Studies on Old and Middle English Language in Poland (1900-2000). (Linguistics)
Fisiak, Jacek, Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies
Interests in Old and Middle English in Poland go back to the beginning of the 20th century. However, Medieval English did not occupy an important place in English studies in Poland before 1939. There were only two scholars who pursued serious studies in the field, i.e., Prof. Roman Dyboski (1883-1945) in Cracow and Dr. Zygfryd M. Arend (d. 1944) in Poznan.
Professor Dyboski published the edition of Songs, carols and other miscellaneous poems from the Balliol MS 354, Richard Hill's Commonplace-book (EETS, ES 101) in 1908 (which was accepted by the University of Vienna as a habilitation dissertation). In 1910 he also published a study on English medieval language and literature which was used as a handbook at Polish universities until the 1950's.
Arend's interests centred on Middle English phonology, particularly in Cursor Mundi. He was completing a major work on the subject (his habilitation dissertation) when World War II broke out. Part of it, devoted to the phenomenon of linking, appeared in Transactions of the Philological Society 1925-1930 in 1931. Arend unfortunately lost his life in 1944 and did not finish the work.
In 1935 Dyboski and Arend jointly edited the Middle English MS Knyghthode and bataile for the Early English Text Society (EETS, OS 201).
The premature death of both these scholars left Polish departments of English immediately after the war with no real specialist in the field of Medieval English. This situation lasted almost until 1950. A breakthrough came with the return of Alfred Reszkiewicz from his postgraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, Ind., USA and with Professor Margaret Schlauch's arrival in Warsaw in 1951. The rise of interest in the subject was also enhanced by the reform of higher education which introduced to the curriculum of English studies inter alia a two-semester (four hours a week) course on Old English and a two-semester course (also four hours a week) on the history of English with one semester devoted to Middle English (also four hours a week). Both courses were obligatory for all students of English. This continued until 1971 and encouraged a number of students to take up M.A. studies in the area of Medieval English.
The situation changed somewhat for the worse in 1971 when the courses on Old English and the history of English were reduced to one two-semester course on the history of English taught two hours a week. The course was still obligatory for all undergraduates. Since 1981, when universities gained a fair amount of autonomy, in some English departments, e.g., the University of Warsaw, students can hardly have a glimpse at Old or Middle English since the course on the history of English has been reduced to one semester (two hours a week). Some departments (e.g., Poznan) still offer a two-semester (three hours a week) course on the subject. The Poznan School of English additionally offers more advanced courses on various aspects of Old and Middle English for 3rd and 4th year students.
In the fifties major contributions to the field came from Professor Margaret Schlauch (1898-1986) and Professor Alfred Reszkiewicz (1920-1973) both in the form of handbooks for students as well as original papers and larger works.
Professor M Schlauch published a paper on Chaucer's colloquial English (1952b) and an outline history of English (1952a) covering the period from late Middle English until 1950's. The former was later reprinted in several collections of papers and the latter, thoroughly revised and updated, was published under the title The English language in modern times in 1959 (2nd ed. 1964). It was favourably reviewed among others by R. W. Zandvoort, R. M. Wilson, T. Finkenstaedt and E. J. Dobson. M. Schlauch in her analysis of the development of the English language devoted ample space to external social, political and cultural factors determining the course of language evolution and particularly the history of the rise of a standard variety. The work predates the later socio-historical linguistic accounts of the history of English and has not lost much of its originality even today. Among Prof. M. Schlauch's students of Middle English, the only one who has devoted most of his career to research in the field is Professo r Jacek Fisiak (see below).
Professor A. Reszkiewicz combined a profound interest in structural linguistics with a thorough philological training. In Cracow he was under the strong influence of Professor Jerzy Kurylowicz, a world-renowned Indo-Europeanist (1895-1978). His works cover a wide range of topics in Old English phonology and grammar as well as late Middle English syntax. Among the phonological contributions the most important is his study on the phonological status of OE short diphthongs (published in 1953, now a classic widely quoted in world literature, e.g., by F. Mosse, J. Vachek, R. P. Stockwell, B. Trnka and R. M. Hogg among others) and his papers on the rise and loss of some OE short vowels (1971a, 1972). His most important syntactic works include a monograph on word order in Late Old English (1966a), a paper on OE split constructions, and a study of main sentence elements in the Late Middle English Book of Margery Kempe (1962). Professor Reszkiewicz has provided generations of Polish students with original handbooks, g rammars and readers of Old English (1951-54, 1964, 1973a, 1973b [reprinted 1996], 1973c). His Diachronic grammar of Old English was reprinted after twenty-three years and is still in use at Polish universities. He taught a number of specialists currently involved in the research and teaching of Medieval English. Among his students of Old English were Prof. J. Fisiak and Prof. J. Welna. His untimely sudden death in 1973 deprived Poland and the scholarly world at large of an outstanding medievalist.
In the early sixties three younger scholars entered the field of Medieval English, i.e., Professor Jacek Fisiak (b. 1936; in Lodz until 1965 and since then in Poznan), a student of Professor M. Schlauch and Professor A. Reszkiewicz, Professor Ruta Nagucka (b. 1930; in Cracow; she published earlier under her maiden name Sikora), a student of Professor Kurylowicz, and Docent Walerian Swieczkowski (1929-1993; in Lublin), a student of Roman Jakobson at Harvard.
Professor Jacek Fisiak provided Polish students with An Early Middle English reader (1961, 5th ed. 1996) and A Middle English grammar (1964 and a revised version in 1968; 7th ed. 1995). He has also published a monograph on the morphology of Chaucer's English (1965), which is still one of the few treatments of Chaucer's word formation. Prof. Fisiak has contributed a number of papers on Old and Middle English phonology, in particular on OE and ME consonant clusters and vocalic changes (1967, 1968, 1982a, 1988a), on subjectless sentences in Middle English (1976) and on certain ME linguistic changes due to social motivation (1977b). Since the early 1980's his interests have focussed on Old and Middle English …
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Publication information: Article title: Studies on Old and Middle English Language in Poland (1900-2000). (Linguistics). Contributors: Fisiak, Jacek - Author. Journal title: Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: international review of English Studies. Publication date: Annual 2000. Page number: 3+. © 2007 Adam Mickiewicz University. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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