Polabian language

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The Polabian language is an extinct West Slavic language that was spoken by the Polabian Slavs (German: Wenden) in present-day North-Eastern Germany around the Elbe - Slavic: Labe - River (hence the name). It was spoken approximately until the mid-18th century, when it was superseded by German, in the areas of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, central Brandenburg (Mittelmark) and eastern Saxony-Anhalt (Wittenberg), as well as in eastern parts of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 languages area in Lusatia.

Lechitic Polabian was in some respects markedly different from other Slavic languages. 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).

Contents

History

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 went 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).[1] 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.

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