Make your own free website on
The Common Slavic Grammar.
1. The Background of the Common Slavic language.
2. The Common Slavic Phonetics.
3. The Common Slavic Noun.
4. The Common Slavic Adjective.
5. The Common Slavic Pronoun.
6. The Common Slavic Numeral.
7. The Common Slavic Verb.
8. The Common Slavic Verbal Nouns.
9. The Common Slavic Prepositions.
     § 4. The Common Slavic Adjective.
It is pleasant to write about adjectives after the nouns have already been described: these two parts of speech are so similar that you do not need to repeat many things with are the same both for nouns and adjectives in Indo-European languages. It looks as if the Proto-Indo-European language on its early stages did not make a distinction between nominal parts of speech such as nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals, having the same type of declension and syntactical use for all of them. Later (but still within the Indo-European community) they were divided, acquiring their own peculiarities of usage in the language.

Common Slavic still has much in common between nouns and adjectives, using the combination "adjective + noun" as the main grammar form. We will try to describe some most important features of Common Slavic adjectives.

There were two types of adjectives in the language: they still exist in some Slavic languages, especially in the East Slavic subgroup: simple (later called short) and pronominal adjectives. In fact each adjective had two forms - simple and pronominal, and the second was formed by the so-called anaphoric pronoun added to the simple form. Both parts of pronominal adjectives are declined, examples are given below. The meaning of pronominal adjectives was to emphasize the attribute, to make it exact. Lithuanian adjectives still have such a use, though pronominal adjectives have limited use there (see Lithuanian Historical Grammar). It seems that Common Slavic used pronominal adjectives the same way, emphasizing one exact noun from the whole community. In all other cases simple adjectives were used, so they were much more frequent. The declension is given below in the table - simple and pronominal together (just omit the pronoun in *bosü-jï and you get the simple adjective *bosü "barefooted"). Sometimes forms of pronominal adjectives are given in brackets, in case they were subject to some reductions.

Nom. bosü-jï boso-je bosa-ja
Acc. bosü-jï boso-je bosæ -jo. 
bosomï (bosy-jimï)
boso. -jejo. 
bosomü (bosy-jimü)
bosamü (bosy-jimü)
bosomi (bosy-jimi)
bosami (bosy-jimi)
bosêxü (bosy-jixü)
Nom., Acc. bosa-ja
Gen., Loc.
Dat., Instr.
bosoma (bosy-jima)
bosama (bosy-jima)
These are the so-called 1-2 declension adjectives, which are declined in the same way as nouns of á-stems (for feminine) and o-stems (for masculine and neuter), as it is seen in the table above. The majority of such adjectives made qualitative ones (for colour, shape, size and other general attributes of exact nouns). Relative adjectives, mostly abstract, declined like i-stems (the way it exists now in Lithuanian medinis) or consonant stems, must have made a small number in Common Slavic, and we won't consider them here.

In fact, adjectives and their system in the Common Slavic language looked pretty like this part of speech in Latin, Greek and most of other ancient Indo-European tongues. The same distinction between qualitative and relative ones, the same declension according to noun stems, sometimes even the same pronominal adjectives, where the demonstrative pronoun joins the simple adjective. The same situation is observed if we turn to degrees of comparison of adjectives.

There were three degrees of comparison in all Indo-European languages; later some of those tongues lost one, or united two - comparative and superlative - in one, making the so-called elative degree. There is also the equative degree, stating the same quality of two things (e.g., this stone is as big as that). Nowadays French is one the languages who keeps that fourth degree: for example, the adjective grand (big) can have all four of them: positive - grand, comparative - plus grand (bigger), superlative - le plus grand (the biggest), equative - aussi grand (as big as...). It is interesting to know that some languages, especially Uralic, use degrees of comparison also for nouns and verbs (like knows - knows more - knows the most). But in Indo-European languages, including Common Slavic, this is the feature only for qualitative adjectives, and qualitative adverbs. Relative adjectives, naturally, cannot have such category , for we do not say "more wooden", "less left", and things like that.

The comparative degree formed with a stem + suffix -je / -jï for masculine nouns or -jïs' for feminine and neuter + simple adjective case endings, because adjectives were declined in comparative, too. The thematic vowel was sometimes necessary and sounded -ê-.

The superlative degree was also declined and was represented just like a comparative, but in its pronominal form, i.e. using the anaphoric pronoun. This is all seen in examples:

    *plünü (full) - *plünêje, plünejï (more full; masculine, declined like i-stem noun), *plünejïs'e (neut.; declined like jo-stem noun), *plünejïs'a (fem.; declined like -stem noun) - *plünêjïs'ïjï (the fullest; masc.), *plünejïs'eje (neut.), *plünejïs'aja (fem.).
    *dobrü (kind) - *dobrêjï (masc.), dobrêjïs'e (neut.), dobrêjïs'a (fem.) - *dobrêjïs'ïjï (masc.), dobrêjïs'eje (neut.), dobrêjïs'aja (fem.).

So there were no special suffix for superlatives which existed in most of other Indo-European groups, e.g. Greek -isto- in megas - megistos, or -tato- in lalos - lalotatos, or Celtic -isamo- and Italic -issimo- in Latin bellus - bellissimus. But still, despite superlative and comparative forms used one suffix, the whole system remained the same. Another feature, one of the distinguishing features of all Indo-European tongues, is the suppletive stems for degrees of comparison. All relative languages have adjectives with the meanings good, bad, large, small and some other, which have comparatives and superlatives dissimilar to their original stems. Different theories exist to explain this phenomenon, but the fact is they in English sound good - better - best, in Latin bonus - melior - optimus, in Irish maith - is féarr etc. The same goes with Common Slavic and all later Slavic languages:
    *velikü (large) - *boljï (larger, masc.) - *boljïs'ïjï (the largest, masc.)
    *malü (small) - *menjï (smaller, masc.) - *menjïs'ïjï (the smallest, masc.)
    *dobrü (good, nice) - *lepjï (better, masc.) - *lepjïs'ïjï (the best, masc.)
    And some others, which are easily seen in modern Slavic languages.

Here we can see that the adjective *dobrü could have two meanings - "kind", and regular degrees, and "good", with suppletive forms. Sometimes superlative forms of all adjectives could have the prefixed naj- to emphasize the highest degree. It did not cause any changes to the stem, and in some languages (Polish, Slovene and others) even became necessary, though it was not in Common Slavic.

Now the last thing about adjectives. The most productive suffixes of them were the following ones:
    -vo- (*z'ivü - alive)
    -ro- (*dobrü - good, kind)
    -lo- (*gnilü - rotten)
    -do- (*tvürdü - firm)
    -jo- (*trêtjï - third)
    -no- (*plünü - full)
For only qualitative:
    -oko- (*vysokü - high)
    -üko- (*gladükü - smooth)
    -ïko- (*te.z'ïkü - heavy)
    -ato- (*bogatü - rich)
For only relative:
    -eno- (*dervenü - wooden)
    -ino- (*dervinü - woody)
    -ivo- (*listvü - deciduous)

Now it's turn of pronouns.
     § 5. The Common Slavic Pronoun.
Indo-European pronouns are known to be divided into several types, common for any Indo-European language, ancient or modern. These are demonstrative, personal, possessive, reflexive, and some others, like indefinite, definite, interrogative, etc. Some languages, mainly modern ones, lack some of these types, for instance English has no reflexive pronouns - but still the system of Indo-European pronouns remains everywhere quite similar.

The demonstrative pronouns in Common Slavic were formed from two Indo-European stems, *so- / sá- and *to-, which are often in ancient Indo-European languages (Greek 'o, 'h, to, Lithuanian šis, tas, Old Irish sa, se, -se) . It looks as if Common Slavic used only two grades of demonstrative pronouns, like English "this" and "that", using these very two stems. As a whole Slavic pronouns were declined quite like nouns, though some pronominal significant features can be observed. See the table for yourselves:
Nom. sg. to ta se si
togo < to + -go
tomu < tosmoi
tü, togo
to te.
sï, sego
Nom. pl. ti ta ty sïji si sïjê
Acc. ty ta ty   si sïjê
têmi < toimi
têxü < toixü
Nom. Acc. dual ta ti sïja sïji
Dat. Instr.
Gen. Loc.

After the symbol "<" we point the earlier forms, original for those which existed in Common Slavic. Some endings and suffixes, nevertheless, remain to seem strange and abnormal for historical phonetics and morphology. The suffix -go in genitive singular and in accusative singular (here only for animate nouns) became very wide in Slavic languages and in modern tongues is also used in adjective declension, not only for pronouns: but its origin is unknown or dubious. The saem can be said about the strange conversion *tosmoi > *tomu, *semoi > *semu, where -oi breaking all phonetic laws became -u (dative sg.).

This type of declension was acquired not only for demonstratives, but also for some other kinds of pronouns. The possessive pronouns in Slavic sounded like *mojï (my), *tvojï (your, 2nd person sg.), *našï (our), *vašï (your, 2nd person pl.); the possessive reflexive was *svojï (self's). They were all declined just like * (e.g. *mojego, mojemu, mojï, mojimï, mojemï etc.) - the common pronominal type of declension. The same for the interrogative pronoun c'ïjï (whose?) which could also be declined.

Other interrogative pronouns included the most widespread *kyjï (which? what?). It can be considered an adjective, but functioned like a pronoun in Common Slavic and was declined according to the pronominal type. The declension is quite similar to that of *sï or *mojï, we will describe only forms which have their peculiar declension.

Nom. sg. kyjï koje kaja
Gen. sg.
Acc. sg. kyjï, kojego koje  
Nom. pl. cïji kaja kyjê
Gen. Loc. pl..
Proto-Indo-European had more than two stems for demonstrative pronouns. Latin, for instance, had a few other ones:
hic (stem he- / ho- < *ghe- / gho-)
ille (stem ol-)
is (stem i- / ei- / ea-).

Slavic also knew the i- stem which formed the so-called anaphoric pronoun (*jï, je, ja), seen in Adjectives section (see). All pronouns are divided into three logical and semantic classes: deictic, anaphoric, quantoric. Deictic pronouns hold reference to participants of the speech act or to a speech situation. Such pronouns are personal (for 1st and 2nd person), which refer to the speaking person (I, me), or to the listening one (you). Demonstrative pronouns are also deictic, for they are referred to the object which is pointed by the speaker (this, that). As a rule, deictic pronouns are definite - their object is in the vicinity of speech.

Anaphoric pronouns refer to the given statement or to the text in which they are included. Mainly such pronouns remind the listener about the object described above (e.g. English "We found new ways, the older ones being too long"). Here the word "ones" is an anaphoric word. Personal pronouns of the 3rd person are often anaphoric, as well as some demonstrative (it depends on their exact function in the sentence), reflexive and relative pronouns. Reflexive pronouns in Slavic and Baltic languages are a typical example of anaphoric links: Russian "U kazhdoj epohi svoji geniji" (Every epoch has its genius persons). In most Indo-European languages demonstrative pronouns can be either deictic or anaphoric.

The anaphoric pronoun *jï could hardly be used independently at the time when Slavs spoke one single language, but later, already in Old Church Slavonic time, the anaphoric pronoun became substitute for personal pronouns of the 3rd person ("he, she, it, they") and possessives of this person ("his, her, its, their"). But scientists doubt such pronouns existed in Common Slavic - as well as in Proto-Indo-European and many other ancient Indo-European languages.

That means that personal pronouns existed only for the 1st and the 2nd persons. They could be singular, dual and plural, and reflected also the most ancient pronominal system of the Proto-language.

1st person sg.
2st person sg.
1, 2 person pl.
1, 2 person dual
Nom. jazü ty my, vy na, va, fem. vê 
Gen. mene tebe nasü, vasü naju, vaju
Dat. mi ti namü, vamü nama, vama
Acc. me. te. ny, vy na, va
Instr. münojo. (fem. mïnê) tobojo. (fem. tebê) nami, vami nama, vama
Loc. mïnê tebê nasü, vasü naju, vaju
An interesting fact about Indo-European personal pronouns is the difference in stems of the 1st person sg. forms. The reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word for "I" was *eg'hom, "me" sounded like *mene or *méi. This process is called suppletiveness of stems, often within the Indo-European family of languages.

The reflexive pronoun *si was declined just like *ti. It had very wide use, and is still widely used in modern Slavic languages.
     § 6. The Common Slavic Numeral.
Indo-European linguistics knows several types of numerals, which are believed to have existed in the Proto-Indo-European language, then due to transition and analytization process were reduced or transformed in ancient Indo-European branches, and now only several Indo-European groups, those which preserved much of inflection, use all of these numeral types.

Glagolitic scriptThe most pure kind of numeral is the number itself, i.e. cardinal numerals. They create a sort of the foundation, on which all the rest of numerals are based. Historically cardinal numerals were the first to appear, and some scientists are bound to see numerals together with personal pronouns as the first human words - because counting and naming were most important for ancient people. That is why numerals, as well as 1-2 person personal pronouns, can be often traced easily in all languages, even distantly related to each other, and are a basis for Nostratic research, which studies the proto-macro-family of languages, preceding the separation of Indo-European, Altaic, Uralic, Caucasian and Dravidian families. Really, one of the first steps of the comparative linguistics almost two centuries ago was the observation of cardinal numerals. The numeral "three" is still one of the typical exams for pupils to see how similar Indo-European languages are - it sounds practically the same in about a hundred tongues all over Eurasia.

But though many believe that numerals appeared as simple non-declined words, later, after parts of speech started emerging in the Proto-Indo-European language, numerals became a part of the nominal family, which included nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals - and was opposed to verbs. In fact, all ancient languages of the family decline cardinal numerals, though their paradigm is limited: some of them are used only in singular or only in dual, some do not have gender. But still every cardinal numeral in Greek, Latin, Common Slavic, Sanskrit is declined and has the stem which is referred to this or that type of noun stems.

Here are Common Slavic cardinal numerals with short explanation of their usage in the language:

1        *jedinü (masc.), jedna (fem.), jedno (neut.) - it uses pronominal declension (see Demonstrative pronoun *tü).
2        *düva (masc.), düvê (fem.,  neut.) - it has only dual forms, the declension is the following: genitive and locative düvoxü, düvoju, dative and instrumental düvoma, düvêma.
3        *trije (masc.), tri (fem., neut.) - has got only plural, declined like i-stem noun (see nouns).
4        *c'etyre, c'etyri - declined like r-stem noun (like mati, matere).
5        *pe.tï (this and farther are declined like i-stem nouns)
6        *šestï
7        *sedmï
8        *osmï
9        *deve.tï
10      *dese.tï - unlike the previous ones, it has all three numbers: singular, dual, plural.
100    *süto - is in fact a noun, and behaves like a noun of o-stems

Auxiliary numerals (like "thirteen", "twenty", "forty one" etc.) did not have their own names but were composed of those written above. For example, from 11 to 19 must have looked as follows: *jedinü na dese.tï (11), düva na dese.tï (12) and so on. "Twenty" was a special word in Proto-Indo-European, which sounded like *wiktm, from it Latin viginti and Old Irish fiche come. But Germanic, Baltic and Slavic groups let this word disappear, and acquired new, composed form for 20: *düva dese.tï. The same way for all decades: *tri dese.tï (30), *c'etyri dese.tï (40) etc. East Slavic languages later borrowed a special word from Iranian fro 40, sorok, and it still substitutes original Slavic numeral in Russian.

There is a theory which suggests that Proto-Indo-European people counted not by tens, but by twenties. Twenty was the key numeral so. There is much evidence of such a way of counting in Celtic, maybe in Tocharic, in modern Romance: remember, French do not have such numerals as 70, 80 or 90, but use 60+10 (soixante-dix), 4^20 (quatre-vingt), and 4^20+10 (quatre-vingt-dix). French forms do not come from Latin, but are probably a sign of Gaulish substratum. Slavic and Baltic languages do not show this counting by 20s anyhow.

As everywhere in classical Indo-European languages, numerals in Common Slavic agree with nouns which follow them, and adjectives which accompany those nouns. This means that the numeral  has some definite rules of case, number and gender with the noun. English and French languages do not know sequence of nouns and numerals, but it existed, for example, in Latin (duo libri - masculine, but duae stellae - feminine). The same goes with Common Slavic, where all numerals should have sequence with their nouns, and sometimes it is very complicated. By the way, even nowadays most of Slavic languages (except South Slavic, which have almost no flexion) use a complex system of sequence between nouns and numerals, and so does Lithuanian. It looks as if Common Slavic, the same as Old Church Slavonic, the most ancient of known Slavic languages, had the following rules of sequence:

*jedinü in some case, number, gender) + noun in the same case, number, gender (*jedinü domü - one house, *jednogo
             domu - of one house, *jednojê zemje. - of one land)
*düva in nominative + noun in genitive dual (*düva domy - two houses)
*düva in any other case + noun in the same case and gender (*düvoma oknoma - to two windows)
*trije and *c'etyri in nominative + noun in genitive singular
*trije, *c'etyri in any other case + noun in the same case in plural
All numerals from *pe.tï in nominative + noun in genitive plural
All numerals from *pe.ti in any other case + noun in the same case in plural.

This is the sequence structure, and it was strictly followed, and still in use in many Slavic languages.

Ordinal numerals had the common form as simple 1-2 declension adjectives. They were treated in the language just like adjectives, and some scientists even do not like their separation as numerals. As always in Indo-European languages, words for "first" and "second" were not formed from cardinal numerals, bu have their own stems and actually meant "forward" and "other". Remember that in Old English "2nd" sounded óþer, which then turned into other. Common Slavic *pürvü (first) and *drugü (second) were of such suppletive stems. Further numerals had the same stem as their cardinal concordances, sometimes adding the suffix -t- (also inherited from Proto-Indo-European): *trïtï (third), *c'etvïrtü (fourth), *pe.tü (fifth), *šestü (sixth), *sedmü (seventh), etc.

Ordinal numerals, being in fact adjectives, often had their pronominal forms, so adding the anaphoric pronoun: *pürvüjï, *drugüjï, and so on.

Among other, not large types of numerals we will describe the so-called quantitative, those which denoted quantity of things or people. They were declined like demonstrative pronouns and had special suffixes following the stem: *düvoje. (two people), *troje. (three people).

While looking at numerals in modern Slavic languages you can notice their varieties are much more numerous than it is pointed here in this grammar. Russian had about twenty of different words with the stem dv- (two). They include such terms as "twice", "by two people", "a two", "coin of two kopecks" etc., all of them are represented by different single words. We are not sure if such ones existed in Common Slavic, anyway, this is not too important for Common Slavic studies.
Waiting for Verb section.

1. The Background of the Common Slavic language.
2. The Common Slavic Phonetics.
3. The Common Slavic Noun.
4. The Common Slavic Adjective.
5. The Common Slavic Pronoun.
6. The Common Slavic Numeral.
7. The Common Slavic Verb.
8. The Common Slavic Verbal Nouns.
9. The Common Slavic Prepositions.