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.
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 - И изъбрашаяся .г. братья с роды своими, и пояша по собѣ всю русь, и придоша; старѣйший, Рюрикъ, сѣде Новѣгородѣ, а другий, Синеусъ, на Бѣлѣ-озерѣ, а третий Изборьстѣ, Труворъ.
11 - И отъ тѣхъ варягъ прозвася Руская зємля, новугородьци, ти суть людье новогородьци отъ рода въряжьска, преже бобѣша словѣни.
12 - По двою же лѣту Синєусъ умре и братъ его Труворъ; и прия власть Рюрикъ и раздая мужємъ своимъ грады, овому Полотескъ, овому Ростовъ, другому Бѣло-озєро.
13 - И по тѣмъ городомъ суть находици варязи, а перьвии насєльници в Новѣгородѣ словѣне, въ Полотьстѣ кривичи, в Ростовѣ меря, в Бѣлѣ-озерѣ весь, в Муромѣ мурома, и тѣми всѣми обладаше Рюрикъ.
14 - И бяста у него .в. мужа, не племени его, но боярина, и та испросистася ко Царюгороду с родомъ своимъ.
15 - И поидоста по Днѣпру, и идуче мимо и узрѣста на горѣ градокъ; и упрошаста и рѣста, "чий се градокъ?"
16 - Они же рѣша, "была суть .г. братья, Кий, Щекъ, Хоривъ, иже сдѣлаша градокось, и изгибоша, и мы сѣдимъ, платяче дань родомъ ихъ козаромъ".
17 - Асколдъ же и Диръ остаста въ градѣ сємь, и многи варяги съвокуписта, и начаста владѣти Польскою землею, Рюрику же княжащу в Новѣгородѣ.
10 И изъбрашаяся .г. братья с роды своими, и пояша по собѣ всю русь, и придоша; старѣйший, Рюрикъ, сѣде Новѣгородѣ, а другий, Синеусъ, на Бѣлѣ-озерѣ, а третий Изборьстѣ, Труворъ. 11 И отъ тѣхъ варягъ прозвася Руская зємля, новугородьци, ти суть людье новогородьци отъ рода въряжьска, преже бобѣша словѣни. 12 По двою же лѣту Синєусъ умре и братъ его Труворъ; и прия власть Рюрикъ и раздая мужємъ своимъ грады, овому Полотескъ, овому Ростовъ, другому Бѣло-озєро. 13 И по тѣмъ городомъ суть находици варязи, а перьвии насєльници в Новѣгородѣ словѣне, въ Полотьстѣ кривичи, в Ростовѣ меря, в Бѣлѣ-озерѣ весь, в Муромѣ мурома, и тѣми всѣми обладаше Рюрикъ. 14 И бяста у него .в. мужа, не племени его, но боярина, и та испросистася ко Царюгороду с родомъ своимъ. 15 И поидоста по Днѣпру, и идуче мимо и узрѣста на горѣ градокъ; и упрошаста и рѣста, "чий се градокъ?" 16 Они же рѣша, "была суть .г. братья, Кий, Щекъ, Хоривъ, иже сдѣлаша градокось, и изгибоша, и мы сѣдимъ, платяче дань родомъ ихъ козаромъ". 17 Асколдъ же и Диръ остаста въ градѣ сємь, и многи варяги съвокуписта, и начаста владѣти Польскою землею, Рюрику же княжащу в Новѣгородѣ.
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.
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.
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 мужьство 'manliness' divides as му-жь-ство, 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 пѫть [pǫ-tĭ] 'way', with nasalization of the o in the first syllable. This nasalization was subsequently lost in the East Slavic dialects, including Old Russian: путь '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, *ě, *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:
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 и-ти via monophthongization. Similarly PIE *h2ous- gives Latin auris and OR ухо, both 'ear'. But PIE *nou-os yields Latin novus and OR новъ, since the diphthong *-ou- finds itself in heterosyllabic position.
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 *к, *г, *х [*k, *g, *x] that found themselves immediately preceding a yod or an inherited PIE front vowel. The result in this context was *ч, *ж, *ш [*č, *ž, *š], 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):
(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 *ě, this *ě lost its front quality and was "backed" to я or а. For example, PIE *leg-e:-ti: > CS *ležěti > *ležjati > OR лєжати '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 *šč, written in Old Russian as щ; and PIE *zg shifted to CS *žd. For example: PIE *tresk-e:-ti: > CS *treščěti > *treščjati > OR трєщати '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 *и [*i] and *ѣ [*ě] -- 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 *к, *г, *х [*k, *g, *x] shifted to *ц, *з, *с [*c, *z, *s], respectively. Consider the following examples.
|*k > *c||*kaina:||*cěna||цѣна||price||Gk poine:|
|*g > *z||*bogoi||*bodzi||бози||gods||Skt bhaga-|
|*x > *s||*snusai||*snŭxě||сносѣ||(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 *ě, 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 *ст [*st]. We see this for example in the reflex of the nominative masculine plural *-sk-oi encountered in adjectives such as OR кыєвьскъ 'Kievan': nominative plural людиє кыєвьстии 'the Kievan people', where the first -и- provides the reflex of PIE *-oi as a result of monophthongization and the second -и 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 *к, *г, *х [*k, *g, *x] shifted to *ц, *з, *с [*c, *z, *s], respectively, in the following environment: when preceded by the vowels *и, *ь, *ѧ [*i, *ĭ, *ę], but only if followed directly by a vowel.
|*k > *c||*ovika:||*ovĭca||овьца||sheep||Skt avika:|
|*g > *z||*stigha:||*stĭdza||стьза||trail||Gk stikhos, Got. staiga|
Along with OR стьза 'trail', compare по-стиг-ну-ти 'reach', illustrating that the changes of the Third Palatalization do not occur when the velar consonant is followed directly by another consonant.
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 иго 'yoke' retains the original velar г in the nominative singular, but in the locative singular we find the palatalized reflex in изѣ due to the fact that the PIE ending *-oi shifted to CS *-ѣ and induced Second Palatalization. Therefore, confronted with изѣ, one must undo the effects of palatalization to arrive at the form иго 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.|
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.
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 ч and ж ([č] and [ž]). These differ notably from the results of j-palatalization within Old Church Slavonic, where they became щ (equivalently written шт in OCS) and жд 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 щ [št] and жд [žd], i.e. the Old Church Slavonic reflexes, precisely where we should expect the Old Russian reflexes ч [č] and ж [ž]. 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 щ and ч, 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, ч where texts might also exhibit щ or шт; 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 > ч||*sve:t-j-a:||*světja||свѣча||свѣшта||candle|
|*dj > ж||*vid-j-om||*vidjǫ||вижу||виждѫ||I see|
|Labial||*pj > пл҄||*kup-j-om||*kupjǫ||купл҄ю||кѹпл҄ѭ||I buy|
|*bj > бл҄||*ljub-j-om||*ljubjǫ||любл҄ю||любл҄ѭ||I love|
|*mj > мл҄||*zem-j-a:||*zemja||зємл҄я||зємл҄ӏа||land|
|*vj > вл҄||*sta:v-j-om||*stavjǫ||ставл҄ю||ставл҄ѭ||I put|
|Sibilant||*sj > ш||*nos-j-om||*nosjǫ||ношу||ношѭ||I carry|
|*zj > ж||*voz-j-om||*vozjǫ||вожу||вожѭ||I transport|
|*stj > щ||*či:st-j-om||*čistjǫ||чищу||чиштѫ||I cleanse|
|*zdj > жд||*prei-gva:zd-ja:-te:j||*prigvazdjati||пригваждати||пригваждати||to nail|
|Velar||*kj > ч||*pla:k-j-onti||*plakjǫtĭ||плачуть||плачѫтъ||they weep|
|*gj > ж||*dvi:g-j-onti||*dvigjǫtĭ||движуть||движѫтъ||they move|
|*xj > ш||*sux-j-om||*suxjǫ||сушу||сѹшѫ||I dry|
|*skj > щ||*plesk-j-om||*pleskjǫ||плєщу||плєштѫ||I knock|
|Resonant||*nj > н҄||*vel-j-om||*veljǫ||вєл҄ю||вєл҄ѭ||I command|
|*rj > р҄||*bor-j-om||*borjǫ||бор҄ю||бор҄ѭ||I fight|
|*lj > л҄||*kol-j-om||*koljǫ||кол҄ю||кол҄ѭ||I cleave|
In the examples above concerning shifts such as *stj > щ one should note that the symbol щ represents phonetic [šč] in Old Russian, while it represents phonetic [št] in Old Church Slavonic. Thus many OCS forms written in the table above, such as чьштѫ, can alternately be written чьщѫ, 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 бор҄ю may variously be written as бор҄у or борю.
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 *-š- before front vowels and to *-x- elsewhere.
|*r||*per-sid-l-a:||*prěsĭdla||прѣшьла||passed||Lat. sedeo:, Got. sitan|
|*per-sod-i:-te:y||*prěsoditi||прѣходити||to pass||Lat. sedeo:, Got. sitan|
|*u||*aus-es-es||*usese||ушєсє||ear (gen. sg.)||Lat. auris, Got. auso|
|*aus-os||*uso||ухо||ear (nom. sg.)||Lat. auris, Got. auso|
|*k||*re:k-s-nt||*rěksę||рѣша||they said||Skt. racayati|
|*re:k-s-om||*rěksŭ||рѣхъ||I said||Skt. racayati|
|*i||*nok'-ey-si||*nosisi||носиши||you carry||Gk. e:nenkon|
|*loisa:||*lěsa||лѣха||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.
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 ъ and ь 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 ъ and the front jer ь 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.
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 отъкръвєнъ 'open'. The following table labels the strong and weak jers by syllable.
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 смольньскъ 'Smolensk':
Compare this to the genitive singular form смольньска of the same word:
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 є, the back jer ъ to the back vowel о. We see in the example of Smolensk that such promotion in the nominative singular would potentially yield смолнєск. But in the genitive singular, the same procedure yields смолєнска. Moreover, other forms such as the locative singular смольньскѣ would have the same pattern of strong and weak jers as the genitive: the locative would become смолєнскѣ. 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 Смоленск.
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 дьнь 'day' shows a strong jer in the first syllable, and so we also expect to find the є-vocalism in that particular form of the word: дєнь. But when accompanied by a following deictic in the phrase дьнь сь '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: дьньсь becomes дьнєсь or днес 'today'.
We have noted that Old Russian, like Old Church Slavonic, had special symbols for many full vowels with a preceding yod: ӏа, ѥ, ю. 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, јь, is written и. One of the most common examples is the nominative singular masculine of the relative pronoun: ижє 'he who', reflecting an underlying jĭže. The same is true of the accusative singular masculine pronominal form и, reflecting jĭ; the corresponding nominative form *и [*jĭ] 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 ĭj became i, a tense back jer ŭj became y. We find this reflected in the spelling: instead of добръи [dobrŭjĭ] 'the good one' we often find the spelling добрыи [dobryjĭ]; and for гостьи [gostĭjĭ] 'of the guests' we find гостии [gostijĭ].
Note that tense position can span word boundaries. Thus we find молихы и [molixy jĭ] 'I asked him' for expected молихъ и [molixŭ jĭ]; also заѹшахѹти и [zaušaxuti jĭ] 'they beat him' for заѹшахѹть и [zaušaxutĭ jĭ]. Moreover, sometimes the fact that a jer may be strong can be reflected instead of the fact that it is tense. For example, in больнъи [bolĭnŭjĭ] 'the sick one' the ъ, though tense, is also strong, and so we find больнои [bolĭnoi]. Similarly for костьи [kostĭjĭ] 'of the bones' we find костєи [kostejĭ], where the strong jer ь has been promoted to the corresponding full vowel є even though in tense position.
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 *gordŭ, etymologically related to Gothic garda 'enclosure, pen' and ultimately to English garden. The reflex of this Common Slavic term in OCS is градъ [gradŭ], displaying the general tendency in South Slavic to reverse the order of the elements of the diphthong: ToRT becomes TRoT, hence CS *gordŭ becomes *grodŭ and this yields OCS градъ.
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 *gordŭ yielded градъ in Old Church Slavonic, in Old Russian we find instead городъ '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:
Given this steadfast mark of the East Slavic dialect, what then are we to make of forms such as врємя '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: врємя 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 врємѧ alongside their native counterparts like вєрємя. 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 врємя on the basis that such forms reflected a common alternate regional pronunciation of ToRoT forms.
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 азъ 'I' and the second person pronoun ты 'thou, you'.
|D||мєнѣ (ми)||нама (на)||намъ (на, ны)||тєбѣ, тобѣ (ти)||вама (ва)||вамъ (ва, вы)|
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: люба ми єсть рѣчь ваша '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.
Old Russian uses a special pronoun when the entity in an oblique case refers back to the subject. This is the reflexive pronoun сєбє, 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 сєбє 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 сєбє to refer back to subjects of any number: singular, dual, or plural. The following table lists the forms.
|D||сєбѣ, собѣ (си)|
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 си for the dative, and as with other pronouns the genitive form often appears where an accusative would be expected.
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 *и '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: тъ 'that one', онъ 'that one over there' (distal), or less frequently сь 'this one' (proximal).
The basic stem of the third person pronoun is *j-. When followed by the proper nominative masculine ending -ĭ, this yields *jĭ, which in Cyrillic is written as *и. The masculine accusative form does occur, and it is identical to the nominative form: и. The reader must take care to distinguish this from the conjunction и 'and'. Consider the phrase пожьжє и "She burned it", taken from the story of Olga's Revenge, where и here refers to the masculine noun градъ 'city' in the accusative singular. The following table gives the paradigm.
|N Pl.||*и||*я||*ѣ, *я|
|A||ѣ, я||я||ѣ, я|
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 жє 'and', the resulting forms ижє, єжє, яжє, 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 ижє 'he who' (nominative) or ижє 'he whom' (accusative), єгожє 'he of whom' or 'it of which' (genitive), єѣжє 'she of whom' (genitive), єюжє 'the two of whom' (genitive), имъжє 'those to whom' (dative), etc.
While the genitive of the masculine pronoun, єго, often replaces the accusative и, this does not typically occur for the neuter and feminine genders. Thus we typically find accusatives ѥ 'it' and ю 'her', and єго 'of it' and єѣ '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 въ 'in(to)', from *ŭn < *on: compare OCS ѫтрь 'inside' from *on-trĭ-, relative of Latin inter. When followed by the masculine accusative singular pronoun, this resulted in a sequence *vŭn jĭ '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 *vŭ njĭ > *vŭ n'ĭ. This yields in Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic въ н҄ь. In this way the pronoun developed a prothetic n when following a preposition. This n- subsequently extended to other cases, e.g. *vŭn jemĭ 'in it' became въ н҄ємь. 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, отъ н҄єго 'out of it'.
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.
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 несеши is 'you are carrying', the imperative неси is the direct command 'carry!' Similarly, where несеть is 'he is carrying', the imperative неси 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 *-ě-. But as this process completed, any velar consonants preceding this *-ě- were subject to second palatalization. Thus for example the verb рєчи 'to speak', with present stem рек-, shows the following second person dual imperative: CS *rek-oi-ta > Old Russian рьцѣта 'Speak, you (two)!' When in final position, this original *-oi- monophthongized as -и. Hence the second person singular imperative: *rek-oi > Old Russian рьци 'Speak!' The suffix *-oi- also appears as -и- 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 знати 'to know' is znaj-, ending with the palatal glide -j-. In this environment the reflex of PIE *-oi- becomes -и-. Moreover note that verbs of Class V often show a special ending, -ь, 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 дати 'to give' is -и- throughout the paradigm, though there is no palatal environment.
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 да 'so that' together with the appropriate form of the present tense.
The present active participle make take one of two stems, -уч- or -яч-, 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 -у-, then so too is the vowel of the present active participle stem; if the third person plural shows a form in -я-, then the participle likewise shows -я- in the stem. For example, нєсти 'to carry' has third person plural present нєсуть; the participle stem is therefore нєсуч-. By contrast the verb глаголати 'to speak' has third person plural глаголять, and so the participle shows the same vocalism: глаголяч-.
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 -уч-, we frequently find the OCS form -ѫшт-; likewise in place of -яч- we frequently find the OCS form -ѧшт-. Thus Old Russian texts frequently employ нєсѫшт- where нєсуч- is expected, and глаголѩшт- for expected глаголяч-.
Moreover the masculine nominative singular form is special: -а or -я, 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.|
The full declension of the present active participles is discussed in Section 26.
The present passive participle is formed by means of the suffix -мъ applied to the present tense stem. This suffix is preceded by a vowel, either -о-, -є-, or -и- depending on the class of the verb. For example нєсти 'to carry' has present passive participle нєсомъ 'being carried', while глаголати 'to speak' has present passive participle глаголємъ '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 -ти characterizes the infinitive. The form of the infinitive is invariable. The final consonant of verbal roots ending in a consonant, such as the root вєд- 'lead' or рєк- 'say', often undergoes a shift when preceding the -т- of the infinitive ending: вєсти 'to lead', рєчи 'to say'.
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.