Genitive Singular of Masculine Nouns in Several West Ukrainian (Transcarpathian) Dialects

Elena Boudovskaia, University of California, Los Angeles

This paper is devoted to one aspect in the development of nominal declension in several villages in Transcarpathian Ukraine. The Transcarpathian dialects are an example of the preservation of archaic features under the condition of separation from the Ukrainian-speaking mainland (the Transcarpathian lands belonged to Hungary for about a thousand years). However, though the dialects are archaic, they nevertheless continued to develop. This development was sometimes shared with the neighbouring dialects, but sometimes was unique.

The morphological development in the Transcarpathian dialects, as in other Slavic languages and dialects, encompasses not only change in sets of endings within old inflectional types, but also the redistribution of lexemes between inflectional types, conditioned by new factors. Researchers find that the new factors causing the redistribution in other Slavic languages are often semantic (Zaliznjak). In standard Ukrainian, the semantic factor played a very important role for the building of the new morphological system. It is interesting to check whether semantics was the cause of changes also in Transcarpathian, and whether the Transcarpathian development differed from the development in standard Ukrainian.

Gsg of masculine nouns in standard Ukrainian shows a loose distribution of the endings -a and -u (historically coming from o- and u- stems, respectively); the basis for the modern distribution is the semantics of the lexeme: animate nouns, nouns denoting objects and some other groups take the ending -a, while mass nouns, collective nouns, nouns denoting processes and abstract concepts, and some other groups take -u. Morphological factors also play a role in the distribution: e.g., nouns with desinential stress tend to preserve the original ending -a.

The paper, based on my field recordings in several villages, discusses Gsg of masculine nouns in Transcarpathian dialects. It is interesting that the main principles of the distribution of endings are the same as in standard Ukrainian: in all the villages, animate nouns and names of objects take -a, while mass nouns and abstract nouns take -u. Little variation in this aspect, compared to much broader variation in other phenomena in Transcarpathian nominal morphology (endings in DLIpl, in Gpl, stress in pl, etc., where principles of distribution vary from village to village), may indicate that the redistribution of o- and u-stem endings according to the mentioned semantic principle is a relatively old phenomenon, manifested not only in Ukrainian and its Transcarpathian dialects, but also in the neighboring Slovak where a rough description would be: concrete nouns take -a, abstract nouns take -u.

However, in Transcarpathian dialects there is also a small corpus of lexemes which show considerable variation in Gsg endings across villages.