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Awakening the Language and Speakers’ Community of Wymysiöeryś

  • Tomasz Wicherkiewicz (a1), Tymoteusz Król (a2) and Justyna Olko (a3)

Abstract

The town of Wilamowice (southern Poland) is the unique home to the community of speakers of Wymysiöeryś. The language enclave originates from Colonial Middle High German and – according to diachronic dialectological analyses – is made up of a sub-exclave of the so-called Bielitz-Bialaer Sprachinsel. As a result of social and political cataclysms brought by the Second World War and the following ban on and gap in its intergenerational transmission, it faced an inescapable language death. That doom, however, has been restrained by the activities of dedicated native speakers, with Tymoteusz Król (born in 1993) functioning as an eco- and sociolinguistic relay between the generation of last speakers passing away and, unexpectedly, a growing group of potential new speakers. The microlanguage, now spoken as native by fewer than 20 Wilamowiceans, and still without any official recognition at the administrative level, is experiencing an astonishing, but well-prepared and local culture-based revitalisation course. This article discusses the recent achievements and prospective challenges of the revival processes for Wymysiöeryś – from an internal (including T. Król as the youngest native speaker and intra-community researcher) and external yet engaged (J. Olko and T. Wicherkiewicz as participating academics) perspectives, including the recent results of activities undertaken within an integral revitalisation programme based on the successful collaboration of the community, two major universities in Poland, as well as the local school and municipal authorities. The programme covers all three levels of language planning: corpus, status and acquisition. Efficiently combining grassroots and top-down approaches, the collaborating actors also ground language revitalisation in the social, cultural and economical benefits of preserving and extending the local cultural heritage and linguistic landscape.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

References

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H. Anders (1933) Gedichte von Florian Biesik in der Mundart von Wilamowice (Kraków: Uniwersytet Poznański).
J. Latosiński (1909) Monografia Miasteczka Wilamowic. Na podstawie źródeł autentycznych [A monograph of the town of Wilamowice. On the basis of authentic sources] (Kraków).
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N. Morciniec (1995) Zur Stellung der deutschen Dialekts von Wilmesau/Wilamowice in Südpolen. In: G. Keil and J.J. Menzel (Eds), Anfänge und Entwicklung der deutschen Sprache im mittelalterlichen Schlesien (Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke), pp. 71–81.
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1.For outlines of cultural, political and linguistic history of the Sprachinsel and Wilamowice, see the following: T. Wicherkiewicz and J. Olko (2016) Researching, documenting and reviving Wymysiöeryś – A historical outline. In: J. Olko, T. Wicherkiewicz and R. Borges (Eds), Integral Strategies for Language Revitalization (Warsaw: Faculty of ‘Artes Liberales’, University of Warsaw); T. Wicherkiewicz (2001) Piśmiennictwo w etnolekcie wilamowskim [Writings in the Wilamowice ethnolect]. In: A. Barciak (Ed.), Wilamowice. Przyroda, historia, język, kultura oraz społeczeństwo miasta i gminy [Wilamowice. The Nature, History, Language, Culture and Society of the Town and Commune] (Wilamowice: Urząd Gminy), pp. 520–538; T. Wicherkiewicz and J. Zieniukowa (2001) Sytuacja etnolektu wilamowskiego jako enklawy językowej [The situation of the Wilamowice ethnolect as a Sprachinsel]. In: A. Barciak (Ed.), Wilamowice. Przyroda, historia, język, kultura oraz społeczeństwo miasta i gminy [Wilamowice. The Nature, History, Language, Culture and Society of the Town and Commune] (Wilamowice: Urząd Gminy), pp. 489–519; B. Chromik (2013) What Herder Could Have Learned in Wilamowice http://www.revitalization.al.uw.edu.pl/eng/Wymysorys/61/35/what-herder-could-have-learned-in-wilamowice; B. Chromik and M. Dolatowski (2013) Hałcnovian and Bielsko-Biała Enclave. http://inne-jezyki.amu.edu.pl/Frontend/Language/Details/11; B. Chromik and T. Wicherkiewicz (2013) Wymysorys/Wilamowicean. http://inne-jezyki.amu.edu.pl/Frontend/Language/Details/10; T. Wicherkiewicz (2000) The impact of politics and social factors on the death of a minority language (the case of Wilamowicean in Poland). In: P.W. Thomas and J. Mathias (Eds), Developing Minority Languages: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Minority Languages (Cardiff: Gomer), pp. 547–555; T. Wicherkiewicz (2003) The Making of a Language. The Case of the Idiom of Wilamowice, Southern Poland (Berlin–New York: Mouton de Gruyter); T. Wicherkiewicz (2013) Pochodzenie języka wilamowskiego – poglądy i badania [The origins of Wilamowicean – Views and studies]. http://www.revitalization.al.uw.edu.pl/eng/Wilamowicean?view=8; T. Wicherkiewicz and J. Zieniukowa (2003) Sociolinguistic changes in the borderland area of Silesia and Małopolska/Polonia Minor in the 20th century. In: S. Warchoł (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Dialectologists and Geolinguists – Lublin 2000, Vol. II (Lublin: Maria Curie-Skłodowska University Press), pp. 449–457.
2.Being registered on the Volksliste was voluntary (although hardly refusable) for Poles, while the alleged ethnic Germans were included mandatorily.
3. Wicherkiewicz, T. (2000) The impact of politics and social factors on the death of a minority language (the case of Wilamowicean in Poland). In: P.W. Thomas and J. Mathias (Eds), Developing Minority Languages: The Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Minority Languages (Cardiff: Gomer), pp. 547–555.
4. Böba-Loüzkja, Helena Rozner fum (1928–2015).
5. Gara, J. (2007) Kronika historyczna miasteczka Wilamowice [A historical chronicle of the town of Wilamowice] (Wilamowice: TIMEX).
11. Proceedings published as , Nijakowski, L. (Rd.) (2014) Europejskie i regionalne instrumenty ochrony języków zagrożonych. Konferencja [European and regional instruments for the protection of endangered languages] (Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Sejmowe). http://orka.sejm.gov.pl/WydBAS.nsf/0/988B9C60C56984A1C1257D50003FEDCD/$file/Jezyki_zagrozone.pdf.
12.Born in the neighbouring village of Stara Wieś, known in Wymysiöeryś as Wymysdiüf.
13.Both translations made obviously by… Tymoteusz Król.
14.All three projects mentioned above were supported financially by the Polish National Programme for Development of Humanities.
15.Second prize in the IMPULS competition.
16.Workshops on psycholinguistic benefits of bi-/multilingualism have already been organised by the Warsaw University Faculty of ‘Artes Liberales’.
17.This topic was addressed for the first time in the framework of the project Endangered Languages. Comprehensive Models for Research and Revitalization.
18.A pilot project study is being carried out by Bartłomiej Chromik from the University of Warsaw, with financial support of The Foundation for Polish Science.
19.Such courses (Ethnographic Sketches of Wilamowice, Language Course of Wymysiöeryś) have already been offered at the University of Warsaw.

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