Tver’s Spiritual Testaments as a Linguistic Source of the Russian Language

Irina Barclay, Appalachian State University

This paper will present a grammatical and lexical analysis of original, 16th-Century, spiritual testaments selected from “The Manuscript Collection for Patrimonial Estates of Troica-Sergieva Lavra” (TSUM – 10620), a study of primary texts heretofore unexamined. These manuscripts illustrate a significant interaction between Old Slavonic grammatical and lexical use and Medieval Russian norms, an expression of bilingualism which, despite differing opinions as to influence, substantiates the unequaled effects they had in the development of the modern Russian Literary Language (Uspenskii, 2002; Remneva, 2003).


Created by dictating testators to scribes, spiritual testaments reveal both the written traditions of the Old Slavonic language and specific Russian speech-patterns. For example, within the introduction, body and conclusion of spiritual testaments there often appear canons frequently found in the Old Slavonic Language such as these three idioms: Во имя отца и сына и свтого духа, се яз, своим целым умом и здравою мыслию. Verbs such as дати and взяти have the Old Slavonic ending -ти instead of the ending -ть as found in modern Russian. The inclusion of the Perfect Tense in the syntactical structure of sentences: дал есми, пожаловал есми; and the use of the conjunction и throughout sentences is an effect called “threading.”


Uniquely Russian speech-patterns are also reflected in spiritual testaments. As a type of official discourse, they reflect the Circle-of-Conception view frequently found in the Russian concept of life, which include words with concrete semantic meanings and the terms of administrative division, district and family toponymy: Исковница, Пупок, Напругово... Furthering this lexical analysis, the word род means “all close relatives”, the word живот, “real property” and “life,” the derivate жилина, “misappropriate.”


Finally, the following idioms are frequently found in official discourse: что у тои деревне исстари потягло, meaning everything that is belongs to a patrimony estate; руку приложил meaning I signed this paper; and, А кто наступит на ту землю и я сужусь с ним на страшном суде meaning, If someone steps on this property, then I must appeal to the Last Judgment before the Lord.


Consequently, Old Slavonic elements did, in fact, add significantly to the style of spiritual testaments and were adopted into the Russian language to forge a productive relationship that linked the two languages.


Works Cited


Даль, Владимир.  Словарь живого великорусского языка в 4-х томах.  Москва: Русский язык, 1978.


Ремнева, Марина.  Пути развития русского литературного языка XI-XVII вв.- Москва: МГУ, 2003: 9-18, 256-304.


Сборник копий рукописных документов на вотчины Троице-Сергиевой Лавры (ТГОМ КОФ – 10620).  Hilandar Research Library, Ohio State U.


Успенский, Борис.  История русского литературного языка (XI-XVII вв.). Москва: Аспект, 2002: 23-31, 75-85, 101-112.