jédno jé péwné zé ajw jé féin
ná mójéj réjzié ..