Polish (język polski, polszczyzna) is a Slavic language spoken primarily in Poland and the native language of the Poles. It belongs to the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages. Polish is the official language of Poland, but it is also used throughout the world by Polish minorities in other countries. It is one of the official languages of the European Union. Its written standard is the Polish alphabet, which has 9 additions to the letters of the basic Latin script (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż). Polish is closely related to Kashubian, Lower Sorbian, Upper Sorbian, Czech and Slovak. History The precursor to modern Polish is the Old Polish language. Ultimately, Polish is thought to descend from the unattested Proto-Slavic language. Polish was a lingua franca from 1500-1700 in small parts of Central and large portions of Eastern Europe, because of the political, cultural, scientific and military influence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Geographically distribution Poland is the most linguistically homogeneous European country; nearly 97% of Poland's citizens declare Polish as their native language. Elsewhere, ethnic Poles constitute large minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Polish is the most widely used minority language in Lithuania's Vilnius (Wilno) County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results, with Wilno (Vilnius) having been part of Poland until 1939) and is found elsewhere in southeastern Lithuania. In Ukraine it is most common in the western Lwów (Lviv) and Wołyń (Volyn) oblast (provinces), while in Western Belarus it is used by the significant Polish minority, especially in the Brest and Grodno regions and in areas along the Lithuanian border. Word order Basic word order in Polish is SVO, however, as it is a morpheme rich language, it is possible to move words around in the sentence, and to drop the subject, object or even sometimes verb, if they are obvious from context. These sentences mean more or less the same (“Kasia has a cat”), but different shades of meaning are emphasized by selecting different word orders.