The Institute of Polish Language of the Polish Academy of Sciences was founded on the 1st October 1973. From the beginning, its main headquarters was Kraków (and until 1999 the building at Straszewskiego 27). The Institute employed scholars of Polish studies specializing in dialectology, onomastics, history and descriptive grammar of the Polish language, new Polish vocabulary, and other language phenomena related to the development of contemporary Polish language. The staff of the newly founded Institute were mostly drawn from the existing linguistic units of the Academy: the Department of Polish Language in Kraków, the Department of Linguistics in Warsaw and the Laboratory of Applied Linguistics in Poznań. The following departments and laboratories were established in the few years that followed the foundation of the Institute:

  • Department of Contemporary Polish Language:
    • Contemporary Polish Grammar Unit,
    • Comparative Grammar Unit (in Poznań),
    • Dictionary of Polish Verbs Unit (in Sosnowiec);
  • Department of Polish Language History:
    • Old Polish Language Unit,
    • Historical Syntax Unit;
  • Department of Polish Dialectology;
  • Department of Polish Onomastics:
    • Anthroponymy Unit,
    • Toponymy Unit;
  • Department of Linguistics (in Warsaw):
    • Slavic Linguistic Atlas (SLA) Unit,
    • History of the 17th and 18th Century Polish Language Unit,
    • Mazovian Dialectology Unit,
    • “Language Observatory” Unit,
    • Research on Speech Mechanisms Unit.

The organizational structure of the Institute has changed over time to best suit the changing nature of research. At present, the Institute is divided into nine departments. Most are based in Kraków, currently in the building at Mickiewicza 31, which became the property of IJP PAN in 1999. Two departments, of the History of the 17th and 18th Century Polish Language, and of the Borderland Polish Language, are located in Warsaw, in the building at Ratuszowa 11.

The first director of the Institute was prof. Stanisław Urbańczyk (from 1973–1979). He was followed by prof. Władysław Lubaś (1979–1991), prof. Kazimierz Rymut (1992–2002), prof. Ireneusz Bobrowski (2002–2008) and prof. Piotr Żmigrodzki (2008–2016). Since September 2016, the current director is prof. Maciej Eder.

What distinguishes IJP PAN among other research institutions in the Polish humanities are the extensive lexicographic works conducted here, developed using original linguistic material and of major significance for national culture. Their editing usually requires the creation of numerous research teams with highly specialized competencies. It is worth emphasizing it is not generally possible to build such teams and to carry out these kinds of projects within a university structure.

Many of the dictionaries created in the Institute are scholarly/historical: e.g. the Old Polish Dictionary, the Electronic Dictionary of the 17th−18th c. Polish, and the Dictionary of Polish Dialects. Here one should also mention the Dictionary of Medieval Latin in Poland, created under the honorary patronage of L’Union Académique Internationale as one of a dozen similar European lexicographic undertakings, aimed at documenting regional varieties of medieval Latin.

The largest study dedicated to contemporary Polish is the Great Dictionary of Polish, edited exclusively in an electronic version. Its creators aim to provide a wide range of recipients with the best and most comprehensive description of the Polish lexis, prepared in the theoretical framework developed by Polish linguists at the turn of the 20th and 21st century. The Institute is also creating multiple onomastic dictionaries, describing both geographical and personal names that are recorded in contemporary and Old Polish. Some of them are: Słownik staropolskich nazw osobowych (Dictionary of Old Polish Personal Names), Słownik etymologiczno-motywacyjny staropolskich nazw osobowych (Etymological and Motivational Dictionary of Old Polish Personal Names), Słownik nazw miejscowych Polski (Dictionary of geographical names of Poland), and Elektroniczny słownik hydronimów polskich (Electronic Dictionary of Polish Hydronyms). In addition, the researchers from the Department of Etymology and Geolinguistics prepare entries within the international projects of the Slavic Linguistic Atlas (SLA) and the Atlas of the European Languages (ALE).

However, the activities of the Institute are not limited to lexicographical works but also align with the most important trends in Polish (and, more recently, international) linguistics. At the beginning of the 80s, the employees of the Institute made a significant contribution to the development of the Grammar of the Polish language (Gramatyka Języka Polskiego, Warszawa 1984: PWN), popularly known as “the Yellow Grammar Textbook”, which was then a methodological breakthrough. Today, the scholars from the Institute maintain an important presence in the fields of digital humanities, corpus linguistics, and electronic lexicography. The Department of Methodology conducts stylometric studies and is involved in the creation and analysis of Polish language corpora. The Department of the Etymology and Geolinguistics has prepared a corpus of texts and recordings of the regional dialect of Spisz region inhabitants. Furthermore, the Department of the History of the 17th and 18th Century Polish Language has developed the The Electronic Corpus of the 17th and 18th c. Polish Texts (up to 1772) (KorBa), and the Department of Medieval Latin built Fontes Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis Polonorum (Corpus of Polish Medieval Latin). In addition, the Department of Old Polish Language published Biblioteka zabytków polskiego piśmiennictwa średniowiecznego (A collection of the monuments of Polish medieval literature) in computer-readable format, containing the most important texts written in Polish before 1500.

In recent years, electronic lexicography has been of increasing interest to the Institute, both in the practical (digitization of resources and creating exclusively digital dictionaries) and theoretical senses. In-depth methodological considerations are particularly relevant to the work on the Great Dictionary of Polish. Other electronic projects are the above-mentioned dictionaries of 17th and 18th Century Polish and of Polish hydronyms, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin in Poland (letters A-Q) made available by the Department of Medieval Latin, and A Conceptual Dictionary of the Old Polish by the Department of Old Polish.

The international impact of IJP PAN employees can be seen by their participation in large international projects, particularly those funded by the EU, such as COST actions: IS1005 Medioevo Europeo “Medieval Europe – Medieval Cultures and Technological Resources” in 2011-2015 (Department of Medieval Latin), IS1305 European Network of e-Lexicography in 2013-2017, CA16105 “European Network for Combining Language Learning with Crowdsourcing Techniques” in 2017-2021 (Department of the Great Dictionary of Polish), CA16204 “Distant Reading for European Literary History” in 2017-2021 (Department of Methodology).

Many current and former employees of the IJP PAN belong to prestigious Polish and foreign scholarly associations, such as: The Polish Linguistic Society, Polish Academy of Learning, Societas Linguistica Europea, International Committee of Onomastic Sciences, International Society for Dialectology & Geolinguistics, Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations, European Association for Digital Humanities, and International Quantitative Linguistics Association.

IJP PAN staff have authored numerous publications, scholarly articles, and monographs. They also manage research projects financed with the resources of the National Center for Science and the National Program for the Development of Humanities. Such projects include both lexicographical and corpus issues, as well as fundamental research focused on synchronous and diachronic linguistics. There are also pioneering interdisciplinary projects, such as the “Development of computational chemical linguistics and its applications to the efficient planning of multi-step chemical syntheses”, carried out in cooperation with the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Warsaw.

The Institute also offers doctoral studies in linguistics, and in cooperation with the Society of Polish Language Enthusiasts organizes regular meetings including Digital Humanities Lunches, Hortus Deliciarum (lectures in Medieval Latin), Nominarium (lectures in onomastics), Breakfasts with Lexicography, and Dialogues on Dialects, which serve to integrate the scholarly community from various fields and to promote research to the general public. Several of these meetings are conducted in hybrid format.

For more about the history of IJP PAN:

Czopek-Kopciuch, Barbara (2010), Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN i jego dyrektorzy [in:] Barbara Czopek-Kopciuch, Piotr Żmigrodzki (red.), Język polski wczoraj – dziś – jutro…, Wydawnictwo LEXIS, Kraków, pp. 61–66.

Lubaś, Władysław (1994), Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN w Krakowie w latach 1973–1991, Polonica XVI, pp. 252–267.

Rymut Kazimierz (1975), Kronika Instytutu Języka Polskiego PAN (period: 1 X 1973 – 31 V 1974 r.), Polonica I, pp. 329–335.

Rymut Kazimierz (1976), Kronika Instytutu Języka Polskiego PAN (period: 1 VI 1974 – 31 V 1975 r.), Polonica II, pp. 295–298.


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