Lwów subdialect

The Lwów dialect (Polish: gwara lwowska, Ukrainian: Львівська ґвара) is a subdialect (gwara) of the Polish language characteristic of the inhabitants of the city of Lviv (Polish: Lwów, Ukrainian: Львів), now in Ukraine. Based on the substratum of the Lesser Polish dialect,[1] it was heavily influenced by borrowings (mostly lexical) from other languages spoken in Galicia, notably Ukrainian (Ruthenian) German and Yiddish,[2] but also by Czech, and Hungarian.

One of the peculiarities of the Lviv dialect was its popularity. Unlike many other dialects of the Polish language, it was not seen by its speakers as inferior to literary Polish or denoting people of humble origin. Because of that it was being used both by common people and university professors alike.[3][4] It was also one of the first Polish dialects to be properly classified and to have a dictionary published.[5] Despite that, the best known form of the Lviv dialect was the Bałak, a sociolect of the commoners, street hooligans and youngsters.[6]


The Lwów dialect emerged in 19th century and gained much popularity and recognition in the 1920s and 1930s, in part due to countrywide popularity of numerous artists and comedians using it.[7] Among them were Marian Hemar, Szczepcio, and Tońcio, the latter two being authors of the highly acclaimed Wesoła lwowska fala weekly broadcast in the Polish Radio. Emanuel Szlechter, the screenwriter of "Włoczęgi" and songwriter of Polish pre-war hits, wrote some of his songs in the Lwów dialect ("Ni mo jak Lwów").

The dialect is one of the two main sources of Gallicisms in the standard literary Polish language. Some words of the dialect have entered into the vocabulary of modern Polish language, while many others were adopted by other regional and social varieties of Polish, notably the grypsera. Some elements of the dialect remain in use in contemporary Ukrainian spoken in modern Lviv.[8][9]

In 1939, the city of Lwów was annexed by the Soviet Union and in the turbulent decade that followed the pre-war population structure of the city changed dramatically. With most of the Polish population expelled, the number of speakers of the dialect sharply declined, though the modern language of the members of Polish minority in Ukraine living in Lviv still resembles the pre-war Lwów dialect.[10] It is also cultivated by émigré circles abroad.[11] It remained not only a part of popular culture in post-war Poland thanks to numerous artists and writers, notably Witold Szolginia, Adam Hollanek, and Jerzy Janicki, but also part of the language of many notable personalities who were born in Lwów before the war. Speakers of the Lwów dialect can be found in such cities as Wrocław and Bytom, where the majority of expelled Polish inhabitants of Lwów settled.[12]

Notes and references


External links

  • Short dictionary of Lwów dialect on Polish
  • Włóczęgi, a popular Polish movie from 1939, which takes place in Lwów, and in which all characters speak the Lwów dialect (youtube link)
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