At the time St. Cyril, then still known as Constantine, was receiving his education in Byzantium, there was a strong German effort to convert the Slavic population in Moravia to the Roman Catholic faith. Their teachings however were in Latin, and as a result, in 862 or 863, the Moravian Prince Rostislav sent to the Byzantine Emperor Michael III for a "bishop and a teacher," saying, "My people have rejected paganism and hold the Christian law, but we do not have a teacher who could preach to us in our own native tongue." The Emperor quickly chose to send Constantine, accompanied by his brother Methodius, justifying his decision with the words "You two are from Salonika, and all Thessalonians speak pure Slavonic." Constantine immediately composed an alphabet and with his brother began the process of translating the Gospels into Slavonic. It appears that, at the time, the Slavonic dialects were little enough differentiated so that a translation could be made which would be broadly intelligible.
In Moravia the brothers were well received by Prince Rostislav. Their missionary work continued for some years, although it met with constant opposition from the German clergy. After a few years, the brothers decided to depart the area, though their destination is not certain. On the way the two stopped at the court of a local ruler by the name Kocel. There, fifty new students accompanied them when they resumed their journey. They subsequently stopped in Venice, where Constantine was again inveighed against by clergy asserting that God could be praised only in the three 'holy' languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Constantine stated, in response,
"Are ye not ashamed to mention only three tongues, and to command all other nations and tribes to be blind and deaf? Tell me, render ye God powerless, that He is incapable of granting this? or envious, that He desires this not? We know of numerous peoples who possess writing, and render glory unto God, each in his own tongue. Surely these are obvious: Armenians, Persians, Abkhazians, Iberians, Sogdians, Goths, Avars, Turks, Khazars, Arabs, Egyptians, and many others."
While in Venice, the brothers received an invitation from Pope Nicholas I to come to Rome. They accepted the invitation and arrived in Rome in late 867 or early 868 only to be greeted by Pope Hadrian II, who informed them that Nicholas I had passed away in November. Nevertheless the Slavonic liturgy was blessed by the Pope, and the two brothers were consecrated priests along with their disciples. Unfortunately, Constantine soon fell ill. It was at this time that he became a monk and adopted the name Cyril. Fifty days later, on 14 February 869, Cyril passed away.
The following text is excerpted from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 20, verses 30-34. In this tale, Jesus gives sight to two blind men he chances upon as he travels from Jericho. The OCS translation is linguistically telling in its use of the dual number throughout. By this time the dual in Greek had completely fallen away, so that the original Greek passage uses solely plural forms. The translation, by contrast, displays that the dual was a fully functioning morphological category by no means restricted to archaic phrases or purely "natural pairs."
i se dŭva slěpĭsa sědęšta pri pǫti slyšavŭša jako iisusŭ mimo xoditŭ vŭzŭpiste glagol'jǫšta pomilui ny gospodi synu davydovŭ |
narodŭ že zaprěti ima da umlĭčite | ona že pače vŭpĭjaašete glagol'jǫšta pomilui ny gospodi synu davydovŭ |
i stavŭ iisusŭ vŭzglasi ja i reče čĭto xošteta da sŭtvor'jǫ vama | glagolaste emu gospodi da otvrĭzete sę naju oči |
milosrĭdovavŭ že iisusŭ prikosnǫ sę očĭju ima i abĭe prozĭrěste i po n'emĭ idete |
i se dŭva slěpĭsa sědęšta pri pǫti slyšavŭša jako iisusŭ mimo xoditŭ vŭzŭpiste glagol'jǫšta pomilui ny gospodi synu davydovŭ | narodŭ že zaprěti ima da umlĭčite | ona že pače vŭpĭjaašete glagol'jǫšta pomilui ny gospodi synu davydovŭ | i stavŭ iisusŭ vŭzglasi ja i reče čĭto xošteta da sŭtvor'jǫ vama | glagolaste emu gospodi da otvrĭzete sę naju oči | milosrĭdovavŭ že iisusŭ prikosnǫ sę očĭju ima i abĭe prozĭrěste i po n'emĭ idete |
(30) And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. (31) And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. (32) And Jesus stood still, called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? (33) They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. (34) So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.
The nouns of the i-stem declension (sometimes called the simple nominal declension) are predominantly feminine, though there are some masculine nouns as well. Especially common is the i-stem ending -ostĭ attached to adjectives to form abstract nouns, e.g. bělŭ 'white' gives bělostĭ 'whiteness'. Below are the paradigms for the feminine kostĭ 'bone' and masculine pǫtĭ 'road'.
As always, the rules of strong/weak/tense jers apply to these forms. Hence, the form kostĭjǫ, being equivalent to kostĭjǫ, has a tense jer, resulting in the alternate spelling kostijǫ; likewise kostĭi (equivalent to kostĭjĭ) has the alternate spelling kostii, and similarly for the other forms. The latter form may also be considered to have a strong-weak alternation of jers, so that full vocalization gives the variant kostei. Likewise kostemŭ occurs in place of kostĭmŭ, and so on.
The u-stem nouns are a relatively small group of nouns which exhibit rather archaic endings. In many instances a given noun will not take all of its forms from this declension, but will also use certain endings from the o-stem declension. A common noun with many extant forms from this declension is synŭ 'son'. It is declined as follows.
Even this noun in many texts shows endings of the o-declension: V. sg. syne, G. sg. syna, D. sg. synu, L. sg. syně; N.A.V. du. syna, G. L. du. synu; N. pl. syni, G. pl. synŭ, I. pl. syny. At times the conflation of endings is more subtle, so that one finds N. pl. synovi, where the -i of the o-declension has replaced the -e. Another important noun showing a mixture of endings from this and the o-declension is domŭ 'house'.
There are two types of adjective declension, the one taking essentially the same endings as the o-stem and a-stem nouns, the other taking these endings followed by corresponding forms of the pronoun *i 'he'. Here are discussed the o- and a-stem adjectives, also known as the simple twofold adjectives. These may be divided into hard and soft stems, like the corresponding nouns. The paradigms of the hard stem adjective dobrŭ 'good' and the soft stem adjective ništĭ 'poor' are given below.
The hard stem, simple twofold declension is as follows.
The soft stem, simple twofold adjectives are formed as below.
The usual sound change rules apply, so that velar consonants are palatalized before endings beginning with front vowels. Also, in stems ending with a glide, the -ĭ of the soft declension may combine with -j- to give -i. For example the stem boži- [božij-] 'God's, divine' has the masculine nominative singular form božii [božiji < božijĭ].
The pronominal declension has been encountered in the paradigm of the third person pronoun *i 'he'. This pattern of declension also holds with minor modifications for a large number of demonstrative and possessive adjectives. In general these are all characterized by the suffix -go in the genitive singular for masculine and neuter genders. As with nouns and adjectives, these may be divided into hard and soft stems according as whether the -go is added to the base by the vowel -o- or -e-, respectively; likewise, whether the genitive plural ending -xŭ is affixed via the vowel -ě- (hard) or -i- (soft).
The hard stem pronominal declension may be illustrated by the adjective onŭ 'that one there, that one yonder'.
The demonstrative tŭ 'that' also follows the above pattern, as well as correlative demonstratives: ovŭ... ovŭ 'this... that'; ovŭ... inŭ 'this (here)... the other (there)'.
The soft stem pronominal declension is illustrated by the paradigm of sĭ 'this one'. This adjective also has a suppletive stem sij- which shows up in certain nominative and accusative forms.
|N Sg.||sĭ, sii||se||si|
|N Du.||sija||si, sii||si|
|N Pl.||sii, si||si||sĭję|
Following the same pattern as the soft declension are possessive adjectives such as moi 'my'. The stem is moj-, so that moj-ĭ > moji.
Some collective numerals also follow the soft declension: dŭvoje 'the two, group of two'; oboje 'the both'; troje 'the three, group of three'.
Regarding the feminine forms of the possessive adjectives, in the G. L. D. I. sg. and G. L. du. typically the -je- is contracted: moję, moi, mojǫ, and so forth.
A further variant of these declensions, the mixed pronominal declension, is exemplified by the extremely common pronoun vĭsĭ 'entire, every'.
For the form vĭsa of the feminine nominative singular and neuter nom./acc. plural may be found the variants vĭsja and vĭsě.
The aorist denotes an action completed in the past and viewed without regard to the duration of the act. By contrast, the imperfect indicates a continual past action, or a habitual one. Thus 'I was saying' or 'I used to say' correspond to the imperfect, but 'I said' to the aorist. The imperfect is well suited for relating events backgrounded in relation to another action, whereas the aorist delimits the points at which an action is completed. Hence the aorist is used in relating events in a narrative sequence to indicate the proper order of successive events.
There are three types of aorist formations: asigmatic, sigmatic, and new. As the names imply, one was formed by the addition of -s- ("sigma" in Greek) to the base, while another was formed without this extension. These two continued the more archaic formation of the aorist and were later supplanted by a new innovative paradigm.
The starting point for arriving at aorist forms is the infinitive-aorist stem. To obtain this, one takes the infinitive, removes the infinitive marker -ti, and undoes any consonant changes that may have resulted from addition of the -ti in the first place. For example, taking the infinitive glagolati 'to say', removing the -ti yields glagola-. Since this underwent no changes when the -ti was added, this is the aorist stem for this verb. By contrast, if one takes rešti 'to say', one must note that the -š- devoloped from -k- palatalized before the infinitive ending. That the final consonant is indeed -k and no other is determined by comparison with other forms of the same verb, e.g. the present tense first person singular rekǫ. Thus the aorist stem for rešti is rek-. Likewise, removing the infinitive ending from mošti 'to be able' yields mog-; here -št- developed from the combination -g- + -t- (compare the present tense first person singular mogǫ). Reconstruction of the proper aorist stem at times requires a little trial and error; it is useful to refer to Section 6 in Lesson 2 on palatalization.
The asigmatic aorist, also called the root or simple aorist, is formed by a relatively small number of verbs. These are verbs either (1) whose infinitive-aorist stems end in a consonant, or (2) whose stems end in the infix -nǫ-, which is then dropped before adding the aorist endings. Although the verbs which exhibit this formation are quite common, many do not display all the forms of the full paradigm. The paradigms for mošti, mogǫ, možeši 'be able'; iti, idǫ, ideši 'go'; and dvignǫti, -nǫ, -neši 'move' are given below.
The sigmatic or s-aorist is yet another aorist formation which was in decline by the time of the OCS texts. Nevertheless, several common verbs formed the aorist in this manner. The suffix -s- is appended to the infinitive-aorist stem, and the endings are attached to this either directly or via the intervening vowel -o-.
The suffixation of -s- was the catalyst for any number of sound changes in the stem. Some of the most notable are as follows.
RUKI: When preceded by any of r, u, k, i, the -s- developed into -x-. This includes some stems ending in -y-, where it developed from long-u.
g and l: In stems ending in -g or -l, the suffixed -s- became -x-.
Vowel Lengthening: In verbs with monosyllabic stems ending in a consonant, the root vowel was subject to lengthening: o > a, e > ě, ĭ > i. (The terminology "lengthening" derives from the fact that OCS a continues IE long a and long o; ě continues IE long e and the diphthongs aj, oj; and i continues long i and the diphthong ej. OCS o, e and ĭ continue original short vowels.)
The verbs rešti, rekǫ, rečeši 'say'; vesti, vedǫ, vedeši 'lead'; and ęti, imǫ, imeši 'take' illustrate this aorist formation.
The instances in which -s- > -x- were prevalent enough that at times forms with -x- are found where they would not be expected etymologically.
In certain verbs, mostly those with stems ending in r, ę, i, ě, an ending -tŭ is added to the 2nd and 3rd persons singular. Thus pitŭ from piti 'to drink', načętŭ from načęti 'to begin', bystŭ from byti 'to be', dastŭ from dati 'to give' (stem: dad-).
The new aorist, also termed the ox-aorist for reasons that will become evident below, was an innovative formation which eventually superceded the formations discussed above. This aorist is typically formed by those verbs whose infinitive-aorist stem ends in a consonant, or those with the -nǫ- infix that end in a consonant when the -nǫ- is dropped. The forms are a blend of the simple aorist forms and forms where -ox- intervenes between stem and ending.
For purposes of comparison, some paradigms are given for verbs which also form other types of aorist. Below are the paradigms of dvignǫti, -nǫ, -neši 'move'; iti, idǫ, ideši 'go'; rešti, rekǫ, rečeši 'say'; and vesti, vedǫ, vedeši 'lead'.
This aorist is not formed by those verbs whose stem ends in -a-, -n- or -r-.
One important syntactical feature, which is apparently an innovation within OCS, is the frequent use of the genitive for accusative with masculine substantives referring to male persons. That is to say, although typically the direct object is in the accusative, there is a strong tendency for nouns referring to a male person as direct object to be put in the genitive case. This is sometimes also used for animals, so that some of the literature on OCS speaks of an "animate" object case. For example, ona že abije ostavĭša korabĭ i otĭca svoego 'and those two having immediately left the ship and their father', where the inanimate korabĭ is in the accusative, the animate otĭca svoego in the genitive. Also ljubl'jaaše že iisusŭ marθǫ i sestrǫ eę i lazara 'and Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus', where the two nouns referring to females are in the accusative, the one referring to a male in the genitive. There seems to be very little tendency to place female substantives as direct object in the genitive.
Another prominent feature is the use of the genitive with negation. With a negated impersonal copula, 'there is/are not' or 'there is/are no', the predicate typically takes the genitive rather than nominative. Thus one would have bogŭ estŭ 'there is a god', but one finds boga něstŭ 'there is no god', where boga is the genitive. Similarly i ešte město estŭ 'there is still room', in contrast with zan'e ne bě ima města vŭ obiteli 'since there was no room for the two in the inn.' Also the direct object is usually put in the genitive rather than the accusative with a negated transitive verb . Thus ne imamĭ kŭde sŭbirati plodŭ moixŭ 'since I do not have somewhere to bestow my fruits'. Both of these uses of the genitive with negation occur regardless of the natural or grammatical gender of the substantive in question.