Genitive Absolute (GA) or Genitive of Time With a Participle

Daniela S. Hristova, University of Chicago

This paper examines the unique attestations of what I call “Genitive Absolutes” (GA) in the second part of the Hypatian codex or the Kievan chronicle. The GA  togo že lěta isxodęča ‘as that year was ending’ is a structure containing a determiner phrase (DP) plus a participle in the genitive case. Potebnja (1955[1888]: 324) is the only scholar who mentions the existence of the GA, citing the following examples, both from the KC:

(1)     togo že lěto isxoděči razbolěsę knęz' M'stislav Izęslavič' v'' Volodimeri
         ‘As that year was ending, in Volodimir,  Prince Mstislav Izjaslavič fell ill’.

(2)     i by(st') radost' vsim'' č(e)l(o)v(ě)kom'' i sěde Roman'' v'; Kievě m(e)s (e)ca ijulja nastavša
‘And all the people were joyous about Roman's ruling. And Roman (Rostislavič) took the throne in Kiev when the month of July came’.

There are only five attestations of the construction in the KC, but they deserve special attention for two reasons: their unique morpho-syntactic structure and the fact that, in addition to a single attestation in the PVL, the KC is the only medieval East Slavic chronicle I am aware of that exibits use of that construction. Moreover, the GA has never been an object of serious research. My goal in this paper is simple: to draw attention to the construction and present all the attestations known to me so far. In addition, I offer some speculations about the individual attestations of the construction in the KC and the nature of the structure in general. For exampe, I argue that the construction togo že lěta isxodęča is similar to the well-known to every Slavist dative absolute (DA). True, all the examples of GA denote time and therefore one may say that the case of the construction is semantically determined. Genitive of time when is a common phenomenon in Rusian and frequent in annalistic type chronicles, i.e., expressions such as togdy ‘then’, togo lěta ‘that year’, etc. are the formulas which would signal that the scribe is entering a new event.  Hence, the assignment of genitive case to the GAs is determined by their semantics and thus motivated. However, if, following Hristova 2002, one analyses the DA as a bare vP structure on the inside and an adjunct adverbialized clause (which later evolved to a matrix small clause) on the outside, it is possible to apply the same type of analysis to the structure togo že lěta isxodęča. That is togo že lěta is a DP subject and isxodęča is a vP predicate and they combine to form a less than functionally complete clause.

Finally, I briefly touch upon the question of whether the GA attestations in the Kievan chronicle can shed some light on the scribal practices and thus on our understanding of how the medieval Rusian/Russian chronicles were composed.


Hristova, Daniela S.  Syntactic Structure and Grammatical Function: the Participles in the Kievan Chronicle. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 2002.

Потебня, А.А. Из записок по русской грамматике І-ІІ, 1958[1888].