The Dative Absolute in the Kievan Chronicle

Daniela Hristova, University of Chicago

Although the nature, origin and development of the dative absolute construction in Slavic have long attracted the interest of researchers, Worth (1994) and Corin (1995) show that these basic problems are far from settled. Corin (1995), in surveying published views on the origin and nature of DA and comparing its use in OCS and Old East Slavic (his terminology) makes explicit the fact that the DA in Early Rusian has not been systematically sampled and thus it is impossible to reach firm conclusions concerning some of its main features. Worth (1994) provides such a systematic sampling of ca. 275 DA of Povest' Vremennyx Let as witnessed by the Hypatian codex and offers many interesting observations. The article confirms some of Corin's conjectures about the subject identity constraint, the presence or absence of a conjunction joining the DA clause to the matrix clause, and the ability of the DA to substitute for a finite verb clause. Unfortunately, this paper only examines the interaction of syntactic, grammatical, lexical and pragmatic factors in a preliminary way and does not hypothesize about the syntactic properties of the DA in Early Rusian. In addition, both Worth (1994) and Corin (1995) stayed in the realm of two texts most often referred to when linguistic issues of the history of East Slavic languages are concerned, i.e., the Uspenskij sbornik and Povest' Vremennyx Let.

My talk examines the functions and distribution of the DA in the second part of the Hypatian codex or the Kievan chronicle. As one of the earliest East Slavic original works, the chronicle is a major source of data on the history of the East Slavic languages, but there has been little research devoted to its linguistics specifics. The chronicle provides a large corpus of DAs and, in light of Worth's observations about the first part of the Hypatian codex, is the logical manuscript for investigating the rules of usage of the DA.

What linguists have concluded on the basis of the OCS data is that syntactically the DA served to express the subordination of one clause to another, conditioned by subject non-identity and the lack of a conjunction. Although scholars such as Stanislav (1934), Lunt (1974 [1955]), and Mincheva (1991) have noted that subject identity did occur in OCS, this could be accepted as a good working description for OCS. However, the data in the Kievan chronicle suggest that the absolute construction, which was originally syntactically defined and motivated by subject non-identity, came to be interpreted in Early Rusian mainly as a backgrounding device. Compare, for example, the approximately 5.3% of subject identity examples calculated by Stanislav for OCS, of which one should note 4.7% come from Codex Supralensis, to the 15.2% instances that involve subject co-reference in the KC. This can be seen from the numerous cases similar to (1) in the Kievan chronicle, in which a scribe would use several DAs in a row, conjoined by coordinating conjunctions.

(1) be¨zhashchju zhe Svjatoslavu iz Novagoroda. idoushchju v Rous' k" bratu. i posla Vsevood" protivou emu. i reche (column 308)

It is interesting to note two things here. First is the use of the coordinating conjunction to conjoin the absolute participial construction with the matrix clause. Similar examples are exceptional in OCS (Corin 1995:264). The second is the distribution of the nonpast active participles with their OCS -shch- formant and with their native East Slavic -ch- formant. The distribution of the two formants in the Kievan chronicle has not yet been investigated. Nevertheless, it is noticeable that whereas nonpast active participles in both -shch- and -ch- are used, though with different frequencies, outside the absolute constructions, the formant found in the DA is, with rare exceptions, -shch-. Should this be taken as an argument that the Early Rusian scribes were using a construction foreign to their native colloquial usage and therefore misusing it? Or does it mean that they have mastered the use of the DA, but with time the constraints in the use of the absolute constructions, as indicated by the use of both coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, were loosened and it is this that is reflected in less restrictive use?

The core of the absolute structure is a noun combined with a participle, which is syntactically independent from the rest of the clause. Thus, instances of conjunction--introduced DA should be accounted for as violations of this rule or as indications of a breakdown in the system. There is, however, a third possibility which, even when noticed in the literature, remains unaddressed. This is the status of conjunctions in Early Rusian. According to Corin, such a discussion "is not only germane, but essential, if we are to understand the use of the DA and its decadence in OCS and OES." Worth also mentions that conjunctions have a role to play, but "there is no time to examine [them] here." A similar use of participles with coordinating conjunctions is found in Baltic, mainly in Lithuanian. According to Ambrazas (1990: 111), a participle which is conjoined with a finite predicate with the conjunction ir "and" could be very easily replaced by a finite form of the verb, with no other changes necessary for the other members of the sentence. He claims that ir not only conjoins the participle and the finite verb but also imparts an expressive nuance to the syntactic construction. This is especially true when ir is used after the DA. In addition to that, Amrazas conjectures that ir and its counterparts in different Indo-European languages developed from a complementary--emphasizing particle (dopolnitel'no-usilitel'naja chastica) and thus speculates that its complementary (dopolnitel'naja) and expressive--emphasizing function might be even older than its coordinating function. The second part of the talk will discuss these problems.

In addition, I will touch briefly upon the question of whether or not the functions of the DA in the Kievan chronicle, and especially its use with conjunctions, can be used to shed light on the debate over the "bookish character" of the construction and its place in the literary language of Kievan Rus'. With no dictionary and grammar books available (Smotrickij wrote his Church Slavonic grammar in the first half of the seventeenth century), what were the references scribes might have used to learn the norms of the literary language and were these norms liable to be a part of the colloquial language? I argue that in Early Rusian, although a genuine inheritance from an earlier stage, the use of the DA had not been completely mastered by some of the scribes.