Term Paper: Polish Syntax Introduction

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Polish Syntax

Introduction to the Syntax of Polish

The syntactic differences between spontaneous spoken language and written language have direct consequences for various areas of linguistics; typology, psycholinguistics, and sociolinguistics, not to mention certain assumptions lying behind generative grammar. There is a range of syntactic constructions typical of spontaneous spoken English and with parallel constructions in the spontaneous speech produced by speakers of other languages. Conversely, there is a range of syntactic constructions typical of written English. The constructions typical of spontaneous speech do not occur in written texts except in the representation of conversation. The constructions typical of written English are very rare in spontaneous speech and indeed are usually found only in the spontaneous speech of people who have passed through both secondary and higher education.

Like other Slavic languages, Polish represents an inflecting, or fusional type of language, in which single grammatical morphemes combine several functions: case, gender, and number in noun forms; person and number in verb forms. However, Polish is less close to the ideal model of an inflecting language than Czech or Slovak. We can find examples of replacing synthetic means of expression by analytical ones in contemporary Polish. In general, the Polish grammatical system closely parallels that of Russian.

Because Polish retains a rich inflectional system, morphology is the main device for expressing syntactic distinctions. Word order has grammatical functions only to a limited extent, and hence it can serve other purposes, namely, it performs pragmatic functions. Deviations from the standard (unmarked) SVO order serve the purposes of topicalization; and combined with focal stress, word order expresses special emphasis on certain elements, in a way independent from discourse structure. Furthermore, the rich inflectional system makes it possible to apply ellipsis to a much larger extent than in English. Passive participles are used in passive voice constructions. In spoken language, however, these have a limited range of use, as word order flexibility is sufficient for expressing focus, and a number of subjectless active constructions can be used for subject downgrading. Those occurring in spoken language typically involve perfective participles, used in order to refer to a resulting end state of some action, performed by an unspecified agent which is either unknown or evident or simply irrelevant. These cannot be called truncated passives, as full passives are practically never used. They are rather a subclass of attributive sentences making statements about objects.

Syntax in Polish Literature

The oldest monuments of Polish prose, which are also from the thirteenth century, though the first copy is from the fourteenth, are Kazania ?wie+?tokrzyskie (The Holy Cross Sermons) so called because the Latin manuscript in which the sermons were found belonged at one time to a monastery in the Holy Cross Mountains (G ry ?wie+?tokrzyskie). In 1890 the distinguished Polish philologist, Aleksander Bruckner, found them in the Imperial Library in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, part of the parchment on which these sermons were written had been cut up into strips which were sewn into the binding of the manuscript. From over a dozen such strips which were saved it was possible to put together only a few pages of a larger original collection of sermons. On these pages we have three sermons which are probably complete (for the feasts of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and the Three Magi), and three more of which only the beginning or the end was preserved. It is possible to deduce that these sermons were composed according to a traditional medieval pattern: first the text from the Bible, which gave the subject; then an introduction in which the priest would tell in Polish from which part of the Bible the fragment was taken and explain it briefly; then the sermon itself, which paraphrases the subject, explains its significance, and draws a general moral lesson.

In the Holy Cross Sermons we find very old linguistic forms which are almost unknown in other Old Polish texts, such as the old imperfect and aorist tenses. The work also contains much useful material for the historical study of phonetics, etymology, inflection, and syntax. The texts discussed above are not the first in which we find Polish words inscribed. Even in the Latin diplomas of the early twelfth century we find isolated Polish words. In 1136 a bull of Pope Innocent II to the archbishopric of Gniezno contained over four hundred Polish names, mostly those of persons and places. The same is true of the Book of Henryk w, mentioned above, which contains documents issued by various popes and princes stating the privileges of bishops and monasteries, besides many juridical documents. Although they are less significant than the longer texts, they also provide valuable material for the history of the language, especially in phonology and etymology.

While Rey's poetic language is often clumsy and generally rather prosaic, his prose is colorful and pliable, with the vitality capable of expressing both commonplace and exalted feelings and thoughts. Unchecked by the requirements of rhythm and rhyme, it flows freely and smoothly, though the syntax is frequently chaotic; it is apparent that the literary language of Poland was still in process of creation. Rey's prose is of great value to us today, for it gives us a vivid and authentic picture of the speech of sixteenth-century Poles their everyday, rather than their official, oratorical, parliamentary, or literary language. Rey's prose contains even more household words, expressions, phrases, and comparisons drawn from country life, than does his poetry. Another trait of Rey's style is his vigor of expression, which is frequently gaudy; this probably was a feature of the colloquial language at that time, and Rey wished to make himself understood to the gentry, who were not very literate, and in a way that would make his ideas and moral teaching thoroughly intelligible to all.

The bishop of Smolefisk, Adam NARUSZEWICZ (1733-96), was also an industrious poet. He wrote odes, eclogues, satires, and reflective and circumstantial poems as well as fables. 9 His poetry inclines to be heavy; his odes are often panegyrical, pompous in style, filled with conventional literary devices, rhetorical, and didactic. The eclogues are modeled on second-rate French works and on Salomon Gessner, a German poet of the eighteenth century, and they repeat the dull, sentimental style of their models. A characteristic trait of Naruszewicz's style is his elaborate, often strange combination of adjectives; he puts neologisms side by side with archaisms, makes innovations in syntax, and in his eclogues is much given to sentimental diminutives. The eight satires are more interesting, although half of them are adaptations of Boileau. The themes, the character studies, and the moral and social problems of these works are the familiar stock in trade of both foreign and Polish satirical literature. Nevertheless, Naruszewicz's satires show a great deal of originality in their adaptation of foreign motifs to Polish circumstances as well as in amplications and changes. The language is generally simpler than in Naruszewicz's other works, and often more forceful than in Boileau; it stresses the elements of raillery and jeering, and gives strong expression to Naruszewicz's sense of mordant irony, indignation, and even grief. Unfortunately, Naruszewicz's customary weaknesses sometimes intrude his conventionalism, didacticism, and bombastic rhetoric.

The characteristic differences between the poetry of Mickiewicz and that of S-owacki are best seen in their language and verse. Mickiewicz was a master in his simplicity, precision, and clarity of style. Taken separately, his words are simple, common, current, and understandable to all. Only the proximity of other words, their distribution, succession, rhythm and rhyme combinations lend them poetic expression, making them unusual, giving them a new sparkle, and revealing them in a new, startling form. S-owacki is different. His vocabulary is in itself unusual, poetical by birth, as it were, and often difficult and 'artificial'; it abounds in neologisms, created with brilliant linguistic intuition, and changes in structure, declension, and syntax. The later his production, the more distinct and intense this trait becomes; it reached its summit in the period of S-owacki's mysticism, when his works required a special language all the more. In those works his linguistic inventiveness and creativeness surpassed everything that has ever been done in Polish poetry. All the known means of poetic expression the poetic image, description, symbol, metaphor, simile, to mention only the principal ones assume a new shape. The metaphor joins very distant clauses, symbolism penetrates every description and image, colors operate in the most unusual combinations, and the world of sound intensifies the voices of nature, making them unusual.

The poet's exclamation in Beniowski

And mine will be victory beyond the grave!' was fulfilled in the third generation of Polish poets. 'Young Poland,' at the end of the nineteenth century, acknowledged him as its master, placing him at the very pinnacle of Polish poetry. His influence was strongest in that epoch, but even the one which followed was not independent of the fertile force of his poetry. It had entered the blood of creative Poland, and lives on; it will continue to live as long as poets are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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