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Old Church Slavic Language and Culture


Admission requirements

BA degree in Russian Studies, Slavic Languages and Cultures, or Linguistics.


Old Church Slavonic is considered the starting point for the historical comparative study of the Slavic language family. On the one hand, it is one of the most important sources for the reconstruction of Proto-Slavic, on the other hand it is the forerunner of regional writing traditions (e.g., Middle Bulgarian, Croatian-Glagolitic, Russian Church Slavonic) which makes it an important component of the various modern Slavic written languages. This is definitely also true for Russian, in which the Church Slavonic writing tradition has left deep marks in the modern standard language.
The course offers a high-pace introduction to the grammar and cultural history of Old Church Slavonic. In broad outlines, the subjects covered in the course are successively: the cultural-historical context; periodization and source material; orthography; internal phonological developments; the present tense and Leskien’s classification of the verb; aorist, imperfect and other verb forms; nominal forms; pronominal forms and “mixed” declension; participles.

Much attention is paid to reading and analysing Old Church Slavonic texts during the sessions. We start reading Luke 11: 1-13 ( the Our Father) according to the Codex Marianus (pp. 158-160 of the “Textproben” of the textbook; see below). Each week, students thoroughly prepare a number of verses and other texts which will be discussed in class.

Course objectives

The ultimate objective of this course is to be able to read Old Church Slavonic texts with the help of a dictionary.



Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load is 10 EC, i.e. 280 hours:

  • Number of contact hours (four per week during 13 weeks): 52 hours

  • Hours for weekly preparations for the seminar (three to four hours per seminar), i.e. 48 hours

  • Hours for preparing for the oral examination (including the examination): 90 hours

  • Hours for preparing the reading dossier (including feedback session): 90 hours

Assessment method


  1. In-class participation and weekly preparation of readings in Old Church Slavonic.
  2. An oral examination in which knowledge of Old Church Slavonic is tested using the texts read during the course of lectures. Central to the examination is not so much translation as is the ability to identify forms (aorist, imperative, u-stems, class V verbs, etc.). Questions on orthography, historical phonology and the cultural-historical context will also be posed
  3. A reading dossier in which Old Church Slavonic texts are translated and linguistically annotated along the lines indicated above. The choice of texts is determined in consultation with the instructor.


  • participation 20%

  • oral exam 40%

  • Reading dossier 40%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


One resit of assessment parts 2 and 3 is possible.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for providing study materials.

Reading list

As textbook for the course we use: Jos Schaeken & Henrik Birnbaum, Die altkirchenslavische Schriftkultur: Geschichte – Laute und Schriftzeichen – Sprachdenkmäler (mit Textproben, Glossar und Flexionsmustern) (= Altkirchenslavische Studien II, Slavistische Beiträge 382). München: Sagner, 1999. See:


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs


For questions about the content of the course, you can contact the teacher: Prof. Dr. J. Schaeken


Not applicable