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Review of  Towards a History of Linguistics in Poland. From the early beginnings to the end of the 20th century.

Reviewer: Andrzej Zychla
Book Title: Towards a History of Linguistics in Poland. From the early beginnings to the end of the 20th century.
Book Author: E.F.K. Koerner
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): History of Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Polish
Issue Number: 13.1951

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Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002 09:16:23 +0200
From: Andrzej Zychla
Subject: Koerner & Szwedek, eds. (2001) Towards a History of Linguistics in Poland

Koerner, E. F. K., and Aleksander Szwedek, eds. (2001) Towards a History of Linguistics in Poland (From the early beginnings to the end of the twentieth century). John Benjamins Publishing Company, xx+317 pp., hardback ISBN: 90 272 4591 6, Studies in the History of the Language Sciences, 102

Andrzej Zychla, The College of Foreign Languages, University of Zielona Gora, Poland.

This collection of 10 contributions should appeal to all professionals interested in the history of linguistics in Poland and, to a lesser extent, the neighbouring areas and countries. It is the outcome of intensive co-operation between specialists in the respective fields, translators and proof-readers and a successful attempt to summarise in one volume the major achievements of Polish linguists and linguistics. Most of the chapters have previously been published as papers in other, mainly historiographical, sources: for reasons of space they appear here in their abridged versions.

Even though there have already been some attempts to come up with similar compilations, their final outcomes were either edited in Polish (which makes them largely inaccessible to the English-speaking world), incomplete or prejudiced. The introduction itself deems most of those works 'textbook history' meant generally for 'neophyte' rather than a specialist reader, mostly 'derivative and unoriginal' in character.

I would like to present brief overviews of the chapters first, then comment on the volume as a whole.

The book has been divided into two major parts -- the first 5 chapters are devoted to the various subfields of linguistics and the historical developments thereof, the remaining five paint fascinating portraits of some of the finest Polish linguists.

Part One:Chapter 1 -- Z. Wasik 'The Development of General Linguistics within the History of the Language Sciences in Poland: Late 1860s ' late 1960s' ' It is one of the longest chapters in the collection, covering a century of linguistic activity, carefully subdivided into further periods marked not so much by historically (or politically) significant events as by the major stages in the professional careers of the linguists depicted.

Chapter 2 -- F. Grucza 'Origins and Development of Applied Linguistics in Poland' -- The author argues that although certain applied aspects of language science have been pursued for many centuries, the conscious separation of applied linguistics can only be traced 200 years back. The author then goes on to clarify how applied linguistics became a separate science and touches upon the various disciplines it has evolved into.

Chapter 3 -- T. Piotrowski 'Lexicography in Poland: From the early beginnings to the present' -- It is an overview of Polish (mainly monolingual) lexicography with comments on the most important lexicographic works published (basic information on the most important bi-/multilingual dictionaries published in Poland given). The author discusses the co-existence of liberal and prescriptive approaches to language and dictionary and makes very interesting comments on how Polish dictionary makers are trying to adjust to the new, free market, reality.

Chapter 4 -- S. Gogolewski 'Dialectology in Poland, 1873-1997' -- It is devoted to the development of dialectology in Poland, discusses the origins of the science, its major achievements (e.g. particular dictionaries or atlases) and provides some insight into the historical influences of dialects on literary Polish.

Chapter 5 -- S. Gala 'Onomastics in Poland: From 19th-century beginnings to the present' -- It discusses the history of the study of names in Poland and its relation to other branches of linguistics (and sciences). The paper stresses the high status accorded to onomastics in Poland.

Part Two:Chapter 6 -- A. Adamska-Salaciak 'Jan Baudouin de Courtenay's Contribution to General Linguistics' -- It is an account of the professional career of a scholar whose influence on science is still difficult to assess. Although Baudouin de Courtenay never wrote a major synthetic compilation of his theories, linguists do acknowledge some of them. There are other theories, the author suggests, that are yet to be acknowledged.

Chapter 7 -- F. M. Berezin 'Mikolaj Kruszewski and 20th-Century Linguistics'- It is written by the only non-Polish contributor to the volume (a renown Russian historian of linguistics) and draws attention of its readers to Mikolaj Kruszewski, a largely forgotten genius, very close to structuralism) long before the appearance of de Saussure's lectures on general linguistics). Kruszewski is acknowledged by many as one of the founders of modern linguistic theory.

Chapter 8 -- J. Banczerowski 'Mikolaj Rudnicki's General Linguistic Conceptions' -- the author presents Rudnicki's (1881-1978) views, the linguist who contributed significantly to general linguistics, phonology and structural phonetics.

Chapter 9 -- W. Smoczynski 'Jerzy Kurylowicz as Indo-Europeanist and Theorist of Language' -- The author suggests that Kurylowicz (1895-1978) was one of the greatest scholars in the history of Polish linguistics. Although he was most successful in Indo-European and the theory of language (and all areas of language structure), he was also interested in language structure and its mechanisms (he himself knew more than 10 languages).

Chapter 10 -- J. Banczerowski 'Aspects of Ludwik Zabrocki's Linguistic World' -- The portrait of Zabrocki's (1907-1977), whose wide interests, apart from general linguistics, included: comparative linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, cybernetics linguistics, Indo-European linguistics and applied linguistics.

The book serves as an excellent starting point for those wishing to investigate the history of Polish linguistics, In particular, it contains:
--extensive (and very detailed) bibliographies (including sources in English, provided they are available) -- I found a few valuable references I had been previously unaware of;
--5 photographs, 2 maps, title pages of important books;
--pictures of Polish linguists, Polish abstracts under each chapter;
--an Index of Authors and Index of Titles.

The two little problems I noticed were technical in character:
--the Polish font is not satisfactory;
--there are a few misprints.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER The author of this review is an assistant at the College of Foreign Languages, University of Zielona Gora, Poland. He defended his MA thesis (a critical evaluation of one of the Polish bilingual dictionaries) in 1998. He is currently working on his PhD dissertation (Defining strategies used by EFL teachers and their possible implications for dictionary definitions). His interests include: (meta) lexicography and applied linguistics (language teaching methodology and translation, both technical and literary). He is also in charge of the ELT section of WSz PWN's official webpage (one of the major publishing houses in Poland).