Polish is a Western Slavonic language with about 40 million speakers mainly in Poland. There are also significant Polish communities in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, and significant numbers of Polish speakers in many other countries, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania, the UK and USA. Polish is closely related to Kashubian, Lower Sorbian, Upper Sorbian, Czech and Slovak.
Polish at a glance
Native names: polski, język polski, polszczyzna
Linguistic affliation: Indo-Europea, Balto-Slavic, Slavic, West Slavic, Lechitic
Number of speakers: c. 40 million
Spoken in: Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine and many other countries.
First written: 1136
Writing system: Latin script
Status: official language in Poland, recognized minority language in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Ukraine
Polish first appeared in writing in 1136 in the “Gniezno papal bull” (Bulla gnieźnieńska), which included 410 Polish names. The first written Polish sentence was day ut ia pobrusa a ti poziwai (I’ll grind [the corn] in the quern and you’ll rest), which appeared in Ksiega henrykowska in 1270. In Modern Polish spelling that sentence is daj ać ja pobruszę, a ty poczywaj.
Great Polish poets include Jan Kochanowski (1530-84) and Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), the ‘national bard’ and author of an epic entitled “Pan Tadeusz”. The most famous writer of Polish orgin is Joseph Conrad or Konrad Korzeniowski (1857-1924), who wrote in English and started out as a sailor.
Literary Polish is based on the dialects of Gniezno, Cracow and Warsaw, though there is some dispute about this.
The native name for Polish is polski (Polish), język polski (the Polish language), or more formally, polszczyzna (Polish).