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Language & Society (1) – Old Church Slavonic


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.

Course objectives

The ultimate objective of this course is to be able to read Old Church Slavonic texts with the help of a dictionary. Much attention is paid to this 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). Each week, students thoroughly prepare a number of verses and other texts which will be discussed in class.



Method of Instruction

See below

Assessment methode

Assessment consists of two parts:
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. This part amounts to 5 EC.
An additional 5 EC consisting of 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.


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:


Via uSis

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