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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.
 
     § 7. The Common Slavic Verb.
 
When I started to learn Ancient Greek once, I opened the book for the first time and came across a sentence in the preface which told me that the Ancient Greek verb normally has about 100 different forms, including tenses, moods, voices, persons, numbers etc. Each form has its ending, naturally. That fascinated me, though I realized at once how much effort a person should use to learn such a language.

No, Common Slavic is much easier, fortunately or unfortunately. It had no medium voice, no optative mood, no perfective future. But nevertheless its verb structure remained quite flective and synthetic, with a lot of forms, endings and varieties of verbs.

To pick up verbal tenses and aspects, we should first of all understand that there were two main stems of any verb in Common Slavic, which could be a foundation for different forms. This division into several basic stems is typical in Indo-European languages, and for instance Latin had three of them: the present tense stem, the infinitive stem and the supine stem. Different verbal forms were could be made with adding some ending to the appropriate stem (for example, participles could be based only on the supine stem). The same system of different stems existed in Common Slavic and continues to be in use in modern Slavic languages. Slavic had two of such forms: the present stem and the infinitive stem.

The present tense stem is just the present form without an ending. They are of several types, among which the most frequent in the language are the following:
    the root stem (without a suffix): *nes- (carry), *ber- (take)
    the suffix -je- stem: *stelj- (lay), *pisj- (write)
    the suffix -ne- stem: *ton- (drown), *manj- (call)
    the suffix -i- stem: *nosj- (carry), *budj- (wake)

Certainly, there are many other rarer types of stems, so these are examples of the present tense stem. This stem was functioning to form the imperative mood, the present tense participles and the present tense itself. All these forms and their formation will be observed further.

The infinitive stem was rather more productive. It could form aorist, past tense participles, supine, infinitive and the special participle in -l-.

According to these two stems described above, all Common Slavic verbs were divided into five exact verb classes. It is reasonable to learn this division into classes, because they have their peculiarities in conjugation, in forming verbal nouns and so on, so their morphological behaviour is sometimes quite different form each other.

So the classes:

1 class: the present tense stem ends in -o, -e (*neso. - I am carrying, *vezo. - I am transporting), the infinitive stem ends in any consonant (*nesti - to carry, *vezti - to transport).
2 class: the present tense stem in -no, -ne which later became just -n- (*krikno. - I shout, *dvigno. - I move), the infinitive stem in a consonant plus the suffix -nu- (*kriknuti, dvignuti).
3 class: the present tense stem in -j- (*znajo. - I know, *pisjo. - I write), the infinitive stem in any vowel except ê, i (*znati, pisati).
4 class: the present tense stem in -j- / -i- (*hvaljo. - I praise, *ljubjo. - I love), the infinitive stem in ê, i (*hvaliti, ljubiti, vidêti - to see)
5 class: the so called athematic verbs, they were just five in the language, so their stems can be named exactly - present tense *esmï - I am, *dadmï > *damï - I give, *êmï - I eat, *vêmï - I know, *jimamï - I have; their infinitive stems are the following: *by-, ês-, vêd-, da-, jïm-. And the declension of the verb "to be", the most important in every language, looks in the present this way:
 
*esmï "I am"
*esi "thou art"
*estï "it is, he is"
*esmü "we are"
*este "you are"
*so.tï "they are"
*esva "we two are"
*esta "you two are, they two are"

If we look at this explanation from the point of view of the Indo-European comparative linguistics, we can easily notice numerous analogues with other Indo-European tongues. Practically all ancient languages of the family had the -nu- verbal suffix. Greek verbs like omnumi (I swear) or deiknumi (I show) are of the same sort and also made a special group. However, they were athematic, and in Slavic languages became thematic, as the majority of verbs in general. As for athematic verbs (those which do not have a special vowel between the stem and the ending), they are present in all groups of the Indo-European family, and sometimes even are the same in different languages: Greek athematic eimi and Slavic *esmï, Greek didómi and Slavic *damï.

Athematic verbs have their special endings in many situations. Below we will make clear the exact cases when their conjugation is different from those of normal, thematic verbs. The Proto-Indo-European language also used to have this category, and some linguists are sure that early PIE language had a specific conjugation for such verbs, totally different from the normal one, but then they became closer and even coincided in majority of forms.


Now it is time to observe shortly some basic forms which the Common Slavic verb could have.

The verb possessed several categories. It had five tenses (present, aorist, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect), two aspects (perfective and imperfective), three moods (indicative, imperative and subjunctive), it could be conjugated by numbers (singular, dual and plural), persons (first - I, we; second - you; third - he, she, it, they). The verb had also several additional auxiliary forms, which are usually called verbal nouns: participles, the infinitive and the supine.

The present tense is formed by adding the so called primary endings to the present tense form. Thematic and athematic verbs have different endings only in the 1st and 2nd person singular. Here are the primary endings and the examples following:

1st person sg. -o. (thematic: *bero. - I am taking), -mï (athematic: *damï - I am giving)
2nd person sg. -šï, -ši (thematic: *berešï - you are taking), -sï / -si (athematic: *dadsï - you are giving)
3rd person sg. -tï (*beretï - he is taking, *dadtï > *dastï - he is giving)
1st person dual -va (masculine or neuter), -vê (feminine) *bereva - we two are taking, *dadva - we two are giving
2nd and 3rd person dual -ta (*bereta, *dadta > *dasta - you / they two are taking / giving)
1st person plural -mü (*beremü, *dadmü - we are taking / giving)
2nd person plural -te (*berete, *dadte - you are taking / giving)
3rd person plural -o.ti (*bero.ti, *dado.ti - they are taking / giving)

So, the Indo-European origin can be easily traced back from these endings. The Indo-European formant for primary endings -i was shortened according to Common Slavic phonetic rules into the super-short ; the Proto-Indo-European ending -mos lost its final -s and turned short o into super-short ü. The last ending sounded in Proto-Indo-European like -onti, and therefore led to emerging of a nasal vowel here in Slavic.

The present tense had not quite simple usage. Besides its direct meaning as the present action, it could be meaning also future actions, because there was no simple future in Common Slavic. Usually Indo-European languages have some suffixes to mark the future tense: -s- is one of the most frequent of them, existing in Baltic and Hellenic languages, -f- is used in some Celtic tongues. But Slavs unified present and future, and any verb could be used in the forms pointed above and mean the future event.

Later Slavic languages, nevertheless, acquired a form of difference between future and present. The category of aspect (perfective and imperfective) possesses also the meaning of tense in Modern Slavic languages, and  imperfective verbs which denote the action which is still taking place go for the real present tense (Russian daju - I am giving, from Common Slavic *dajo.), while perfective verbs denoting the final action usually mean the future (Russian dam - I will give, from Common Slavic *damï). Scientists came to a conclusion that there were not such a distinction in Common Slavic. Even Old Church Slavonic, which was spoken in 7-10 centuries AD, much later than the Common language, was just starting distinguishing aspects as present and future, and still mixed them.



 
While there was no future tense in Common Slavic, it  was rewarded by having quite a lot of past tenses. All of them were inherited directly from Proto-Indo-European, and that is why are relative to corresponding tenses of all ancient Indo-European languages.

The first we will observe here is aorist, the tense which can be compared both with the Past Indefinite and the Present Perfect in English or Passe Simple and Passe Compose in French. Its functions were to mark the action which took place, began and was finished in the past, without any reference to the present situation. The verbs in aorist could be either perfective or imperfective.

As a whole the Proto-Indo-European language introduced two main types of aorist, which then were transferred into past tenses in many branch languages. These types are called "sigmatic" and "non-sigmatic" in linguistic literature and are distinguished by the suffix -s- which precedes endings in sigmatic aorist. The difference in meaning between types of aorist is not clear yet, because in Greek and Latin, classical Indo-European languages, semantic difference had already gone, and for example in Greek non-sigmatic (asigmatic) aorist was used only with the certain verbs: one-syllable ones where the stem ended in a consonant. All other verbs used the suffix -s- and special perfective endings.

The Common Slavic language is much more understandable. All verbs of the 1st and 2nd classes did not have -s-, and made their aorist forms just by using the infinitive stem plus secondary endings with a preceding vowel. Here are secondary endings and examples of non-sigmatic aorist:

1st person sg. (*prinesü - I brought, from *prinesti - to bring)
2nd person sg. (*prinesê - you brought)
3rd person sg. (*prinesê - he, she brought)
1st person dual -êvê (*prinesêvê - we two brought)
2, 3 person dual -êta, -êtê (*prinesêta - you two, they two brought)
1st person pl. -êmü (*prinesêmü - we brought)
2st person pl. -ête (*prinesête - you brought) - this is the case not to mix e and ê
3st person pl. -o. (*prineso. - they brought)

Origins of these endings are as simple as Slavic languages themselves. The derived from Proto-Indo-European -om, as the final consonant was dropped; the 2nd and 3rd person singular also lost their final -s and -t respectively; the 3rd plural used to sound -ont and became nasal therefore.

The rest verb classes, namely the 3rd, 4th and 5th, used the sigmatic aorist. As well as the simple aorist, it was based on the infinitive stem, which acquired the suffix -s- and the same secondary endings. However, some phonetic changes could take place in the sigmatic aorist. Usually the root vowel was changed by its longer equivalent (if the latter existed), and -s- was turning into -x- [kh] after r, k and vowels according to Pedersen's Law. Besides, on late stages of Common Slavic -k- could become -c'- [ch] before the -ax- element which is often in past tense endings. Secondary endings also were subject to a few changes in the sigmatic variety of the aorist, which is seen in examples below:

1st person sg. *jimaxü (I had)
2nd person sg. *jimašê (you had)
3rd person sg. *jimašê (he, she had)
1st person dual *jimašêvê (we two had)
2, 3 person dual *jimašêtê (you, they two had)
1st person plural *jimaxomü (we had)
2nd person plural *jimašête (you had)
3rd person plural *jimaše. (they had)

The sigmatic aorist forms later coincided with one more past tense in Common Slavic - the imperfect. This process of uniting all past tenses in one was finished already in separate Slavic languages, and now only few of modern tongues of the group distinguish between past trances. The beginning of this process should be observed in Late Common Slavic.

The imperfect denoted the past action which lasted in the past, without referring to its end or beginning. It is close to the English Past Continuous but not the same, and sometimes can be equal to the Past Indefinite (Passe Simple in French). The imperfect used the same secondary endings as the aorist, and the same suffix -s- as well. The only difference is the 3rd person plural -axo. instead of aorist -aše..

The perfect is considered to have been one of the most important Indo-European verbal forms. In fact, the perfect was not the tense in direct meaning of this term. Verbs in perfect in the Proto-language and in several most archaic  Indo-European tongues did not mean the action, but the state, the situation. So the perfect, probably, was one of verbal formations in Proto-Indo-European, and not the tense form. This archaic meaning of the perfect can be seen in Ancient Greek, in Latin and some other languages, where several perfect forms of verbs denoted the state: Latin odi "I hate" and memini "I remember", Ancient Greek 'estéka "I stand", oida "I know" from Proto-IE  *woida, dedoika "I am afraid" etc. They all are just perfect forms of their verbs.

So none of the Indo-European languages originally had the perfect as the past tense, and maybe the English term "Present Perfect" is more reasonable - the perfect is sooner present, than past.

The Common Slavic language seems to have lost its synthetic perfect on very early stages, and maybe even while separating from Proto-Indo-European the perfect had already been lost. It left no trace in Common Slavic, nor in any modern Slavic languages. The Old Church Slavonic uses analytic forms of the perfect, which can be accepted for the Common Slavic times as well. It could be produced using the participle ending in -l- plus the present forms of the verb *byti "to be". As for the pluperfect, it can be reconstructed as the participle in -l- added to the aorist forms of *byti.

For better understanding of all verb tenses in Common Slavic you can compare the following reconstructed sentences:

*Dnesï medü vezo. - Today I'm carrying honey. (the present tense in present meaning)
*Ti medu privezo. - I will bring honey for you. (the present in future meaning; note the prefixed verb *privezti in the perfective aspect)
*Dobra medu mi privezê - You brought some good honey for me (aorist; verb in perfective aspect)
*Dlügo medü sïjï vezaxü - I was carrying this honey for a long time (imperfect; verb in imperfective aspect)
*Ali nama medu privezlü esi? - Have you brought honey for us two? (perfect)
*Medü kyjï privezlü bê, vamü dal esmï - The honey I had brought I gave to you. (pluperfect - the past action before another past action).

Among other important forms of the Common Slavic forms we will point the imperative mood. It is interesting for it has long been subject of discussion between linguists who argue about the existence of the Common Balto-Slavic language. The Baltic imperative forms contain the suffix -k- which is unknown in Slavic and never existed in it. In fact, this Baltic feature can be an innovation or a borrowing, for it is unique in the Indo-European family. Mainly Indo-European languages form the imperative just with the present tense stem and some special inflections. In Slavic it looked the following way:

2nd person sg. -i (1-4 classes) or (5 class) - *beri "do take!", *vidjï "do see!"
1st person pl. -êmü (1-3 classes) or -imü (4-5 classes) - *vzemêmü "let us take!", *dadimü "let us give"
2nd person pl. -ête / -ïte - *vzemête "take!", *dadïte "give!"

Different from Latin, Greek, Sanskrit and the very Proto-Indo-European Common Slavic did not use the imperative for the 3rd person. Maybe on ancient stages it somehow existed, but was early substituted by analytic forms (like English "let him...").

Anyway, the verb in Slavic is quite flective and therefore difficult to understand sometimes even to Slavic speakers. It is enough to mention that one single root could have three or four different verbs from it, like that:

*stati - to stand up (1st person sg. *stano.)
*stoje.ti - to stand, to be standing (1st person sg. *stojo.)
*staviti - to put, to lay, to construct, to install (1st person sg. *stavljo.)

We would be glad to tell more about the Common Slavic verb. But the knowledge is scarce, and not only because I am not educated enough yet, but also because not much of the language has been reconstructed by now, and much work is still required. We invite you to take the research! You do not need more than just grammars of all modern and ancient Slavic languages, and a book on comparative Indo-European linguistics. All theories and conclusions are welcomed at my e-mail.

But what we have materials about is Verbal Nouns section: the infinitive, the supine, participles will be described just below!
 
 
        § 8. The Common Slavic Verbal Nouns.
 
As we stated already in previous Grammars on this site, the Proto-Indo-European language did not have the infinitive. But evidently, some trend to its emerging could exist in it, on late stages just before the breakup of the community. That is because just every Indo-European group has got the infinitive, if not several of them, like Germanic or Italic languages.

The functions of the infinitive were gradually accepted by some ancient verbal nouns, which were numerous in Proto-Indo-European. They could look like the English gerund in the sentence "Going to work is useful", where "going" is a noun derived from the verb. Usually indirect cases of such verbal nouns became infinitives in Indo-European languages, including the Common Slavic, where the infinitive was represented by the dative case of a verbal noun.

V. Ivanov in his works tries to stress two groups of dialects within the Proto-Indo-European language according to the verbal noun formation. The first main group includes languages which used verbal nouns in -ter / -tar / -tor. Such tongues are Italic (Latin iter "way", "going"), Celtic, Tocharic and Anatolian. They all show these endings in verbal nouns, and the infinitive in some of them also carries this -r- element (Latin ornare), which is believed the medium voice formant.

The second group, including Slavic and Baltic languages, used the verbal noun in -ti / -te to make the infinitive. In Common Slavic the infinitive was built with the stem plus the ending -ti: *byti (to be), *znati (to know), *piti (to drink). The infinitive can be used in Slavic languages in complex predicate constructions or independently:

Old Russian: Hochu na vy iti (I want to go to you) - the famous saying by prince Sviatoslav before invading nomadic tribes.
Old Church Slavonic: I poslaša vo uzilište privesti ixü (And they sent to prison to fetch them)
Common Slavic: *Piti ne dobro esti - To drink is not good

In complex predicate after verbs of movement (like "go", "run", "walk", "hurry") another form of the verbal noun is used which is called the supine. Its usage was rather limited (unlike Italic supine) and as it looked much like the infinitive they soon coincided, and practically none of modern Slavic languages (instead Slovene) has got the supine. In Common Slavic it was formed with the infinitive stem plus - and originated from another form of Proto-Indo-European verbal nouns.

Old Russian: Idyaše voevat ko gradu - While going towards the town to fight
Common Slavic: *Bêgi poglêgati - Run there and see!



 
As for participles, here Slavic languages show great variety of forms. In most relative languages, like Greek, Sanskrit and Latin, participles could be formed just from any possible tense and voice. Greek participles could be either aorist, perfect, imperfect, future, present, medium, passive and active.

Common Slavic had two main sorts of participles - present and past, and two voices - active and passive. English has got the same distinction: "going" is active, "gone" is passive.

All participles are declined (as they are in fact nominal parts of speech), so they have numbers, cases, just like normal adjectives. The list of participles and their construction is given below:

1. Active voice present tense
To form it, pick the present tense stem of the verb and add the suffix: -y (from Indo-European -ont) if the stem ends in a consonant, or -je. (from Indo-European -jont), if the final sound is vocal, and then do not forget also case endings:

Examples: *vêdati (to know) - *vêdy (knowing, masc. or neut. nom. sg.), *vêdontja (knowing, fem. nom. sg.) etc.
                *znati (to know) - *znaje. (knowing, masc. or neut. nom. sg.), *znajontja (knowing, fem. nom. sg.) etc.
                *ljubiti (to love) - *ljube. (loving, masc. or neut. nom. sg.), *ljubjontja (loving, fem. nom. sg.) etc.

2. Passive voice present tense
Here you all take the present tense stem, then add the thematic vowel if necessary (usually it is -o- just not to combine two consonants together), and the suffix is -m- followed by case endings:

Examples: *vêdomü (known, masc. nom. sg.), *vêdoma (known, masc. nom. sg.), *vêdomo (known, neut. nom. sg.)
                *znamü (known, masc. nom. sg.), *znama (known, fem. nom. sg.)
                *ljubimü (loved, masc. nom. sg.), *ljubima (loved, fem. nom. sg.)
This participle suffix is derive from Proto-Indo-European -mo-.

3. Active voice past tense
Forget about the present tense stem and take the infinitive stem. In nominative masculine the ending will be -ü / -ï, but in indirect cases and in plural it will look like -üš- / -ïš- (from Indo-European -usj-) plus case endings. If the sound ü follows a vowel, it is preceded by v according to Slavic phonetic laws:

Examples: *vêdavü (he who knew, masc. nom. sg.), *vêdavüša (she who knew, fem. nom. sg.)
                *znavü (he who knew, masc. nom. sg.), *znavüša (she who knew, fem. nom. sg.)
                *ljublï (he who loved, masc. nom. sg.), *ljublïša (she who loved, fem. nom. sg.)

4. Passive voice past tense
Again the infinitive stem subsided by the suffix -n- / -t- (I still cannot get the difference) plus the adjective endings. It seems that n and t are interchangeable here, because in different Slavic languages the same verb can form this praticiple with different suffixes (like Russian slan - "a sent one", and Slovene slat). Origins for these suffixes are Indo-European -nó- and -tó-.

Examples: *z'e.ti (to sow) - z'atü (a sown one, masc. nom. sg.)
                *slati (to send) - *slanü (a sent one)
                *kryti (to cover) - *kryvenü (a covered one; y becomes yv before a vowel)
                *byti (to be) - *bïjenü (a one which was; y becomes ïj before a vowel)
                *glotno.ti (to swallow once) - *glotnovenü (a swallowen one; v exists because the verb has -no.- suffix)
This participle makes another verbal noun which is used like the English gerund: *dêlanje (a doing), *ubijenje (a killing), *bytje (a being). Such verbal nouns are neuter of jo-stems (see declension).

5. The last participle is a special Slavic form in -l-, which, however, has some parallels in Anatolian and some other Indo-European languages. A similar form was of wide use in Lydian - see the Lydian Grammar. In Slavic it is quite important because it once formed the perfect and pluperfect forms, and later in some of modern Slavic tongues makes the whole past tense (especially East Slavic). It is made by the infinitive stem, the suffix -l- and normal adjective inflections:

Examples: *pisati (to write) - *pisalü esmï (I have written)
                *byti (to be) - *bylü esmï (I have been)
Nowadays Russian byl is translated simply by English "was".
 
 
        § 9. The Common Slavic Prepositions and Particles.
 
We would like to begin the last paragrapg of this grammar with an apology. We are very sorry for we cannot give a fuller description of the Common Slavic grammar which would include more sections and more information about phonetics, morphology and syntax of the language. But the fact is that Common Slavic is not yet finally reconstructed, and a lot of questions are still under discussion. We did not prefer to write things in which we are not sure - modern Slavic languages are evident, but a lot of differences between them does not allow us sometimes to say how this or that structure looked in the Common language.

But the Cyril Babaev Linguistic Studies does not seem inactive. On the contrary, we will try to research more of this particular language and about all languages of the Indo-European family in general. So please consider this grammar as the first step in your studies of Slavic linguistics.

Now the prepositions. In Common Slavic they were just starting to appear and in most cases looked the same as verbal prefixes (or preverbs). The Proto-language did not use any prepositions or postpositions at all - these auxiliary parts of speech were developed late from Indo-European adverbs of time and place. And although today's Slavic languages demonstrate quite a lot of prepositions, in Common they were obviously less numerous. By the way, all of them could be verbal prefixes as well. Some of them are here:

*vün - into, in, inside (both direction and location; cognate to English in, Latin in, Greek en). The sound v was added, because the word in Slavic cannot start with ü. Nowadays in most of Slavic tongues this preposition looks just like v, and in Russian I found just one example of this archaic form in the verb vnemlit' "to listen, to understand", vn + eml- "to take". In Common Slavic it was used with accusative (direction) or with locative (location) case.
*kün - to, towards. Used with dative, origin is unknown.
*sün - with, accompanied by. Requires the instrumental case and is related to Greek sun (with), Lithuanian su (with).
*jïs / jïz - from, out of. It has the ablative meaning, and requires genitive.
*ups / ubz - up. Related to English up, Latin super, Greek hyper. Uses the accusative.
*ors / orz - out, around. Difficult to find the English equivalent, because it has no. Uses the accusative.
*bes / bez - without, used with the genitive only.

Particles and conjugations that can be reconstructed are the following:

*i, *a - and
*ali - or, and the interrogative particle used always at the beginning of questions (*Ali z'ivü esi? - Are you alive?)
*ne - not

Here is just everything. If you find some mistakes, misunderstood something, or have additional questions or another view of some problems described here, please fell free to write to my e-mail.

Next Indo-European Grammars are on their way.
 

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.