Old orthographies, grammars and handbooks of Polish language

On the history of Polish grammar books

The history of the description of the grammatical system of Polish has its roots in the 15th century in the orthography treaty by Jakub Parkosz. His theoretical discussions were encouraged by practical considerations, the need to standardise spelling [Cf. e.g. Łoś 1913, 216]. In the 16th c., orthography issues were addressed by: Stanisław Zaborowski (1514–1515), Jan Seklucjan (1547, 1549), Stanisław Murzynowski (1551), Jan Kochanowski (1592, 1594), Łukasz Górnicki (1594), Jan Januszowski (1594). Like in the case of orthography books, which were enriched with grammatical information (Zaborowski’s orthography book was released from 1529, together with his Grammatices rudimenta (Rudiments of grammar); Januszowski’s comments on the ending of the instrumental case of plural adjectives can be found in Nowy karakter polski (New Polish character) of 1594), the information about the letters of the Polish alphabet were provided in grammar books. A characteristic feature of the grammar books of the Middle Polish period until as late as Józef Mroziński’s address was the failure to distinguish a speech sound from a letter. Elements of the grammatical description of Polish had been incorporated into Latin grammar books for school youth even before Polish grammar books were published. The first Western textbook, published by Jan Haller in 1511, was Grammaticae institutiones (Lectures on grammar) by Jakub Henrichman. The guidelines contained in the textbook – dic vernacule (speak your mother tongue) – and, most probably, the school practice and awareness of the potential of Polish students made the printer enrich the textbook with a translation into Polish in one of the later reprints [Cytowska 1968, 40]. Polish examples (translations into Polish) can be found also in the already mentioned grammar book by Zaborowski (Cracow 1518), in De grammatica libri duo (On grammar in two books) by Jan Honter (Cracow 1532), and in Methodicae grammaticae libri quatuor (Methodology of grammar in four books) by Jan Ursinus  (Lviv 1592) [Cytowska 1968, 25, 29–30; Wiśniewska 1998]. Due to the function and coverage of certain elements of the grammatical description, grammarians frequently applied various aids for teaching Polish: textbooks (e.g. Polskie książeczki wielmi potrzebne ku uczeniu się polskiego, przy tym i po niemiecku wyłożone (Polish booklets that are very useful in learning Polish, explained also in German), 1539 [Klimek 1978; Kępińska 2006, 44–45]), phrasebooks (e.g. Oratiuncule varie... Namowy rozliczne dla użytku nauki dziatek wyłożone (Various phrases for the purpose of children’s education) by Jan Murmeliusz, 1527), and templates of letters (e.g. Kancelaria polityczna... (Political Chancellery…) by Maciej Dobracki, 1665). Various dictionaries [http://www.leksykografia.uw.edu.pl] made learning Latin, German and Polish easier. Classification of some works into a given type can vary, e.g. Przewodnik do języka polskiego (Guide to Polish) by Michael Kuschius (1646) is considered a dictionary by some researchers [Rombowski 1960, 144] and a grammar book by others [Zwoliński 1956, 254; Mayenowa 1955, 40].

In Gdańsk, Polish was included in the teaching process in monastic schools already in the 15th century, and it was taught in the Academic Gymnasium in lower classes from 1589 [Pniewski 1938, 13–14; Jefimow 1970, 7–8]. Abecadło polskie (Polish alphabet) is considered to be the first Gdańsk textbook (primer). Allegedly, the publication was released in Franciszek Rhode’s printing house in 1538 [Pniewski 1938, 152; Pawłowska 1979, 9; Pilarczyk 2003, 74].

The bibliography prepared by Barbara Otwinowska, Lucylla Pszczołowska and Jadwiga Puzynina for the period from the 15th c. to the first half of the 18th c. enumerates 95 grammar books, textbooks and treaties on the Polish language in total: for the 15th c. – 1, for the 16th c. – 30, for the 17th c. – 48, for the first half of the 18th c. – 18 [Mayenowa 1955, 33–48]. Not all texts included in the bibliography deserve to be called grammar books: Przemysław Zwoliński reduced the number of the 17th-century grammar books from 48 (14 of which are known only by titles today) to 12 [Zwoliński 1956, 253].

The earliest Polish grammar books were written by foreigners for foreigners. It was deplored by Januszowski in Nowy karakter (New Polish character) at the end of the 16th c.: “Do czego y to mußę przyłożyć ná więtßą ʃromotę náßę, że nam Grámmátiki Polskié cudzoziemcy opiʃuią. Czemu nie ʃwoi?” (“What I need to add, to out shame, is that foreigners write Polish grammars. Why not ones of our kind?”) (k. D1v). Patterns for describing the Polish language were drawn from Latin grammar. The first known Polish grammar book (1568) was written by a French, Pierre Statorius-Stojeński. It began with a chapter dedicated to the pronunciation of letters and ended with an argument concerning syntax. In the late 16th c., Nicolaus Volckmar’s grammar book (1594) was released, opening the list of grammar books addressed to Germans. Successive grammarians continued the works of their predecessors on the one hand, and made attempts to introduce new elements to the description of the Polish language or systematise the already established ones on the other hand [Pawłowska 1970, 23–25]. They were, as Zwoliński put it [1956, 310, 356], both plagiarists and positive characters.

The 17th c. and the first half of the 18th c. saw a greater demand for Polish grammar books. They were written not only in Latin but also in modern languages (in the 17th c., according to estimates, 20 new grammar books were written in Latin, 15 – in German, 3 – in Polish and French [Wiśniewska 1994, 201]). Particularly many of them were released in Pomerania and Silesia. Some, apart from Polish grammar, described German grammar and served the purpose of teaching also German. The authors of this type of textbooks were, among others, Jeremias Roter (1616) and Johann Christian Krumbholz (1775). As indicated on its title page, the addressees of Michael Kuschius’s textbook were not only boys but also girls. Until the 1780s, more than 100 textbooks for Germans learning Polish were published in Pomerania, slightly fewer in Silesia [Walczak 1995, 168]. In the 17th c., Italian (by Adam Styla, 1675) and French (by Bartłomiej Kazimierz Malicki, 1700) textbooks written in Polish were released. Grammar books were means of transplanting the ideas of the Western European linguistic thought to the Polish ground. For instance, Maciej Gutthäter-Dobracki took over the idea of replacing Latin terminology with Polish one from Justus Georg Schottel, who translated Latin terms into German in his grammar book (Teutsche Sprachkunst (German Grammar), 1641, Ed. 2, 1663) [Rombowski 1966, 134, 160; Koronczewski 1961, 16]. The first preserved Polish grammar written by a Pole was Compendiosa linguae Polonicae institutio... (A concise lecture on Polish…) by Jan Karol Woyna of Jasienica, a teacher of Latin and Polish in Gdańsk [Łoś 1913, 219; Klemensiewicz 1974, 414]. Two earlier grammar books: Fundamentum seu principium ad politico-Polonicum usum recte formandum, exprimendum, et loquendum (Foundations or principles for courteous use of the Polish language, proper word formation, pronunciation and usage) of 1643 and Polnische Grammatik (Polish grammar) of 1680), the authors of which were presumably Poles: the former – Jan Guliński (Śniatowski), a teacher of Polish in Gdańsk [Pniewski 1938, 70–71, 75], and the latter – Stanisław Jan Malczowski, a teacher, translator and court clerk, have not survived.

Grammar books were also the main genre in Polish linguistics from the Enlightenment period to as late as the early 20th century. The authors of the first Polish-language grammar books of the 1770s-1780s transferred the ideas of the Western European linguistic concepts arisen from rationalist (originating from the Port-Royal grammar – Walenty Szylarski, 1770; Onufry Kopczyński, 1778–1783) and empirical (the English philosophical school – Kopczyński) foundations to the Polish reality. A special significance is attributed to Kopczyński’s grammar book, a then-modern textbook of Polish, written by the order of the Commission of National Education. The author made “the analytical order” the basis of the description, the work on the grammar book was preceded by collecting material (in the form of tables), which served the purpose of systematising language facts. This is the procedure applied also by Józef Mroziński (1822, 1824) and Maksymilian Jakubowicz (1823) [Urbańczyk 1993, 13, 36]. Kopczyński’s grammar book exerted a major influence on later grammarians. Supported with his authority, the proposition to distinguish endings of adjectives and adjectival pronouns (masculine and neuter genders) in the instrumental and locative singular and the instrumental plural survived until as late as 1936. After 1831, partly as a result of the intentional dissociation from the Western (German) science and partly in connection with the focus on prescriptive issues, grammar books become “a tool of national didactics”, “the cognitive goal is merely a means to achieve the educational and prescriptive goal” [Skarżyński 2001, 20]. The emotional attitude to language, which arose, firstly, from the political situation (the Partitions), and secondly, from the Romantic idealism, makes the grammarian feel a substitute for “the spirit of language”, and the excellence of the Polish language is manifested through comparison to other languages (Jan Nepomucen Deszkiewicz-Kundzicz) [Skarżyński 2001, 22–24; Urbańczyk 1993, 87; Obara 1991].

The 19th-century grammar books intended for educational facilities (schools, boarding schools for girls, and home teaching) and popular use were published in all three annexed territories and outside Poland (in Paris, Berlin). A small number of them were textbooks of Polish for foreigners (Germans, the French, Russians), e.g. Polnische Grammatik für Deutsche, welche die polnische Sprache gründlich elernen wollen, nebst einem kleinen etymologischen Wörterbuche (Polish grammar for Germans who wish to learn Polish well, supplemented with a small etymological dictionary) by Samuel Bandtkie (Wrocław 1808) or Przewodnik do praktycznej nauki języka polskiego dla Rosjan (A guide to practical learning of Polish for Russians) by Tomasz Kurhanowicz  (Warsaw 1865). School grammar books were ones with the highest number of editions, with Gramatyka polska (Polish grammar) (abridged) by Teodozy Sierociński, published in Warsaw from 1839 (the 27th edition was released in 1899), ranked first.

The grammar books were written by people of various professions, the prevalent group being teachers (they were, among others, M. Jakubowicz, J. Muczkowski, K. Bronikowski, H. Suchecki, F. Żochowski). J. Mroziński was a general, J. N. Deszkiewicz and F. K. Malinowski were clergymen, A. Morzycki was a landowner, M. Suchorowski was an advocate [Skarżyński 2001, 28-30]. In the 1860s and 1870s, first grammar books written by women: Julia Goczałkowska, Józefa Kamocka, Teofila Radońska, Józefa Maleczyńska were published. The female author whose textbooks played a significant role in school teaching was Józefa Kamocka [Baranowski, Parasiewicz 1898, 38; Kosmowska, Milkuszyc, Szycówna 1912, 14].

As Mirosław Skarżyński [2001, 32] writes: “The amateur (non-scientific) stream of grammar persisted as the only one virtually until the 1860s and then, accompanying the emerging and evolving scientific linguistics, survived until the early 20th c.”

The new quality, the foundation of which was the historical-comparative method, was introduced by Antoni Małecki’s work (1863). A characteristic feature of a scientific (cognitive) grammar of the period from the second half of the 19th c. to the beginning of the 20th c. “is mixing historical and contemporary elements, which is particularly striking in the examples” [Bajerowa 1987, 811]. This is when the views on the function of grammar changes, its “theoretical” (explaining “the most important rules of Polish”) and not only practical nature was discerned. Adam Antoni Kryński (1897) distinguishes “practical” (prescriptive) grammar from a theoretical (scientific, providing a historical interpretation of language phenomena) one) [Skarżyński 2001, 37]. In the period 1817–1900, circa 200 editions of grammar books were released [Skarżyński 2001, 26].

The full knowledge of language, as permitted by the state of the linguistics of that time, was offered by the grammar books published in the period 1914–1939, written by the following authors: Stanisław Szober (1914–1916, successive editions: 1923; 1931), Tytus Benni, Jan Łoś, Kazimierz Nitsch, Jan Rozwadowski, Henryk Ułaszyn (PAU, 1923), Tadeusz Lehr-Spławiński and Roman Kubiński (1928), Jan Łoś (1922–1927), Henryk Gaertner (1931–1938), Zenon Klemensiewicz (1939). A clear distinction between diachrony and synchrony was attempted in the language description. The perception of grammar as a scientific discipline begins to establish in the interwar period [Skarżyński 2001, 41]. A good example, which shows the significance of grammar in the author’s academic output, is the grammar book by Szober. Published initially as a school textbook, it was rebuilt and reviewed twice by the author. The re-edition of 1923, compiled by Witold Doroszewski, served as an academic textbook after the Second World War until the 1970s.

One of the first periodisations of the history of Polish grammar books was presented by Adam Antoni Kryński in the paper Gramatyka polska (Polish Grammar), published in Vol. XXV–XXVI of Wielka encyklopedia powszechna ilustrowana (Great universal illustrated encyclopaedia) (1900). He divided the history of Polish grammar books into three periods: 1 – from Parkoszowic’s treaty to the second half of the 18th c. (Kopczyński’s grammar book); 2 – from the second half of the 18th c. to the mid-19th c. (the publication of the first works based on comparative studies); 3 – from the mid-19th c. to the present day. If the history of Polish grammar books was divided by the language in which they were written (Latin, German – Polish) and their addressee (foreigners – Poles), it should be split into two periods with the dividing line on 1770 – the year when Szylarski’s grammar book was released. This is because it was the first grammar book written in Polish (not Latin or German), addressed to the Polish youth (not Germans, the French or Italians). It is also the first grammar book the author of which transplanted the ideas of universal grammar to the Polish ground. If incorporating this division into the chronologisation of the history of Polish, the Middle Polish grammar books can be opposed to the Modern Polish ones.

There have never been any critical editions of or separate monographs on Middle Polish grammar books. Their first critical analyses were performed by the authors (it needs to be emphasised that not all of them) of later grammar books (e.g. S. Dobracki, J. N. Deszkiewicz, F. Żochowski). Many commentaries on individual grammar books can be found in distributed papers [Zwoliński 1952; 1953; 1956; Kuraszkiewicz 1984; Rybicka-Nowacka 1971; Kucała 1985; Rospond 1971], syntheses of the history of Polish [Klemensiewicz 1974; Walczak 1995, Dubisz 2007], studies regarding Polish and its regional variants in various periods [Bajerowa 1964; Pawłowska 1979; Kuraszkiewicz 1984; Zieniukowa 1968], works on the history of linguistics [Handel 1935; Heinz 1983], studies on learning Polish [Rombowski 1960; Jefimow 1970], comments to re-editions of old grammar books [Kuraszkiewicz, Olesch 1986; Malicki 1998], and finally, encyclopaedias.

A complete overview of grammar books was made by Józef Kazimierz Plebański [1862], a historian of law in the Warsaw Main School, and Bronisław Bieńkowski [1901], a philologist and teacher.

As regards the grammar books of the Modern Polish period, researchers focused on specific works (e.g. grammar books by Kopczyński [Kopko 1910; Gniadek 1956] and Mroziński [Kawyn-Kurz 1957; Mayenowa 1986; Jakobson 1989]), studies of the development of Polish linguistics [Zagórski 1981; Urbańczyk 1993], selected issues: morphological categories, syntactic concepts, and word-formation aspects [Skarżyński 2001; Grzegorczykowa 1964; Podracki 1982] (Cf. compilation of works in: [Zagórski 1981, 3–6; Skarżyński 2001, 207–216]). A separate monograph, written by Andrzej Koronczewski [1961], was dedicated to the formation of the Polish grammatical terminology.

This superficial overview of grammar books shows that they played an important educational, culture-forming and scientific role. From the 16th c. to the 18th c., addressed to foreigners, they served as an aid in teaching Polish, addressed to Poles or also to Poles, they provided support in learning foreign languages. Beginning from the 1770s, they facilitated the training of Poles’ language skills. An intensive activity in the field of popular grammar was pursued in the Partitions period. Works the basis of which were in-depth comparative studies were written in the second half of the 19th c. resulting in transferring more modern linguistic research methods to the Polish reality. Old grammar books, like old dictionaries, represent the pre-scientific stage of the development of Polish linguistics. A new (scientific) chapter in the history of Polish linguistics was opened by the grammar books by Szylarski and Kopczyński [Urbańczyk 1993, 8].

Relevant literature:

  • Irena Bajerowa, Językoznawstwo polonistyczne, [w:] Historia nauki polskiej, pod red. Bogdana Suchodolskiego, t. IV: 1863–1918, cz. III, Warszawa 1987, s. 802–819.
  • Bronisław Bieńkowski, Gramatyka polska, [w:] Encyklopedia wychowawcza t. V, Warszawa 1901, s. 133–174.
  • Irena Bajerowa, Kształtowanie się systemu polskiego języka literackiego w XVIII wieku, Wrocław 1964.
  • Irena Bajerowa, Polski język ogólny XIX wieku. Stan i ewolucja, t. I: Ortografia, fonologia z fonetyką, morfonologia, Katowice 1986, t. II: Fleksja, Katowice 1992, t. III: Składnia. Synteza, Katowice 2000.
  • Mieczysław Baranowski, Szczęsny Parasiewicz, Książki szkolne w szkołach ludowych galicyjskich i w innych ziemiach polskich dawniej używane, Lwów 1898.
  • Maria Cytowska, Od Aleksandra do Alwara (Gramatyki łacińskie w Polsce w XVI w.), Wrocław 1968.
  • Karol Estreicher, Bibliografia polska, t. XXXIV, Kraków 1951.
  • Stanisław Gniadek, Metodologiczne źródła doktryn gramatycznych Kopczyńskiego, „Kwartalnik Neofilologiczny” III, 1956, z. 2, s. 69–81.
  • Adam Heinz, Dzieje językoznawstwa w zarysie, Warszawa 1983.
  • Jakub Handel, Dzieje językoznawstwa, Lwów 1935.
  • Roman Jakobson, Józef Mroziński – jenerał językoznawca. Pamiątka i przypomnienie, „Kultura i Społeczeństwo” XIII, 1969, nr 2, s. 93–102.
  • Jan Januszowski, Nowy karakter polski, Kraków 1594.
  • Regina Jefimow, Z dziejów języka polskiego w Gdańsku. Stan wiedzy o polszczyźnie w XVII wieku, Gdańsk 1970.
  • Zofia Kawyn Kurz, Mroziński jako gramatyk, „Poradnik Językowy” 1957, z. 3, s.  97–110, z. 4, s. 164–174, z. 5, s. 212–222.
  • Alina Kępińska, Dawne gramatyki języka polskiego, „Biuletyn Informacyjny Biblioteki Narodowej” 2006, nr 4, s. 43–48.
  • Zenon Klemensiewicz, Historia języka polskiego, Warszawa 1974.
  • Zygmunt Klimek, Język polski w rozmówkach polsko-niemieckich „Książeczek polskich” z r. 1539, Wrocław 1978.
  • P[iotr] Kopko, Krytyczny rozbiór gramatyki narodowej Onufrego Kopczyńskiego (Przyczynek do historyi polskiej gramatyki), Kraków 1909.
  • Andrzej Koronczewski, Polska terminologia gramatyczna, Wrocław 1961.
  • Irena Kosmowska, Dorota Milkuszyc, Aniela Szycówna, Kobieta polska jako autorka pedagogiczna, Warszawa 1912 (http://pbc.biaman.pl/Content/26105/Kobieta+polska+jako+autorka+pedagogiczna.pdf; dostęp 22.02.2014)
  • Adam Antoni Kryński, Gramatyka polska, [w:] Wielka encyklopedia powszechna ilustrowana, t. XXV–XXVI, Warszawa 1900, s. 618–620.
  • Marian Kucała, Autor i dzieło, [w:] Jakuba Parkosza Traktat o ortografii, Warszawa 1985, s. 11–37.
  • Władysław Kuraszkiewicz, Uwagi Piotra Stojeńskiego o polszczyźnie regionalnej w jego gramatyce z 1568 roku, [w:] Polszczyzna regionalna w okresie renesansu i baroku, red. Halina Wiśniewska i Czesław Kosyl, Wrocław 1984, s. 11–19.
  • Władysław Kuraszkiewicz, [Reinhold Olesch], Piotr Statorius-Stojeński o polskim języku literackim (Polonicae grammatices institutio, 1568 r.), [w:] idem, Polski język literacki. Studia nad historią i strukturą, Warszawa 1986, s. 384–408.
  • Jan Łoś, Gramatyka w dawnej Polsce, „Język Polski” 1913, z. 7, s. 216–221.
  • Jan Łoś, Przegląd językowych zabytków staropolskich do r. 1543, Kraków 1915.
  • Jan Malicki, Posłowie, [do:] Jeremiasz Roter, Schlüssel zur polnischen und teutschen Sprach... Klucz do polskiego i niemieckiego języka, to jest gruntowna nauka, jaką się nie tylko Niemiec polskiego, ale jaką się i Polak niemieckiego języka łatwiej i rychlej czytać, zrozumieć, mówić i pisać nauczyć może, Katowice 1998 (reprint wyd. z 1616).
  • Maria Renata Mayenowa, Józef Mroziński w dziejach językoznawstwa, [w:] Józef Mroziński, Dzieła wszystkie, t. I, Wrocław 1986.
  • Maria Renata Mayenowa, Walka o język w życiu i literaturze staropolskiej, wyd. II, Warszawa 1955.
  • Jerzy Obara, Kategoria ducha językowego w poglądach niektórych niemieckich i polskich myślicieli XIX i XX wieku, [w:] Język a Kultura, t. I, Podstawowe pojęcia i problemy, red. Janusza Anusiewicza i Jerzego Bartmińskiego, Wiedza o Kulturze, Wrocław, 1991, s. 83–105 .
  • Regina Pawłowska, Fonetyka języka polskiego nauczanego w Gdańsku w XVII wieku, Wrocław 1979.
  • Franciszek Pilarczyk, Elementarze polskie od ich XVI-wiecznych początków do II wojny światowej. Próba monografii księgoznawczej, Zielona Góra 2003.
  • Józef Kazimierz Plebański, Gramatyka i gramatycy, [w:] Encyklopedia powszechna, Warszawa 1862, t. X, s. 437–580.
  • Władysław PniewskiJęzyk polski w dawnych szkołach gdańskich, Gdańsk 1938.
  • Aleksander Rombowski, Nauka języka polskiego we Wrocławiu (koniec wieku XVI – połowa wieku XVIII), Wrocław 1960.
  • Stanisław Rospond, Ks. Onufry Kopczyński (1735–1817). Próba syntezy, Rozprawy Komisji Językowej Wrocławskiego Towarzystwa Naukowego, VIII, 1971, s. 5–39.
  • Halina Rybicka-Nowacka, Wyrazy pochodzenia łacińskiego i greckiego w „Compendiosa Linguae Polonicae Institutio” Jana Karola Wojny, „Prace Filologiczne” XX, 1971, s. 357–369.
  • Mirosław Skarżyński, W kręgu gramatyk polskich XIX i XX wieku, Kraków 2001.
  • Stanisław Urbańczyk, Dwieście lat polskiego językoznawstwa (1751–1950), Kraków 1993.
  • Bogdan Walczak, Zarys dziejów języka polskiego, Poznań 1995.
  • Halina Wiśniewska, Język polski w przemyskim podręczniku (1545) Walentego Cantiusa, „Rocznik Przemyski” , t. XXVII, Przemyśl 1990, s. 129–140;
  • Halina Wiśniewska, Metody opisu koniugacji polskiej w gramatykach XVII wieku, [w:] Studia historycznojęzykowe, t. II, red.  Marian Kucała, Wojciech R. Rzepka, Kraków 1994, s. 201–208.
  • Halina Wiśniewska, Język polski w łacińskich pracach Jana Ursinusa, Lublin 1998.
  • Zygmunt Zagórski, Studia nad rozwojem językoznawstwa polskiego od końca XVIII wieku do roku 1918 (ze szczególnym uwzględnieniem Wielkopolski), Warszawa–Poznań 1981.
  • Jadwiga Zieniukowa, Z dziejów polszczyzny literackiej w XVIII wieku. Język pisma Jana Jabłonowskiego wobec ówczesnych przepisów normatywnych, Wrocław 1968.
  • Przemysław Zwoliński, Wypowiedzi gramatyków XVI i XVII wieku o dialektyzmach w ówczesnej polszczyźnie, „Pamiętnik Literacki” XLIII, 1952, s. 375–407.
  • Przemysław Zwoliński, Najdawniejsze opracowanie języka Mikołaja Reja („Wizerunk” M. Reja z r. 1558 a „Polonicae grammatices institutio” z r. 1568), „Język Polski” XXXIII, 1953, s. 255–284.
  • Przemysław Zwoliński, Gramatyki języka polskiego z XVII wieku jako źródło poznania ówczesnej polszczyzny, „Poradnik Językowy” 1956, z. 7, s. 251–260, z. 8, s. 310–321, z. 9, s. 356–369.
  • http://www.leksykografia.uw.edu.pl.
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