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Old Russian Online

Lesson 2

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

II.ii Trade

As we have seen, the rivers provided natural thoroughfares throughout the East European expanse, and the settled populations along with enterprising outsiders quickly adapted these advantages to a diffuse and robust system of trade. At the easternmost extreme, where the initially eastward flowing Volga makes a sweeping turn toward the Caspian in the south, we find Bulgar, a trading hub dominated by a Turkic tribe of the same name. This cultural center occupied a special position along the Volga: it sat at the very edge of the Central Asian steppe. This prominent position at the edge of Central Asia's most productive superhighway meant that Bulgar formed a point of departure for an eastward journey along the Silk Road through predominantly Turkic-speaking cultures on the way to the Far East. Archaeological finds unearthing coins show specimens minted in Persia and Afghanistan. And accounts by Arab travelers of the 10th century such as Ibn Fadlan tell us that entrepreneurial Vikings known as Rus made their way along the rivers to Bulgar in search of eastern adornments.

Coins provide an excellent mechanism by which to follow trade, largely because they are durable and generally display distinctive features of their origin in their imprint. And coins similar to those found in Bulgar highlight a trade route extending up the Volga and westward along the Oka as it winds its way to its source in the central Uplands. Here the continued discovery of coins suggests the trade route hopped rivers: a relatively short overland trek could bridge the gap between the headwaters of the Oka and those of the Dnieper. This latter flowed westward just to the south of Smolensk, before turning south toward the Black Sea. But archaeological finds suggest that Smolensk was less economically important than a trading post just to its west: Gnezdovo.

Gnezdovo's location, viewed from the standpoint of commerce, was spectacular. Its easy access to the headwaters of the Dnieper and thence the Oka meant that it formed western outpost of the east-west trade route that led to Bulgar and beyond that the Silk Road. At the same time, Gnezdovo sat at the elbow of the Dnieper as it turned south toward the Black Sea. On this route lay Kiev (Kyiv), soon to be a cultural and political driving force within the nascent Russian state. And beyond, across the Black Sea itself, lay the imperial metropolis of Byzantium.

By this same elbow of the Dnieper, however, we find via a short overland passage the headwaters of the river Dvina. This flows west until if finally empties into the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. Thus Gnezdovo provided the linchpin in an east-west trade route that extended in the west from the shores of the Baltic and Scandinavia beyond to Bulgar and the Eurasian thoroughfare known as the steppe.

But also departing from Gnezdovo the river Lovat flowed north to Lake Ilmen and Novgorod, in many respects the birthplace of the emerging East Slavic identity in the annals of history. From there a trip north along the river Volkhov led to Lake Ladoga, to whose west lay the Gulf of Finland and the greater Baltic Sea beyond. Thus Gnezdovo formed the central junction in a north-south trade route starting in Byzantium in the south, passing upward through Kiev (Kyiv) and then Gnezdovo. From there one continued north to Novogorod and beyond into the reaches of Finnish tribes surrounding Lake Ladoga before turning west to the Baltic once again and its flowing Scandinavian trade.

The Scandinavians early grew wise to the existence of such trade routes. Artifacts from sites in Scandinavia proper show that their trade networks enabled the acquisition of Far Eastern goods. Runic inscriptions prove Scandinavian presence in the region surrounding Lake Ladoga, as well as in Berezanji at the mouth of the Dnieper in the Black Sea. This latter corroborates early accounts stating that Varangians, a particular subgroup of Scandinavians, already formed part of the Byzantine emperor's personal guard as early as the 10th century. And we have seen that Arab authors of roughly the same period place Scandinavians in Bulgar. Though the physical descriptions given often fail to distinguish Scandinavians from many other European peoples, the mention of one particular practice clinches the assertion that at least some of the tall, shaggy blond traders were indeed Scandinavians: ship burials.

It is in fact the burial finds of Gnezdovo that confirm a strong Scandinavian presence there as well. It is hard to say whether the outpost started as a Scandinavian trading colony or whether it was simply the case that Scandinavians maintained a continued presence in an otherwise multicultural trade center. For example, the swords found in many burials are not specific to the Scandinavians of the era. But we do find the signs of ship burials, which provide a definite hallmark of long-term Scandinavian habitation.

Though ideally located at the intersection of both north-south and east-west trade routes, Gnezdovo seems never to have been more than a large trading post or point of transfer. It never developed into a cultural center within the emerging Russian state. That distinction instead went first to Novgorod, to its north. Located beside Lake Ilmen, Novgorod was situated firmly within the forested reaches of the Eastern European expanse. As such it early seems to have provided a center for a rich trade in furs extending into the Baltic. That this was so is recorded not only in early Russian literature, but likewise in the Viking Sagas, where the city went by the name of Holmgard.

As Novgorod's centrality in Eastern Europe waned, the baton eventually passed to Kiev (Kyiv), to the south of Gnezdovo, situated on the Dnieper. Kiev too laid claim to a fortuitous location: near the transition from wooded land to Eurasian steppe. Thus Kiev not only formed a key midpoint in north-south trade between Gnezdovo and points north and Byzantium to its south. But according to Arab accounts of the trade of Frankish swords, Kiev also seemed to lie at the crux of a second, more southerly, east-west trade route: Frankish swords would pass through Prague on their way eventually to Kiev, before passing into the hands of Turkic traders and others making their living traversing the lightly levied paths along the steppe. This trade route, it seems, suffered little influence from the wide-ranging Scandinavians.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The following passage completes the Primary Chronicle's account of the Invitation to the Varangians. In particular we learn of the three Varangian brothers who led settlers to the lands of the Eastern Slavs, and we find the events that lead to consolidation under the leadership of Rjurik.

10 - I izu'brashajasja .g. brati'ja s rody svoimi, i pojasha po sobje' vsju rusi', i pridosha; starje'jishiji, Rjuriku', sje'de Novje'gorodje', a drugiji, Sineusu', na Bje'lje'-ozerje', a tretiji Izbori'stje', Truvoru'.

  • I -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- ...
  • izu'brashajasja -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <izbrati, -bero^, -bereshi> elect, select, choose + pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- were chosen # Likely to be read izu'brasha sja.
  • g -- number; <g> three -- Three
  • brati'ja -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <brati'ja> (collective) brothers, brethren -- brothers
  • s -- preposition; <su'> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • rody -- noun; masculine instrumental plural of <rodu'> race, kind, sort; generation; birth -- clans
  • svoimi -- adjective; masculine instrumental plural of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- their
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • pojasha -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <poje^ti, -imo^, -imeshi> take, seize -- they took
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- after
  • sobje' -- pronoun; locative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- themselves
  • vsju -- adjective; feminine accusative singular of <vi'si'> all, every; whole -- all
  • rusi' -- proper noun; feminine accusative singular of <rusi'> (collective) the Rus, Rus' (a Scandinavian tribe); the land of the Rus, Russia -- the Rus
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • pridosha -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <priti, -ido^, -ideshi> come, arrive -- they came
  • starje'jishiji -- comparative adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative singular of <staru'> old -- the oldest
  • Rjuriku' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Rjuriku'> Rjurik, Ryurik, Rurik, Hroerekr (Scandinavian name) -- Rjurik
  • sje'de -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <sje'sti, sje'do^, -deshi> sit down -- settled
  • Novje'gorodje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Novu' Gradu'> Novgorod (literally 'Newtown') -- in Novogord
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- but
  • drugiji -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative singular of <drugu'> other -- the second
  • Sineusu' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Sineusu'> Sineus, Signjutr (Scandinavian name) -- Sineus
  • na -- preposition; <na> (w. acc.) onto, against, for, to the extent; (w. loc.) on, at -- in
  • Bje'lje'-ozerje' -- proper noun; neuter locative singular of <Bje'lo Jezero> Belo-ozero, Beloozero (literally 'White Lake', name of a lake and the surrounding region) -- Belo-ozero
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- and
  • tretiji -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative singular of <treti'i, -ti'je, -ti'ja> third -- the third
  • Izbori'stje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Izbori'sku'> Izborsk -- in Izborsk # Note the palatalization of the consonant cluster -sk- to -st-.
  • Truvoru' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Truvoru'> Truvor, Thorvardhr (Scandinavian name) -- Truvor

11 - I otu' tje'xu' varjagu' prozvasja Ruskaja zemlja, novugorodi'ci, ti suti' ljudi'e novogorodi'ci otu' roda vu'rjazhi'ska, prezhe bobje'sha slovje'ni.

  • I -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • otu' -- preposition; <otu'> (w. gen.) of, from; by -- on account of
  • tje'xu' -- demonstrative adjective; masculine genitive plural of <tu', to, ta> that, that one -- these
  • varjagu' -- adjective used as substantive; masculine genitive plural of <vare^gu'> Varangian, of the Varangian tribe (name of a particular group of Scandinavians); bodyguard (of Viking descent, often applied to members of the Byzantine Emperor's personal guard) -- Varangians
  • prozvasja -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <prozvati, -zovo^, -zoveshi> call, summon + pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- it is called
  • Ruskaja -- adjective; feminine nominative singular of <rusi'sku'> Rus (Rus'), of the Rus, relating to the Rus, Rusian, Russian -- the Russian
  • zemlja -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <zeml'ja> earth, land -- land
  • novugorodi'ci -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <novu'gorodi'ku'> Novgorodian, of Novgorod -- the Novgorodians
  • ti -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine nominative plural of <tu', to, ta> that, that one -- they
  • suti' -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi> be, become -- are
  • ljudi'e -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <ljudi'je> (pl.) men, people; population, (a) people -- the... people
  • novogorodi'ci -- adjective; masculine nominative plural of <novu'gorodi'ku'> Novgorodian, of Novgorod -- Novgorodian
  • otu' -- preposition; <otu'> (w. gen.) of, from; by -- from
  • roda -- noun; masculine genitive singular of <rodu'> race, kind, sort; generation; birth -- the... clan
  • vu'rjazhi'ska -- adjective; masculine genitive singular of <vare^zhi'sku'> Varangian, of the Varangians -- Varangian
  • prezhe -- adverb; <prje'zhde> before -- before
  • bobje'sha -- conjunction; <bo> for + verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi> be, become -- for... they were
  • slovje'ni -- adjective used as substantive; masculine locative plural of <slovje'ninu'> Slovene, of the Slovene tribe (located on Lake Ilmen near Novgorod) -- the Slovenes

12 - Po dvoju zhe lje'tu Sineusu' umre i bratu' ego Truvoru'; i prija vlasti' Rjuriku' i razdaja muzhemu' svoimu' grady, ovomu Polotesku', ovomu Rostovu', drugomu Bje'lo-ozero.

  • Po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- after
  • dvoju -- number adjective; neuter locative dual of <du'va, du'vje'> two -- two
  • zhe -- conjunction; <zhe> and, but -- But
  • lje'tu -- noun; neuter locative dual of <lje'to> year, summer -- years
  • Sineusu' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Sineusu'> Sineus, Signjutr (Scandinavian name) -- Sineus
  • umre -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <umrje'ti, -ro^, -reshi> die -- died
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- as well as
  • bratu' -- noun; masculine nominative singular of <bratru', bratu'> brother -- brother
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • Truvoru' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Truvoru'> Truvor, Thorvardhr (Scandinavian name) -- Truvor
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- so
  • prija -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <prije^ti, priimo^, priimeshi> take, seize -- assumed
  • vlasti' -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <vlasti'> rule, power, authority; despotic rule, tyranny -- power
  • Rjuriku' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Rjuriku'> Rjurik, Ryurik, Rurik, Hroerekr (Scandinavian name) -- Rjurik
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- as well as
  • razdaja -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <razdajati, -dajo^, -dajeshi> distribute, give out -- distributed
  • muzhemu' -- noun; masculine dative plural of <mo^zhi'> man, husband -- to... men
  • svoimu' -- adjective; masculine dative plural of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- his
  • grady -- noun; masculine accusative plural of <gradu'> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- cities
  • ovomu -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine dative singular of <ovu', ovo, ova> this, this one; (repeated) the one... the other -- to one
  • Polotesku' -- proper noun; masculine accusative singular of <Poloti'sku'> Polotsk (name of a city) -- Polotsk
  • ovomu -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine dative singular of <ovu', ovo, ova> this, this one; (repeated) the one... the other -- to another
  • Rostovu' -- proper noun; masculine accusative singular of <Rostovu'> Rostov (name of a city) -- Rostov
  • drugomu -- adjective used as substantive; masculine dative singular of <drugu'> other -- to yet another
  • Bje'lo-ozero -- proper noun; neuter accusative singular of <Bje'lo Jezero> Belo-ozero, Beloozero (literally 'White Lake', name of a lake and the surrounding region) -- Belo-ozero

13 - I po tje'mu' gorodomu' suti' naxodici varjazi, a peri'vii naseli'nici v Novje'gorodje' slovje'ne, vu' Poloti'stje' krivitchi, v Rostovje' merja, v Bje'lje'-ozerje' vesi', v Muromje' muroma, i tje'mi vsje'mi obladashe Rjuriku'.

  • I -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- after
  • tje'mu' -- demonstrative adjective; masculine dative plural of <tu', to, ta> that, that one -- those
  • gorodomu' -- noun; masculine dative plural of <gradu'> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- cities
  • suti' -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi> be, become -- are
  • naxodici -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <noxodi'niku'> invader -- invaders
  • varjazi -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <vare^gu'> Varangian, of the Varangian tribe (name of a particular group of Scandinavians); bodyguard (of Viking descent, often applied to members of the Byzantine Emperor's personal guard) -- the Varangians
  • a -- conjunction; <a> and, but; if -- as
  • peri'vii -- adjective; masculine nominative plural of <pru'vu'> first -- the first
  • naseli'nici -- noun; masculine nominative plural of <naseli'niku'> inhabitant, resident; native; immigrant -- inhabitants
  • v -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • Novje'gorodje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Novu' Gradu'> Novgorod (literally 'Newtown') -- Novogord
  • slovje'ne -- adjective used as substantive; masculine nominative plural of <slovje'ninu'> Slovene, of the Slovene tribe (located on Lake Ilmen near Novgorod) -- (were) the Slovenes
  • vu' -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • Poloti'stje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Poloti'sku'> Polotsk (name of a city) -- Polotsk # Note the palatalization of the consonant cluster -sk- to -st-.
  • krivitchi -- noun; masculine nominative plural <krivitchi> (pl.) the Krivitchians (a Slavic tribe) -- the Krivitchians
  • v -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • Rostovje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Rostovu'> Rostov (name of a city) -- Rostov
  • merja -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <merja> (collective) the Merians (a Finnish tribe, in the region of Jaroslavl and Rostov, along the Volga river) -- the Merians
  • v -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • Bje'lje'-ozerje' -- proper noun; neuter locative singular of <Bje'lo Jezero> Belo-ozero, Beloozero (literally 'White Lake', name of a lake and the surrounding region) -- Belo-ozero
  • vesi' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <vesi'> (collective) the Ves, Vepsians (a Finnish tribe between Lakes Ladoga and Belo-ozero) -- the Ves
  • v -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • Muromje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Muromu'> Murom (name of a city) -- Murom
  • muroma -- proper noun; feminine nominative singular of <muroma> the Muroma (a Finnish tribe inhabiting the region along the Oka river) -- the Muroma
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • tje'mi -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine instrumental plural of <tu', to, ta> that, that one -- these
  • vsje'mi -- adjective; masculine instrumental plural of <vi'si'> all, every; whole -- all (of)
  • obladashe -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <obladati, -dajo^, -dajeshi> (freq. w. instr.) rule, rule (over), lead, reign -- ruled over
  • Rjuriku' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Rjuriku'> Rjurik, Ryurik, Rurik, Hroerekr (Scandinavian name) -- Rjurik

14 - I bjasta u nego .v. muzha, ne plemeni ego, no bojarina, i ta isprosistasja ko Carjugorodu s rodomu' svoimu'.

  • I -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • bjasta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi> be, become -- there were
  • u -- preposition; <u> (w. gen.) near, at, by -- with
  • nego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- him
  • v -- number; <v> two -- two
  • muzha -- noun; masculine nominative dual of <mo^zhi'> man, husband -- men
  • ne -- adverb; <ne> not -- not
  • plemeni -- noun; neuter genitive singular of <pleme^> seed; sprout, shoot; generation; breed, species, type; tribe, group -- of... tribe
  • ego -- pronoun; masculine genitive singular of <*i> he -- his
  • no -- conjunction; <nu'> but -- but rather
  • bojarina -- noun; masculine nominative dual of <bojarinu'> noble, aristocrat, bojar, boyar -- bojars
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • ta -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine nominative dual of <tu', to, ta> that, that one -- they
  • isprosistasja -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <isprositi, -zho^, -sishi> seek, search (for); gain by asking + pronoun; accusative singular of <sebe> -self, oneself -- were sought (to go)
  • ko -- preposition; <ku'> (w. dat.) to, toward -- to
  • Carjugorodu -- proper noun; masculine dative singular of <Cje'sari' Gradu'> Byzantium, Constantinople (literally 'the Emperor's City') -- Byzantium
  • s -- preposition; <su'> (w. gen.) (down) from; (w. instr.) with -- with
  • rodomu' -- noun; masculine instrumental singular of <rodu'> race, kind, sort; generation; birth -- clan
  • svoimu' -- adjective; masculine instrumental singular of <svoi, svoe, svoja> own, one's own -- their

15 - I poidosta po Dnje'pru, i idutche mimo i uzrje'sta na gorje' gradoku'; i uproshasta i rje'sta, "tchiji se gradoku'?"

  • I -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- And
  • poidosta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <poiti, -ido^, -ideshi> go, set out; go back, return -- they went
  • po -- preposition; <po> (w. dat.) on, about (motion on surface); (w. acc.) on, after, on account of; (w. loc.) after, following, for -- along
  • Dnje'pru -- proper noun; masculine dative singular of <Dnje'pru'> Dnieper, (Russ.) Dnepr, (Belor.) Dnjapro, (Ukr.) Dnipro, (classical) Danapris (name of a river flowing into the Black Sea) -- the Dnieper
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • idutche -- participle; masculine nominative plural of <iti, ido^, ideshi> go -- (while) going # Note the use of the plural in the participle rather than the dual, as consistently used in the finite verb forms in this passage. This hints at the transfer of the masculine plural participial form into a fixed gerund, lacking grammatical agreement.
  • mimo -- adverb; <mimo> past, by -- by
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- ...
  • uzrje'sta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <uzrje'ti, -zro^, -zrishi> look at, behold; see -- they caught sight of
  • na -- preposition; <na> (w. acc.) onto, against, for, to the extent; (w. loc.) on, at -- on
  • gorje' -- noun; feminine locative singular of <gora> mountain -- a hill
  • gradoku' -- noun; masculine accusative singular of <gradu'ku'> town, city, walled enclosure -- a city
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • uproshasta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <uprositi, -sho^, -sishi> ask, interrogate, question -- they asked
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • rje'sta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <reshti, reko^, retcheshi> say, tell -- said
  • tchiji -- interrogative adjective; masculine nominative singular of <tchi'i, tchi'je, tchi'ja> whose, of whom -- Whose
  • se -- demonstrative pronoun; neuter nominative singular of <si', se, si> this, this one -- this # Possibly to be understood as a fully-vocalized form of the masculine nominative singular form si'.
  • gradoku' -- noun; masculine accusative singular of <gradu'ku'> town, city, walled enclosure -- city

16 - Oni zhe rje'sha, "byla suti' .g. brati'ja, Kiji, Shcheku', Xorivu', izhe sdje'lasha gradokosi', i izgibosha, i my sje'dimu', platjatche dani' rodomu' ixu' kozaromu'".

  • Oni -- demonstrative pronoun; masculine nominative singular of <onu', ono, ona> that, that one -- they
  • zhe -- conjunction; <zhe> and, but -- And
  • rje'sha -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <reshti, reko^, retcheshi> say, tell -- replied
  • byla -- past participle; feminine nominative singular of <byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi> be, become -- There were
  • suti' -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <byti, bo^do^, bo^deshi> be, become -- ... # Note the agreement with the logical number of the subject, three (hence plural), rather than the grammatical number (singular), which is determined by brati'ja
  • g -- number; <g> three -- three
  • brati'ja -- noun; feminine nominative singular of <brati'ja> (collective) brothers, brethren -- brothers
  • Kiji -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Kyi> Kyi, Kii (legendary founder of Kiev) -- Kyi
  • Shcheku' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Shcheku'> Shchek, Shek (brother of Kyi) -- Shchek
  • Xorivu' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Xorivu'> Khoriv, Xoriv (brother of Kyi) -- Khoriv
  • izhe -- relative pronoun; masculine nominative plural of <izhe> who, which -- who
  • sdje'lasha -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <su'dje'lati, -ajo^, -ajeshi> found, establish; work, build -- founded
  • gradokosi' -- noun; masculine accusative singular of <gradu'ku'> town, city, walled enclosure + demonstrative adjective; masculine accusative singular of <si', se, si> this, this one -- this city # Note that the phrase gradoku' si' is pronounced as a unit. In such a situation, the final jer of si' is word-final and weak, and the final jer of the accusative gradoku' now precedes a weak jer, and so is fully vocalized as -o-.
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • izgibosha -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist of <izgybati, -bajo^ -bljo^, -bajeshi -bljeshi> perish, be destroyed -- they perished
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • my -- pronoun; nominative plural of <azu'> I -- we
  • sje'dimu' -- verb; 1st person plural present of <sje'dje'ti, -zhdo^, -dishi> sit, remain -- remain
  • platjatche -- participle; masculine nominative plural of <platiti, -shto^, -tishi> loose, free, set free, pay -- paying
  • dani' -- noun; feminine accusative singular of <dani'> tribute -- tribute
  • rodomu' -- noun; masculine dative plural of <rodu'> race, kind, sort; generation; birth -- clans
  • ixu' -- pronoun; masculine genitive plural of <*i> he -- their
  • kozaromu' -- adjective; masculine dative plural of <kozarinu'> Khazar, of the Khazars (a Turkic tribe located along the Volga) -- Khazar

17 - Askoldu' zhe i Diru' ostasta vu' gradje' semi', i mnogi varjagi su'vokupista, i natchasta vladje'ti Poli'skoju zemleju, Rjuriku zhe knjazhashchu v Novje'gorodje'.

  • Askoldu' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Askoldu', Oskoldu'> Askold, Askuldr (Scandinavian name) -- Askold
  • zhe -- conjunction; <zhe> and, but -- ...
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • Diru' -- proper noun; masculine nominative singular of <Diru'> Dir (Scandinavian name) -- Dir
  • ostasta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <ostati, ostano^, ostaneshi> stay behind, remain -- remained
  • vu' -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • gradje' -- noun; masculine locative singular of <gradu'> walled structure, walled fortification; garden, enclosed park; home, dwelling, household; city -- city
  • semi' -- demonstrative adjective; masculine locative singular of <si', se, si> this, this one -- this
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • mnogi -- adjective; masculine accusative plural of <mu'nogu'> much, many -- many
  • varjagi -- adjective used as substantive; masculine accusative plural of <vare^gu'> Varangian, of the Varangian tribe (name of a particular group of Scandinavians); bodyguard (of Viking descent, often applied to members of the Byzantine Emperor's personal guard) -- Varangians # See prior note on the lack of palatalization of the velar consonant
  • su'vokupista -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <su'vu'kupiti, -pljo^, -pishi> lead together, collect, gather -- they brought together
  • i -- conjunction; <i> and; also, too, even -- and
  • natchasta -- verb; 3rd person dual aorist of <natche^ti, -tchi'no^, -tchi'neshi> begin -- they began
  • vladje'ti -- verb; infinitive of <vladje'ti, -dje'jo^, -dje'jeshi> (freq. w. instr.) rule, rule over, hold power (over) -- to rule
  • Poli'skoju -- adjective; feminine instrumental singular of <poli'sku'> Poljan, Polian, Poljanian, Polianian, of the Poljan tribe (a Slavic tribe living along the Dnieper) -- Poljanian
  • zemleju -- noun; feminine instrumental singular of <zeml'ja> earth, land -- the... land
  • Rjuriku -- proper noun; masculine dative singular of <Rjuriku'> Rjurik, Ryurik, Rurik, Hroerekr (Scandinavian name) -- Rjurik
  • zhe -- conjunction; <zhe> and, but -- ...
  • knjazhashchu -- participle; masculine dative singular of <kne^zhiti, -zho^, -zhishi> rule, be king, have power -- (with)... ruling # Note the use of the dative absolute (here with Rjuriku) to describe an action attendant on the main clause, but grammatically independent of it
  • v -- preposition; <vu'> (w. loc.) in; (w. acc.) into -- in
  • Novje'gorodje' -- proper noun; masculine locative singular of <Novu' Gradu'> Novgorod (literally 'Newtown') -- Novogord

Lesson Text

10 I izu'brashajasja .g. brati'ja s rody svoimi, i pojasha po sobje' vsju rusi', i pridosha; starje'jishiji, Rjuriku', sje'de Novje'gorodje', a drugiji, Sineusu', na Bje'lje'-ozerje', a tretiji Izbori'stje', Truvoru'. 11 I otu' tje'xu' varjagu' prozvasja Ruskaja zemlja, novugorodi'ci, ti suti' ljudi'e novogorodi'ci otu' roda vu'rjazhi'ska, prezhe bobje'sha slovje'ni. 12 Po dvoju zhe lje'tu Sineusu' umre i bratu' ego Truvoru'; i prija vlasti' Rjuriku' i razdaja muzhemu' svoimu' grady, ovomu Polotesku', ovomu Rostovu', drugomu Bje'lo-ozero. 13 I po tje'mu' gorodomu' suti' naxodici varjazi, a peri'vii naseli'nici v Novje'gorodje' slovje'ne, vu' Poloti'stje' krivitchi, v Rostovje' merja, v Bje'lje'-ozerje' vesi', v Muromje' muroma, i tje'mi vsje'mi obladashe Rjuriku'. 14 I bjasta u nego .v. muzha, ne plemeni ego, no bojarina, i ta isprosistasja ko Carjugorodu s rodomu' svoimu'. 15 I poidosta po Dnje'pru, i idutche mimo i uzrje'sta na gorje' gradoku'; i uproshasta i rje'sta, "tchiji se gradoku'?" 16 Oni zhe rje'sha, "byla suti' .g. brati'ja, Kiji, Shcheku', Xorivu', izhe sdje'lasha gradokosi', i izgibosha, i my sje'dimu', platjatche dani' rodomu' ixu' kozaromu'". 17 Askoldu' zhe i Diru' ostasta vu' gradje' semi', i mnogi varjagi su'vokupista, i natchasta vladje'ti Poli'skoju zemleju, Rjuriku zhe knjazhashchu v Novje'gorodje'.

Translation

10 Three brothers were chosen with their clans, and they took after them all the Rus, and they came: the oldest, Rjurik, settled in Novgorod; but the second, Sineus, in Belo-ozero; and the third, Truvor, in Izborsk. 11 And on account of these Varangians it is called the Russian land; the Novgorodians, they are the Novgorodian people from the Varangian clan, for before they were the Slovenes. 12 But after two years Sineus died, as well as his brother Truvor; so Rjurik assumed power and distributed cities to his men, to one Polotsk, to another Rostov, and to yet another Belo-ozero. 13 And in those cities the Varangians are invaders, as the first inhabitants in Novgorod (were) the Slovenes, in Polotsk the Krivitchians, in Rostov the Merians, in Belo-ozero the Ves, in Murom the Muroma, and Rjurik ruled over all of these. 14 And with him there were two men, not of his tribe, but rather bojars, and they were sought (to go) to Byzantium with their clan. 15 And they went along the Dnieper, and while going by they caught sight of a city on a hill; and they asked and said: "Whose city is this?" 16 And they replied: "There were three brothers, Kyi, Shchek, and Khoriv, who founded this city; and they perished, and we remain, paying tribute to their Khazar clans." 17 Askold and Dir remained in this city, and they brought together many Varangians, and they began to rule the Poljanian land, with Rjurik ruling in Novgorod.

Grammar

6. Palatalization & Retraction

Though the Slavic languages share a common ancestry with other Indo-European languages such as English, Latin, Sanskrit, and Old Irish, the Slavic family has undergone certain sound shifts that distinguish it from other branches of the family tree. One of the most pervasive of these shifts, and the one that perhaps contributes most forcefully to the consonant sequences that so strike the ear as distinguishing Slavic languages from all others, is palatalization. This palatalization in fact occurred in three distinct waves, and a basic understanding of these various shifts will aid the reader in understanding the history of the language family and the vast scholarly literature.

In addition we find that in certain environments, certain sounds underwent a different process called retraction. The Slavic languages share features of this process with their Indo-Iranian cousins. In the following subsections we will look more closely at the particular phonological shifts involved and the environments in which they occurred. These shifts play an important role in distinguishing the various conjugation classes of the present tense and in the formation of the past tenses.

6.1. Background: Important Vowel Shifts

In the most basic sense, all of the various waves of palatalization can be traced back to the influence of front vowels and yod. A mild acquaintance with certain aspects of the evolution of the vowels, and particularly the diphthongs, will assist in understanding the process of palatalization.

In the passage from the surmised language of the once semi-homogeneous culture of the Indo-Europeans -- termed Proto-Indo-European (PIE) -- to the common tongue spoken by the Slavic community as a whole -- termed Common Slavic (CS) or Proto-Slavic (PSl) -- before its eventual dissolution into several distinct regional varieties, front vowels tended to remain front vowels, and back vowels tended to remain back. The vowels did not necessarily remain the same: for example PIE *a and *o, both back vowels, merged into CS *a. Thus the backness remained intact, though PIE *o lost its roundness.

Moreover, Common Slavic adopted a tendency toward open syllables. That is, where a vowel was followed by a sequence of consonants, all of those consonants tended to be assigned to the following syllable. Such is not the case in other Indo-European (IE) languages: for example, Latin incertus 'undetermined' divides into syllables as in-cer-tus, so that the consonant cluster -rt- is split between syllables. But the Old Russian term muzhi'stvo 'manliness' divides as mu-zhi'-stvo, assigning the entire cluster -stv- to the following syllable. When a syllable-final consonant cluster consisted of a nasal followed by non-nasal consonant, the preceding syllable was opened instead by nasalizing the preceding vowel. Thus corresponding to Latin pons 'bridge' (with genitive pontis, syllabically pon-tis) we find OCS po^ti' [po^-ti'] 'way', with nasalization of the o in the first syllable. This nasalization was subsequently lost in the East Slavic dialects, including Old Russian: puti' 'way'.

The final major tendency which concerns us is monophthongization. This denotes a shift whereby the PIE diphthongs -- consisting of any of the three basic vowels PIE *e, *a, *o (both long and short variants) followed by the PIE semivowels *i, *u -- were simplified in Common Slavic into the individual vowels, or monophthongs, *i, *je', *u. Such monophthongization occurred when the original diphthongs were followed by a consonant. A diphthong in such a position is termed tautosyllabic, i.e. both elements of the diphthong remained within the same syllable. However when a vowel followed the diphthong, the rule of open syllables dictated that the final semivowel of the diphthong be reanalyzed as the initial consonant of the following syllable:

  • PIE *ai-a > CS *a-ja > OR a-ja;
  • PIE *ou-o > CS *o-vo > OR o-vo.

Diphthongs in this position are termed heterosyllabic, i.e. the elements of the diphthong when reanalyzed straddle a syllable boundary. Heterosyllabic diphthongs were thus analyzed into their constituent parts and escaped the process of monophthongization. For example the PIE root *ei- 'go' gives Greek ei-mi, but OR i-ti via monophthongization. Similarly PIE *h2ous- gives Latin auris and OR uxo, both 'ear'. But PIE *nou-os yields Latin novus and OR novu', since the diphthong *-ou- finds itself in heterosyllabic position.

6.2. Palatalization of Velars

The palatalization of velar consonants denotes a process of mutative palatalization. That is, over time velar consonants in certain contexts changed their point of articulation from the velum to the hard palate to such a degree that the result was in effect a new consonant. This shift occurred in those environments in which the velar sounds were in close proximity to front vowels or yod; for example, if a front vowel followed a velar consonant, the speaker's tongue would naturally anticipate the upcoming vowel and thereby push the point of articulation of the velar consonant forward in the mouth. This shift occurred over time throughout Common Slavic as a whole, and we may isolate the effects of three distinct phases.

6.2.1 First Palatalization

The First Palatalization affected the Common Slavic velar consonants *k, *g, *x [*k, *g, *x] that found themselves immediately preceding a yod or an inherited PIE front vowel. The result in this context was *tch, *zh, *sh [*tch, *zh, *sh], respectively. In general these inherited PIE front vowels remained CS front vowels (here and elsewhere in these lessons, a colon following a vowel denotes the corresponding long vowel):

PIE   CS   OR
*i   *i'   i'
*e   *e   e
*eN   *e^   ja
*i:   *i   i
*ei   *i   i
*e:   *je'   je'

(Note: For the most part these lessons will employ a romanized transcription for phonetic sequences representing a putative stage of Common Slavic. But on occasion we will state some phonetic principles pertaining to Common Slavic in terms of the Cyrillic alphabet for pedagogical reasons: this will help the reader more readily identify the phonetic sequences involved in actual Old Russian sources. Though this is somewhat anachronistic, if we take the viewpoint that OCS and Old Russian represent a very late stage of Common Slavic, then the practice will not seem too out of place.)

Thus the conditioning environment remains visible in the resulting form. But when the velars underwent this change before a PIE *e: (long-e), which normally changed to CS *je', this *je' lost its front quality and was "backed" to ja or a. For example, PIE *leg-e:-ti: > CS *lezhje'ti > *lezhjati > OR lezhati 'to lie down, recline' (cf. Schmalstieg, 1995).

Additionally the First Palatalization affected certain consonant clusters, shifting both members of the cluster. In particular, PIE *sk shifted to CS *shtch, written in Old Russian as shch; and PIE *zg shifted to CS *zhd. For example: PIE *tresk-e:-ti: > CS *treshchje'ti > *treshchjati > OR treshchati 'to crack'.

6.2.2 Second Palatalization

The Second Palatalization occurred as a result of monophthongization in Common Slavic. Recall the First Palatalization shifted velars that already preceded front vowels held over from PIE. But there were also back vowels inherited from PIE, and some of these formed the first member of diphthongs. As outlined above, tautosyllabic diphthongs underwent monophthongization. This produced in many instances front vowels -- specifically *i [*i] and *je' [*je'] -- in positions where prior there had been a back vowel. Velars before these new front vowels therefore became subject to palatalization. The results of this new, second palatalization differed from the first: Common Slavic *k, *g, *x [*k, *g, *x] shifted to *c, *z, *s [*c, *z, *s], respectively. Consider the following examples.

Change   PIE   CS   OR   English   Comparanda
*k > *c   *kaina:   *cje'na   cje'na   price   Gk poine:
*g > *z   *bogoi   *bodzi   bozi   gods   Skt bhaga-
*x > *s   *snusai   *snu'xje'   snosje'   (to the) daughter-in-law   OE snoru, Lat nurus

Note in the last row that the PIE *s preceding the final *-ai first passes to CS *x according to the phenomenon of retraction (Section 6.5 below), and this *x, as it stands before CS *je', is therefore subject to second palatalization.

This phase of palatalization may also be thought of as an assibilation. In this phase the original PIE sequence *sk underwent a shift to CS *st [*st]. We see this for example in the reflex of the nominative masculine plural *-sk-oi encountered in adjectives such as OR kyevi'sku' 'Kievan': nominative plural ljudie kyevi'stii 'the Kievan people', where the first -i- provides the reflex of PIE *-oi as a result of monophthongization and the second -i derives from the long-form adjective.

6.2.3 Third Palatalization

Finally we come to the Third Palatalization. The above two palatalizations are regressive: that is, a front vowel influences the articulation of a preceding consonant. The Third Palatalization, by contrast, is progressive: a front vowel influences the articulation of a following velar consonant. Specifically, we find that the Common Slavic velar consonants *k, *g, *x [*k, *g, *x] shifted to *c, *z, *s [*c, *z, *s], respectively, in the following environment: when preceded by the vowels *i, *i', *e^ [*i, *i', *e^], but only if followed directly by a vowel.

Change   PIE   CS   OR   English   Comparanda
*k > *c   *ovika:   *ovi'ca   ovi'ca   sheep   Skt avika:
*g > *z   *stigha:   *sti'dza   sti'za   trail   Gk stikhos, Got. staiga

Along with OR sti'za 'trail', compare po-stig-nu-ti 'reach', illustrating that the changes of the Third Palatalization do not occur when the velar consonant is followed directly by another consonant.

6.3. Softening Chart

Softening is a term used by many scholars interchangeably with palatalization. The above outline of the historical changes found among the Common Slavic vowels and velar consonants holds some important implications for the structure of Old Russian as we find it in the texts that have come down to us. In particular, we find that within the same paradigm a given nominal or verbal root may display different palatalized reflexes of the velar consonants depending on the particular historical evolution of that form. Thus the neuter noun igo 'yoke' retains the original velar g in the nominative singular, but in the locative singular we find the palatalized reflex in izje' due to the fact that the PIE ending *-oi shifted to CS *-je' and induced Second Palatalization. Therefore, confronted with izje', one must undo the effects of palatalization to arrive at the form igo which one should search for in the dictionary. To assist with such reconstruction, the following chart provides a summary of the changes due to velar palatalization.

Early CS   1st Palat.   2nd Palat.   3rd Palat.
*k   tch   c   c
*g   zh   z   z
*x   sh   s   s
*sk   shch   st    
*zg   zhd        

Thus, when one encounters a form involving a consonant in one of the three right-hand columns, one might consult the dictionary replacing the consonant with the corresponding consonant in the leftmost column.

6.4. j-Palatalization

Though front vowels provided a common trigger for the palatalization of consonants, they were not the only trigger. In particular the glide -j-, the yod, plays an important role in the consonant changes that characterize Common Slavic in general, and Old Russian in particular. The changes engendered by the palatal glide -j- affected not only the velar consonants, where in fact the results were identical to those of the first palatalization of velars, but also numerous other consonants as well.

One should note particularly the result of j-palatalization in the sequences *tj and *dj, which give respectively tch and zh ([tch] and [zh]). These differ notably from the results of j-palatalization within Old Church Slavonic, where they became shch (equivalently written sht in OCS) and zhd respectively. Thus the j-palatalization of these particular sequences serves to distinguish generally South Slavic from East Slavic, and in particular Old Church Slavonic from Old Russian.

However numerous Old Russian texts show shch [sht] and zhd [zhd], i.e. the Old Church Slavonic reflexes, precisely where we should expect the Old Russian reflexes tch [tch] and zh [zh]. Scholars have interpreted variously such orthographic fluctuation. In some instances this may herald a "bookish" orthography, by which we mean scribal sensibilities of "correct" spelling that show a heavy influence from Old Church Slavonic norms. In other instances this may simply mark either orthographic or linguistic "flexibility": either a stage, or school, of orthographic practice which simply viewed shch and tch, say, as interchangable graphemes (perhaps restricted only to certain words); or a graphic representation of an allowable variation in pronunciation within Eastern Slavic itself, perhaps with regional distinctions. In these lessons we will tend to write, say, tch where texts might also exhibit shch or sht; this is to highlight the presumably native East Slavic forms when possible or advisable. But the reader should keep in mind the possibility of variant spellings which show a more OCS-like orthography.

The following chart provides a list of the major effects of j-palatalization and some corresponding examples. The changes are grouped roughly by point of articulation of the consonants involved, though one should take care to note that, for example, though *m is a resonant, it has been grouped with other labial phonemes since the shift it undergoes bears greater similarity to that of other labials than to that of other resonants.

Articulation   Shift   Early CS   Late CS   Old Russian   OCS   Meaning
Dental   *tj > tch   *sve:t-j-a:   *svje'tja   svje'tcha   svje'shta   candle
    *dj > zh   *vid-j-om   *vidjo^   vizhu   vizhdo^   I see
                         
Labial   *pj > pl'   *kup-j-om   *kupjo^   kupl'ju   kupl'jo^   I buy
    *bj > bl'   *ljub-j-om   *ljubjo^   ljubl'ju   ljubl'jo^   I love
    *mj > ml'   *zem-j-a:   *zemja   zeml'ja   zeml'ja   land
    *vj > vl'   *sta:v-j-om   *stavjo^   stavl'ju   stavl'jo^   I put
                         
Sibilant   *sj > sh   *nos-j-om   *nosjo^   noshu   noshjo^   I carry
    *zj > zh   *voz-j-om   *vozjo^   vozhu   vozhjo^   I transport
                         
    *stj > shch   *tchi:st-j-om   *tchistjo^   tchishchu   tchishto^   I cleanse
    *zdj > zhd   *prei-gva:zd-ja:-te:j   *prigvazdjati   prigvazhdati   prigvazhdati   to nail
                         
Velar   *kj > tch   *pla:k-j-onti   *plakjo^ti'   platchuti'   platcho^tu'   they weep
    *gj > zh   *dvi:g-j-onti   *dvigjo^ti'   dvizhuti'   dvizho^tu'   they move
    *xj > sh   *sux-j-om   *suxjo^   sushu   susho^   I dry
                         
    *skj > shch   *plesk-j-om   *pleskjo^   pleshchu   pleshto^   I knock
                         
Resonant   *nj > n'   *vel-j-om   *veljo^   vel'ju   vel'jo^   I command
    *rj > r'   *bor-j-om   *borjo^   bor'ju   bor'jo^   I fight
    *lj > l'   *kol-j-om   *koljo^   kol'ju   kol'jo^   I cleave

In the examples above concerning shifts such as *stj > shch one should note that the symbol shch represents phonetic [shtch] in Old Russian, while it represents phonetic [sht] in Old Church Slavonic. Thus many OCS forms written in the table above, such as tchi'shto^, can alternately be written tchi'shcho^, so that the consonant sequences look formally identical between the two languages. Thus the orthographic similarity of the reflexes of this phonological shift obscures some of the phonological details. Moreover we note that forms such as bor'ju may variously be written as bor'u or borju.

6.5. Retraction

Proto-Indo-European *-s- was involved in a sequence of changes markedly different from the process of palatalization we have been discussing up to now. When preceded by Proto-Slavic *r, *u, *k or *i, and simultaneously followed by a vowel or a sonant, Proto-Slavic *-s- shifted to *-sh- before front vowels and to *-x- elsewhere.

After   PIE   CS   OR   English   Comparanda
*r   *per-sid-l-a:   *prje'si'dla   prje'shi'la   passed   Lat. sedeo:, Got. sitan
    *per-sod-i:-te:y   *prje'soditi   prje'xoditi   to pass   Lat. sedeo:, Got. sitan
*u   *aus-es-es   *usese   ushese   ear (gen. sg.)   Lat. auris, Got. auso
    *aus-os   *uso   uxo   ear (nom. sg.)   Lat. auris, Got. auso
*k   *re:k-s-nt   *rje'kse^   rje'sha   they said   Skt. racayati
    *re:k-s-om   *rje'ksu'   rje'xu'   I said   Skt. racayati
*i   *nok'-ey-si   *nosisi   nosishi   you carry   Gk. e:nenkon
    *loisa:   *lje'sa   lje'xa   garden bed   Lat. li:ra, Ger. Geleise

Because of the conditioning environment, with a preceding *r, *u, *k, or *i, scholars have come to call this phonetic shift the ruki rule. As the above chart shows, we can think of the ruki rule as applying to *-s- before vowels and sonants, unless in an environment suitable for regressive palatalization. Slavic shares this sound shift most notably with the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family.

7. Reduced Vowels and Full Vocalism

The term reduced vowel typically denotes a vowel whose articulation is in some sense weak: of short duration, with lips lax, with little movement of the tongue, or any combination of these. Such were the characteristics of the jers u' and i' in early Slavic. Contrary to their typical use in Modern Russian as mere orthographic markers of the hardness or softness of the preceding consonant, the jers in early Slavic languages were indeed vowels with a pronunciation of their own. The back jer u' and the front jer i' were, on their own, phonetically distinct; of course by their reduced nature the distinction could be blurred in the context of other consonants and vowels, and so we do find some confusion between the jers in certain texts.

As proper vowels, the jers are as consequential to the proper articulation and understanding of words as any other vowel. In this context it is curious that at times scribes omitted jers in certain words in certain manuscripts. It seems that in East Slavic in particular, in particular contrast to South Slavic, the omission of jers in the earliest manuscripts was largely due to scribal shorthand: jers were only dropped when the resulting consonant cluster was phonetically impossible in the language at the time (Gribble, 1989). The resulting consonant-consonant cluster would naturally be understood by the native speaker as consonant-vowel-consonant, and the proper jer would be inserted in reading without the necessity of a graphic representation. We discuss this in greater detail in the Introduction to Lesson 10.

In other words and manuscripts we find full vowels (i.e. non-jers) where we should expect jers. Which full vowel we find, and in place of which jer, was determined by the jer's type: strong or weak. We now turn to a discussion of this feature.

7.1. Strong and Weak Jers

One important distinction between jers is that between strong and weak. Either jer may be strong or weak: the distinction is one of placement relative to other elements of the word. We say a jer is weak if it falls at the end of a word or if it precedes a syllable with a full vowel. A strong jer is one which immediately precedes a syllable with a weak jer. In practical terms we may define a simple algorithm for determining which jers are strong and which weak in a given word: we find the weak jer nearest the end of the word, and then we alternate between strong and weak as we move backward through the word, starting over with weak every time we cross over a syllable with a full vowel. As an example, let us take the past passive participle otu'kru'venu' 'open'. The following table labels the strong and weak jers by syllable.

Syllable   o   tu'   kru'   ve   nu'
Jer   --   strong   weak   --   weak

According to the algorithm, we start at the right-most jer: this occurs at word-end, and so is weak. Moving left, we must skip over a full vowel; the next jer we meet is therefore weak. And the jer immediately to the left of that is strong. Moving left we hit another full vowel, and then we have finished the word.

We must be careful to realize that the labels strong and weak applied to jers are labels tied to the surface form under discussion, not to some canonical dictionary form of the word. For example, consider the nominative singular form of the city name smoli'ni'sku' 'Smolensk':

Syllable   smo   li'   ni'   sku'
Jer   --   weak   strong   weak

Compare this to the genitive singular form smoli'ni'ska of the same word:

Syllable   smo   li'   ni'   ska
Jer   --   strong   weak   --

We see that in one and the same word, a given jer may be strong or weak depending on the particular surface form.

This alternation becomes important given another feature of the historical evolution of Russian phonology: in later manuscripts, weak jers were often dropped and strong jers were promoted to full vowels. When promoted to full vowels, the front jer was promoted to the front vowel e, the back jer u' to the back vowel o. We see in the example of Smolensk that such promotion in the nominative singular would potentially yield smolnesk. But in the genitive singular, the same procedure yields smolenska. Moreover, other forms such as the locative singular smoli'ni'skje' would have the same pattern of strong and weak jers as the genitive: the locative would become smolenskje'. Such reinforcement of a particular pattern of strong and weak jers throughout the rest of the paradigm likely stimulated the replacement of the nominative stem with the stem encountered in the bulk of other forms, and that led to the modern form of the name Smolensk.

The determination of strong and weak jers ties itself to the phonological word, that is to any phrasal unit pronounced together as a word. Thus in isolation the word di'ni' 'day' shows a strong jer in the first syllable, and so we also expect to find the e-vocalism in that particular form of the word: deni'. But when accompanied by a following deictic in the phrase di'ni' si' 'this day', the phrase was evidently pronounced as an unbroken unit. As such the second syllable, rather than the first, finds itself with the strong jer: di'ni'si' becomes di'nesi' or dnes 'today'.

7.2. Tense Jers

We have noted that Old Russian, like Old Church Slavonic, had special symbols for many full vowels with a preceding yod: ja, je, ju. However no special symbol existed for a jer with a preceding yod. In particular it turns out that instances abound where the front jer preceded by a yod, ji', is written i. One of the most common examples is the nominative singular masculine of the relative pronoun: izhe 'he who', reflecting an underlying ji'zhe. The same is true of the accusative singular masculine pronominal form i, reflecting ji'; the corresponding nominative form *i [*ji'] is unattested.

We say a jer is tense when followed by yod, j. Speakers often heard tense jers as a corresponding full vowel: a tense front jer i'j became i, a tense back jer u'j became y. We find this reflected in the spelling: instead of dobru'i [dobru'ji'] 'the good one' we often find the spelling dobryi [dobryji']; and for gosti'i [gosti'ji'] 'of the guests' we find gostii [gostiji'].

Note that tense position can span word boundaries. Thus we find molixy i [molixy ji'] 'I asked him' for expected molixu' i [molixu' ji']; also zaushaxuti i [zaushaxuti ji'] 'they beat him' for zaushaxuti' i [zaushaxuti' ji']. Moreover, sometimes the fact that a jer may be strong can be reflected instead of the fact that it is tense. For example, in boli'nu'i [boli'nu'ji'] 'the sick one' the u', though tense, is also strong, and so we find boli'noi [boli'noi]. Similarly for kosti'i [kosti'ji'] 'of the bones' we find kostei [kosteji'], where the strong jer i' has been promoted to the corresponding full vowel e even though in tense position.

7.3. Pleophony

The above discussion of historical phonology has centered on changes common to Old Church Slavonic and Old Russian, and for the most part to the Slavic language family as a whole. We now take a moment to discuss a feature truly indicative of the Eastern Slavic subgroup of the Slavic family: pleophony (Russ. polnoglasie, Ger. Vollaut), also known as full vocalism. This concerns the treatment of resonant diphthongs -- that is, diphthongs composed of a vowel followed by a resonant, particularly r or l -- when between consonants. In this discussion we let C, or more traditionally T, denote any consonant, and we let R denote the resonants r or l.

Common Slavic inherited numerous words fitting the pattern ToRT: that is, some consonant, followed by the resonant diphthong *o plus *r or *l, followed in turn by some other consonant. For example, we find in many Slavic languages reflexes of a Proto-Slavic word *gordu', etymologically related to Gothic garda 'enclosure, pen' and ultimately to English garden. The reflex of this Common Slavic term in OCS is gradu' [gradu'], displaying the general tendency in South Slavic to reverse the order of the elements of the diphthong: ToRT becomes TRoT, hence CS *gordu' becomes *grodu' and this yields OCS gradu'.

The motivation behind the shift in the order of elements is once again the rule of open syllables: resonants such as r and l have the ability to function either as consonants or as vowels. We see this in the English word little: the first l functions as a consonant preceding the vowel i of the first syllable lit-; the second l, however, serves as the vowel of the second syllable -tle. The final -e is silent: the last syllable is phonetically [tl]. In Common Slavic, sequences of the form VR, where V represents a vowel, were diphthongs in the same sense as those formed with the semi-vowels i and u. At that stage of the language, a sequence of the form ToRTV would have been interpreted as ToR-TV, and since oR was a diphthong, this fit the pattern of open syllables: TV-TV. But as the resonant element of the diphthong came to be interpreted in its consonantal function, the sequence ToR-TV conformed to the pattern TVT-TV and the initial syllable became closed. In the effort to re-open the closed syllable, various branches of Slavic applied various sound changes, and as we have seen above the tendency in South Slavic was to reverse the order of resonant and vowel in the first syllable: ToR-TV gave way to TRo-TV.

East Slavic, by contrast, took a different tack. Rather than reverse the order of elements, in East Slavic we find the introduction of an anaptyctic vowel between the resonant and the following consonant. This vowel generally took on the quality of the vowel of the preceding syllable. Thus ToRT gave way to ToRoT in East Slavic. As a result, whereas CS *gordu' yielded gradu' in Old Church Slavonic, in Old Russian we find instead gorodu' 'city'. This process is termed pleophony, a term created to translate the Russian term polnoglasie. This feature provides one of the clearest distinctions between the development of East Slavic and that of the rest of the Slavic family. The same change applied to syllables with an e-vocalism, where TeRT yields TeReT:

CS   OCS   OR   Meaning   Comparanda
*gordu'   gradu'   gorodu'   city   Goth. garda
*golva   glava   golova   head   Lat. calva
*berme^   brje'me^   beremja   burden   Skt. bhariman-
*verme^   vrje'me^   veremja   time   Skt. vartman-

Given this steadfast mark of the East Slavic dialect, what then are we to make of forms such as vremja 'time' so frequently encountered in Old Russian texts? Traditionally scholars generally assume that these show the extent of the influence of Old Church Slavonic on the early Russian literary language: vremja was borrowed into Old Russian via Old Church Slavonic. This occurs with a great many roots, and so the Old Russian texts that have survived to modern times show a language employing borrowed terms like vreme^ alongside their native counterparts like veremja. By the same token, we may alternately conjecture that the shift of ToRT to ToRoT within East Slavic had not yet permeated the entire East Slavic speaking community during the period of the the earliest Old Russian texts. From this point of view, scribes may have admitted forms such as vremja on the basis that such forms reflected a common alternate regional pronunciation of ToRoT forms.

8. Personal Pronouns
8.1. First and Second Person Pronouns

The first and second person pronouns of Old Russian show forms for all numbers and for all cases except the vocative. The nominative forms, as a general rule, appear less frequently than the oblique case forms. Given that the verbal morphology usually makes clear the person and number, the nominative forms of the personal pronouns are mostly redundant. Old Russian therefore employs them primarily when particular emphasis is needed, for example to highlight a change in subject. In contrast to some languages such as Spanish or German, which distinguish second person pronouns based on the perceived social status of the person addressed relative to the person speaking (e.g. Sp. tu vs. usted, Ger. du vs. Sie), Old Russian uses the same second person pronoun regardless of social considerations. Use of singular, dual, or plural refers only to number and marks no recognition of social status. The table below lists the forms of the first person pronoun azu' 'I' and the second person pronoun ty 'thou, you'.

    Singular   Dual   Plural           Singular   Dual   Plural
N   azu', ja   vje'   my           ty   va   vy
A   mja   na   ny           tja   va   vy
G   mene   naju   nasu'           tebe, tobe   vaju   vasu'
L   menje'   naju   nasu'           tebje', tobje'   vaju   vasu'
D   menje' (mi)   nama (na)   namu' (na, ny)           tebje', tobje' (ti)   vama (va)   vamu' (va, vy)
I   mu'noju   nama   nami           toboju   vama   vami
V                                

The forms in parentheses are the enclitic, or unstressed, forms. These forms typically follow a stressed word, often the first in their clause. In particular the enclitic forms never stand as the first word in a clause, and they typically do not occur after prepositions. Take for example the following statement by Olga in the story of Olga's Revenge: ljuba mi esti' rje'tchi' vasha 'Your proposal is pleasing to me.'

Though there is a general tendency in Old Russian to prefer using the genitive in place of the accusative for animate (more specifically male human) direct objects, this tendency is more pronounced with the personal pronouns. We very frequently find the genitive forms used in place of the accusative.

8.2. Reflexive Pronoun

Old Russian uses a special pronoun when the entity in an oblique case refers back to the subject. This is the reflexive pronoun sebe, which plays a role akin to the English suffix -self in words such as himself, herself, itself, etc. In an English statement such as I was asking myself..., the direct object of the verb asking is the same as the subject, and we mark that reflexivity in part by using -self. In English the entity to which we append -self depends on the person of the subject: I was asking myself..., You were asking yourself..., She was asking herself..., etc. Typically Old Russian uses the same reflexive pronoun sebe for all persons. Moreover, in English we mark that the reflexive refers to a plural subject by appending -selves rather than -self: They were asking themselves.... Old Russian, by contrast, uses the same, morphologically singular, pronoun sebe to refer back to subjects of any number: singular, dual, or plural. The following table lists the forms.

    Sg./Du./Pl.
N    
A   sja
G   sebe
L   sebje', sobje'
D   sebje', sobje' (si)
I   seboju
V    

Naturally the reflexive pronoun exhibits no nominative or vocative case forms: pronouns in general do not display vocative forms, and the nominative is filled by the nominative form of the pronoun for the proper person, first, second, or third, or by the noun itself. Moreover we find the enclitic form si for the dative, and as with other pronouns the genitive form often appears where an accusative would be expected.

8.3. Third Person Pronoun

Old Russian contains a number of pronouns which can serve to mark the third person. However all except one have some sort of deictic force (that is, they point to something) and are more or less proximal or distal (that is, they point to something relatively close to, or far from, the speaker). The one pronoun which has no special deictic force is *i 'he'. As it happens, this pronoun does not occur in the nominative, hence the asterisk showing that the form does not occur in extant texts, but rather that it is reconstructed. As we have seen above, the nominative of pronouns is only used for emphasis. Thus when the utterance calls for a nominative pronominal form, Old Russian often employs the nominative of one of the many deictic pronouns available: tu' 'that one', onu' 'that one over there' (distal), or less frequently si' 'this one' (proximal).

The basic stem of the third person pronoun is *j-. When followed by the proper nominative masculine ending -i', this yields *ji', which in Cyrillic is written as *i. The masculine accusative form does occur, and it is identical to the nominative form: i. The reader must take care to distinguish this from the conjunction i 'and'. Consider the phrase pozhi'zhe i "She burned it", taken from the story of Olga's Revenge, where i here refers to the masculine noun gradu' 'city' in the accusative singular. The following table gives the paradigm.

    Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
N Sg.   *i   *je   *ja
A   i   je   ju
G   ego   ego   eje', eja
L   emi'   emi'   ei
D   emu   emu   ei
I   imi'   imi'   eju
V            
             
N Du.   *ja   *i   *i
A   ja   i   i
G   eju   eju   eju
L   eju   eju   eju
D   ima   ima   ima
I   ima   ima   ima
V            
             
N Pl.   *i   *ja   *je', *ja
A   je', ja   ja   je', ja
G   ixu'   ixu'   ixu'
L   ixu'   ixu'   ixu'
D   imu'   imu'   imu'
I   imi   imi   imi
V            

The nominative forms of this pronoun do occur in composition. In particular they occur as the final elements of the long-form adjectives. Moreover, when followed by the enclitic conjunction zhe 'and', the resulting forms izhe, ezhe, jazhe, etc., function as relative pronouns. The first element is declined in accordance with the grammatical necessities of the clause in which it occurs, while the appended conjunction remains invariable. Thus izhe 'he who' (nominative) or izhe 'he whom' (accusative), egozhe 'he of whom' or 'it of which' (genitive), eje'zhe 'she of whom' (genitive), ejuzhe 'the two of whom' (genitive), imu'zhe 'those to whom' (dative), etc.

While the genitive of the masculine pronoun, ego, often replaces the accusative i, this does not typically occur for the neuter and feminine genders. Thus we typically find accusatives je 'it' and ju 'her', and ego 'of it' and eje' 'of her' retain their genitive function.

One special point worth noting is the form these pronouns take when following prepositions. Certain prepositions contained a historical final *-n which in most environments was lost. For example vu' 'in(to)', from *u'n < *on: compare OCS o^tri' 'inside' from *on-tri'-, relative of Latin inter. When followed by the masculine accusative singular pronoun, this resulted in a sequence *vu'n ji' 'into it'. Apparently the same tendency toward open syllables found in the rest of the Slavic languages applied here, and the word boundaries were re-analyzed as *vu' nji' > *vu' n'i'. This yields in Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic vu' n'i'. In this way the pronoun developed a prothetic n when following a preposition. This n- subsequently extended to other cases, e.g. *vu'n jemi' 'in it' became vu' n'emi'. And finally this spread to other prepositions, even those without a historical final *-n. The result is that in Old Russian, as in Old Church Slavonic, the third person pronoun receives a prothetic n- following any preposition: for example, otu' n'ego 'out of it'.

9. The Present System

The present system, that is those forms which derive from the present tense stem, comprises: the present tense, the imperfect, the imperative, the present participles active and passive, and the infinitive. We have already seen in Section 4 the basic formation of the present tense and the imperfect. In the following we examine the basic formation of the remaining elements of the present system.

9.1. The Imperative

The Old Russian present tense form of verbs refers to actions viewed as actually ongoing at the time of utterance, or viewed as actually about to happen in the near future. The imperfect similarly denotes actual actions, though ones which occurred prior to the moment of utterance. The imperative, by contrast, denotes not actual actions, but potential or desired actions. Properly speaking, we say that the imperative is a different mood. The present and imperfect forms we have seen, denoting actions viewed as real, are said to be in the indicative mood.

The imperative, then, is a separate mood. Specifically, the imperative denotes commands: actions which, by definition, have not occurred. Thus where neseshi is 'you are carrying', the imperative nesi is the direct command 'carry!' Similarly, where neseti' is 'he is carrying', the imperative nesi is 'let him carry!'

The forms of the imperative derive ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European optative, a mood signifying wish or desire. The marker of the PIE optative is *-oi-. As this passed into Proto-Slavic, the diphthong *-oi- became the monophthong CS *-je'-. But as this process completed, any velar consonants preceding this *-je'- were subject to second palatalization. Thus for example the verb retchi 'to speak', with present stem rek-, shows the following second person dual imperative: CS *rek-oi-ta > Old Russian ri'cje'ta 'Speak, you (two)!' When in final position, this original *-oi- monophthongized as -i. Hence the second person singular imperative: *rek-oi > Old Russian ri'ci 'Speak!' The suffix *-oi- also appears as -i- in a palatal environment, i.e. when following -j- or another palatal consonant.

The following chart provides an example of the imperative forms for verbs from each present class. Note that the stem of the verb znati 'to know' is znaj-, ending with the palatal glide -j-. In this environment the reflex of PIE *-oi- becomes -i-. Moreover note that verbs of Class V often show a special ending, -i', in the second and third person singular imperative. This ending is typically accompanied by palatalization of the preceding consonant. In addition, we see that the reflex of PIE *-oi- in the Class V verb dati 'to give' is -i- throughout the paradigm, though there is no palatal environment.

Class   I   II   III   IV   V
Infinitive   nesti   dvignuti   znati   ljubiti   dati
Meaning   carry   move   know   love   give
Stem   nes-   dvign-   znaj-   ljub-i-   dad-
                     
Imperative                    
1 Sg.   -   -   -   -   -
2   nesi   dvigni   znai   ljubl'i   dazhi'
3   nesi   dvigni   znai   ljubl'i   dazhi'
                     
1 Du.   nesje'vje'   dvignje'vje'   znaivje'   ljubl'ivje'   dadivje'
2   nesje'ta   dvignje'ta   znaita   ljubl'ita   dadita
3   -   -   -   -   -
                     
1 Pl.   nesje'mu'   dvignje'mu'   znaimu'   ljubl'imu'   dadimu'
2   nesje'te   dvignje'te   znaite   ljubl'ite   dadite
3   -   -   -   -   -

Note that the Old Russian imperative lacks a first person singular form. Likewise it lacks forms for the third person dual and plural. In circumstances which call for such forms, Old Russian typically employs the particle da 'so that' together with the appropriate form of the present tense.

9.2. Participles & the Infinitive

The present active participle make take one of two stems, -utch- or -jatch-, which is added to the present tense stem of the verb. The determination of which stem is employed with a given verb may be most easily divined by comparison with the third person plural present tense form of the verb: if the vowel of the ending is -u-, then so too is the vowel of the present active participle stem; if the third person plural shows a form in -ja-, then the participle likewise shows -ja- in the stem. For example, nesti 'to carry' has third person plural present nesuti'; the participle stem is therefore nesutch-. By contrast the verb glagolati 'to speak' has third person plural glagoljati', and so the participle shows the same vocalism: glagoljatch-.

One should note, however, that the influence of Old Church Slavonic shows itself strongly in the participles, and texts often exhibit the OCS form of the present active participle. Thus where the native Old Russian stem would be -utch-, we frequently find the OCS form -o^sht-; likewise in place of -jatch- we frequently find the OCS form -e^sht-. Thus Old Russian texts frequently employ neso^sht- where nesutch- is expected, and glagolje^sht- for expected glagoljatch-.

Moreover the masculine nominative singular form is special: -a or -ja, the latter in palatal environments. This form may be applied to any verb. The following chart provides an example for each of the present tense classes outlined in Section 4.

Class   Infinitive   Meaning   3rd Pl.   Masc. N Sg.   Masc. G Sg.
I   nesti   carry   nes-uti'   nes-a   nes-utch-a
II   dvignuti   move   dvign-uti'   dvign-a   dvign-utch-a
III   znati   know   zna-juti'   zna-ja   zna-jutch-a
IV   ljubiti   love   ljubl-jati'   ljubl-ja   ljubl-jatch-a
V   dati   give   dadjati'   dad-a   dad-utch-a

The full declension of the present active participles is discussed in Section 26.

The present passive participle is formed by means of the suffix -mu' applied to the present tense stem. This suffix is preceded by a vowel, either -o-, -e-, or -i- depending on the class of the verb. For example nesti 'to carry' has present passive participle nesomu' 'being carried', while glagolati 'to speak' has present passive participle glagolemu' 'being spoken'. The details of the formation are discussed in Section 32. The declension follows that of o/a-stem adjectives, as outlined in Section 12 of the following lesson.

The ending -ti characterizes the infinitive. The form of the infinitive is invariable. The final consonant of verbal roots ending in a consonant, such as the root ved- 'lead' or rek- 'say', often undergoes a shift when preceding the -t- of the infinitive ending: vesti 'to lead', retchi 'to say'.

10. Conjunctions & Particles

Many of the Old Russian texts recount historical narratives and discourse between various participants. The language employs numerous particles that serve to guide the reader or listener through the myriad shades of dependence, implication, and contrast that exist between clauses and the ideas they represent. Some particles stand independently and receive an accent of their own (proclitic), while others must generally follow an accented word (enclitic). The selection below highlights the most common conjunctions and particles, giving a sense of their English connotations and examples of their use.

  • a, ali 'but, and': Proclitic. Contrasts two statements with one another, but with weaker adversative force than its cousin nu' listed below: I sje'dasha Kyi na gorje', idezhe nynje' ubozu' Boritchevu', a Shcheku' sje'dashe na gorje', idezhe nynje' zoveti'sja Shchekovica "And Kyi settled on the hill, where now (there is) Boris's Pass, but Shek settled on the hill, where now it's called Shekovica" (Primary Chronicle). Often able to be translated as 'and': edinomu imja Kyi, a drugomu Shcheku', a tretiemu Xorivu' "The name to one was Kyi, and to the second was Shek, and to the third was Khoriv".
  • ako, jako, jako, je'ko 'that, so that, how, when, since, as': Proclitic. In its most basic sense, this functions as a pointer to another clause. Often that clause represents a quotation, either direct or indirect. When the quotation is indirect, ako parallels English usage of that in collocations such as He said that he was going...: Ini zhe, ne su'vje'dushche, rje'sha, jako Kyi esti' perevozi'niku' bylu' "And they, not knowing, said that Kyi had been a ferryman" (Primary Chronicle). But Old Russian may also introduce direct quotations with jako, a role which that does not fill in English. When the clause pointed to provides a goal or purpose, jako most closely resembles English so that. Often the clause introduced by jako serves to explain the main clause, and so jako may be rendered by English since, how, when.
  • ashche 'if, whether': Proclitic. This introduces a condition, serving to mark the beginning of the subordinate clause (the protasis, or clause setting up the hypothesis, in classical terminology): ashche sja vu'vaditi' vu'lku' vu' ovi'cje', to vynositi' vi'se stado "If a wolf is introduced among the sheep, then he will carry off the whole flock" (Primary Chronicle).
  • bo 'for, because, since': Enclitic. This conjunction marks a transition between independent clauses and usually forms the second element of the clause in which it stands. The clause containing bo typically serves to explain the reason underlying the preceding statement: "...da poidi za ku'njazhi' nashi', za Malu'." Bje' bo imja emu Malu' "'... marry our prince, Mal.' For his name was Mal" (Primary Chronicle).
  • da 'that, in order that': Proclitic. This conjunction introduces a clause stating a purpose, a final result, or a command. Consider the following example: da poidi, ku'njazhe, su' nami vu' dani', da i ty dobudeshi i my "That you go (i.e. Go!), prince, with us after tribute, so that you too find reward as we" (Primary Chronicle). Here the first instance of da marks a command, while the second marks a clause denoting the purpose or result.
  • zhe 'on the other hand, or, and': Enclitic. This conjunction marks a weak transition between clauses: Oli'ga zhe bjashe Kyevje' su' synu'mi' svoimi'... "And Olga was in Kiev with her son..." (Primary Chronicle). Its frequent occurrence often means that it may be left untranslated. Following the third person pronoun *i 'he' it yields the relative pronoun izhe 'he who', and it frequently accompanies indefinite pronouns such as niku'to 'no one'.
  • i 'and; even, too'; i... i 'both... and': Proclitic. The coordinating conjunction i provides the most ubiquitous method of joining parallel entities, whether they be clauses, phrases, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and so on. The conjunction serves to set the coordinated elements side by side, creating a narrative sequence. As such it stands between the coordinated elements, following the former, preceding the latter: I vu'zu'va ja Oli'ga ku' sobje', i retche imu'... "And Olga summoned them to herself, and she said to them..." (Primary Chronicle). In this example the first instance of i joins the entire statement to the preceding statement in the narrative; the second instance of i joins one clause within the statement to the other. Frequently, however, the repetition of i before each of a sequence of parallel items has the force of English both... and. The particle i also has an adverbial use within a clause, akin to English even, too, or also: vu'rinusha ja vu' jamu i su' lodieju "they threw them into the pit with the boat too" (Primary Chronicle).
  • li 'or; whether'; li... li 'either... or': Proclitic. This particle generally introduces an option, and for this reason a sequence of items (clauses, nouns, or otherwise), each preceded by li, has the force of English either... or. When the conjunction introduces a single clause, it generally marks a question as with English if or whether in statements such as I don't know if you are going... or I don't know whether you are going.... Unlike English if and whether, but similar to jako above, li can mark a direct question: dobra li vy tchi'sti'? "Is the honor good for you?" (Primary Chronicle) As the reader can see, li is not uniformly proclitic.
  • ne 'not'; ne... ni 'neither... nor': Proclitic. The particle ne provides simple negation in Old Russian, standing before the item it negates, and generally occurring only once in a clause. In a sequence of negated items, ne negates the first item, while ni precedes and negates all subsequent items: : ne je'demu' na konixu', ni pje'shi idemu', nu' ponesje'te ny vu' lodii "Neither will we ride on horses, nor will we go on foot, but carry us in the boat" (Primary Chronicle).
  • nu' 'but': Proclitic. This is the default adversative conjunction joining two clauses. It sets the clause in contrast to the preceding clause: ne je'demu' na konixu', ni pje'shi idemu', nu' ponesje'te ny vu' lodii "Neither will we ride on horses, nor will we go on foot, but carry us in the boat" (Primary Chronicle).
  • to 'then, so, thus': Proclitic. This forms the correlative to ashche 'if'. The particle stands at the beginning of the conclusion of a conditional statement (at the head of the main clause -- the apodosis in classical terminology, the then-clause in simpler terms): ashche sja vu'vaditi' vu'lku' vu' ovi'cje', to vynositi' vi'se stado "If a wolf is introduced among the sheep, then he will carry off the whole flock" (Primary Chronicle).
  • jegda, egda 'when, if': Proclitic. This stands that the head of a subordinate clause: Egda zhe su'bysti'sja proretchenie sixu', su'nide na zemlju... "When their prophecy was fulfilled, he came to the earth..." (Primary Chronicle).
  • jeda, eda 'surely not': Proclitic. This particle introduces a question to which the expected response is negative, or a clause introducing an unintended or undesirable result: to prisu'lite muzha narotchity, da vu' velicje' tchisti poidu za vashi' ku'njazi', eda ne pustjati' mene ljudie Kyevi'stii "... then send me your best men, that I marry your prince in great honor, or surely the Kievan people will not permit me" (Primary Chronicle).