Hrunsky, Mykola

Hrunsky, Mykola [Грунський, Микола; Hruns'kyj], b 10 October 1872 in Sumy, Kharkiv gubernia, d 13 August 1951 in Kyiv. Linguist, Slavist. A graduate of Kharkiv University (1896, master’s degree 1899), he began his scholarly career there at the Department of Slavic Philology (1900–2). After a research trip abroad (1902–3), Hrunsky moved to Dorpat (today Tartu, Estonia) where he worked as assistant professor (from 1903), extraordinary professor (from 1907), and full professor (from 1912). In 1915, he was appointed professor of the Russian language at Kyiv University where he also served as rector in 1919–20.

Hrunsky’s first books devoted specifically to the Ukrainian language were an outline of its grammar and a historical sketch of its orthography, both written in Russian and published in Kyiv in 1918. In 1927, he co-authored with Hryhorii Sabaldyr a useful Ukrainian-language textbook (also published in Kyiv). One of Hrunsky’s main areas of interest within the Ukrainian linguistics was orthography and punctuation. In 1924–39 he produced several practical teaching guides in these areas. In 1938 he was appointed learned secretary of the State Commission for the Regulation of Orthography, where he recommended some necessary amendments to the Russified orthography of 1933. Hrunsky also insisted on the importance of teaching the history of the Ukrainian language as a separate discipline in university programs and he co-authored (with Panteleimon Kovaliv) a course book on the history of morphology (Kyiv 1931). Around 1938 he promoted in the press the idea of compiling a historical dictionary of Ukrainian, but this project was not realized at that time. In the area of Slavic studies, Hrunsky published Ocherki po istorii razrabotki sintaksisa slavianskikh iazykov (Contributions to the History of Syntactic Studies of Slavic Languages, 2 vols, 1910–11) and a number of works dealing with particular old texts in Church Slavonic, including the Freising Fragments and the Kyiv Glagolitic Folios (Kyiv Missal). Hrunsky paid considerable attention to Slovo o polku Ihorevi and produced a Ukrainian-language commented prose translation of this epic, published posthumously in 1952. His course book on Church Slavonic appeared in two editions in Kyiv (1941 and 1946).

In matters of methodology, Hrunsky was, on the whole, a proponent of the historical and comparative approach to linguistics. He defended this viewpoint as early as 1928 (in his article ‘Osnovy ta problemy suchasnoï lingvistyky’ [The Principles and Problems of Modern Linguistics] published in vol. XXIII of Zapysky Istorychno-filolohichnoho viddilu VUAN) both against the tendency to focus on synchrony (as advocated by Ferdinand de Saussure in the West), and against the insistence on language mixing (as practiced by Nikolai Marr in the Soviet Union). With respect to the latter’s views, however, Hrunsky was compelled to conform to the Communist Party line throughout the entire period when Marr’s views were officially prescribed in the USSR, until they were finally rejected following the 1950 debate on linguistics conducted in Pravda (Moscow) (only one year before Hrunsky’s death).

[Shevelov, G. Y.] ‘Mykola Hruns'kyi (1879–1951),’ Ukraïna: ukraïnoznavstvo i francuz'ke kul'turne zhyttia, no. 6 (1950)
Kravchuk, Reingol'd. Z istoriï slovians'koho movoznavstva (Kyiv 1961)
Zhovtobriukh, Mykhailo. ‘Hryns'kyj Mykola Kuz'mych,’ in Ukraïns'ka mova: Entsyklopedia, eds. V. M. Rusanivs'kyi et al (Kyiv 2000)
Lukinova, Tetiana. ‘M. R. Hryns'kyi – vydatnyi slavist i pedahoh,’ Mova i kul'tura, issue 6, vol 5, part 1 (2003)

Serhii Vakulenko

[This article was updated in 2022.]

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