Hrodna town books
in Early Modern Times
The article is devoted to investigation of Polish language documents in Hrodna magistrate and language relations in Early Modern Hrodna. The magistrate books, materials of magnate archives, publications of townspeople, inventories of Hrodna catholic convents and the press of that time were examined.
Beginning with the XVI century the Polish language spread quickly in daily and public life of Grand Duchy of Lithuania towns. Town public authorities mostly spoke Polish in everyday intercourse. This group included governors of town magistrates, well–off merchants or real–estate property owners. They merely used cultural wealth of nobility owing to the absence of cultivated canons and patterns of townspeople culture. District nobility, who often came to town to take part in diet and readily bought country–estates there, used more Polish. Unprivileged town–dwellers and petty nobles mostly spoke their mother tongue.
The development of the Polish language as means of official communication in the GDL resulted in the appearance and formation of northeastern Polish dialect. Within XVI—XVII centuries Polish gradually fills the place that used to belong to the formal Ruthenian language in public usage and in the XVIII century Polish utterly replaces it.
Rich archive heritage created across the generations by scribers of Hrodna chancellery, perfectly evidences the stages of development of Polonisms in Early Modern Times. The analysis of collected material once again proves that apart from general tendencies inherent to the development of the Polish literary language, the Polonisms used in Grand Duchy of Lithuania town chancelleries, were characterized by certain conservatism. This became apparent in slow pace of changes by which the General Polish language was affected and in functioning of archaisms that might to a certain degree be related to the influence of the Ruthenian language environment. The contacts of Polish and Ruthenian language systems resulted in the appearance of innovation forms and their symbiosis, and, in many cases, such a phenomenon as hypercorrectness.
The Hrodna sources show the landmarks of the Polish language development spoken in the GDL, its contact with colloquial Ruthenian. As a result, the phenomena characteristic of Ruthenian occur in Polish language documents. They include the appearance of a instead of o in unstressed syllables (paręcze), appearance of the sound â before the stressed o (Lewon) or ŭ (short u) after a vowel (Hauryło). Apart from substance phonetization of the Polish language, the native speakers often used Ruthenian lexicon to denote buildings, objects of public usage, housekeeping, consumer commodities, handicraft wares and social relations: odryna, płoszcza, powieć, czerha, stol, swiren. Ruthenian names written in Latin could also be found: Hrehory, Ławryn, Panas, Hauryło, Symon, Zmitruk (1790), Hardziejewski, Hanczaruk, Hapanowicz. The analysis of documents evidences of inflexion declinations of nouns (grammatical gender declination, Ruthenian gradation of γ/ź or appearance of nouns of masculine gender with –a ending in nominative case), which might be related to Ruthenian language standard.