OCS words with ambiguous meaning?

Dear all,

I would like to bring interpretations of OCS words that are ambiguous up for discussion with you. The question at issue is whether or not there are instances of words in OCS manuscripts, where the words have several meanings, and the understanding of the texts therefore is difficult to establish.

The TV programme “Jesus and the martyrs of Christianity”, which was broadcasted on the Swedish TV Channel 2 some time ago, awoke my interest to this question. In the TV programme, Michael Scott, a specialist in the Roman the Roman Empire, told us about Shimon Bar Kochba, who in the year 132 AD wrote a letter, which was found in a cave in 1952. This letter was signed by Shimon himself with the spelling “Shimon Ben Kosiba”.

According to Michael Scott, the problem is to understand the correct meaning of the word “ifased”, which had several meanings, in the context of “the Galileans”, i.e. the Christians. On the one hand the word could mean “to mobilize”, on the other hand “to destroy”. So, as Michael Scott points out, was Shimon for or against the Christians?

This is really fascinating, and therefore I ask you all, interested in and specialists in OCS, are there similar interpretation problems in OCS? Please share you knowledge with us!

We eagerly await your posts.

Regarding your comments, I ask you kindly to notify me about your comments by sending an email to the email address acg.oscblog@gmail.com (= Ann-Charlotte Gutsjö, OCS blog). The reason for this is that I every month must erase between 12.000 and 20.000 spams, which arrive as comments to the blog. In the beginning I read every one of the spams before erasing them one at the time, and this took many hours every week. Now I just erase them in groups of 20 spams. Therefore, please write to me about your comments so that I can save and publish them!

Ann-Charlotte Gutsjö

Awarded the Degree of Licentiate of Philosophy in Slavic Languages on November 06, 2017, at the University of Gothenburg (the degree is sometimes called the “little doctor’s degree”)

The diffences between the OCS and its Macedonian and Bulgarian linguistic varieties

OCS (Old Church Slavonic) and its linguistic varieties the Macedonian and Bulgarian recensions

Dear all,

Could we discuss two important questions regarding OCS (Old Church Slavonic) and its linguistic varieties the Macedonian and Bulgarian recensions? The questions are:

Questions! Does the term OCS always mean “of Macedonian origin”, i.e. could an early text be referred to as OCS if its origin is Macedonia? When a manuscript is stated to be of Bulgarian origin, does that always mean East Bulgarian or does Bulgarian also mean Macedonian? (Ohrid in Macedonia has also been part of Bulgaria). 

Since there are different opinions on how to separate OCS and the Macedonian and Bulgarian recensions from each other, I have decided to accept the approach by S.M. Kuljbakin in his Slavjanskaja Paleografija even if this approach not entirely answers my questions. His views are that OCS texts were written in Bulgaria and Macedonia from the end of the Xth century to the end of the XIth century, and the special features which distinguish them from the later varieties are:

  1. The use of the nasal vowel ѫ (jus bol’šoj) and ѧ (jus malyj) is essentially correct; they are not replaced by other written characters or exchanged with each other,
  2. The use of ѣ (jat’) is correct, i.e. it is not replaced by another written character,
  3. The use of ы (ery) is also correct,
  4. The use of the two jers ъ (hard er″) and ь (soft er′) is not always correct,
  5. The Proto-Slavic consonant clusters –tj-, –dj- are produced as -шт-, -жд-.

The Bulgarian recension, also referred to as Middle Bulgarian, was according to Kuljbakin written from the XIIth century in Bulgaria and Macedonia (thus Kuljbakin states that the Bulgarian recension was written in both Bulgaria and Macedonia, i.e. Preslav and Ohrid) and the special features which distinguish it from other CS varieties are:

  1. The use of the nasal vowel ѫ and ѧ is not correct; sometimes they are exchanged with each other, and sometimes only one of them is used. Futhermore, ѫ is sometimes replaced by ъ or by –a-, and ѧ replaced by –e-,
  2. In some texts is ѣ replaced by -ꙗ- and later by –e-,
  3. ы is often replaced by –и,
  4. In some texts there is only one of the two jers ъ and ь. In Macedonia has vocalisation changed ъ into –o-, but ь remains in the Bulgarian texts,
  5. The verbal ending in the 1st person plural -мъ is replaced by -мы in Bulgaria, and by -ме in Macedonia.

So, what do you say about this? I am eagerly awaiting your posts!



Dear all, your knowledge of OCS is needed! I ask you to help me with the grammatical interpretation of the OCS word грѣховы in the following text:

  • нъ и вѣроіатьнъ бы· и ог͠ла и не хоудѣ· нъ великыими хоулами и грѣховы·небонъ вѣсѧштаи сѧ нарече…

The word is found in the 1073 Miscellany (or Simeon or Svjatoslav Miscellany) folio 193v:21, found in two Internet corpora; Manuscript.ru (prepared by A.S. Alenčenkova) and the Sofia Trondheim Corpus (www.hf.ntnu.no/SofiaTrondheimCorpus). The following picture is from Manuscript.ru, folio 193 verso, the word is found on line 21:


The word form is intriguing. It could be interpreted grammatically as being the noun грѣхъ in the instrumental plural, or as some form of an adjective. If it is a form of грѣхъ, we still must explain the –ov-suffix before the ending –ы in the instrumental plural; the –ov-suffix belonged, as is well known, to the ŭ-declension in the nominative and genitive plural only – thus not in the instrumental case. However, it is also well known that the ŭ-declension case endings influenced o-declension nouns, and the case endings of the noun грѣхъ is a good example of this. For example, the form in the genitive plural in the Gospel according to St. Luke I:77 is грѣхъ – the expected form in the genitive plural for the o-declension – in the following manuscripts from the X-XII centuries: Dobromir’s Gospel, Typograph’s Gospel, Zograph Gospel and the Miroslav’s Gospel Lectionary, but is грѣховъ – the expected form in the genitive plural for the ŭ-declension – in the Marianus Gospel and so on.

Most linguists agree that this noun belonged to the o-declension in OCS, e.g. G. A. Chaburgaev, I. Duridanov, A. I. Izotov and G. Nandriş, but there are other opinions too; e.g. L. A. Janda, who states that it is a possible ŭ–stem noun, and I. T. Ivanova, who expresses that it is a ŭ-declension noun.

So, dear friends, how do YOU interpret the word form грѣховы in the text above?

I am looking forward to your answers!

/Ann-Charlotte Gutsjö, doctoral student in Slavonic Languages at the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden


Grammatisk fråga: substantivböjningen

Hej alla som är intresserade av fornkyrkoslaviska och fornkyrkoslavisk grammatik! Jag ser fram emot våra givande diskussioner.

För att komma igång har jag en fråga till er om tolkningen av ordformen полъ i nedanstående mening. Frågan är om ordformen är ackusativ singular eller genitiv plural; formerna var ju lika för maskulina o-stamssubstantiv i nom+ack sing och gen plur, och vi vet ju att u-stammar och o-stammar samverkade och lånade ändelser av varandra.

Meningen, som hittades på folio 153a, rad 13, i Assemani Gospel Lectionary (som också kallas Vatican, men som inte ska förväxlas med Vatican Gospel Lectionary Gr.2502; källan är en kort aprakos evangelium) är:

и клѧтъ сѧ еи · ѣко егоже просіши дамъ ти · до полъ цр҃ьства моего·

Samma konstruktion finns i t.ex. Marianus Gospel, ett tetraevangelium:

и клѧтъ сѧ еи . ѣко егоже аште просиши дамь ти . до полъ цср҃ствиѣ моего·

Då kommer vi till den grammatiska tolkningen – jag tolkade först ordformen som ackusativ singular, men i Miroslav’s Gospel Lectionary, en annan kort aprakos Gospel, används på folio 346b genitiv singular:

и клеть се ѧи · ѣко егоже аще просиши дамъ ти · до полоу цр҃ьстиѣ моего·

Detta får mig att undra om ordformen är genitiv plural. Vad säger ni? Den svenska översättningen är ”Vad du än ber mig om skall jag ge dig, om det så vore halva mitt rike” (Markus VI:23, sidan 115 i Gideoniternas Nya Testamentet 2000)

Väntar med spänning på era svar och kommentarer – vill gärna försöka hjälpa med svar på era frågor också!

Hälsningar Ann-Charlotte Gutsjö, doktorand i slaviska språk

Hej världen!

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