“A Grammar of Contemporary Polish” by Oscar E Swan Posted by Anna on Jan 28, 2009 in Grammar
There are so few Polish grammar books out there so I feel that just for existing alone I should give it a high rating. But… there’s always a “but.” So, here we go:
- 1. The language.
The author, Oscar E. Swan is a professor of Slavic Languages at the University of Pittsburgh. And unfortunately, it shows. (explanation – it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with Prof. Swan’s command of Polish, heck his Polish is better than most native Polish speakers I know, but that he talks like a specialist in his field forgetting that the little people are not.)
Even though the book claims to “be accessible to the non-specialist,” I get the feeling that Professor Swan and I have a vastly different understanding of this phrase. True, he does make an effort to explain stuff for those who don’t have advanced degrees in linguistics, and it may have worked even if it had been any other language, like Swedish. But unfortunately, we’re talking Polish here.
Take this sentence, for example:
“With natural accomplishment and logical-result verbs, the structurally and semantically basic form of the verb is almost always the perfective, whether prefixed or not, and the imperfective form will be derived from it by suffixation.”
Yeah, right. Like non-specialists will get that. Totally. But if you can put up with and understand that sort of stuff, then this is an excellent book. It does have a glossary of grammatical terms at the very end, where you can look up all those fancy words you don’t know. But that glossary brings us to:
- 2. Poor organization.
This is indeed a very comprehensive grammar book, but why is it so poorly organized? Wouldn’t it be more convenient for the dummies among us to stick the definitions right in the chapters that actually cover that stuff?
- 3. Tables and examples.
Excellent all around. That alone makes this book worth looking for. And most likely, if you want to buy it, you will have to dig around on-line, because it’s out of print. I found it in a second-hand book shop in Washington state.
What could make it better?
Simplifying the language in which stuff is explained – ideally by assuming that the reader knows nothing, or very little about grammar, in any language. But until someone comes up with “Polish Grammar for Dummies” this is what we have to work with. And as far as grammar books go, it could be worse.
Publisher: Slavica, Indiana University