The University of Texas at Austin; College of Liberal Arts
Hans C. Boas, Director :: PCL 5.556, 1 University Station S5490 :: Austin, TX 78712 :: 512-471-4566
LRC Links: Home | About | Books Online | EIEOL | IE Doc. Center | IE Lexicon | IE Maps | IE Texts | Pub. Indices | SiteMap

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.

reče že pritŭčǫ k n'imŭ glagol'ę člověku eteru bogatu ugobĭdzi sę n'iva |

  • reče -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- he spake
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- and
  • pritŭčǫ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <pritŭča> parable, example -- a parable
  • k -- preposition; <> to, for -- unto
  • n'imŭ -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <*i> he -- them
  • glagol'ę -- verb; present active participle; nominative singular masculine of <glagolati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> say, speak -- saying
  • člověku -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <člověkŭ> man, human -- man
  • eteru -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <eterŭ> one, a certain -- of a
  • bogatu -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <bogatŭ> rich -- rich
  • ugobĭdzi sę -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist reflexive deponent of <ugobĭziti cę, -žǫ, -ziši> yield richly -- brought forth plentifully
  • n'iva -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <n'iva> field, ground -- the ground

i myšl'jaaše v sebě glagol'ę čĭto sŭtvor'jǫ jako ne imamĭ kŭde sŭbĭrati plodŭ moixŭ |

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and -- and
  • myšl'jaaše -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <mysliti, -šlǫ, -sliši> think -- he thought
  • v -- preposition; <> in, into -- within
  • sebě -- reflexive pronoun; locative singular of <sebe> self -- himself
  • glagol'ę -- verb; present active participle; nominative singular masculine of <glagolati, -l'jǫ, -l'ješi> say, speak -- saying
  • čĭto -- interrogative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <čĭto> what -- what
  • sŭtvor'jǫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <sŭtvoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> do, make -- shall I do
  • jako -- conjunction; <jako> as, when; in order to; that; because; (introduces quotation) -- because
  • ne -- particle; <ne> not -- no
  • imamĭ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <iměti, imamĭ, imaši> have, hold -- I have
  • kŭde -- interrogative adverb; <kŭde> where, when -- room where
  • sŭbĭrati -- verb; infinitive of <sŭbrati, -berǫ, -bereši> collect, gather -- to bestow
  • plodŭ -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <plodŭ> fruit -- fruits
  • moixŭ -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <moi> my -- my

i reče se sŭtvor'jǫ razor'jǫ žitĭnicę moę i bol'ĭšę sŭziždǫ i sŭberǫ tu vĭsja žita moja i dobro moe |

  • i -- conjunction; <i> and -- and
  • reče -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- he said
  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> this -- this
  • sŭtvor'jǫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <sŭtvoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> do, make -- will I do
  • razor'jǫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <razoriti, -rjǫ, -riši> destroy -- I will pull down
  • žitĭnicę -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <žitĭnica> barn -- barns
  • moę -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <moi> my -- my
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and -- and
  • bol'ĭšę -- comparative adjective; accusative plural feminine of <bol'ĭi> bigger, more -- greater
  • sŭziždǫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <sŭzidati, -ždǫ, -ždeši> build -- build
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and -- and
  • sŭberǫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <sŭbrati, -berǫ, -bereši> collect, gather -- will I bestow
  • tu -- adverb; <tu> there; then -- there
  • vĭsja -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <vĭsĭ> all, every; whole -- all
  • žita -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <žito> grain, produce -- fruits
  • moja -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <moi> my -- my
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and -- and
  • dobro -- adjective used as substantive; accusative singular neuter of <dobrŭ> good -- goods
  • moe -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <moi> my -- my

rekǫ duši moei duše imaši mŭnogo dobro ležęšte na lěta mŭnoga
počivai jaždĭ pii veseli sę |

  • rekǫ -- verb; 1st person singular present of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- (and) I will say
  • duši -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <duša> soul -- soul
  • moei -- adjective; dative singular feminine of <moi> my -- to my
  • duše -- noun, feminine; vocative singular of <duša> soul -- soul
  • imaši -- verb; 2nd person singular present of <iměti, imamĭ, imaši> have, hold -- thou hast
  • mŭnogo -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <mŭnogŭ> much, many -- much
  • dobro -- adjective used as substantive; accusative singular neuter of <dobrŭ> good -- goods
  • ležęšte -- verb; present active participle; accusative singular neuter of <ležati, -žǫ, -žiši> lie, recline -- laid up
  • na -- preposition; <na> in, on; at, against; for -- for
  • lěta -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <lěto> year, summer -- years
  • mŭnoga -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <mŭnogŭ> much, many -- many
  • počivai -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <počivati, -ajǫ, -ajęši> rest, sleep; die -- take thine ease
  • jaždĭ -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <asti, amĭ, asi> eat -- eat
  • pii -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <piti, pijǫ, pijęši> drink -- drink
  • veseli sę -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative reflexive of <veseliti, -l'jǫ, -liši> entertain; (refl.) rejoice -- (and) be merry

reče že emu bogŭ bezumĭne vŭ sĭjǫ noštĭ dušǫ tvojǫ istędzajǫtŭ otŭ tebe a jaže ugotova komu bǫdetŭ |

  • reče -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <rešti, rekǫ, rečeši> say, tell -- said
  • že -- conjunction; <že> and, but -- but
  • emu -- pronoun; dative singular masculine of <*i> he -- unto him
  • bogŭ -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <bogŭ> god -- God
  • bezumĭne -- adjective used as substantive; vocative singular masculine of <bezumĭnŭ> mad, crazy, foolish -- thou fool
  • -- preposition; <> in, into -- ...
  • sĭjǫ -- demonstrative adjective; accusative singular feminine of <> this -- this
  • noštĭ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <noštĭ> night -- night
  • dušǫ -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <duša> soul -- soul
  • tvojǫ -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <tvoi> your, thy -- thy
  • istędzajǫtŭ -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <istęzati, -zajǫ, -zaješi> demand back; find out; test -- shall be required
  • otŭ -- preposition; <otŭ> by, from, of -- of
  • tebe -- pronoun; genitive singular of <ty> you, thou -- thee
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- then
  • jaže -- relative pronoun; accusative plural neuter of <iže> who, which -- which
  • ugotova -- verb; 2nd person singular aorist of <ugotovati, -ajǫ, -aješi> prepare -- thou hast provided
  • komu -- interrogative pronoun; dative singular masculine of <kŭto> who -- whose
  • bǫdetŭ -- verb; 3rd person singular future of <byti, bǫdǫ, bǫdeši> be, become -- shall (those things) be

tako vĭsakŭ sŭbiraęi sebě ne vŭ bogŭ bogatěę

  • tako -- adverb; <tako> thus, in this way -- so
  • vĭsakŭ -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <vĭsakŭ> each, every -- ...
  • sŭbiraęi -- verb; present active participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of <sŭbrati, -berǫ, -bereši> collect, gather -- (is he that) layeth up treasure
  • sebě -- reflexive pronoun; dative singular of <sebe> self -- for himself
  • ne -- particle; <ne> not -- (and) not
  • -- preposition; <> in, into -- toward
  • bogŭ -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <bogŭ> god -- God
  • bogatěę -- verb; present active participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of <bogatěti, -tějǫ, -těješi> be rich -- is... rich

Lesson Text

reče že pritŭčǫ k n'imŭ glagol'ę člověku eteru bogatu ugobĭdzi sę n'iva | i myšl'jaaše v sebě glagol'ę čĭto sŭtvor'jǫ jako ne imamĭ kŭde sŭbĭrati plodŭ moixŭ | i reče se sŭtvor'jǫ razor'jǫ žitĭnicę moę i bol'ĭšę sŭziždǫ i sŭberǫ tu vĭsja žita moja i dobro moe | rekǫ duši moei duše imaši mŭnogo dobro ležęšte na lěta mŭnoga
počivai jaždĭ pii veseli sę |
reče že emu bogŭ bezumĭne vŭ sĭjǫ noštĭ dušǫ tvojǫ istędzajǫtŭ otŭ tebe a jaže ugotova komu bǫdetŭ | tako vĭsakŭ sŭbiraęi sebě ne vŭ bogŭ bogatěę


(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.


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
A a   1   azŭ   A a   a as in 'father'
B b   -   buky   B b   b as in 'boy'
V v   2   vědě   V v   v as in 'vine'
G g   3   glagoli   G g   g as in 'good'
D d   4   dobro   D d   d as in 'dog'
E e   5   estĭ   E e   e as in 'end'
Ž ž   -   živěte   Ž ž   s as in 'pleasure'
Dz dz   6   dzělo   Dz dz   ds as in 'heads'
Z z   7   zeml'ja   Z z   z as in 'zebra'
I i   10   iže   I i   ee as in 'feet'
I i   8   ižei   I i   ee as in 'feet'
(G' g')   -   g'a, djerv   G' g'   g as in 'coagulate'
K k   20   kako   K k   c as in 'coop'
L l   30   ljudije   L l   l as in 'elk'
M m   40   myslite   M m   m as in 'mother'
N n   50   našĭ   N n   n as in 'not'
O o   70   onŭ   O o   ou as in 'ought'
P p   80   pokoji   P p   p as in 'post'
R r   100   rĭci   R r   r as in 'rather', but trilled
S s   200   slovo   S s   s as in 'song'
T t   300   tvrĭdo   T t   t as in 'top'
U u   400   ukŭ   U u   oo as in 'food'
F f   500   frĭtŭ   F f   f as in 'father'
Θ θ   9   fita   Θ θ   t as in 'top', or th as in 'path', or f as in 'father'
X x   600   xěrŭ   X x   ch as in Scots English 'loch'
Ō ō   800   otŭ   Ō ō   au as in 'caught'
Št št   -   šta   Št št   shed as in 'mashed'
C c   900   ci   C c   ts as in 'hats'
Č č   90   črĭvĭ, ča   Č č   ch as in 'church'
Š š   -   ša   Š š   sh as in 'sharp'
Ŭ ŭ   -   jerŭ   Ŭ ŭ   u as in 'put'
Y y   -   jery   Y y   oo of 'foot' with the tongue, with lips as in ee of 'feet'; compare Bronx pronunciation of 'Spuyten Duyvil'
Ĭ ĭ   -   jerĭ   Ĭ ĭ   i as in 'stop it!'
Ě ě   -   jatĭ   Ě ě   ya as in 'yam'
Ju ju   -   ju   Ju ju   you as in 'you'
Ja ja   -   ja   Ja ja   ya as in 'yacht'
Ę ę   900   jusŭ, ęsŭ   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)
Ǫ ǫ   -   jusŭ, ǫsŭ   Ǫ ǫ   on as in French 'bon'
Ję ję   -   jusŭ, jęsŭ   Ję ję   ien as in French 'bien'
Jǫ jǫ   -   jusŭ, jǫsŭ   Jǫ jǫ   ion as in French 'lion'
Ks ks   60   ksi   Ks ks   x as in 'tax'
Ps ps   700   psi   Ps ps   ps as in 'taps'
Ü ü   400   ižica   Ü ü   i in English 'ship', or u in French 'tu', ue in German 'Muenchen'

The letter G', g' is adopted from late Serbian manuscripts to transcribe a letter found in the Glagolitic alphabet. It represents a palatalized articulation of G, g. It is sometimes transcribed in Cyrillic as G', g'.

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 ja, je,ju,ja,. It was not indicated in combination with i, and only inconsistenly with e. When following a consonant, its presence was occasionally indicated by '. Hence we have the following representations:

B' b'   B' b'   b as in 'beauty'
K' k'   K' k'   c as in 'cute'
L' l'   L' l'   ll as in 'William'
N' n'   N' n'   ni as in 'onion'
P' p'   P' p'   p as in 'computer'
R' r'   R' r'   re as in 'are you', but trilled
X' x'   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 č'to for čĭto.

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
voiceless   p   t   (p', k', x')       k
voiced   b   d   (b', g')       g
Nasals   m   n   n'        
voiceless   f   s   (s)   š   x
voiced   v   z   (z)   ž    
voiceless       c   št   č    
voiced       dz   žd        
Apical Trill       r   r'        
Lateral       l   l'        
Resonant           j        

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

The vowels are as follows

    Front   Central   Back
High   i   y   u
    ĭ       ŭ
Middle   e       o, ǫ
Low   ě       a

The compound vowels such as ja,je, 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 pĭsati '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 (s + j), say, regularly develops into š (š). 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]   rabŭ [rabŭ]   rěka [rěka]   mor'e [morje]
[m]   imati [imati]   iměti [iměti]   jeml'ǫ [jemljǫ]
[s]   pĭsati [pĭsati]   pisĭcĭ [pisĭcĭ]   pišǫ [pišǫ < *pis-jǫ]
[v]   slava [slava]   slaviti [slaviti]   slavl'ǫ [slavljǫ]
[d]   rodŭ [rodŭ]   roditi [roditi]   roždǫ [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 s alternates with št; likewise in the last example, where d alternates with žd.

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:

  • eleni [eleni] (nom. dual) 'two deer', versus
  • elen'i [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): rǫka '(a/the) hand', rǫcě '(the) two hands', rǫky '(the) hands'. There are three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter. Grammatical gender often agrees with the sexual gender of the item denoted, e.g. žena 'woman' is feminine; the assignment of gender may, however, have no overt rationale, e.g. rǫka '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)   gradŭ '(a/the) city' (as subject)
Accusative   case of the direct object, or of the terminus of directed motion   (none); toward   gradŭ '(a/the) city' (as object)
Genitive   case of the sphere of relation; possession; (masculine direct object)   of; (none)   grada 'of (a/the) city'
Locative   case of the location in space or time   in, on, at   gradě 'in (a/the) city'
Dative   case of the indirect object; person/thing affected by the action   to, for   gradu 'for (a/the) city'
Instrumental   case of the instrument of an action; case of accompaniment   with, by   gradomĭ 'with (a/the) city'
Vocative   case of direct address   o!   grade '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 gradŭ 'city' and člověkŭ 'human being'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   gradŭ   grada   gradi
A   gradŭ   grada   grady
G   grada   gradu   gradŭ
L   gradě   gradu   graděxŭ
D   gradu   gradoma   gradomŭ
I   gradomĭ   gradoma   grady
V   grade   grada   gradi
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   člověkŭ   člověka   člověci
A   člověka   člověka   člověky
G   člověka   člověku   člověkŭ
L   člověcě   člověku   člověcěxŭ
D   člověku   člověkoma   člověkomŭ
I   člověkomĭ   člověkoma   člověky
V   člověče   člověka   člověci

The paradigms below are for the masculine soft stem nouns mǫžĭ 'man' and zmii 'dragon'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   mǫžĭ   mǫža   mǫži
A   mǫža   mǫža   mǫžę
G   mǫža   mǫžu   mǫžĭ
L   mǫži   mǫžu   mǫžixŭ
D   mǫžu   mǫžema   mǫžemŭ
I   mǫžemĭ   mǫžema   mǫži
V   mǫžu   mǫža   mǫži
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   zmii   zmija   zmii
A   zmii   zmija   zmiję
G   zmija   zmiju   zmii
L   zmii   zmiju   zmiixŭ
D   zmiju   zmijema   zmijemŭ
I   zmijemĭ   zmijema   zmii
V   zmiju   zmija   zmii

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

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   město   městě   města
A   město   městě   města
G   města   městu   městŭ
L   městě   městu   městěxŭ
D   městu   městoma   městomŭ
I   městomĭ   městoma   městy
V   město   městě   města
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   věko   věcě   věka
A   věko   věcě   věka
G   věka   věku   věkŭ
L   věcě   věku   věcěxŭ
D   věku   věkoma   věkomŭ
I   věkomĭ   věkoma   věky
V   věko   věcě   věka

The neuter soft stem nouns are declined like srĭdĭce 'heart' and znamenĭe 'sign'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   srĭdĭce   srĭdĭci   srĭdĭca
A   srĭdĭce   srĭdĭci   srĭdĭca
G   srĭdĭca   srĭdĭcu   srĭdĭcĭ
L   srĭdĭci   srĭdĭcu   srĭdĭcixŭ
D   srĭdĭcu   srĭdĭcema   srĭdĭcemŭ
I   srĭdĭcemĭ   srĭdĭcema   srĭdĭci
V   srĭdĭce   srĭdĭci   srĭdĭca
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   znamenĭje   znamenĭi   znamenĭja
A   znamenĭje   znamenĭi   znamenĭja
G   znamenĭja   znamenĭju   znamenĭi
L   znamenĭi   znamenĭju   znamenĭixŭ
D   znamenĭju   znamenĭjema   znamenĭjemŭ
I   znamenĭjemĭ   znamenĭjema   znamenĭi
V   znamenĭje   znamenĭi   znamenĭja

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

In the paradigm for znamenĭje, in each form the jer ĭ is tense, and therefore may be vocalized as i. (This will be discussed further in the next lesson.) Hence the entire paradigm has the alternate forms znamenije, znamenije, znamenija, znamenii, 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 žena 'woman', glava 'head', and ladii 'ship' are feminine; but vladyka 'ruler' and sǫdĭi 'judge' are masculine.

The following are paradigms for the feminine hard stem nouns žena 'woman' and noga 'foot'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   žena   ženě   ženy
A   ženǫ   ženě   ženy
G   ženy   ženu   ženŭ
L   ženě   ženu   ženaxŭ
D   ženě   ženama   ženamŭ
I   ženojǫ   ženama   ženami
V   ženo   ženě   ženy
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   noga   nodzě   nogy
A   nogǫ   nodzě   nogy
G   nogy   nogu   nogŭ
L   nodzě   nogu   nogaxŭ
D   nodzě   nogama   nogamŭ
I   nogojǫ   nogama   nogami
V   nogo   nodzě   nogy

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

    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   duša   duši   dušę
A   dušǫ   duši   dušę
G   dušę   dušu   dušĭ
L   duši   dušu   dušaxŭ
D   duši   dušama   dušamŭ
I   dušejǫ   dušama   dušami
V   duše   duši   dušę
    Singular   Dual   Plural
N   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭję
A   sǫdĭjǫ   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭję
G   sǫdĭję   sǫdĭju   sǫdĭi
L   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭju   sǫdĭjaxŭ
D   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭjama   sǫdĭjamŭ
I   sǫdĭjejǫ   sǫdĭjama   sǫdĭjami
V   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭi   sǫdĭję

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

Like znamenĭje, the ĭ of sǫdĭi is tense; each form has an alternate with the ĭ replaced by i: sǫdii, sǫdijǫ, sǫdiję, 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 -ši. Hence if one has zoveši 'you call', the present tense stem is zove-. 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 -e- are distinguished from those that end in -ne-, and so forth. These classifications will be discussed further in subsequent lessons. Here the present tense paradigms of two common verbs, glagolati 'to say' and moliti 'to beg' are given.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   glagol'jǫ   glagol'jevě   glagol'jemŭ
2nd   glagol'ješi   glagol'jeta   glagol'jete
3rd   glagol'jetŭ   glagol'jete   glagol'jǫtŭ
    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   mol'jǫ   molivě   molimŭ
2nd   moliši   molita   molite
3rd   molitŭ   molite   molętŭ

In some OCS texts the ending -ta of the 2nd person dual is used in place of -te 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, mol'jaaxŭ.

The forms of the imperfect are obtained from the infinitive-aorist stem. This stem is derived from the infinitive by dropping the suffix -ti. This may leave a stem with or without a vowel: nesti 'to carry' gives nes- for the stem, while glagolati and moliti give glagola- and moli-, respectively. This process, however, does not always give the proper result, since the stem may have undergone phonological changes when the -ti suffix was added. These changes must be "undone" in order to arrive at the proper stem. Thus pasti 'to fall' should give the stem pas-; but the s is the result of an original d changing before the ending -ti. Hence the actual stem is pad-.

The distinctive marker of imperfect verb forms is the suffix -ax- or -ěax- added to the stem. The suffix -ax- is appended to verbs with a stem ending in a or ě, the suffix -ěax- to all other verbs. So znati 'to know' gives the imperfect zna-axŭ and sěděti 'to sit' gives sědě-axŭ; but nesti 'to carry' gives the imperfect nes-ěaxŭ. If the ending -ěax- is appended to a stem ending in k or g, the final consonants undergo First Palatalization and become č and ž, respectively. (The rules of palatalization will be discussed further in the next lesson.) However, following the palatals č, ž, j, the ě changed to a, resulting in the suffix -aax-. For example, the verb mogǫ, mošti 'to be able' forms the imperfect možaaxŭ < *mog-ěaxŭ. Simply put, in practice one looks for -ax-, -aax-, and -ěax- as signs of imperfect verb forms.

Below are the paradigms for glagolati 'to say' and moliti 'to beg'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   glagolaaxŭ   glagolaaxově   glagolaaxomŭ
2nd   glagolaaše   glagolaašeta   glagolaašete
3rd   glagolaaše   glagolaašete   glagolaaxǫ
    Singular   Dual   Plural
1st Person   mol'jaaxŭ   mol'jaaxově   mol'jaaxomŭ
2nd   mol'jaaše   mol'jaašeta   mol'jaašete
3rd   mol'jaaše   mol'jaašete   mol'jaaxǫ

In the later language, the suffixes were often shortened to -ax- and -ěx-, leading forms like nesěxŭ instead of nesěaxŭ. Also as variant endings in the dual, -šeta is replaced by -sta, -šete by -ste; and in the plural, -šete is replaced by -ste.

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:

    reče   že   pritŭčǫ   k n'imŭ   glagol'ę
    said   and   a parable   to them,   saying

The first word is reče '(he) said'. The second position is occupied by the connective že 'and', a position usual for several enclitic conjunctions, such as bo 'for' and li 'if'. Similarly in the sentence

    reče   že   emu   bogŭ
    said   and   to him   God

In both these statements the last word (glagol'ę or bogŭ) 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 iže '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 reče že pritŭčǫ k n'imŭ (where pritŭčǫ is acc., k n'imŭ 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 sĭjǫ noštĭ '(in) this night' in the reading and common phrases like dĭnĭ 'this day, today', a demonstrative might precede or follow its noun (here sĭjǫ and ).