Jiří Krámský

From Glottopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Czech linguist, born on 23.10.1913 at Plzeň in a family of a law official, † 30.9.1991. PhDr. Jiří Krámský, DrS. finished his schooling at the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague, where he studied Turkish and Iranian, and also English philology.

His doctoral thesis was called A Grammatical Analysis of ‘View of the Present State of Ireland’ by Spencer. This work was finished under the linguistic guidance of Bohumil Trnka. Vilém Mathesius became the second personality of the linguistic branch that influenced Krámský’s studies. The reason for following in the footsteps of these two authorities was natural:

Structuralism of the Prague linguistic circle (having such famous members as Roman Jakobson and Nikolai Trubetzkoy) shaped the thinking of young linguists at that time. Unfortunately, the successive development of the country, the World War Two and the succeeding communist regime, were not advantageous for scientific activities. Many years before his retirement, in the years 1955−1978, he worked at a research establishment of the Ministry of Education. In spite of these circumstances, Krámský created an extensive work numbering more than 330 bibliographic items. His linguistic ideas are based on the analyses of many European (Czech, Norwegian, Italian, Scots Gaelic) and Oriental (Uralo-Altaic, Iranian) languages. His works on the field of language teaching, concerning mainly the English language, maintain their practical implications up to the present. Let us mention at least his school grammar of the English language (in two editions, 1979 and 1989), university textbooks concerning English orthography (1955), an English grammar (1956), a grammar textbook (1957), an American reader (1959), a handbook of specialized German texts (with J. Turek, 1970) and others.

The spectrum of his linguistic interests ranged from phonology to lexicography and stylistics in many languages. While descriptive aims based on conceptual schemes prevailed among the structuralists in his intellectual environment, he always supported his descriptive conclusions by numerical data. In his works structuralism overgrows to the “structuralism” of quantitative linguistics. For example, Krámský’s paper A phonological analysis of Persian monosyllables (Archiv orientální 16, 1947, 103-134) presents detailed statistic distributions of individual phonemes on different positions of monosyllabic words differed to originally Persian and Arabic lexical units. They are generalized to individual syllabic types with stressed differences of the two word strata. His conclusion is of a kind exceeding the level of a simple description. He writes: ‘... the compensating tendency, peculiar to words of Persian origin, which operates almost as a law: the lack of a certain kind on one hand is outbalanced by the surplus of the same sounds on the other hand... On the other hand, in words of Arabic origin we often meet with opposite tendency, viz. to favour certain phonemes to disadvantage of others.’ (Underlined by J. Krámský.)

The same methodological philosophy was applied in his typological studies in which he followed and enlarged the results published by Vladimír Skalička, A. V. Isachenko and R. Jakobson. In his paper A quantitative typology of languages (Language and Speech, Vol. 2, Part2, April-June 1959, 72-85) the quantitative aspect is stressed as a necessary complement of qualitative linguistic facts. He proposed a classification of 23 languages on the basis of data concerning the phoneme distributions achieved from texts.

More complete image of the linguistic and methodological views of Jiří Krámský can be found in his following publications: – (1969): The word as a linguistic unit. Mouton, Haag-Paris. – (1972): The article. Mouton, Haag-Paris. – (1974): The phoneme. Fink, München. – (1976): Papers in general linguistics. Mouton, Haag –Paris.


Luděk Hřebíček: Glottometrics 9, 2005, 75–89