Poland

Poland has a long history of multiculturalism, with diverse ethnic group that continue to exist to this day. However, despite this diversity, Poland has the highest rate of linguistic homogeneity in Europe. Its official and principal language, spoken by more than 38 million people, is Polish. This translates to approximately 97% of the population who speaks it as a first language. The Polish language is considered a West Slavic language which belongs to the Indo-European language family, with origins that date back to the 10th century AD, when the tribes of Oder and Vistula were united under Mieszko I. Given that these indigenous peoples shared similar languages, a new standardized version of the language began to fom with the help of the Latin alphabet. Between 1500 and 1700, Polish was a common language (lingua franca) across large regions or Eastern Europe, which has led to its establishment as the oldest, continuously used, non-Christian related Slavic language. As such, it has been used for both literature and governmental purposes since at least the 1500s.

Apart from Polish, there are some minority languages spoken in Poland as well. These include: Kashubian, German, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Romany, Rusyn, Lithuanian, Armenian, Hungarian, Slovak, and Czech. Other officially recognized minority languages include Hebrew, Tartar, Yiddish and Karaim.

Kashubian, spoken by about 108,140 individuals, is the most widely spoken out of all the minority languages found in Poland. Kashubian has a number of dialects and is often in itself considered to be a dialect of the Pomeranian language. Kashubian belongs to the Lechitic group of Slavic languages, and over time it has been influenced by Polabian, Old Prussian and Low German languages.

There is also a handful of unofficial minority languages spoken in Poland. These include immigrant languages, foreign languages, Silesian and Wymysorys. Silesian is actually the second most widely spoken language in Poland, with nearly 530,000 people speaking this language at home. Due to a dispute among linguists regarding whether it is a distinct language or a dialect of Polish, however, it has not been officially recognized by the government. Silesian is influenced by the Central German language, and is primarily spoken in the Upper Silesia region. The Wymysorys language belongs to West Germanic languages, and is currently only used in Wilamowice. Due to a very low number of speakers – only about 70 to 100 individuals report fluency in Wymysorys – it is listed as an endangered language.

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