Wenedyk is an artificial, or constructed, language, which means that unlike natural languages like English or Polish it is not the result of a historic evolutionary process, but was developed by one person instead. People create languages for various reasons: because they want to contribute to world peace with a simple and culturally neutral language that can make international communication easier; because they want to examine the effects language has on the human mind; because they want to give some extra depth to a fictional culture they created (after all, a nation without a language is a nation without a heart); or, simply because they enjoy it. Of the latter group, some will call it an art, others a hobby, still others a calling, but it all boils down to one thing: they love language, and like any other science can have its creative counterpart, they love fiddling with existing languages or creating new ones.
Wenedyk was neither created with the purpose of making the world a better place, nor with the purpose of improving or even replacing an existing language. Unlike international auxiliary languages like Esperanto and Interlingua, it is not intended to actually be spoken or written by anyone at all. The contrary is true: Wenedyk was created partly for artistic reasons, partly for the pleasure of creating it, and partly because at some point the language started creating itself. To anyone who considers learning Wenedyk, I would say: don't. It's probably a waste of time. Instead, learn Polish. Or Romanian. It will have the advantage of millions of extra people you will be able to communicate with. If you want something less mainstream, try an endangered language like Kashubian or Sorbian. Or, if you really want to learn a constructed language, learn Esperanto (because it is useful) or Volapük (because it is a nice language with a long tradition and still a small community of speakers). Learning Wenedyk on the other hand will not get you anywhere.
Language creation, or conlanging in the jargon of the people who practice it, is something I have been doing my entire life. It was something I rarely shared with others. Not that I was ashamed of it, really; it is just that the thought never even occurred to me, and I didn't take it too seriously myself either. Tolkien describes this phenomenon as his "Secret Vice", and I have to say that his description is still the best I've ever seen. It was only in the Summer of 2001, when I read an article about another conlanger in a German magazine, that I suddenly realised that there were other people in the world involved in the very same thing. I was of course very excited about that, and started browsing the Internet and gathering materials about hundreds of constructed languages. After a while, I joined the online conlanging community. The more I learned about conlangs, the more I developed my own taste in the field - because, like any other art form, conlangs can be subdivided into several genres, subgenres, and styles. My favourite conlangs became those highly naturalistic a posteriori languages (i.e. languages based on existing languages) that are now commonly known as "alternative languages". They can be described as languages that demonstrate the hypothetical development of an existing (proto-)language under different conditions, and as such are related to the subgenre of science-fiction known as "alternate history". The finest and best-known example of an alternative language is undoubtedly Andrew Smith's masterpiece Brithenig, based on the premise that Vulgar Latin took root in Britain the same way it did in France, Spain, etc., thus resulting in a Romance language that went through a similar development as Welsh. My own modest contribution to this particular genre is Wenedyk.
The basic premise of Wenedyk is the question, "What would Polish have looked like if it were a Romance instead of a Slavic language?" In other words: a Romance language on Polish soil. This is achieved by applying all the sound changes that caused the development of Polish from Early Common Slavic on Vulgar Latin, thereby paying some special attention to the small number of early Latin loans in Common Slavic, and to the closest thing to a Slavo-Romance language we have in the real world, Romanian. Of course, Vulgar Latin and Common Slavic were two entirely different languages with different phonologies, so a few exceptions, simplifications and compromises here and there had to be made. Despite the differences, I have to say that mapping Vulgar Latin phonology with its Slavic counterpart came with remarkable ease. But then, sound changes are not merely a matter of sound A becoming sound B in the new language; it is a highly complicated process, influenced by many factors, such as stress, neighbouring sounds, position inside a word, analogy, etc. Sounds affect each other, evolve, split and merge with others, and in the next stage of the language the same thing happens all over again. In my efforts, I have always tried to stay as faithful as possible to reality. The result can be seen in my Grand Master Plan, which contains a detailed description of all phonological changes between Late Latin and Modern Wenedyk.
To this I should add that Wenedyk is by no means intended to be a relexification of Polish. Wenedyk is a 100 % Romance language. Nevertheless, it has a lot more in common with Polish than just its phonology and orthography. As a rule, I always follow the principle that where Common Slavic and Vulgar Latin share a feature I follow the Polish model. Therefore: no articles, the preservation of a case system but with the declensions thoroughly mixed up, etc. Where they differ, I ask myself what the Proto-Poles would have done with the given feature. I don't have a particular policy for such cases: sometimes I follow the Polish model, sometimes I stick to Romance, and the choices I make are mostly based on my own taste.
The first sketches of what would later become Wenedyk date back to July 2002. Being a translator of Polish and having carefully studied languages like Brithenig, I've had fragments of a polonised Romance language floating through my head long before that; but for the first time, I actually started making notes. When I look at these now, they appear quite ridiculous and sheer dilettantism to me. I didn't have the faintest idea what Vulgar Latin was really about; all I knew was Classical Latin as I had been taught it in school. Likewise, I knew painfully little about Slavic historical phonology either. So first, I had to give myself a crash course in both. After that, I made the first draft of a Grand Master Plan. At the time, the language was not called "Wenedyk" yet, nor was it specifically connected to Polish. My original idea was a more generic Slavo-Romance language, with first "Slavonik" and then "Slovanik" as its working title. I was never really satisfied with either of those names, mostly because I found them boring. So I started looking out for other names, and finally dug up the name "Veneti", or "Venedi", used according to some as the Latin name for the West Slavs. In the same period, I constantly hesitated between a Polish-based orthography and a more typically Slavic one, with hačeks and the like. At some point, I decided to give in to the temptation: my language became a Polish counterpart of Brithenig, and voilà, Wenedyk was born.
In the beginning, I never intended for Wenedyk to develop into a full-fledged language. Yet, I hugely enjoyed writing its grammar, creating words and making translations. In short, I simply couldn't stop working on it, and continued without ever quitting. But there is a world of difference between Wenedyk the way it looked like in the Autumn of 2002 and Wenedyk the way it looks now. Every new discovery I made had its impact on everything I had done before, and at several occasions I had to go through my entire dictionary and make all my translations anew. The most thorough reform took place in the Autumn of 2005, after I came to understand that several of the assumptions I had been making regarding the chronology of sound changes in Slavic were erroneous. As a result, the language underwent a far-reaching metamorphosis: I rewrote my entire G.M.P, which in turn affected a huge part of the vocabulary and also part of the morphology.
From the very beginning, I have been pondering what kind of fictional culture would speak the language, and how a language like that could have emerged. A related question I tried to answer is whether the Veneds could coexist with the Poles or that the two would mutually exclude each other. All this was resolved in November 2002, when Wenedyk became part of the collaborative alternate history project of Ill Bethisad, home to several other alternative languages as well. It became the chief language of the Republic of the Two Crowns, a contemporary version of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which prior to Wenedyk's arrival had existed only as a brief description. Under my custody, the RTC slowly developed into a satire, or even a parody, of Poland. And this development also had its impact on Wenedyk: it was now constantly being fed by its newly acquired fictional culture, and along with the RTC, Wenedyk acquired satirical elements.
At times, I found the design principles of Wenedyk too restrictive. Sometimes I had ideas which I thought were really cool, but I simply could not incorporate them because they did not fit the Polish picture. In order to save those from the recycling bin, I started working on a second language, Šležan, in 2004. In a way, Šležan was a return to what I originally had in mind for Slovanik: a shamelessly Romanising language, full of both Romance and Slavic clichés. Appearances notwithstanding, it has little in common with Czech, but should much rather be seen as a generic Slavo-Romance language. Šležan also shares something else with my original ideas for Slovanik: instead of becoming a full-fledged language, with a detailed grammar and a lexicon and the like, it is little more than a mechanism for deriving words from Vulgar Latin. Apart from a short description and a few example texts, it is not intended to ever become more than that.
At the end of this introduction, I want to express my deep gratitude to everybody who over the years has showed an interest in Wenedyk, asked questions, made suggestions, etcetera. There are, however, a few persons I want to mention explicitly. The first is Grzegorz Jagodziński, whose excellent works on Slavistics in general and on Polish historical phonology in particular have been an indispensable resource to me, and who afterwards offered me lots of invaluable suggestions for improvement. The second person I want to thank is Benct Philip Jonsson. Shortly after I started working on Wenedyk, Benct started a similar Slavo-Romance project, called Slvanjek. From the very beginning, we have been in close contact almost constantly, exchanging thoughts, coordinating our efforts, and inspiring each other mutually. Together, I think we have created a unique precedent in the world of conlanging: that of two people working closely together on two closely related projects. Although our methods are different and each of us is in full control over his own language, this collaboration has always been extremely pleasant and fruitful; without it, Wenedyk would never have become what it is now. And last, but definitely not least, comes Anna Renata Nowak from Poland, whose love and friendship have been an immense inspiration to me, as well as the source of many new Wenedyk words.
Anyway, more than enough for an introduction. I hope you enjoy my Wenedyk!
Jan van Steenbergen