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Old Polish language

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Title: Old Polish language  
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Subject: History of Polish, Polish language, Slavic languages, Silesian language, Havlík's law
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Old Polish language

Old Polish
ięzyk Polſki
Region Central and Eastern Europe
Era developed into Middle Polish by the 16th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist list

Old Polish (referred in Polish as język staropolski in contrast to modern Polishjęzyk polski) is the period in the history of the Polish language between the 9th and the 16th centuries.


The Polish language started to change after the Baptism of Poland, bringing in words from Latin such as kościół ("church", from L. castellum, meaning "castle"), often via the Czech language, which also influenced Polish in that era (hence Lechitic "wiesiełyj" yielded modern Polish "wesoły" and "wesele"). Also, in later centuries, with the onset of cities founded on German law (namely, the so-called Magdeburg law), Middle High German urban and legal words filtered into Old Polish. Around the 14th or 15th centuries the aorist and imperfect became obsolete. In the 15th century the dual fell into disuse except for a few fixed expressions (adages, sayings). In relation to most other European languages, though, the differences between Old and Modern Polish are comparatively slight.

The alphabet


About 1440 Jagiellonian University professor and rector Jakub Parkoszowic tried to codify the Polish alphabet. He wrote the first tract on Polish orthographic rules (in Latin) and rhyme Obiecado (in Polish). Parkoszowic wanted to differentiate:

  • long and short vowels by doubling long ones,
  • palatal and non-palatal consonants with letters of different shapes (round and edged).

His ideas were not popular, and did not become obligatory.


  • The Gniezno Bull (Polish: Bulla gnieźnieńska) a papal bull containing 410 Polish names, published 7 July 1136 (This document in polish wikisource)
  • Mother of God (Polish: Bogurodzica) 10th–13th centuries, the oldest known Polish hymn
  • The Book of Henryków (Polish: Księga henrykowska, Latin: Liber fundationis) – contains the earliest known sentence written in the Polish language.
  • The Holy Cross Sermons (Polish: Kazania świętokrzyskie) 14th century
  • St. Florian's Psalter (Polish: Psałterz floriański) 14th century – a psalmody; consists of parallel Latin, Polish and German texts
  • Master Polikarp's Dialog with Death (Polish: Rozmowa Mistrza Polikarpa ze Śmiercią, Latin: De morte prologus, Dialogus inter Mortem et Magistrum Polikarpum) verse poetry
  • Lament of the Holy Cross (Polish: Lament świętokrzyski, also known as: Żale Matki Boskiej pod krzyżem or Posłuchajcie Bracia Miła)
  • Bible of Queen Sophia (Polish: Biblia królowej Zofii'), first Polish Bible translation, 15th century


Ach, Królu wieliki nasz
Coż Ci dzieją Maszyjasz,
Przydaj rozumu k'mej rzeczy,
Me sierce bostwem obleczy,
Raczy mię mych grzechów pozbawić
Bych mógł o Twych świętych prawić.

(The introduction to The Legend of Saint Alexander (15th century)

See also

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