An important key to unlocking the thread of development of the Cyrillo-Methodian tradition is determining the source of the writing systems for the early OCS corpus. Tradition assigns to St. Cyril authorship of 'the' Slavic alphabet. The question lies before scholars as to just which alphabet is 'the' Slavic alphabet, for the early documents of OCS are written in either the Glagolitic or the Cyrillic alphabet. It is generally assumed that one of these is 'the' alphabet composed by Cyril himself, and the other a later revision of the former. The quest, then, is to determine which alphabet is the more archaic.
The general concensus among scholars is that the Glagolitic alphabet (not represented in these lessons for reasons of practicality) is the more archaic. This conclusion stems from the following:
(1) The language encountered in the Glagolitic manuscripts is typically felt to preserve more archaic features than the Cyrillic counterpart. This impression comes from the higher frequency in the Glagolitic manuscripts of uncontracted long forms of adjectives, and from the relative paucity of forms of the secondary sigmatic aorist. It is assumed that greater frequency of archaic linguistic features indicates earlier production of the manuscripts.
(2) There is a definite Glagolitic scribal tradition in the Czech and Slovak (Moravian) regions, where Cyril is assumed to have travelled first in his missionary work. In particular the Kiev (Kyiv) Missal, deemed oldest of our OCS documents on linguistic and palaeographic grounds, displays some phonological and morphological affinities with a Czech-speaking region. Some words of the Glagoltic corpus are felt to be distinctly of Czech origin. In addition, German and Latin loanwords into OCS would presumably have entered the language from the west through Moravian territory; some of these words are found only in Glagolitic manuscripts.
(3) In Istria and Croatia a Glagolitic manuscript tradition is also found, and this too lies in the Western reaches of the Slavic world. The Glagolitic tradition in fact still continues into the modern era.
(4) It is generally assumed that phrases such as slozhi pismena and the Latin litteras... sclaviniscas denoting 'slavic writing' would not have been used for the Cyrillic alphabet. The Cyrillic remains so obviously close to the Greek alphabet that it would not have been seen as a separate writing system.
(5) There are examples of palimpsests, where a Glagolitic original has been overwritten with the Cyrillic script; yet there are no examples of the reverse procedure. In addition, some Cyrillic manuscripts contain isolated Glagolitic letters, or individual words written in Glagolitic.
On the other side, some propose that Cyril in fact created what we term the Cyrillic alphabet. The Glagolitic is assumed to be a secondary creation, brought about in the period after the deaths of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. The presumption is that, after the Saints had passed away and the Pope issued orders forbidding the Slavonic liturgy, their disciples felt the need to devise an alphabet dissimilar from the Greek. The close ties between Moravia and the Western Church led to anti-Greek sentiment in the region, and the obvious resemblance of the Cyrillic alphabet to the Greek would have been a hindrance to their missionary efforts.
One even finds references which lead one to believe Cyril might not have been the originator of the alphabet at all. For example, in a Life of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, there is the following passage concerning Cyril's stay in the city of Chersonese in the Crimea about the year 860:
Obrje'te zhe tu evaggelie i psaltyri' rusi'skymi pismeny pisano, i tchlovje'ka obrje'tu' glagoljushta toju besje'doju, i besje'dova s nimu', i silu rje'tchi priimu', svoei besje'dje' prikladaa razlitchnaa pismena, glasnaa su'glasnaa, i ku' bogu molitvy tvore^, vu'skorje' natche^tu' tchesti i skazati, i mnodzi se^ emu divle^khu, boga khvale^shte.
"And he found there the Evangel and Psalter written with Russian letters, and upon finding a man who spoke the language, talked with him; and perceiving the power of the speech, he added various letters for his own language, consonant vocal sounds; and praying to God, immediately began to compose and reveal, and many marvelled at him, glorifying God."
As can be seen, although arguments in favor of the priority of Glagolitic are strong, they are by no means iron-clad. It is clear that, at the present moment, the question of which alphabet St. Cyril himself composed must remain an open one.
The following selection begins the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-13. These verses are particularly noteworthy for their illustration of the distinction between short and long forms of the adjective. For example blazheni nishtii renders 'blessed are the poor'. The definite substantive 'the poor' requires use of the long adjective form nishtii, whereas the predicate to this definite substantive merely takes the short form blazheni.
uzi'rje'vu' zhe narody vi'zide na goro^ i je'ko sje'de pristo^pishe^ ku' n'emu utchenitsi ego |
i otvru'zu' usta svoje' utchaashe e^ glagol'je^ |
blazheni nishtii dukhomi' je'ko tje'khu' estu' tsje'sari'stvo nebesi'skoe |
blazheni platcho^shtei je'ko ti utje'she^tu' se^ |
blazheni kroti'tsi je'ko ti nashede^tu' zeml'jo^ |
blazheni al'tcho^shtii i zhazhdo^shtii pravu'dy radi je'ko ti nasyte^tu' se^ |
blazheni milostivii je'ko ti pomilovani bo^do^tu' |
blazheni tchistii sru'dtsemi' je'ko ti boga uzi're^tu' |
blazheni su'mirje'jo^shtii je'ko ti synove bozhii nareko^tu' se^ |
blazheni izgu'nani pravu'dy radi je'ko tje'khu' estu' tsje'sari'stvo nebesi'skoe |
blazheni este egda ponose^tu' vamu' i izhdeno^tu' vy i reko^tu' vi'sje'ku' zu'lu' glagolu' na vy lu'zho^shte mene radi |
raduite se^ i veselite se^ je'ko mu'zda vasha mnoga estu' na nebesekhu' | tako bo izgu'nashe^ proroky izhe bje'she^ prje'zhde vasu' |
vy este soli' zemi ashte zhe soli' obuje'etu' tchimi' osolitu' se^ | nitchi'somuzhe bo^detu' ku' tomu da isypana bo^detu' vu'nu' i popiraema tchlovje'ky |
uzi'rje'vu' zhe narody vi'zide na goro^ i je'ko sje'de pristo^pishe^ ku' n'emu utchenitsi ego | i otvru'zu' usta svoje' utchaashe e^ glagol'je^ | blazheni nishtii dukhomi' je'ko tje'khu' estu' tsje'sari'stvo nebesi'skoe | blazheni platcho^shtei je'ko ti utje'she^tu' se^ | blazheni kroti'tsi je'ko ti nashede^tu' zeml'jo^ | blazheni al'tcho^shtii i zhazhdo^shtii pravu'dy radi je'ko ti nasyte^tu' se^ | blazheni milostivii je'ko ti pomilovani bo^do^tu' | blazheni tchistii sru'dtsemi' je'ko ti boga uzi're^tu' | blazheni su'mirje'jo^shtii je'ko ti synove bozhii nareko^tu' se^ | blazheni izgu'nani pravu'dy radi je'ko tje'khu' estu' tsje'sari'stvo nebesi'skoe | blazheni este egda ponose^tu' vamu' i izhdeno^tu' vy i reko^tu' vi'sje'ku' zu'lu' glagolu' na vy lu'zho^shte mene radi | raduite se^ i veselite se^ je'ko mu'zda vasha mnoga estu' na nebesekhu' | tako bo izgu'nashe^ proroky izhe bje'she^ prje'zhde vasu' | vy este soli' zemi ashte zhe soli' obuje'etu' tchimi' osolitu' se^ | nitchi'somuzhe bo^detu' ku' tomu da isypana bo^detu' vu'nu' i popiraema tchlovje'ky |
(Matthew 5:1) And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: (2) And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, (3) Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (4) Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (5) Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (6) Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (7) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (8) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (9) Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (10) Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteouness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. (12) Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (13) Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
The present active participle follows the twofold nominal declension, except in the nominative and accusative singular and plural. In the oblique cases, the suffix -e^sht- or -o^sht- is added to the verbal stem, and the case endings are added to this suffix. Those verbs with third person plural present ending in -e^tu' take the suffix -e^sht-, those with -o^tu' take -o^sht-. In the nominative singular masculine, the suffix -e^sht- yields -e^; the suffix -o^sht- yields -e^ or -y. Soft stem verbs take -e^, hard stems take -y.
According to the classification of verbs into five conjugations, the above means that verbs of conjugations I, II, and V have nominative singular masculine -y, and suffix -o^sht-. Verbs of conjugation III have nominative singular masculine -e^ and suffix -o^sht-; verbs of conjugation IV have nominative singular masculine -e^ and suffix -e^sht-.
Verbs of conjugations I, II, and V follow the paradigm of iti, ido^, ideshi 'go'.
|N A Du.||ido^shta||ido^shti||ido^shti|
Verbs of conjugation III follow the paradigm of znati, znajo^, znajeshi 'know'.
|N A Du.||znajo^shta||znajo^shti||znajo^shti|
Verbs of conjugation IV follow the paradigm of moliti, mol'jo^, molishi 'beg'.
|N A Du.||mole^shta||mole^shti||mole^shti|
Note in particular the accusative singular masculine ending -i' and the nominative plural masculine ending -e.
The definite (long) forms are constructed by appending the corresponding form of the third person pronoun. iti, ido^, ideshi 'go' illustrates the forms.
|N A Du.||ido^shtaja||ido^shtii||ido^shtii|
The nominative singular neuter does not correspond to the indefinite (short) form, but instead shows the full stem -e^sht- / -o^sht-. The tense jer of the accusative singular masculine may be vocalized as i, producing ido^shtii. The genitive singular masculine form may be contracted to yield ido^shtaago or ido^shtago. The instrumental singular feminine shows the variant ido^shto^jo^.
The verb 'be' forms participles sy, so^shti 'being', built from the jes- stem, and bo^dy, bo^do^shti 'future, that to come', from the same stem as bo^do^ 'I become'. One finds in later Russian Church Slavonic texts the form byshe^sht-, e.g. ne byshashti vodje' 'because there will not be water'.
The verb byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi 'be' has modal forms unattested for other verbs. No dual forms survive.
The expected second person plural form is *bite. The alternate forms in the plural are generated by analogy with the aorist. The aorist of byti often replaced the above forms in the conditional role: singular bykhu', by, by; dual bykhovje', bysta, byste; plural bykhomu', byste, byshe^.
These forms are used in the conditional-optative, which is a modal formation derived from the l-participle used in conjunction with the conditional forms of byti. For example moshti, mogo^, mozheshi 'be able' yields mogli bimu' 'we would be able'; byti gives bylu', bimi' 'I would be, I would like to be'. The conditional-optative is often used in contrary-to-fact statements: ashte se^ bi ne rodilu' 'if he had not been born'. This construction was also be used in purpose clauses: slugy ubo moe^ podvidzaly se^ bishe^ da ne prje'danu' bimi' ijudje'omu' 'then my servants would fight, that I not be handed over to the Jews.' In the last clause, bimi' is found with the past passive participle prje'danu', rather than a past active l-participle. Such clauses with da stood alone indicating a wish: jaru da by obrje'lu' ljutje'she^ 'Oh, if he had found more cruel people!' The form of byti was sometimes dropped altogether, leaving only the participle: jesha i ne su'brali su'bora 'if they had not been able to bring together the council'.
The first conjugation contains those verbs whose present tense stem ends in e and whose infinitive stem is
(a) the root without suffix, e.g. nes-ti 'to carry', 2 sg. pres. nes-e-shi
(b) enlarged by the suffix a, e.g. zu'v-a-ti 'to call', 2 sg. pres. zov-e-shi.
The conjugation is illustrated by the verbs nesti, neso^, neseshi 'carry'; reshti, reko^, retcheshi 'tell'; zu'vati, zovo^, zoveshi 'call'; pe^ti, pi'no^, pi'neshi 'stretch'. The forms of the asigmatic aorist are supplied for the verb moshti, mogo^, mozheshi 'be able'.
|Pres. Act. Part.|
|Pres. Pass. Part.|
|Past Act. Part.|
|Past Pass. Part.|
zu'vati has alternate imperfect forms zu'vaakhu', zu'vaashe, etc. The common verb natche^ti, natchi'no^, natchi'neshi 'begin' follows the paradigm of pe^ti.
The accusative case is used for the direct object of transitive verbs (unless negated), e.g. irodu' ... su've^za i i vu'sadi i vu' ti'mi'nitso^ 'Herod... bound him and threw him in prison'. Some verbs may take a double accusative, for example su'tvorjo^ va lovi'tsa tchlovje'komu' 'I will make you two fishers of men'. The accusative is used for objects of participles, e.g. isusu' zhe slyshavu' slovo glagol'emoe 'Jesus, having heard the word being spoken...'. It may also denote the object of the infinitive, as in khote^ i ubiti 'wanting to kill him'; or of a verbal noun: po prie^tii ... daru' 'after receiving... the gift'.
The accusative may express duration in time or extent in space, much like the English use of 'for' in the phrases 'for seven days' or 'for seven miles'. One finds examples togda zhe prje'bystu' na n'emi' zhe bje' mje'stje' du'va di'ni 'then He remained in the place in which He was for two days.' Since numbers greater than four are treated as nouns rather than adjectives, phrases of extent may show only the numeral in the accusative, while the noun quantified is in the genitive: i poshti' se^ di'nii (tchetyri dese^ti) i noshtii (tchetyri dese^ti) 'and having fasted for forty (of) days and for forty (of) nights'. Here, tchetyri is the feminine accusative plural adjective modifying dese^ti. Another example is bje' zhe vithani'ja bliz ierusalima jako pe^ti' na dese^te stadii 'Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen (of) stades.' The noun pe^ti' 'five' is in the accusative, denoting extent or distance; stadii 'of stades' is in the genitive.
With prepositions the accusative often denotes the object or goal of directed motion. Examples are idetu' na grobu' 'she is going to the grave' and vi'zide na goro^ 'He went upon the mountain'. An extension of this use to a metaphysical context is found in vi'si vje'ro^ imo^tu' vu' nu' 'All will have faith in Him'.
OCS makes frequent use of participles, favoring participles in instances where English would typically employ a dependent clause with a finite verb form. Generally speaking, present participles denote actions ongoing at the time of the main verb, while past participles describe actions begun and usually completed by the time of the main verb. For example, in retche zhe pritu'tcho^ k n'imu' glagol'e^... 'He told a parable to them, saying...', the present participle glagol'e^ describes an action contemporaneous with the past action retche. The main verb may itself be a participle, as in the case of isusu' zhe slyshavu' slovo glagol'emoe... 'And Jesus, having heard (slyshavu') the word being said (glagol'emoe)...'. Participles employed both short (e.g. slyshavu') and long (e.g. glagol'emoe) adjective endings. The long forms were more common in cases other than nominative and accusative.
Disrupting the simple interpretation of how the time-frame of present and past participles relates to that of the main verb is the fact that OCS inherits from Common Slavic a new manner of distinguishing aspect which differs from the parent PIE system. Within OCS, certain verbs are inherently completive or incompletive. Thus the present participle of a completive verb will denote an action in a completed state by the time of or shortly after the time of the main verb. Similarly, the past participle of an incompletive verb will denote an action not necessarily finished by the time of the main verb. Completive verbs are often marked by prefixes. Take as an example i ezhe aggely pokhvalimu' dru'zhitu' se^ skvru'navyima ro^kama 'one praised by angels is held by dirty hands'. The present participle pokhvalimu' has completive aspect.
A participle is often used alongside a finite verb where English would have two finite verbs. For example, se^dje'te si'de doni'dezhe shi'du' pomol'o^ se^ 'sit here while, having gone, I pray' may be rendered more smoothly as 'sit here while I go and pray'.
Some passive participles have lost some of their verbal force. Present passive participles often denote the possibility of the verbal root, e.g. vidimu' 'visible', nerazorimu' 'indestructable'. Past passive participles often lose the verbal force altogether, e.g. prokazhenu' 'leprous', su'mje'r'enu' 'humble'.
The resultative participle is special, being used only in compound tense formations with an accompanying form of byti 'be'. It occurs almost exclusively in the nominative short form.