Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Bridges or Walls? A Reflection on the Concept of Hospitality

Academic journal article The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education

Bridges or Walls? A Reflection on the Concept of Hospitality

Article excerpt


Hospitality is an issue that often evokes strong feelings. In many closer circles, for example at the family or friends level, it would by risky to state that your host is inhospitable, as one would most likely offend the host and face ostracism. Various aspects of such circles - with hospitality among them - are at least to some extent a reflection of a whole nation, and most nations, if not all, like to think they are hospitable. Perceiving oneself as hospitable, in turn, leads to perceiving oneself as better as or more unique than others. Poland is certainly no exception to this rule. At this point, a question arises: do Polish people have solid grounds to believe that their hospitableness is or was special?

This chief goal of the presentation, therefore, is to answer the above question by examining the state of hospitality of the peoples inhabiting the territory of present-day Poland, starting with Proto-Slavs and finishing with present Poles. Since a tribe, a nation and even a race recurrently defines itself through juxtaposition with other tribes, nations and races, the paper contains comparisons between Poles' hospitality and the hospitality of other, selected nations. Also, the study illustrates some ways of how hospitality in Poland could be communicated. It needs to be added here that because the matter of hospitality is very broad, this paper demonstrates the notion in question chiefly from the host's perspective (who offers hospitality), leaving aside the guest (to whom hospitality is offered). Finally, the discourse attempts to arbitrate whether the condition of hospitality in Poland helps to build xenophilia or xenophobia, i.e. a bridge between nations or a wall.

2Hospitality in Poland: definitions, associations, and shades of meaning

Firstly, it needs to be established what hospitality is. According to Słownik języka polskiego, hospitality is simply cordiality shown to one's guests and is connected with selflessness and joyful enthusiasm or exuberance (Sobol 2005:241; Szymczak 1995:641). Praktyczny słownik współczesnej polszczyzny (Zgółkowa 1997:458) mentions features associated with hospitality such as generosity, bountifulness, open-handedness, and goodness. Wielki słownik etymologiczno-historyczny języka polskiego informs the reader that the Polish word gość - 'guest' - the predecessor of gościna - 'hospitality' - came to Polish from the Proto-Slavic (c. 1500 BC - 1000 AD) gostb, which in turn originated from the pre-Indo-European ghostis. This etymology is applied to many words in contemporary Slavic languages, for example, host in Czech, gost in Russian, hist in Ukrainian. Non-Slavic languages also have their equivalents of ghostis: Gast in German, guest in English, or hostis in Latin (Długosz-Kurczabowa 2008:222-223).

Initially, gość was defined as an alien person, a foreigner. However, unlike in many languages - for instance in Latin, where it denoted an unwanted visitor, an enemy - in the Polish language the word acquired positive connotations. Nowadays, next to gościnność - 'hospitality', there is a vast variety of vocabulary stemming from gość, for instance: gościniec - 'a road and later a house for guests', gospoda - a guesthouse, gospodarz and gospodyni - 'the male and female owner of a [guest]house', gospodarstwo -'a household', and gościć - 'to offer hospitality' as well as a number of archaic words such as gościa 'a - female guest', gospodzin and gospodza - 'God and God's Mother,1 gościec - meaning rheumatism, and many more. In addition, the Polish lexicon has adopted a number of words from other languages which are etymologically related to the pre-Indo-European ghostis and which thus have the same roots as gość, for example from Hungarian gazda -'a highlander host', from Latin hospicjum - 'a hospital' and from French hotel (Długosz-Kurczabowa 2008:222-223).

The linguistic richness disclosed above and the fact any Pole can easily associate hospitality with notions like home, family, nation, respect, solidarity, friendliness, acceptance, neighbourliness, etc. …

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