Polabian language

Native to Poland, Germany
Extinct 18th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pox
Linguist list
Glottolog pola1255[1]
Linguasphere 53-AAA-bc

Former settlement area of the Polabian Slavs

The Polabian language is an extinct West Slavic language that was spoken by the Polabian Slavs (German: Wenden) in present-day northeastern Germany around the Elbe (Labe in Slavic) river, from which derives its name ("po Labe" - on the Elbe). It was spoken approximately until the mid-18th century, when it was superseded by Low German, in the areas of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, central Brandenburg (Mittelmark) and eastern Saxony-Anhalt (Wittenberg), as well as in eastern parts of Lower Saxony (Wendland) and Schleswig-Holstein (Ostholstein and Lauenburg). In the south it bordered on the Sorbian language area in Lusatia.

By the 18th century Lechitic Polabian was in some respects markedly different from other Slavic languages, most notably in having a strong German influence. It was close to Pomeranian and Kashubian, and attested only in a handful of manuscripts, dictionaries and various writings from the 17th and 18th centuries. As can be seen in the comparisons of the Lord's Prayer below, Polabian contained many German loanwords, such as Wader (Father) and Rîk (Kingdom).


About 2800 Polabian words are known (but of prosaic writings, only a few prayers, one wedding song and a few folktales). Immediately before the language became extinct several people started to collect phrases, compile wordlists and were engaged with folklore of the Polabian Slavs, but only one of them appears to have been a native speaker of Polabian (himself leaving only 13 pages of linguistically relevant material from a 310-page manuscript).[2] The last native speaker of Polabian, a woman, died in 1756, and the last person who spoke limited Polabian died in 1825.

The most important monument of the language is the so-called Vocabularium Venedicum (1679–1719) by Christian Hennig.

The language left many traces to this day in toponymy; for example, Wustrow "Place on the island", Lüchow (Polabian: Ljauchüw), Sagard, Gartow etc. It is also a likely origin of the name Berlin, from the Polabian stem berl-/birl- ("swamp").



For Polabian the following segments are reconstructable:[3]

Oral non-reduced monophthongs
i    y    u
 ɛ   œ   ɔ 
 a   ɒ 


  ai     ɒi     oi     au     ɒu  

  ã     ɔ̃  

Polabian consonant segments
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Post-
Plosives p t k
b d ɡ
Affricates t͡s t͡sʲ
d͡z d͡zʲ
Fricatives f s ʃ x
v z
Nasals m n
Laterals l
Trills r
Semi-vowel j

Example of Polabian

The Lord's Prayer in Polabian and related Lechitic languages, compared to German and English:[4] Germanic loanwords, which are comparatively rare in the other West Slavic languages, are highlighted in bold. (Even English, which has extensive Latin influence, has only three Latinate loanwords in its version: "trespass[es]", "temptation", and "deliver".)

Nôße Wader,
ta toy giß wa Nebisgáy,
Sjungta woarda tügí Geima,
tia Rîk komma,
tia Willia ſchinyôt,
kok wa Nebisgáy,
tôk kak no Sime,
Nôßi wißedanneisna Stgeiba doy nâm dâns,
un wittedoy nâm nôße Ggrêch,
kak moy wittedoyime nôßem Grêsmarim,
Ni bringoy nôs ka Warſikónye,
tay löſoáy nôs wit wißókak Chaudak.
Ojcze nasz,
któryś jest w niebie,
święć się imię Twoje,
przyjdź królestwo Twoje,
bądź wola Twoja
jako w niebie
tak i na ziemi.
Chleba naszego powszedniego daj nam dzisiaj;
i odpuść nam nasze winy,
jako i my odpuszczamy naszym winowajcom.
I nie wódź nas na pokuszenie,
ale nas zbaw ode złego.
Upper Sorbian:
Wótče naš,
kiž sy w njebjesach.
Swjeć so Twoje mjeno.
Přińdź Twoje kralestwo.
Stań so Twoja wola,
kaž na njebju,
tak na zemi.
Wšědny chlěb naš daj nam dźens.
Wodaj nam naše winy,
jako my tež wodawamy swojim winikam.
A njewjedź nas do spytowanja,
ale wumóž nas wot złeho.
Vater unser,
der Du bist im Himmel,
geheiligt werde Dein Name;
zu uns komme Dein Reich;
Dein Wille geschehe,
wie im Himmel,
also auch auf Erden!
Unser tägliches Brot gib uns heute;
und vergib uns unsere Schuld,
wie auch wir vergeben unsern Schuldigern;
und führe uns nicht in Versuchung,
sondern erlöse uns von dem Übel.
Òjcze nasz,
jaczi jes w niebie,
niech sã swiãcy Twòje miono,
niech przińdze Twòje królestwò,
niech mdze Twòja wòlô
jakno w niebie
tak téż na zemi.
Chleba najégò pòwszednégò dôj nóm dzysô
i òdpùscë nóm naje winë,
jak i më òdpùszcziwóme naszim winowajcóm.
A nie dopùscë na nas pòkùszeniô,
ale nas zbawi òde złégò.
Our Father
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done
on earth
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and
forgive us our trespasses (or "debts"; cf. German use of feminine singular Schuld, "debt"/"guilt")
as we forgive those who trespass against us (or "our debtors"; German Schuldiger[e]n, however, refers only to perpetrators of wrongdoing, with dative plural of "debtors" instead being Schuld[e]ner[e]n),
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil (or "the Evil One").


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Polabian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Kapović (2008, p. 109)
  3. Cited after Kazimierz (1993, p. 799)
  4. Polabian version quoted after TITUS project
  5. Praying Together


See also

Polabian language repository of Wikisource, the free library
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Polabian language.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/24/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.