Silesian to become official language in Poland?
PR dla Zagranicy
A cross-party alliance wants to make Silesian an official second language in the southern Polish region, reigniting debates about the area's identity.
A bill to be put before parliament, supported by the senior coalition partner, Civic Platform – with support from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the Palikot Movement - calls for Silesian to be made an official language in areas where 20 percent of the inhabitants declare a knowledge of what some claim is merely a dialect.
Local authorities will be obliged to introduce bilingual street signs.
Silesian may also be used in state offices and on official forms. Citizens would be able to request that their personal documents are written in Silesian.
“We want the Silesian dialect to become a language,” Andrzej Rozenek, press spokesman of the liberal Palikot Movement, the third largest party in parliament, told the Rzeczpospolita daily.
Academics and laymen are divided however on whether Silesian merits being classified as more than a dialect.
The current ruling coalition is itself split over the matter. Silesian MPs from the dominant centre-right Civic Platform party are championing the cause, yet junior coalition partner, the Polish Peasants' Party (PSL) has declared itself against the bill.
In 2011, a survey by the Central Statistical Office (GUS) found that 809,000 Polish citizens declared that their nationality was Silesian, yet half of these said that they also cultivated a Polish identity.
Silesian speakers are divided between Poland and the Czech Republic.
The conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party has joined the Polish Peasants' Party in opposing the bill.
Law and Justice MP Jerzy Polaczek warned that such initiatives are aimed at “loosening ties with the motherland.” (nh/pg)