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p. liii


As will be seen in the bibliography, there has been almost endless discussion as to what language the Slóvo is written in, Korš has reconstructed it into early Russian in a pure form; Abicht into Church-Slavonic, with the opposite modifications, whilst other commentators have traced a great permeation of Polish, White-Russian, Little-Russian, Serbian, and so on; in fact, nearly every important dialect of the Slavonic family.

The one outstanding feature is that the language is identical with that of the Chronicles of that time, all of which seem to be written in Church Slavonic which is in process of change into Russian. Thus all through these Chronicles on the same page, even in the same sentence, forms are found of the same word in Bulgarian and Russian vocalization. Evidently the sounds were shifting and spelling was lagging behind.

If this introduction were to deal with the grammatical forms in full, this section would have to exceed in length all the rest. I shall therefore only summarlze and refer students to Church Slavonic grammars.

The inflexion of nouns and adjectives, the conjugation of the verbs is strictly in accord with Church Slavonic, with this broad exception that the old nasal vowels (preserved in Polish) have long since disappeared even from the spelling and been replaced by the Russian sounds я ю and у. The vowel ѣ has its Russian value of E and has lost its separate use, as it in Church Slavonic, of я or a compensatory for a lapsed nasal.

The laws for the mutation of the consonants are in full operation, and follow the older rules: gutturals being allowed to stand before ы.

As in Church Slavonic, all three numbers, singular, dual and plural are in use, but a dual noun is sometimes used with a plural verb.

The two texts show great laxity in the use of ъ and ь. Evidently these two vowels, mute in modern Russian, were in course of disappearance; this general rule may be laid down to determine whether they are to be sounded in this text: viz.:--wherever in modern Russian they have been replaced by o or e, or can be replaced "for euphony,"--e.g. in the prepositions къ, съ, въ, in the forms of nouns which "lose" their vowels e.g. ротъ рта: in all such cases ъ and ь are still to be sounded: in other positions they are, as in modern Russian signs of "hard" or "soft" consonants.

ъ and ь are omitted, when sounded in some cases, e.g. чрезъ for чьресъ; предъ for пьредъ; бдитъ for бъдитъ; спитъ for съпитъ (for these v. l. 670).

The third person inflexions in m (singular and plural) are sometimes soft and sometimes hard; both texts are irregular and inconsistent: Probably neither is accurate. Perhaps, in this respect, too, the language

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was in transition from the soft forms of Church Slav to the hard forms of the modern tongue; but, generally speaking, the older soft forms predominate and should be given the preference. In such present forms the ь of ть was still sounded and scanned. Very frequently, this ть тъ termination is added on to the third person singular and plural terminations of the imperfect аше, аху; in the singular so as to distinguish it from the second person; but these forms are optional, and there seems to be no rule.

As in the Chronicles, a collective noun invariably takes a plural verb:--so too, in modern English--.

There is little trace of the Dative Absolute, so common in the Chronicles. This is probably accident; the sentences and constructions are severely simple.

In the verbs, all the participles are fully inflected, as in the older language.

The present tense with perfective forms has the meaning of the future; the imperfect seems to signify a long-continued act in the past, which may not yet be over,--to correspond, more or less with the past imperfective of the modern language--: the aorist nearly always denotes an act, to import something of the semelfactive aspect of the verb in modern Russian; whilst the compound perfect of the perfect active particible in л with the auxiliary быть apparently has always the meaning of the Greek perfect; to be a present tense denoting the result of past conditions. This participle, in the text, is scarely ever used by itself as a tense, as is the rule in modern Russian. Instances of this use of these tenses will be found at lines 275..., 350..., 477..., 595... etc. etc.

The declension of nouns is strictly on the older model. The vocative has a distinct form only in the singular. The accusative is generally the case used for the object of a transitive verb (not the, genitive, as in modern Russian, for living beings), except after negatives and where,--really an illustration of the same idea,--the genitive has a partitive sense. The accusative plural of masculines has a distinct form in ы, the nominative plural being и. In feminine nouns the nominative and accusative plural both end in ы (whence analogy made the modern Russian masculine plural in ы); but feminines whose root ends in a sibilant replace the old Slav plural nominative in ą with e.

Hence the nominative plural of многъ is мнози but the accusative plural многы, sometimes written многи.

The genitive in masculines in a, has in the singular an alternative form in y, when used partitively; the plural genitive usually ends in ъ for nouns of all three genders: rarely in овъ as in modern Russian. The soft form ь is generally expanded through j ь into ей.

With regard to the dative, the only point that need be remarked is that the masculine and neuter forms plural are in омъ and емъ; the.

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modern Russian амъ being derived from the feminine form амъ.

The instrumental is used to denote comparisons, as sometimes in modern Russian, predicatively. In masculine and neuter nouns, the termination in the singular is омъ емъ, occasionally the older омь емь. The invariable plural masculine form is ы, like the accusative: the modern Russian ами being again taken from the feminine forms.

The locative or prepositional can be used absolutely to denote place where. In the masculine and neuter singular it ends in ѣ; after the accent in и. In the plural it ends in ехъ; the Russian ахъ being taken from the feminine locative plural ахъ.

For all further details a Grammar of Old Slavonic should be consulted; the notes to this text deal with any peculiar forms.

But, for readers' convenience I here add the principal dual forms of nouns.



Neut. and Fem.

N. V. A.

--а я

ѣ after accent и.

G. Loc.

у ю

у ю

Dat. Instr.

ома ема

ома ема, емя яма

Next: Table I. Genealogies of the House of Rurik