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SL8: The History of the Russian Language

The earliest texts written in an East Slavonic language appear in Kievan Rus’ in the 11th century. These texts exhibit both Church Slavonic and native East Slavonic features. The Church Slavonic features in the texts represent a continuation of the sacral language that came into being in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Moravia following the Cyrillo-Methodian mission in the 9th century. Over the course of many centuries both Church Slavonic and native East Slavonic varieties appear to have been in use, sometimes coexisting and sometimes mixing with each other. The breakthrough of a unified standard based on the East Slavonic variety took place in the 18th to 19th centuries. This is the beginning of the period of Contemporary Standard Russian.

In this course we will focus on the language situation in Russia from the 11th to the 21st century. We will trace the development of the sound structure (both the phonetic and phonemic structure) and grammatical structure (morphology) of Russian over the past one thousand years. We will explore the interaction of Church Slavonic and East Slavonic in a number of Early Rusian (i.e., East Slavonic) texts. We will also address the historical and socio-cultural factors that have played a role in the development of the Russian language.  

Objectives

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1. identify Church Slavonic versus East Slavonic forms in some of the earliest East Slavonic texts;
  2. analyse the significance of a variety of forms found in the earliest East Slavonic texts in terms of the history of Russian;
  3. translate short passages from a variety of different East Slavonic texts;
  4. analyse sets of related words from a historical perspective
  5. discuss the most important phonetic, phonological and morphological developments in the history of Russian
Topics: 

Historical sound changes (phonology)

  • Kiparsky, V.: Russian historical grammar. Vol. 1. The development of the sound system. Ann Arbor 1979.
  • Schenker, A. M. (1995): The Dawn of Slavic: An Introduction to Slavic Philology. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press

History of Russian

  • Press, I. (2007): A History of the Russian Language and its Speakers. Munich: LINCOM Europa. => simplistic, but good to get an overview
  • Vlasto, A. P. (1986): Linguistic History of Russian to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. => use it as a reference book

Old Church Slavonic / Old East Slavonic / Russian Church Slavonic / Diglossia

  • Lunt, H. G. (1987): On the relationship of Old Church Slavonic to the written language of early Rus’, in: Russian Linguistics, Vol. 11, No. 2/3 (January), 133-162.
  • Worth, D. S. (1985): Vernacular and Slavonic in Kievan Rus’, in: G. Stone and D. Worth (eds.), The Formation of the Slavonic Literary Languages, Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 233-242.
  • Collins, D. E. (1992): On diglossia and the linguistic norms of medieval Russian writing, in: Studies in Russian Linguistics (= Studies in Slavic and General Linguistics Vol. 17), 79–94.
  • Ferguson, Ch. (1959): Diglossia, in: Word, 15, 325-340. Reprinted in: P. P. Giglioli (ed.), Language and Social Context, London: 1972, 232-251.

South Slavonic influence

  • Birnbaum, H. (1976): On the Significance of the Second South Slavic Influence for the Evolution of the Russian Literary Language. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press.
  • Worth, D. S. (1983): The ’Second South Slavic Influence’ in the History of the Russian Literary Language (Materials for a Discussion), in: Michael S. Flier (ed.), American Contributions to the Ninth International Congress of Slavists. Kiev, September 1983. Volume I: Linguistics. Columbus: Slavica. 1983. 349-72.
Preparatory reading: 

Linguistics

  • Campbell, L. (1998): Historical Linguistics: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Radford, A, and M. Atkinson, et. al. 2009. Linguistics: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

History of Russian

  • Press, I. (2007): A History of the Russian Language and its Speakers. Munich: LINCOM Europa. => simplistic, but good to get an overview
  • Vlasto, A. P. (1986): Linguistic History of Russian to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. => use it as a reference book

Old Church Slavonic / Old East Slavonic / Russian Church Slavonic / Diglossia

  • Lunt, H. G. (1987): On the relationship of Old Church Slavonic to the written language of early Rus’, in: Russian Linguistics, Vol. 11, No. 2/3 (January), 133-162.
  •  Worth, D. S. (1985): Vernacular and Slavonic in Kievan Rus’, in: G. Stone and D. Worth (eds.), The Formation of the Slavonic Literary Languages, Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 233-242.

Full reading list

The full reading list for Sl.8 is available here.

Teaching and learning: 

Lectures and supervisions form an integrated package which will give you a thorough grounding in the subject and prepare you for the examination. This means that you cannot make a success of this course by concentrating just on supervisions: regular attendance at lectures is vital.

Assessment: 

The exam for this paper consists of three sections. Section A consists of one textual translation and linguistic analysis question (with a number of parts to the question). Students have to translate one short unseen excerpt from an Early Rusian text. They also have to identify and comment on underlined forms in a number of seen and unseen excerpts. Section B consists of roughly ten questions. Section C consists of roughly five questions.

MML Part II students must answer the question in section A. They then choose two questions from section B. They may not answer a question from Section C. Part IB students may choose any three questions out of all the questions in the three sections. Linguistics Part II students may choose three questions from Sections A and B, but not Section C.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Kylie Richardson

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