Speculations on the Identity of the South Slavic ā-stem gen. sg. Desinence -ę

Marc L. Greenberg, University of Kansas

In his recent overview of Slavic in the context of Indo-European, Andersen writes: “The identity of the ā-stem genitive singular and nominative-accusative plural -y is difficult to understand; the umlauted counterpart, ESlav. and WSlav. -ě ‘gen. sg., nom.-acc. pl.’ but SSlav . -ę ‘gen. sg., nom.-acc. pl.’, likewise” (Andersen 1998: 437), echoing Toporov’s assertion that the “… origin of the genitive case marker … remains one of the darkest spots in the history of Slavic declension” (1975: 288). For example, OCS ženę ‘woman, wife’ gen. sg., nom.-acc. pl., Russ. ženy ‘idem’; OCS dušę ‘soul’ gen. sg., nom.-acc. pl., ORuss. dušě ‘idem’ (note also the conflation of the gen., dat. and loc. sg. in *-ě in Novgorod Birchbark documents, eleventh–thirteenth centuries [Ivanov et al. 1995: 212]). Tracing back through the putative Balto-Slavic merger of the genitive and ablative cases, we would expect Slavic **-ā (< I.E. *-eh2e/os or *-eh2e/ot; cf. Gr. -as gen. sg., Att.-Ion. -ēs; Lat. -ād [Sihler 1995: 269]), resulting in homophony with the nom. sg. (Erhart 1982: 117; Watkins 1998: 65–67); similarly also nom. pl. *-eh2es and *-eh2ms would have yielded Slavic **-ā and possibly -y or **-, respectively. Though Meillet (1934: 398) believed in a phonetic development *-ās > -y, most scholars ascribe the appearance of *-ę to analogy, e.g., Mikkola 1950: 33; Vaillant 1958: 48–49; Vondrák 1928: 31; see also Toporov’s detailed rejection of the earlier views (1975: 288–289). It is clear that there can be no direct phonetic connection between the traditionally-reconstructed I.E. desinences and their Slavic reflexes; and the motivation for the analogical developments remain to be explained.

As has long been known, the Slavic adnominal genitive is innovative, where it partially replaces older relations such as adjectival constructions and datives of possession (see Schelesniker 1976 and literature cited there). As to morphology, Toporov 1975 has indicated the unique parallelism that obtains between the singular and plural genitive forms once it is realized that the forms all derive from a formant with a nasal element, e.g. *gwen-om-s: *gwen-ōm (sg.:pl.). This parallelism is strikingly similar both in type and identity to the Uralic genitive (*-n-, cf. Mordva moda, modan′ ‘earth’ nom., gen./acc. sg.; modat′n′e, modat′nen′ nom., gen./acc. pl.). A Uralic connection has not yet been entertained in the literature (to my knowledge) for the explanation of the Slavic desinences. It seems there are two logical possibilities. One approach treats the Slavic desinences as relics of a common Uralic-Indo-European declensions system (in accord with Kim and Osipova 1995); the other as a result of convergence with the Uralic languages in the general sense of Thomason and Kaufman (1988: 238–251). As to the Northern Slavic *ě3, it may be seen as a regional development of a long nasal vowel, which means that the development discussed here may be viewed as applying to all of Slavic (Newman 1971).

Selected References

Andersen, Henning. 1998. “Slavic.” The Indo-European Languages (ed. by Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat): 415–453. London and New York: Routledge.

Bednarčuk, L. 1997. “Konvergencii balto-slavjanskix i finno-ugorskix jazykov v strukturnom i areal′nom aspekte.” Balto-slavjanskie issledovanija 1988–1996: 91–108. Moscow: Indrik.

Erhart, Adolf. 1982. Indoevropské jazyky. Srovnávací fonologie a morfologie. Prague: Academia.

Ivanov, V. V. et al. 1995. Drevnerusskaja grammatika XII–XIII vv. Moscow: Nauka.

Kim, A. A. and O. A. Osipova. 1990. “Problema obščnosti indoevropejskix i ural′skix jazykov v oblasti sklonenija.” Uralo-Indogermanica II (Balto-slavjanskie jazyki i problema uralo-indoevropejskix svjazej. Materialy 3-ej balto-slavjanskoj konferencii, 18–22 ijunija 1990 g.): 101–109. Moscow: Institut slavjanovedenija i balkanistiki.

Hakulinen, Lauri. 1961. The Structure and Development of the Finnish Language (= Indiana University Publications Uralic and Altaic Series, vol. 3) (trans. by John Atkinson). Bloomington: Indiana University/The Hague: Mouton.

Kortlandt, Frederik. “On Final Syllables in Slavic.” The Journal of Indo-European Studies 14/1–2: 153–185.

Meillet, Antoine. 1934. Le Slave Commun. Paris: H. Champion.

Mikkola, J. J. 1950. Urslavische Grammatik III. Formenlehre. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag.

Newman, Lawrence. 1971. “On Reconstructing a Third Jat′ in the Northern Dialects of Common Slavic.” Slavia 40/3: 325–341.

Schelesniker, Herbert. 1976. “Der slavische Genitiv auf -y/-ę und der awestische Lokativ auf -ąm.” Opuscula Slavica et Linguistica. Festschrift für Alexander Issatschenko (= Schriftenreihe Sprachwissenschaft, Universität für Bildungswissenschaften, Klagenfurt, Band 1): 383–400. Klagenfurt: Verlag Johannes Heyn.

Schmalstieg, William R. 1971. “Die Entwicklung der ā-Deklination im Slavischen.” Zeitschrift für slavischen Philologie 36/1: 130–146.

Sihler, Andrew L. 1995. New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thomason, Sarah Grey and Terrence Kaufman. 1988. Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics. Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: U. of California Press.

Toporov, V. N. 1975. “Neskol′ko soobraženij o proisxoždenii fleksii slavjanskogo genitiva.” Bereiche der Slavistik. Festschrift zu Ehren von Josip Hamm: 287–296. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Vaillant, André. 1958. Grammaire Comparée des Langues Slaves, Tome II. Morphologie. Première Partie: Flexion Nominale. Lyon: IAC.

Veenker, Wolfgang. 1967. Die Frage des finnougrischen Substrats in der russischen Sprache (= Indiana University Publications: Ural and Altaic Series, vol. 82). Bloomington: Indiana University; The Hague: Mouton.

Vondrák, Wenzel. 1928. Vergleichende slavische Grammatik, II. Band. Formenlehre und Syntax (2. Auflage). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

Watkins, Calvert. 1998. “Proto-Indo-European: Comparison and Reconstruction.” The Indo-European Languages (ed. by Anna Giacalone Ramat and Paolo Ramat): 25–73. London and New York: Routledge.

Zaliznjak, A. A. 1988. “Drevnenovgorodskij dialekt i problemy dialektnogo členenija pozdnego praslavjanskogo jazyka.” X Meždunarodnyj s″ezd slavistov. Slavjanskoe jazykoznanie (ed. by N. I. Tolstoj): 164–190. Moscow: Nauka.