The Polish language belongs to the northwestern group of the Slavic division of the Indo-European tongues. Its principal dialects, though not materially differing from each other, are those of Masovia, Little Poland and Galicia, Lithuania, and Great Poland, besides the more degenerate Silesian. The alphabet consists of the following letters: a (short Italian a), a (French on), b, b' (soft, combining b and y consonant), c (tz), c (tch, very soft), cz (tch), ch (kh, Ger. ch), d, e (short Italian), e (compressed, as in yes), e (Fr. in), f, g (hard), h, i (short Italian), j (y consonant), k, t(l, very hard), I (It. gl as in gli), m, n, n (Fr. gn), o (short Italian), 6 (compressed, approaching u), p, ft (soft, b and y consonant), r, rz (rzh, Fr. rj in one), s, s (sh, very soft), sz (sh), t, u (short Italian), w (v), x, y (resembling the Ger. u),z, z (zh, Fr. j), z (zh, very soft). I serves to soften various consonants, replacing the '; drob, little poultry, gen. drobiu; zyc, to live, zycie, life; kon, horse, gen. konia; wies, village, gen. wsi. The accent, except in foreign words and in compounds, is constantly on the penultimate: rodak, countryman, gen. roddka, dat. rodakowi. As in Latin, there is no article: cnota, virtue, a virtue, the virtue.
There are seven cases of declension: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, instrumental (mieczem, by or with the sword), and locative (after certain prepositions, as w Bogu, in God). The forms of declension depend upon the termination, the gender, and the kind, words of the same termination denoting persons, animals, and lifeless objects having in the masculine severally different forms. The gender of nouns is mostly determined by the termination. There are three genders for nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, and participles, as: Moj dobry kochany ojciec dat, My good beloved father gave; Moja dobra kochana matka (mother) data; Moje dobre kochane dziecko (child) dafo. The following may serve as examples of the declension of nouns and adjectives in the masculine and feminine singular: wielki las, (a, the) large forest, wielhiego lasu, wielhiemu lasowi, wielhi las, wielhi lesie !, wielhim lasem, (w) wielhim lesie; wielha rzeha, (a, the) large river, wielhiej rzehi, wielhiej rzece, wielha rzehg, wielha rzeho /, wielha rzeha, (w) wielhiej rzece.
The comparative degree is formed by the syllable szy (nom. mas. sing.), the superlative by naj and szy, thus: stary, old, starszy, older, naj-starszy, oldest; mocny, strong, mocniejszy, naj-mocniejszy. The numerals are as follows: je-den (Sans, eha; compare also the Heb. e' had and the Hung, egy), dwa (Sans, dvi, Gr. , Lat. duo), trzy (Sans, tri, Gr. , Lat. tres), cztery (Sans, tchatur, Lat. quatuor), piec (Sans, pan-tchan, Gr. ), szesc (Sans, shash, Lat. sex), siedm (Sans, saptan, Lat. septem), osm (Sans. ashtan), dziewied, dziesiec (Sans, datfan, Lat. decern), sto (Sans, tfata, Lat. centum), tysiac (thousand). The verb is exceedingly rich in forms, which serve to express frequency, intensity, inception,duration, and other modes of action or being. The formatives consist chiefly of prepositions and other particles, as in German, thus: znat, to know, Ger. hennen; poznac, to recognize, Ger. erhennen; rwac, to tear, wyrwac, to snatch, Ger. entreissen; rozerwad, to tear asunder, Ger. zerreissen; rozrywatf, long or frequently to tear asunder; porozrywad, to tear asunder to the last, C marks the infini-tive, t the past: znam, I know, zna6, to know, znalem, I knew; the persons are distinguished by the termination: znam, I know, znasz, thou knowest, zna (he, she, it) knows, znamy, znacie, znam, we, you, they know. Diminutives, denominatives, and other derivatives are abundant. Compounds are rare. The words of a sentence can be arranged almost as freely as in Latin, misunderstanding being precluded by the distinctness of the formative terminations.
In flexibility, richness, power, and harmony the Polish is hardly excelled by any other language of Europe; its grammatical structure is fully developed and firmly established, its orthography precise and perfect. The principal grammars are by Kopczynski, Mrongovius, Bandtke, Mrozinski, Poplinski, and Muczkowski (Cracow, 1845); the principal dictionaries by Linde, Bandtke, Mrongovius (Konigsberg, 1835), and Trojanski (Posen, 1835-'46). - The oldest remnants of Polish literature consist of proverbs, popular songs and tales, and a religious song in praise of the Virgin (Boga rodzica) attributed to St. Adalbert (Wojciech), who lived in the time of the first Christian monarch of Poland, toward the close of the 10th century. The Latinizing influence of Christianity, and of the universities of western Europe, which were generally frequented by the Poles, prevented the development of a national literature in Poland during the middle ages; and all the literary productions of that period, as well as the laws of the country, were written in Latin. Among the most important of the former are the chronicles of Martin Gal-lus (about 1130), Kadlubek (1220), Boguphalus (1250), and Martin Skrzenbski, surnamed Polonus (1270), and the celebrated " History of Poland " by Dlugosz (1480). The principal centre of scholarship and science was the university of Cracow, the first foundation of which was laid by Oasimir the Great (1347), and which among its teachers and alumni counted some of the most distinguished scholars of Europe, among others Copernicus, whom Poland claims as its son and citizen.
The first Polish printing press was established at Cracow toward the close of the reign of Casimir IV. (1490). Among its earliest productions is the great collection of Polish laws by the chancellor of King Alexander, John Laski (1506). In the succeeding reigns of Sigismund I. and his son Sigismund Augustus, the last two of the Jagellons (1506-72), Polish literature was first and rapidly developed, the 16th century being regarded by many as its golden age. The poetical style especially rose to an astonishing degree of perfection. The satirist Rej (born in 1515), and John Kochanow-ski, the great lyrical poet (1532-'84), are both called the fathers of Polish poetry. Of the two younger brothers of the latter, Peter translated Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered," and Andrew Virgil's AEneid. The poets Szarzynski, Ry-binski, Klonowicz, Miaskowski, and Grochow-ski were contemporaries of the Kochanowskis. The reformation, which found an easy spread in Poland, produced numerous translations of the Bible into the national language, for Lutherans and Socinians as well as for Catholics. Among the theologians of that age the great Catholic pulpit orator Skarga (died 1612) and the Protestant author Niemojewski deserve particular mention.
Martin and his son Joachim Bielski, in the latter part of the 16th century, wrote a Kronika polslca, Gornicki Dzieje w koronie polskiej (" History of the Polish Crown Lands"), Stryjkowski (died 1582) a " Chronicle of Lithuania," and Paprocki (died in 1614) works on heraldry. Others wrote in Latin: Orzechowski the Annates Polonim; Kromer, archbishop of Ermeland (died in 1589), De Origine et Rebus Gestis Polonorum. Szy-monowicz (Simonides), an author of celebrated Latin odes, and of equally excellent Polish idyls (Sielanki), and Zimorowicz, his rival in the latter species of composition, flourished during the reign of Sigismund III. (1587-1632); but in the second half of that reign Polish literature began rapidly to decline, Latin being the principal object and medium of instruction. The disastrous wars and civil strifes of that and the following reigns of the Vasa dynasty exercised a pernicious influence. Sobieski restored only the glory of Polish arms, and the succeeding Saxon rule inaugurated a period of general relaxation. During a century and a quarter pedantry, bad taste, and impurity of language prevailed.
Of the better poets of that epoch may be mentioned the Jesuit Sarbiewski (Sar-bievius, died in 1640), who wrote in Latin only, and earned the title of the Sarmatian Horace; Opalinski, a writer of satires (died in 1655); Twardowski (died in 1660); Kochowski, who accompanied John Sobieski to Vienna, and in the epic Wiedeii wyzwolony (" Vienna Delivered ") sang the glory of his hero; Bar-dzinski; Morsztyn, the translator of Corneille; and Elizabeth Druzbacka (1687-1760), whose Pochwata lasow (" Praise of the Woods"), Cztery pory roku ("The Four Seasons of the Year "), etc, appear as the precursors of a better literary age. The historians wrote mostly in Latin: Piasecki (1585-1649) a liberal history of his times (Chronicon Oestorum in Eu-ropd); Starowolski (died in 1656), among other works, a Status Regni Polonim Descriptio; Kojalowicz (died in 1677) an excellent Historia Lithuania; Andrew Wengierski (died in 1649) and Lubieniecki (died in 1675) histories of the Reformed church in Poland. Among those who contributed most to the introduction of a better era were the brothers Joseph and Andrew Za-luski; the former, who was bishop of Kiev (died in 1774), especially by the collection of a library of more than 200,000 volumes.
More powerful still was the influence of the great reformer of public education, the Piarist Konarski (died in 1773). The courts of the exiled king Lesz-cynski in Lorraine, and of Poniatowski in Warsaw, as well as the residences of the princes Czartoryski and Jablonowski, were centres around which the representatives of reform in politics, social life, education, literature, and science grouped themselves. The politically unhappy reign of Poniatowski, the last king of independent Poland, thus became in a literary point of view the most distinguished. Piramo-wicz wrote for schools; Bohomolec translated French dramas; Trembecki, Kniaznin, and Wengierski composed fine lyrical or descriptive poems; Naruszewicz a great " History of Poland " and an admirable translation of Tacitus; and Krasicki miscellaneous works in verse and prose, by which he merited the distinction of being called the Voltaire of Poland. This purified literary activity survived the divisions and fall of Poland. The poets Go-debski, Wenzyk, author of Okolice Krahowa ("The Environs of Cracow"), and Dm6chow-ski, the dramatists Felinski, Kropinski, Osin-ski, and Boguslawski, and the eminent historical or political writers Czacki, Albertrandy, Kollontaj, Stanislas Potocki, Ossolinski, and Staszyc, belong principally to the beginning of the present century.
The most popular poets of the next following period were Karpinski, Brodzinski, Woronicz, and especially Niemce-wicz, who was also distinguished as a historian, and in his ballads (Spiewy historyczne) surpassed all his predecessors. He was, however, soon afterward himself eclipsed in epic poetry by Mickiewicz, the founder of the romantic school of Polish poetry, around whom numerous young disciples grouped themselves at Wilna. To the romantic school belong most of the more recent poets of Poland, many of whom wrote, after the revolution of 1831, in exile; the Ukrainians Malczewski, author of the admirable epic "Maria," Goszczynski, Zaleski, and Padura; Odyniec, author of the drama of Izora; Korsak, who wrote elegiac poetry and lyrics; Alexander Chodzko, translator of Persian and other oriental poetry; Gorecki, Siemienski, Garczynski, Bielowski, Julius Slowacki, Groza, Krasinski, Zaleski, and numerous others. Novels were published in the earlier part of this century by Niemcewicz, Maria Czatoryska, Bernatowicz, and Skarbek, and more recently by Grabowski, Czajkow-ski, Zielinski, Kaczkowski, and especially Kra-szewski. Dramas have been written by Skarbek, Kaminski, Fredro, Magnuszewski, Korze-niowski, and others; the best historical works by Bandtke, Lelewel, Maciejowski, Narbutt, Eduard Raczynski, Plater, Szajnocha, and Lukaszewicz; the most popular educational works by Clementina Tanska-Hoffmann; and philosophical works by Sniadecki, Trentowski, and Libelt. The most important works on Polish literature are by Mochnacki, Muczkow-ski, Bentkowski, Ossolinski, Chodynicki, Wisz-niewski (Historya literatury polskiej, 7 vols., Cracow, 1840-'46), and Lukaszewicz (Posen, 1860). - The centres of Polish literary activity, and especially of periodical literature, are Warsaw, Wilna, Posen, Cracow, Lemberg, and Paris, the latter city as the principal seat of the Polish emigration.
Warsaw, however, in spite of very severe restrictions on the press, has always maintained a decided preeminence over all its rivals, as the literary metropolis of Poland.