Simovych, Vasyl

Image - Vasyl Simovych Image - Title page of the 1918 Ukrainian grammar by Vasyl Simovych. Image - Vasyl Simovych (1930 photo).

Simovych, Vasyl [Сімович, Василь; Simovyč, Vasyl'; pseud: V. Vernyvolia], b 9 March 1880 in Hadynkivtsi, Husiatyn county, Galicia, d 13 March 1944 in Lviv. Linguist, philologist, and cultural figure; member of the Shevchenko Scientific Society (NTSh) from 1923. As a student at Chernivtsi University (1899–1904), where his mentor was Stepan Smal-Stotsky, he joined the Revolutionary Ukrainian party and in 1902–3 was a coeditor of its journals, Haslo and Selianyn, and of the newspaper Bukovyna. He defended his PH D dissertation on the verb in Ioanikii Galiatovsky’s works in 1913. During the First World War he worked with the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine as a cultural organizer and teacher in German and Austrian prisoner of war camps holding 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers of the Russian Army. He produced for them a synchronic grammar of Ukrainian (1918); its expanded 2nd edition (1921) incorporated elements of scholarly grammar. In 1919–20 he headed the Cultural-Educational Department of the Ukrainian Military Mission for Ukrainian Prisoners in Germany, edited its periodical, Shliakh (Salzwedel), and wrote a popular booklet on how to become literate. In Berlin (1920–3) he worked as an editor and translator for the Ukrainska Nakladnia publishing house and prepared annotated editions of Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar (1921) and of works by Ivan Franko and Bohdan Lepky (1922). Then, while serving as a professor (1923–33; and rector, 1926–30) at the Ukrainian Higher Pedagogical Institute in Prague and at the Higher Trade School in Prague, he played an active role in Ukrainian life in Czechoslovakia. He was a member of the Prague Linguistic Circle, and produced a textbook of Old Church Slavonic grammar (1926), an anthology of Old Ukrainian literature (1932), and articles in Ukrainian historical morphology (eg, on the pronoun ščo ‘what, that,’ masculine nouns and male names ending in -o, and adjectives) and phonology (the interplay of e and o) and the history of Ukrainian linguistics and orthography (Galiatovsky’s translations of the Bible, Mykhailo Luchkai’s grammar, the drahomanivka script, Josef Jireček’s proposal for a Ukrainian Latin alphabet).

Later, in Lviv, Simovych worked as an editor of the Prosvita society’s publications (including the journal Zhyttia i znannia, in which he published articles on the Ukrainian language), Ukraïns’ka zahal’na entsyklopediia (The Ukrainian General Encyclopedia), the cultural-literary journal Nazustrich (1934–8), and the scholarly journal S’ohochasne i mynule (1939). He was a member of the board of directors and the Language Commission of the Shevchenko Scientific Society. He devoted his attention to Ukrainian modern and historical phonology and morphology, the history of Ukrainian orthography, and the practical problems of the normative language. The first and most prominent Ukrainian phonologist of the ‘Prague structuralist school,’ he combined its ideas with the approaches of W. Humboldt and Oleksander Potebnia.

During the first Soviet occupation of Galicia (1939–41), Simovych served as professor, dean of philology, and rector (1941) at Lviv University. Under the German occupation (1941–4) he was briefly imprisoned, and then worked as an editor for the Lviv branch of the Ukrainske Vydavnytstvo (Cracow) publishing house and played an active role in the Ukrainian Central Committee’s Scholarly Fund and Relief Committee for Eastern Ukrainian Refugees. A detailed evaluation of his scholarly contributions is found in the two-volume collection of his works Ukraïns’ke movoznavstvo (Ukrainian Linguistics, 1981, 1984), edited by George Yurii Shevelov.

Kovaliv, P. Vasyl’ Simovych (Fort William, Ontario 1953)
Bilous, M.; Terlak, Z. Vasyl’ Simovych, 1880–1944: Zhyttiepysno-bibliohrafichnyi narys (Lviv 1995)

George Yurii Shevelov

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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