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Old Church Slavonic Online

Lesson 1

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

It is not known for certain who authored the Biblical translations that have come down to us in the Old Church Slavonic corpus, though tradition assigns authorship to the brothers St. Cyril and St. Methodius. St. Cyril is generally acknowledged as the primary force behind the effort of translation, and St. Methodius is thought to have finished what was left undone by his brother. Nevertheless, due to the paucity of first- or even second-hand information pertaining to the two brothers, the question of intent must remain open insofar as it deals with the author's desire to remain close to or break away from the wording of the original Greek. Certainly the author was writing to make the Gospels transparent to the audience, since the original translations were composed as an act of missionary work. Therefore the wording of the text, though at times amazingly close to the Greek, cannot be presumed to be unnatural to the OCS language itself. It may nevertheless stretch the bounds of OCS here and there in an attempt to highlight linguistically the special nature of the Gospels. The OCS translations shadow the Greek original most in either of two situations: one where the Greek is at its most simple and direct, the other where the Greek is most convoluted and opaque.

Translations for the Biblical passages in these lessons are quoted from the King James version of the New Testament.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The following text, Luke 12:16-21, is a beautiful illustration of both the OCS translator's adherence to the Greek original and his playfulness with the OCS language. The passage begins with the first verse mimicking the Greek original nearly word for word. Noting the simplicity of the narrative at this point, one must assume that this word order was natural in both languages, and the OCS version should not be seen as in any way taxing the abilities of the language. Throughout the passage, there is little departure from the Greek, until the last verse. Here one sees the compositional talents of the author. His rendering of "he is not rich toward God" is a play on words not present in the original Greek. It cannot be said how much choice the author had in rephrasing the verse, but it is hard to believe this play on words was lost on the audience, and must have been rendered so in order to finish out the passage in high style.

рєчє жє притъчѫ к н҄имъ глагол҄ѧ чловѣкѹ єтєрѹ богатѹ ѹгобьѕи сѧ н҄ива |

  • рєчє -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <рєшти, рєкѫ, рєчєши> say, tell -- he spake
  • жє -- conjunction; <жє> and, but -- and
  • притъчѫ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <притъча> parable, example -- a parable
  • к -- preposition; <къ> to, for -- unto
  • н҄имъ -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <> he -- them
  • глагол҄ѧ -- verb; present active participle; nominative singular masculine of <глаголати, -л҄ѭ, -л҄ѥши> say, speak -- saying
  • чловѣкѹ -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <чловѣкъ> man, human -- man
  • єтєрѹ -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <єтєръ> one, a certain -- of a
  • богатѹ -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <богатъ> rich -- rich
  • ѹгобьѕи сѧ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist reflexive deponent of <ѹгобьзити цѧ, -жѫ, -зиши> yield richly -- brought forth plentifully
  • н҄ива -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <н҄ива> field, ground -- the ground

и мъішл҄јаашє в сєбѣ глагол҄ѧ чьто сътвор҄ѭ јако нє имамь къдє събьрати плодъ моихъ |

  • и -- conjunction; <и> and -- and
  • мъішл҄јаашє -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <мъіслити, -шлѫ, -слиши> think -- he thought
  • в -- preposition; <въ> in, into -- within
  • сєбѣ -- reflexive pronoun; locative singular of <сєбє> self -- himself
  • глагол҄ѧ -- verb; present active participle; nominative singular masculine of <глаголати, -л҄ѭ, -л҄ѥши> say, speak -- saying
  • чьто -- interrogative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <чьто> what -- what
  • сътвор҄ѭ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <сътворити, -рѭ, -риши> do, make -- shall I do
  • јако -- conjunction; <јако> as, when; in order to; that; because; (introduces quotation) -- because
  • нє -- particle; <нє> not -- no
  • имамь -- verb; 1st person singular present of <имѣти, имамь, имаши> have, hold -- I have
  • къдє -- interrogative adverb; <къдє> where, when -- room where
  • събьрати -- verb; infinitive of <събрати, -бєрѫ, -бєрєши> collect, gather -- to bestow
  • плодъ -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <плодъ> fruit -- fruits
  • моихъ -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <мои> my -- my

и рєчє сє сътвор҄ѭ разор҄ѭ житьницѧ моѧ и бол҄ьшѧ съзиждѫ и събєрѫ тѹ вьсја жита моја и добро моє |

  • и -- conjunction; <и> and -- and
  • рєчє -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <рєшти, рєкѫ, рєчєши> say, tell -- he said
  • сє -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <сь> this -- this
  • сътвор҄ѭ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <сътворити, -рѭ, -риши> do, make -- will I do
  • разор҄ѭ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <разорити, -рѭ, -риши> destroy -- I will pull down
  • житьницѧ -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <житьница> barn -- barns
  • моѧ -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <мои> my -- my
  • и -- conjunction; <и> and -- and
  • бол҄ьшѧ -- comparative adjective; accusative plural feminine of <бол҄ьи> bigger, more -- greater
  • съзиждѫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <съзидати, -ждѫ, -ждєши> build -- build
  • и -- conjunction; <и> and -- and
  • събєрѫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <събрати, -бєрѫ, -бєрєши> collect, gather -- will I bestow
  • тѹ -- adverb; <тѹ> there; then -- there
  • вьсја -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <вьсь> all, every; whole -- all
  • жита -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <жито> grain, produce -- fruits
  • моја -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <мои> my -- my
  • и -- conjunction; <и> and -- and
  • добро -- adjective used as substantive; accusative singular neuter of <добръ> good -- goods
  • моє -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <мои> my -- my

рєкѫ дѹши моєи дѹшє имаши мъного добро лєжѧштє на лѣта мънога
почиваи јаждь пии вєсєли сѧ |

  • рєкѫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <рєшти, рєкѫ, рєчєши> say, tell -- (and) I will say
  • дѹши -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <дѹша> soul -- soul
  • моєи -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <мои> my -- to my
  • дѹшє -- noun, feminine; vocative singular of <дѹша> soul -- soul
  • имаши -- verb; 2nd person singular present of <имѣти, имамь, имаши> have, hold -- thou hast
  • мъного -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <мъногъ> much, many -- much
  • добро -- adjective used as substantive; accusative singular neuter of <добръ> good -- goods
  • лєжѧштє -- verb; present active participle; accusative singular neuter of <лєжати, -жѫ, -жиши> lie, recline -- laid up
  • на -- preposition; <на> in, on; at, against; for -- for
  • лѣта -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <лѣто> year, summer -- years
  • мънога -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <мъногъ> much, many -- many
  • почиваи -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <почивати, -аѭ, -аѩши> rest, sleep; die -- take thine ease
  • јаждь -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <асти, амь, аси> eat -- eat
  • пии -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <пити, пиѭ, пиѩши> drink -- drink
  • вєсєли сѧ -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative reflexive of <вєсєлити, -л҄ѭ, -лиши> entertain; (refl.) rejoice -- (and) be merry

рєчє жє ємѹ богъ бєзѹмьнє въ сьѭ ношть дѹшѫ твоѭ истѧѕаѭтъ отъ тєбє а јажє ѹготова комѹ бѫдєтъ |

  • рєчє -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <рєшти, рєкѫ, рєчєши> say, tell -- said
  • жє -- conjunction; <жє> and, but -- but
  • ємѹ -- pronoun; dative singular masculine of <> he -- unto him
  • богъ -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <богъ> god -- God
  • бєзѹмьнє -- adjective used as substantive; vocative singular masculine of <бєзѹмьнъ> mad, crazy, foolish -- thou fool
  • въ -- preposition; <въ> in, into -- ...
  • сьѭ -- demonstrative adjective; accusative singular feminine of <сь> this -- this
  • ношть -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ношть> night -- night
  • дѹшѫ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <дѹша> soul -- soul
  • твоѭ -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <твои> your, thy -- thy
  • истѧѕаѭтъ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <істѧзати, -заѭ, -заѥши> demand back; find out; test -- shall be required
  • отъ -- preposition; <отъ> by, from, of -- of
  • тєбє -- pronoun; genitive singular of <тъі> you, thou -- thee
  • а -- conjunction; <а> and, but; if -- then
  • јажє -- relative pronoun; accusative plural neuter of <ижє> who, which -- which
  • ѹготова -- verb; 2nd person singular aorist of <ѹготовати, -аѭ, -аѥши> prepare -- thou hast provided
  • комѹ -- interrogative pronoun; dative singular masculine of <къто> who -- whose
  • бѫдєтъ -- verb; 3rd person singular future of <бъіти, бѫдѫ, бѫдєши> be, become -- shall (those things) be

тако вьсакъ събираѧи сєбѣ нє въ богъ богатѣѧ

  • тако -- adverb; <тако> thus, in this way -- so
  • вьсакъ -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <вьсакъ> each, every -- ...
  • събираѧи -- verb; present active participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of <събрати, -бєрѫ, -бєрєши> collect, gather -- (is he that) layeth up treasure
  • сєбѣ -- reflexive pronoun; dative singular of <сєбє> self -- for himself
  • нє -- particle; <нє> not -- (and) not
  • въ -- preposition; <въ> in, into -- toward
  • богъ -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <богъ> god -- God
  • богатѣѧ -- verb; present active participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of <богатѣти, -тѣѭ, -тѣѥши> be rich -- is... rich

Lesson Text

рєчє жє притъчѫ к н҄имъ глагол҄ѧ чловѣкѹ єтєрѹ богатѹ ѹгобьѕи сѧ н҄ива | и мъішл҄јаашє в сєбѣ глагол҄ѧ чьто сътвор҄ѭ јако нє имамь къдє събьрати плодъ моихъ | и рєчє сє сътвор҄ѭ разор҄ѭ житьницѧ моѧ и бол҄ьшѧ съзиждѫ и събєрѫ тѹ вьсја жита моја и добро моє | рєкѫ дѹши моєи дѹшє имаши мъного добро лєжѧштє на лѣта мънога
почиваи јаждь пии вєсєли сѧ |
рєчє жє ємѹ богъ бєзѹмьнє въ сьѭ ношть дѹшѫ твоѭ истѧѕаѭтъ отъ тєбє а јажє ѹготова комѹ бѫдєтъ | тако вьсакъ събираѧи сєбѣ нє въ богъ богатѣѧ

Translation

(12:16) And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: (17) And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? (18) And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. (19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. (20) But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (21) So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Grammar

1. The Alphabet

The early OCS documents are written primarily in two alphabets, Glagolitic or Cyrillic. Much research has been done on the origins of the two, and the debate as to which was devised by St. Cyril (AD 827-869) himself does not seem to have been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The majority of scholars, however, are of the opinion that Glagolitic was the one devised by Cyril in his early missionary work, a conclusion based in large part on the fact that, of the extant OCS manuscripts, the oldest are written in the Glagolitic script.

Regardless of the question of historical priority, for the study of OCS it is preferable to start by learning Cyrillic. Most of the textbooks on the subject make use of this alphabet throughout, to the point of transliterating Glagolitic passages into Cyrillic. These lessons will therefore focus only on it.

The Cyrillic alphabet is similar to the Greek alphabet from which it is derived. For the most part the Greek values of the letters are kept as they were pronounced in the time of Cyril and Methodius (c. 825-885); other letters were added to supplement the Greek system where it lacked representations for OCS sounds. This occurs most notably for sibilants, nasalized vowels, and reduced vowels (jers -- pronounced as the Modern English word "hairs", with the h replaced by y).

The following chart depicts the Cyrillic alphabetic character, its Cyrillic numerical value (which may differ slightly from its Glagolitic numerical value), its Slavonic name, its Roman transliteration, and a guide to its pronunciation. Unless otherwise specified, the examples of pronunciation are from American English.

Letter   Number   Name   Translit.   Pronunciation
А а   1   азъ   A a   a as in 'father'
Б б   -   бѹкъі   B b   b as in 'boy'
В в   2   вѣдѣ   V v   v as in 'vine'
Г г   3   глаголи   G g   g as in 'good'
Д д   4   добро   D d   d as in 'dog'
Е є   5   єсть   E e   e as in 'end'
Ж ж   -   жівѣтє   Ž ž   s as in 'pleasure'
Ѕ ѕ   6   ѕѣло   Dz dz   ds as in 'heads'
З з   7   зємл҄ја   Z z   z as in 'zebra'
І і   10   ижє   I i   ee as in 'feet'
И и   8   ижєи   I i   ee as in 'feet'
(Ћ ћ)   -   ћа, дѥрв   G' g'   g as in 'coagulate'
К к   20   како   K k   c as in 'coop'
Л л   30   людиѥ   L l   l as in 'elk'
М м   40   мъіслитє   M m   m as in 'mother'
Н н   50   нашь   N n   n as in 'not'
О о   70   онъ   O o   ou as in 'ought'
П п   80   покой   P p   p as in 'post'
Р р   100   рьци   R r   r as in 'rather', but trilled
С с   200   слово   S s   s as in 'song'
Т т   300   тврьдо   T t   t as in 'top'
Ѹ ѹ   400   ѹкъ   U u   oo as in 'food'
Ф ф   500   фрьтъ   F f   f as in 'father'
Ѳ ѳ   9   фита   Θ θ   t as in 'top', or th as in 'path', or f as in 'father'
Х х   600   хѣръ   X x   ch as in Scots English 'loch'
Ѡ ѡ   800   отъ   Ō ō   au as in 'caught'
Щ щ   -   ща   Št št   shed as in 'mashed'
Ц ц   900   ци   C c   ts as in 'hats'
Ч ч   90   чрьвь, ча   Č č   ch as in 'church'
Ш ш   -   ша   Š š   sh as in 'sharp'
Ъ ъ   -   ѥръ   Ŭ ŭ   u as in 'put'
ЪІ ъі   -   ѥръі   Y y   oo of 'foot' with the tongue, with lips as in ee of 'feet'; compare Bronx pronunciation of 'Spuyten Duyvil'
Ь ь   -   ѥрь   Ĭ ĭ   i as in 'stop it!'
Ѣ ѣ   -   јать   Ě ě   ya as in 'yam'
Ю ю   -   ю   Ju ju   you as in 'you'
ЈА ја   -   ја   Ja ja   ya as in 'yacht'
Ѧ ѧ   900   юсъ, ѧсъ   Ę ę   in as in French 'fin', similar to an in American English 'can't' when final t is not fully articulated (a glottal stop)
Ѫ ѫ   -   юсъ, ѫсъ   Ǫ ǫ   on as in French 'bon'
Ѩ ѩ   -   юсъ, ѩсъ   Ję ję   ien as in French 'bien'
Ѭ ѭ   -   юсъ, ѭсъ   Jǫ jǫ   ion as in French 'lion'
Ѯ ѯ   60   ѯи   Ks ks   x as in 'tax'
Ѱ ѱ   700   ѱи   Ps ps   ps as in 'taps'
Ѵ ѵ   400   ижица   Ü ü   i in English 'ship', or u in French 'tu', ue in German 'Muenchen'

The letter Ћ, ћ is adopted from late Serbian manuscripts to transcribe a letter found in the Glagolitic alphabet. It represents a palatalized articulation of Г, г. It is sometimes transcribed in Cyrillic as Г҄, г҄.

Special mention must be made of the sound jot, denoted j and pronounced like the y in 'year'. It had no corresponding representation in either the Glagolitic or the Cyrillic alphabets. However, when it formed a phoneme with a following vowel, it was indicated in the Cyrillic alphabet as in ја, ѥ,ю,я,ѭ. It was not indicated in combination with и, and only inconsistenly with є. When following a consonant, its presence was occasionally indicated by ҄. Hence we have the following representations:

Palatalized        
Б҄ б҄   B' b'   b as in 'beauty'
К҄ к҄   K' k'   c as in 'cute'
Л҄ л҄   L' l'   ll as in 'William'
Н҄ н҄   N' n'   ni as in 'onion'
П҄ п҄   P' p'   p as in 'computer'
Р҄ р҄   R' r'   re as in 'are you', but trilled
Х҄ х҄   X' x'   ch y as in 'Is this the loch you mentioned?'

In addition an apostrophe ҄ is often used to denote an omitted jer, as in ч҄то for чьто.

2. The Sound System

The sounds of OCS may be arranged in tables by their articulation. The chart below indicates consonants. Note the letters in parentheses are not separate phonemes (see the discussion below concerning soft and palatalized sounds).

    Labial   Dental   Palatal(ized)   Retracted   Velar
Stops                    
voiceless   п   т   (п҄, к҄, х҄)       к
voiced   б   д   (б҄, ћ)       г
                     
Nasals   м   н   н҄        
                     
Fricatives                    
voiceless   ф   с   (с)   ш   х
voiced   в   з   (з)   ж    
                     
Affricates                    
voiceless       ц   щ   ч    
voiced       ѕ   жд        
                     
Apical Trill       р   р҄        
                     
Lateral       л   л҄        
                     
Resonant           j        

The consonants in parentheses are palatalized, meaning that they are doubly articulated. For example, the sound represented as к҄ has a primary velar articulation and a following palatal off-glide.

The vowels are as follows

    Front   Central   Back
High   и   ъі   ѹ
    ь       ъ
Middle   є       о, ѫ
    ѧ        
Low   ѣ       а

The compound vowels such as ја,ѥ, etc. were pronounced like the corresponding vowels in the chart above, preceded by the glide j.

There are two types of consonants: hard and soft. The hard consonants are followed by a back vowel, the soft by a front vowel (as listed in the vowel chart above). This distinction is not graphically distinguished in the OCS writing system. This presumably stems from there being no phonemic distinction between, say, k and k' (that is, accidentally saying k instead of k' would not result in a change of meaning). However, in pronouncing a word like пьсати 'to write', p is pronounced as p', and t is pronounced as t', like the "t y" in a slow pronunciation of "aren't you" (i.e. a pronunciation where one is not saying "arenchoo").

By contrast, the jot, j, adds to a preceding consonant a palatal off-glide. In some situations, the consonant preceding the jot itself acquires a palatal articulation, so that sj (с + j), say, regularly develops into š (ш). With labial consonants, one either finds the same labial with a palatal off-glide, or, more commonly, with an epenthetic l inserted between the original consonant and jot. This l is then represented as having a palatal off-glide (l'). Thus three major possibilities must be discerned: hard (preceding a back vowel), soft (preceding a front vowel), and palatalized (preceding jot). The following examples illustrate the distinction:

Consonant   Hard   Soft   Palatalized
[r]   рабъ [rabŭ]   рѣка [rěka]   мор҄є [morje]
[m]   имати [imati]   имѣти [iměti]   ѥмл҄ѫ [jemljǫ]
[s]   пьсати [pĭsati]   письць [pisĭcĭ]   пишѫ [pišǫ < *pis-jǫ]
[v]   слава [slava]   славити [slaviti]   славл҄ѫ [slavljǫ]
[d]   родъ [rodŭ]   родити [roditi]   рождѫ [roždjǫ < *rod-jǫ]

One never finds the jot written in an OCS text. Thus, one may discern by looking at a word whether a given consonant is soft or hard in the above sense. Deciding whether a consonant is palatalized, if not so marked, may however be tricky. In general one looks for clues as to the presence of jot, as with the third example above, where с alternates with щ; likewise in the last example, where д alternates with жд.

It is quite certain that there was for the native speakers of OCS a definite distinction between soft and palatalized consonants. The following forms make this clear:

  • єлєни [eleni] (nom. dual) 'two deer', versus
  • єлєн҄и [elen'i] (possessive adj., nom. sg. masc.) 'deer's'.
3. Noun Inflection and the Twofold Nominal Declension

The nouns of OCS are inflected to show their role in a given sentence. Seven cases and three numbers are possible for each noun. In addition each noun may can be either singular in number, dual (two of a thing), or plural (more than two of a thing): рѫка '(a/the) hand', рѫцѣ '(the) two hands', рѫкъі '(the) hands'. There are three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. Grammatical gender often agrees with the sexual gender of the item denoted, e.g. жєна 'woman' is feminine; the assignment of gender may, however, have no overt rationale, e.g. рѫка 'hand' is feminine.

The following chart indicates the basic meanings for the various cases.

Case Name   Description of Use   Basic Preposition   Example
Nominative   case of the subject, or something predicated to the subject   (none)   градъ '(a/the) city' (as subject)
Accusative   case of the direct object, or of the terminus of directed motion   (none); toward   градъ '(a/the) city' (as object)
Genitive   case of the sphere of relation; possession; (masculine direct object)   of; (none)   града 'of (a/the) city'
Locative   case of the location in space or time   in, on, at   градѣ 'in (a/the) city'
Dative   case of the indirect object; person/thing affected by the action   to, for   градѹ 'for (a/the) city'
Instrumental   case of the instrument of an action; case of accompaniment   with, by   градомь 'with (a/the) city'
Vocative   case of direct address   o!   градє 'O City!'
             

Terminology: The nominal endings found in the following two sections constitute the twofold nominal declension.

3.1. o, jo-Stem Nouns

By far the most common type of nouns are the o- and jo-stem declensions, so called based on historical linguistic grounds. Some authors employ the terms hard and soft o-stems, respectively.

The following are paradigms for the masculine hard stem nouns градъ 'city' and чловѣкъ 'human being'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   градъ   града   гради
A   градъ   града   градъі
G   града   градѹ   градъ
L   градѣ   градѹ   градѣхъ
D   градѹ   градома   градомъ
I   градомь   градома   градъі
V   градє   града   гради
             
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   чловѣкъ   чловѣка   чловѣци
A   чловѣка   чловѣка   чловѣкъі
G   чловѣка   чловѣкѹ   чловѣкъ
L   чловѣцѣ   чловѣкѹ   чловѣцѣхъ
D   чловѣкѹ   чловѣкома   чловѣкомъ
    чловѣкови        
I   чловѣкомь   чловѣкома   чловѣкъі
V   чловѣчє   чловѣка   чловѣци

The paradigms below are for the masculine soft stem nouns мѫжь 'man' and змии 'dragon'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   мѫжь   мѫжа   мѫжи
A   мѫжа   мѫжа   мѫжѧ
G   мѫжа   мѫжѹ   мѫжь
L   мѫжи   мѫжѹ   мѫжихъ
D   мѫжѹ   мѫжєма   мѫжємъ
    мѫжєви        
I   мѫжємь   мѫжєма   мѫжи
V   мѫжѹ   мѫжа   мѫжи
             
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   змии   змија   змии
A   змии   змија   змиѩ
G   змија   змию   змии
L   змии   змию   змиихъ
D   змию   змиѥма   змиѥмъ
I   змиѥмь   змиѥма   змии
V   змию   змија   змии

The neuter hard stem nouns are declined like мѣсто 'place' and вѣко 'eyelid'. Note the accusative forms are the same as the nominative, which is always true for neuter nouns.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   мѣсто   мѣстѣ   мѣста
A   мѣсто   мѣстѣ   мѣста
G   мѣста   мѣстѹ   мѣстъ
L   мѣстѣ   мѣстѹ   мѣстѣхъ
D   мѣстѹ   мѣстома   мѣстомъ
I   мѣстомь   мѣстома   мѣстъі
V   мѣсто   мѣстѣ   мѣста
             
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   вѣко   вѣцѣ   вѣка
A   вѣко   вѣцѣ   вѣка
G   вѣка   вѣкѹ   вѣкъ
L   вѣцѣ   вѣкѹ   вѣцѣхъ
D   вѣкѹ   вѣкома   вѣкомъ
I   вѣкомь   вѣкома   вѣкъі
V   вѣко   вѣцѣ   вѣка

The neuter soft stem nouns are declined like срьдьцє 'heart' and знамєньє 'sign'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   срьдьцє   срьдьци   срьдьца
A   срьдьцє   срьдьци   срьдьца
G   срьдьца   срьдьцѹ   срьдьць
L   срьдьци   срьдьцѹ   срьдьцихъ
D   срьдьцѹ   срьдьцєма   срьдьцємъ
I   срьдьцємь   срьдьцєма   срьдьци
V   срьдьцє   срьдьци   срьдьца
             
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   знамєньѥ   знамєньи   знамєньја
A   знамєньѥ   знамєньи   знамєньја
G   знамєньја   знамєнью   знамєньи
L   знамєньи   знамєнью   знамєньихъ
D   знамєнью   знамєньѥма   знамєньѥмъ
I   знамєньѥмь   знамєньѥма   знамєньи
V   знамєньѥ   знамєньи   знамєньја

A few things should be noted in the paradigms. One is the action of softening of the final stem consonant before front vowels. Hence чловѣкъ for the nominative singular, but чловѣцѣ for the locative; similarly the alternation of вѣко and вѣцѣ. In addition, the vocative is the same as the nominative in the dual and plural forms of nouns.

In the paradigm for знамєньѥ, in each form the jer ь is tense, and therefore may be vocalized as и. (This will be discussed further in the next lesson.) Hence the entire paradigm has the alternate forms знамєниѥ, знамєниѥ, знамєнија, знамєнии, and so on.

3.2. a, ja-Stem Nouns

The a- and ja-stem nouns are feminine, except for a relatively few nouns whose natural gender is masculine. Thus жєна 'woman', глава 'head', and ладии 'ship' are feminine; but владъіка 'ruler' and сѫдьи 'judge' are masculine.

The following are paradigms for the feminine hard stem nouns жєна 'woman' and нога 'foot'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   жєна   жєнѣ   жєнъі
A   жєнѫ   жєнѣ   жєнъі
G   жєнъі   жєнѹ   жєнъ
L   жєнѣ   жєнѹ   жєнахъ
D   жєнѣ   жєнама   жєнамъ
I   жєноѭ   жєнама   жєнами
V   жєно   жєнѣ   жєнъі
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   нога   ноѕѣ   ногъі
A   ногѫ   ноѕѣ   ногъі
G   ногъі   ногѹ   ногъ
L   ноѕѣ   ногѹ   ногахъ
D   ноѕѣ   ногама   ногамъ
I   ногоѭ   ногама   ногами
V   ного   ноѕѣ   ногъі

Below are paradigms for a feminine and a masculine soft stem noun, дѹша 'soul' and сѫдьи 'judge'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   дѹша   дѹши   дѹшѧ
A   дѹшѫ   дѹши   дѹшѧ
G   дѹшѧ   дѹшѹ   дѹшь
L   дѹши   дѹшѹ   дѹшахъ
D   дѹши   дѹшама   дѹшамъ
I   дѹшєѭ   дѹшама   дѹшами
V   дѹшє   дѹши   дѹшѧ
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   сѫдьи   сѫдьи   сѫдьѩ
A   сѫдьѭ   сѫдьи   сѫдьѩ
G   сѫдьѩ   сѫдью   сѫдьи
L   сѫдьи   сѫдью   сѫдьјахъ
D   сѫдьи   сѫдьјама   сѫдьјамъ
I   сѫдьѥѭ   сѫдьјама   сѫдьјами
V   сѫдьи   сѫдьи   сѫдьѩ
    сѫди        

As in the o, jo-stem nouns, the stem consonant is softened before endings with front vowels. Thus the nominative singular is нога, but locative is ноѕѣ.

Like знамєньѥ, the ь of сѫдьи is tense; each form has an alternate with the ь replaced by и: сѫдии, сѫдиѭ, сѫдиѩ, etc.

4. Verb Inflection

Verbs are inflected for number and for person. Separate endings distinguish 1st, 2nd and 3rd person subjects; likewise a distinction is made between singular, dual, or plural subjects. Three simple tenses are distinguished: present, imperfect, and aorist. There are also three compound tenses: perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect.

4.1. Present Tense

The present tense is used for actions contemporaneous with the utterance and for the future. The same tense is used for both statements like "I am walking", which is a continual action ongoing at the time of the utterance, and like "I walk", which is a general statement about the situation surrounding the time frame of the utterance. OCS has no future tense, so that the present tense is used in reference to future time. Compare English: "We are going to the store tomorrow."

The construction of the present tense forms of a given verb proceeds naturally from the present tense stem. This stem is obtained from the 2nd person singular by dropping the ending -ши. Hence if one has зовєши 'you call', the present tense stem is зовє-. To this stem one adds the endings for the other persons and numbers. This is analogous to how one might, in slightly older English, take a verb like 'sacrifice' and append -st to obtain the 2nd person singular form 'thou sacrificest'. If one does the same to the verb 'have', however, one does not find 'havest' but rather 'thou hast'. Here the stem has undergone phonological changes which obscure its bare form. The situation is much the same in OCS, so that one must be aware of the possible changes undergone by verbal stems.

Some grammars classify verbs into five categories based on the form of the present tense stems. Thus verbs whose present tense stem ends in -є- are distinguished from those that end in -нє-, and so forth. These classifications will be discussed further in subsequent lessons. Here the present tense paradigms of two common verbs, глаголати 'to say' and молити 'to beg' are given.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   глагол҄ѭ   глагол҄ѥвѣ   глагол҄ѥмъ
2nd   глагол҄ѥши   глагол҄ѥта   глагол҄ѥтє
3rd   глагол҄ѥтъ   глагол҄ѥтє   глагол҄ѭтъ
    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   мол҄ѭ   моливѣ   молимъ
2nd   молиши   молита   молитє
3rd   молитъ   молитє   молѧтъ

In some OCS texts the ending -та of the 2nd person dual is used in place of -тє for the 3rd dual.

4.2. Imperfect Tense

The imperfect tense is used for continuous actions started and ongoing prior to the utterance, as well for habitual actions. Thus "I was begging" and "I used to beg" are both English renderings of what would be in OCS imperfect forms. They would be expressed by the same verb form, мол҄јаахъ.

The forms of the imperfect are obtained from the infinitive-aorist stem. This stem is derived from the infinitive by dropping the suffix -ти. This may leave a stem with or without a vowel: нєсти 'to carry' gives нєс- for the stem, while глаголати and молити give глагола- and моли-, respectively. This process, however, does not always give the proper result, since the stem may have undergone phonological changes when the -ти suffix was added. These changes must be "undone" in order to arrive at the proper stem. Thus пасти 'to fall' should give the stem пас-; but the с is the result of an original д changing before the ending -ти. Hence the actual stem is пад-.

The distinctive marker of imperfect verb forms is the suffix -ах- or -ѣах- added to the stem. The suffix -ах- is appended to verbs with a stem ending in а or ѣ, the suffix -ѣах- to all other verbs. So знати 'to know' gives the imperfect зна-ахъ and сѣдѣти 'to sit' gives сѣдѣ-ахъ; but нєсти 'to carry' gives the imperfect нєс-ѣахъ. If the ending -ѣах- is appended to a stem ending in к or г, the final consonants undergo First Palatalization and become ч and ж, respectively. (The rules of palatalization will be discussed further in the next lesson.) However, following the palatals č, ž, j, the ѣ changed to а, resulting in the suffix -аах-. For example, the verb могѫ, мошти 'to be able' forms the imperfect можаахъ < *mog-ěaxŭ. Simply put, in practice one looks for -ах-, -аах-, and -ѣах- as signs of imperfect verb forms.

Below are the paradigms for глаголати 'to say' and молити 'to beg'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   глаголаахъ   глаголааховѣ   глаголаахомъ
2nd   глаголаашє   глаголаашєта   глаголаашєтє
3rd   глаголаашє   глаголаашєтє   глаголаахѫ
    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   мол҄јаахъ   мол҄јааховѣ   мол҄јаахомъ
2nd   мол҄јаашє   мол҄јаашєта   мол҄јаашєтє
3rd   мол҄јаашє   мол҄јаашєтє   мол҄јаахѫ

In the later language, the suffixes were often shortened to -ах- and -ѣх-, leading forms like нєсѣхъ instead of нєсѣахъ. Also as variant endings in the dual, -шєта is replaced by -ста, -шєтє by -стє; and in the plural, -шєтє is replaced by -стє.

5. Word Order

The word order in OCS sentences was generally free. What dictated a word's position in a sentence was its importance in the utterance: the important elements of a statement tended to be set toward the beginning. This "important element" could be the subject, but it could likewise be the object, the verb, an adverb, or what have you. In the typical narrative passages found in the translations of the Bible, the verb was generally placed first. This is illustrated by the first sentence of the Lesson 1 Reading:

    рєчє   жє   притъчѫ   к н҄имъ   глагол҄ѧ
    said   and   a parable   to them,   saying

The first word is рєчє '(he) said'. The second position is occupied by the connective жє 'and', a position usual for several enclitic conjunctions, such as бо 'for' and ли 'if'. Similarly in the sentence

    рєчє   жє   ємѹ   богъ
    said   and   to him   God

In both these statements the last word (глагол҄ѧ or богъ) refers to the subject. In addition to placing words at the beginning of a sentence for emphasis, words in final position were likewise highlighted.

In subordinate clauses, the first element was generally a conjunction or relative pronoun. The verb would then follow this or be placed at the end of the clause. Such subordination is less common, with most actions subordinate to the main verb being expressed via participles. Even the relative pronoun ижє 'he who' still retained much of its demonstrative force: more 'and he, that one, he...' rather than the weak 'he who...'. This left relative clauses to be interpreted simply as paratactic constructions joined by a pronoun and enclitic conjunction.

Other general tendencies included a preference for datives to precede accusatives, although рєчє жє притъчѫ к н҄имъ (where притъчѫ is acc., к н҄имъ is dat.) shows this is clearly not a hard and fast rule. A partitive genitive would follow its noun, as in 'one of the servants'; but an attributive genitive would precede the noun: 'of silver a cup'. As is seen from сьѭ ношть '(in) this night' in the reading and common phrases like дьнь сь 'this day, today', a demonstrative might precede or follow its noun (here сьѭ and сь).