Roman Zawiliński was born on 1 March 1855 in Brzeziny in the Ropczycki Province (the region of the former Galicia). He was a son of Maksymilian and Anastazja Szeligiewicz. His father was an organist. He went to middle school in Tarnów, and in 1875 he passed the high school exit exam. He started Slavic studies at the University of Vienna where he attended classes taught by Franz Miklosich. In 1876, he enrolled at Jagiellonian University where classes were given by prof. Alfred Brandowski, prof. Stanisław Tarnowski and prof. Lucjan Malinowski, with prof. Malinowski taking charge of the faculty of Slavic languages in 1877. His circle of friends included, i.a., Jan Hanusz, Szymon Matusiak and later Jan Bystroń. In the years 1898-1899, he lived in Prague where, under the supervision of prof. Jan Gebauer, he wrote a doctoral thesis on the influence of the Slovak language on the Polish subdialects of the highlanders. It is not clear whether Zawiliński finished his doctoral thesis, what is known, however, is that he failed to obtain a doctoral degree*. Having had graduated from university in 1878* or 1879*, he started working as a Polish, Latin, Greek and German teacher in the middle schools in Nowy Sącz and Cracow. In September 1902, he became the director of the Tarnów middle school, in the meantime cooperating with social and educational organisations operating in the town. In 1908, he donated close to 700 books from his own library to a newly established town library in Tarnów, founded by the Popular Schooling Association (Towarzystwo Szkoły Ludowej). In September 1908, he returned to Cracow and took up the position of the director of the H. Sienkiewicz Middle School no. 4 where he worked until his retirement in 1924.
He married Waleria Warmska, and he had one daughter and two grandchildren. One of them - Wacław Fedorowicz – also completed Slavic studies and became a Bohemist. He reminisces about his grandfather:
I remember that he was quite tall, he was always walking upright in spite of his 77 years of age. He had thick hair, not completely grey yet and a gingerish moustache. He used to say that he liked to eat like a peasant: milk, in particular, soured milk, whole-wheat bread, cheese and honey – he hated fried eggs with fatback. He enjoyed wine and always kept in the cellar a bottle of good, old Hungarian wine. His grandchildren – my older brother and I – gave him a lot of joy.
Roman Zawiliński died in Cracow on 21 October 1932. He is buried at the Rakowicki Cemetery.
He used the following pseudonyms and cryptonyms: R., Red., R.Z., RZ, Z., Z-I, Zaś Antoni.
Even as a young teacher, Zawiliński travelled a lot. He visited, among others, the Beskids, the Żywiecczyzna region, Cieszyn Silesia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. His travel reports were printed by the Academy of Learning in the journals: Zbiór Wiadomości do Antropologii Krajowej (Information to the National Anthropology) and Materiały Antropologiczno-Archeologiczne i Etnograficzne (Materials in the Field of Anthropology, Archaeology and Ethnography). Zawiliński’s research in the field of dialectology lead him to write the article “Gwara brzezińska w starostwie ropczyckim” (“The Brzeziński Subdialect in the Ropczyce Region”) published in Rozprawy Wydziału Filologicznego AU (Dissertations of the Language Studies Department of the Academy of Learning) in 1880, which was read and appreciated by linguists of that time. Kazimierz Nitsch described it as “a decent piece of work and, as a material, valuable until today”*.
The most numerous and popular of his publications are those dealing with sociological and ethnographic issues, combining different humanistic disciplines. Texts on Polish and Slavic ethnography (Slovak in particular*) are among the most notable, e.g., the books Wskazówki do zbierania właściwości ludowych (Guidelines to Collecting Folk Artefacts) (1886) or Z kresów polszczyzny. Wrażenia podróżnika (At the Edge of the Polish Language. The Impressions of a Traveller) (1912). In 1899, a monograph was published, titled Słowacy: ich życie i literatura (Slovaks: Their Life and Literature). It was the first work of this kind focusing on another Slavic nation. The book was warmly received in both Poland and Slovakia. In the years 1899-1902, in Nowa Reforma (The New Reform), Zawiliński published the so-called Listy słowiańskie (The Slavic Letters) where he informed readers about the situation of the Slavs living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and after the war, in Cracow, he founded Towarzystwo Słowiańskie (the Slavic Association). His Slavic fascination pushed him to seek the friendship of other Slavists and European scholars. He kept in close touch with, among others, Ksaver Šandor Djalski, Vatroslav Jagić, František Kvapil, Štefan Krčméry, Ante Radić.
One should note that Roman Zawiliński was the first in the history of Polish ethnography to use a phonograph for ethnographic and linguistic research. In 1904, in Zakopane, he recorded (on 2 Edison cylinders) Oracja weselna (The Wedding Oration) and a song of the highlanders O Janicku (Of Janicek) sang by Jan Sabała junior. The recording was presented at a meeting of the Commission which, however, did not find the phonograph to be useful in ethnographic research. The recording made by Zawiliński is available at the Phonographic Collection of the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences and is the oldest original recording kept in the archive.
Roman Zawiliński was an exceptionally talented teacher. Mikołaj Rudnicki, who met him for the first time in a middle school in Cracow, reminisces the time when Zawiliński filled in for a Math teacher. According to the future linguist:
All the boys were captivated by the lesson, I remember it vividly to this day – and how impressed I was.
Zawiliński wrote a few Polish textbooks for middle schools. The most important of them, Gramatyka języka polskiego dla szkół powszechnych i średnich (Polish Grammar for Public Schools and High Schools), was co-authored by Ignacy Stein and was published in Cracow in 1907. Unfortunately, despite favourable reviews (by Z. Wojciechowski and K. Nitsch*), the textbook failed to supersede the outdated grammar book by A. Małecki. In was not until 1920 that Zawiliński’s book was introduced in schools and was reprinted four more times (in Warsaw), the last time in 1926. One of the most notable of Zawiliński’s didactic achievements is the publication of some of the oldest Polish literary works in Wyjątki z pomników języka polskiego w. XIV–XVI (Excerpts from the Landmarks of the Polish Language in the 14th and 16th Centuries) (1892) and Wypisy dla klasy III i IV szkół gimnazjalnych i realnych (Excerpts for Grades 3 and 4 of Middle School and “Realschule”) (1893–1894), written with Jan Czubek.
Other important texts in the field of pedagogy include the books Życie a szkoła (Life and School) (1917), Nasz język ojczysty w przeszłości i teraźniejszości (Our Native Language Then and Now)* (1919) as well as many booklets and articles dealing with school-related issues, e.g., Ideały wychowawcze doby obecnej a szkoła średnia w przyszłości (Educational Ideals of the Modern Age and the High School of the Future)*, Nowa szkoła w nowej Polsce (A New School in the New Poland)*.
Zawiliński’s publications also include popular science articles such as Dykcjonarz polski. Zbiór alfabetyczny zwrotów i wyrażeń niepewnych lub niejasnych (Polish Dictionary. An Alphabetical Lexicon of Confusing or Unclear Expressions and Phrases) (1922). It is a lexicon dealing with the correct use of the Polish language which explains its intricacies and provides correct forms. The author often points out the foreign origin of words wishing to encourage Poles to use their Polish counterparts.
In spite of its ground-breaking nature and great academic value, the work Dobór wyrazów. Słownik wyrazów bliskoznacznych i jednoznacznych do praktycznego użytku (Thesaurus. A Dictionary of Words with the Same or Similar Meaning) (1926–1928) was underestimated. It was the first and for a long time the only thesaurus in Poland, modelled after Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases created in 1912*. In the introduction to the dictionary, Zawiliński stresses that the order and system adopted in the dictionary was taken from the Western models. The vocabulary was divided into 6 main categories: 1. Concepts, 2. Space, 3. Matter, 4. Mind, 5. Will, 6. Feeling. However, according to Nawoja Mikołajczak-Matyja, the form of thesaurus did not catch on in Poland, and the lack of further editions may be explained by “e.g., the unpreparedness of the Polish readers for such a lexicographical text”.* The negative reviews in the linguistic circles in respect of the dictionary were, certainly, not without significance. It was described as a “stylistic guide” based on similar Western works, however, “quite distant from its original versions”*. Also journalists did not much care for the dictionary – as Jan Rzewnicki puts it – Zawiliński “forgot that… it is Poland that he is writing for. It is impossible to imagine a Polish reporter consulting such a book, given that “volapükowanie” of its own language is a point of honour of the same journal”*.
Zawiliński is also recognized for his publishing and editorial work which contributed to the spread of Polish literature. He published without the involvement of an established publisher: the works of Szymon Szymonowic (Castus Ioseph przekładania Stanisława Gosławskiego (Castus Ioseph Translated by Stanisław Gosławski) in 1889), Mikołaj Rej (Żywot Józefa z pokolenia żydowskiego (The Life of Joseph the Jew) from 1545 in 1889 and Krótka rozprawa między trzema osobami, panem, wójtem a plebanem (A Short Discussion among Three Persons, a Lord, an Alderman and a Parson) in 1892) or Wincenty Pol (Pieśń o ziemi naszej oraz liryki wybrane (The Song of our Land and Selected Lyrics) in 1920). It is worth mentioning that Kazimierz Nitsch himself gave credit to Zawaliński for his publishing effort referring to him as “no worse than any other publisher”*.
In the years 1903–1909, he co-edited the publication Ubiory ludu polskiego (The Clothing of the Polish People) and in 1912 the work Ku czci Zygmunta Krasińskiego (In Honour of Zygmunt Krasiński).
Public outreach activities undertaken by Zawiliński were motivated by his wish to promote purity and correct use of the Polish language. His papers and advice were published not only in Poradnik Językowy, but also in popular magazines, e.g., “Ojciec i syn. Kartka z życia A. Asnyka” (“The Father and the Son. A Page from the Life of A. Asnyk”) (Nowa Reforma 1922, no. 173 (3 VIII), pp. 2-3), “O przecinku jako cząstce duszy pisarza” (“About the Comma as a Part of the Soul of a Writer") (Czas 1922, no. 35 (12 II), pp. 2-3), “Kolberg a Chopin” (“Kolberg vs Chopin”) (Nowa Reforma 1926, no. 272 (26 XI), p. 1, no. 273 (3 VIII), p. 1). He wrote for both Polish and international magazines and journals*.
Zawiliński was a member of more than a dozen scientific organisations and associations, i.a., the Association of Higher Education Teachers (Towarzystwo Nauczycieli Szkół Wyższych), the Slavic Association (founded and headed by him for many years), “Polish Applied Arts” Association, (Towarzystwo “Polska Sztuka Stosowana”), the Polish Ethnic Studies Association (Polskie Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze), the Adam Mickiewicz Literary Society. He was also an associate member of the Ethnic Studies Association (Towarzystwo Ludoznawcze) in Prague. He was the most active in the years 1884–1901 in the Anthropological Commission (Komisja Antropologiczna) of the Academy of Learning in Cracow where he was the secretary of the ethnographic department for two terms.
The Polish studies specialists will always know Roman Zawiliński as the founder and – for the first 30 years – the editor of Poradnik Językowy. The first number of the journal was published in 1901 in Cracow and, as the editor himself pointed out, it was founded to “explain language phenomena in a comprehensible manner, remind of rules and principles, clarify doubts and confusion regarding the appropriate use of the language, and thereby correct errors”*. The journal established by Zawiliński received a warm reception of the society and drew the attention of language specialists. From the beginning, articles in Poradnik Językowy were written by Kazimierz Nitsch, Aleksander Brückner, Jan Czubek, Ignacy Stein, Jan Rozwadowski, Adam Antoni Kryński, Henryk Ułaszyn, in later years also by Tytus Benni, Jan Łoś and Mikołaj Rudnicki. According to the people of that time and their descendants, the journal performed a very important function – it protected the unity of the language of Poles living under different partitions and served as its symbol:
Regardless of all its flaws, the journal served a good cause (…). The issues of the journal continued, not least because of the determination and great passion that Roman Zawiliński had for the subject. Notwithstanding various assumptions and trends of the journal, depending on the time and circumstances, what remained unchanged over the years was its mission to serve the nation and ensure purity and evolution of the language. R. Zawiliński’s Poradnik Językowy performed an important function, seen as the southern region of Małopolska, at the time called the Western Galicia, was flooded with influences of the German Vienna and its press. Roman Zawiliński was an unwavering guardian of the proper use of language as understood by him; he was a tireless, but reasonable advocate of language purity, and he made his fellow countrymen cherish their language.
The linguists involved with the university and the Academy of Learning saw the society’s positive reception of Poradnik Językowy and growing interest in language-related issues as an opportunity to spread language knowledge. Once again, Roman Zawiliński’s knowledge, editorial experience and a sense of mission helped him in reaching new goals. In 1913, he invited K. Nitsch, J. Łoś, J. Rozwadowski and M. Rudnicki to join his editorial team and combine efforts to create a new journal, Język Polski (The Polish Language), which focused on theoretical and scientific issues. Poradnik Językowy – as a separate section – was incorporated into the new magazine. In 1919, the two journals were separated – Język Polski was taken over by the Polish Language Commission (Komisja Języka Polskiego) of the Academy of Learning*, Zawiliński, on the other hand, remained the editor and publisher of Poradnik Językowy.
The war and publishing difficulties led to the suspension of the publication of the journal in 1915 and from 1917 to 1918. After the publication was resumed in 1919, Zawiliński emphasised that the popular nature of the journal and the lively discussion with the readers was “the most valuable symptom which can render much better results than long dissertations and debates”*. From mid-1923 until 1924 and in 1928, the journal was not printed due to financial problems and Zawiliński's deteriorating health.
In 1931, Zawiliński decided to pass the publishing into the hands of the newly-established Society for the Proper Use of the Polish Language (Towarzystwo Poprawności Języka Polskiego) (from 1934, Society for Proper Language Use and Culture Propagation (Towarzystwo Krzewienia Poprawności i Kultury Języka), and today the Society for Language Culture (Towarzystwo Kultury Języka)), which was governed by Adam Antoni Kryński. The first issue of “Poradnik Językowy” published in Warsaw was printed in January 1932 and edited by Kazimierz Król*. The new editors declared in the first issue:
As our dear Readers were informed in the last (9-10) issue of Poradnik Językowy, its Founder and Editor, Roman Zawiliński, had passed the journal on to our Society. It is with pleasure that we fulfil the duty to give our most sincere thanks on behalf of the enthusiasts of our native language for his initiative benefiting the whole society and his long, persistent and truly generous work. Poradnik Językowy will remain the guardian of the purity and proper use of language.
Roman Zawiliński died in October 1932, a few months after handing over the journal to the Society. He was an extremely hard-working person, utterly devoted to propagating the knowledge of the Polish language, who “will be remembered as one of the greatest and most influential Polish purists”*. Thanks to his passion and relentless effort, two journals were created and have survived, being until this day among the most important periodicals dealing with the Polish language.
Selected articles and reports
Author: Izabela Stąpor
Translation: Anna Karpowicz