Polabian


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Polabian

 

the language of the Polabian Slavs, who inhabited the territory between the lower Oder, the lower and middle Elbe, and the Baltic Sea. By the late 17th century, many Polabians no longer spoke the language. Slavic speech was retained longest among the westernmost Drevianians, who lived in the Lüchow region along the Jeetze River, but even there it died out in the mid-18th century, giving way to German. The only preserved records of the Polabian language are isolated words and sentences recorded at the turn of the 18th century by various German scholars, including Chr. Hennig, J. P. Schultze, J. Pfeffinger, and Buchholtz. Other information about the language is obtained from numerous place names and from German dialects showing Polabian influences, such as lexical Polabian-isms, certain suffixes, lack of an article, confusion of grammatical genders, peculiarities in the formation of the perfect, and loss of initial [h].

Polabian belongs to the West Slavic language group and is related most closely to Pomeranian and Polish and to a lesser extent to Lusatian. It was subjected to strong German influence, which was reflected in its many diphthongs, the creation of an article, peculiarities in the formation of compound tenses, reorganization of the case system, and numerous loanwords. On the other hand, Polabian preserved such archaic features as the dual, the aorist, the imperfect, forms without metathesis of the type tort, and some prosodic features.

REFERENCES

Rost, P. Die Sprachreste der Draväno-Polaben im Hannöverschen. Leipzig, 1907.
Trubetzkoy, N. Polabische Studien. Vienna-Leipzig, 1929.
Lehr-Splawiń ski, T. Gramatyka potabska. L’vov, 1929. Lehr-Splawmski, T., and K. Polań ski. Słownik etymologiczny języka Drzewian połabskich, fasc. 1. Wroclaw-Warsaw-Kraków, 1962.
Olesch, R. Fontes linguae Dravaeno-Polabicae minores et chronica venedica J. P. Schultzil Cologne-Graz, 1967.
Olesch, R. Bibliographie zum Dravanopolabischen. Cologne-Graz, 1968.

V. N. TOPOROV