REES 410/510: Introduction to the Slavic Languages

Dr. Vakareliyska
Spring 1996
401 Friendly Hall, x6-4043

Course Description
This course is a survey of all eleven Slavic languages: Russian, Byelorussian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Sorbian, Serbocroatian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Old Church Slavonic. Some of you may be taking the course for practical purposes, in order to use Slavic-language reading materials, or to learn more about a specific Slavic language that interests you; others of you may be taking the course out of an interest in linguistics. The course is designed to serve both constituencies: the goals of the course are to provide an overview of the history and characteristic features of the Slavic languages, and, on a practical level, to give you the tools to identify which Slavic language a given text is written in, and, with a good dictionary, to be able to decipher, on a basic level, primary source material written in any of the Slavic languages. In fact, you'll see as we go along that these two aspects of the course are inseparable. We'll be building skills in reading Slavic-language materials by comparing translations of selected texts into each of the Slavic languages. The ability to do this, though, depends on a good knowledge of the rules that underlie the relationships among the individual languages.

Those of you who are taking the course for its practical value may wonder during the first weeks why we're starting as far back in history as we can go and dealing with what seem to be very abstract and ancient rules and generalities. As the course progresses, though, you'll see that these rules are the keys that you will need to distinguish one Slavic language from another, and to identify parts of speech and meanings of words in any one of these language.

Course requirements:

No prior knowledge of a Slavic language or of linguistics is necessary. If you haven't studied a Slavic language before, don't be concerned if some students in the class already know one, or even two or three. Eventually, as the term progresses, you'll find you're all in the same boat. Those of you who have not studied a Slavic language previously will be teamed with someone from the class who has studied one, for purposes of doing the homework assignments and learning the Cyrillic alphabet. We will not be dealing with Cyrillic until the third week of the term.

There will be a midterm and a final exam. In addition to the final, you may also choose to write an option ten-page term paper comparing a specific feature in two or three Slavic languages, which will be equal in weight to the final. The term paper will be due on the last day of class -- no exceptions without prior instructor permission. There will also be some written homework exercises as well as regular reading assignments. Since class participation will count as part of your grade, make sure you are always prepared for class, and that you participate actively by volunteering. Unexcused absences, tardiness, and unpreparedness will affect your grade negatively. If you will be absent, be sure to leave me a message before class.

Course materials:

The textbook is T. Carlton, Introduction to the Phonological History of the Slavic Languages, available at the bookstore. More copies will be in by next week. Don't be scared by the textbook! It may look intimidating, particularly for those of you who have not had a Slavic language. However, it's meant to be read after the material is presented to you in class, and it will make a lot more sense then. The textbook covers phonology (sounds and their meanings); for morphology (noun case endings, verb endings, etc.), we'll be using photocopied materials from other sources. The homework reading assigned for each day on the syllabus covers the material that was already presented in class. However, if you would like a head start, or prefer to read up on the topic of the day before class, you can keep ahead by reading the homework reading that's listed on the syllabus for the following day. Dictionaries for all the Slavic languages are available in Knight Library.

A final note: Of course, no linguistics course can substitute for a language course. If you'd like to study one of the Slavic languages after completing this course, you can register for Bulgarian, Polish, Old Church Slavonic, or Russian classes in the Department of Russian, or consult with me about the possibility of studying one of the other languages on a tutorial basis. No matter which of the Slavic languages you may pursue, this course should give you a sizable head start in it, since you will already have the "big picture" on the language before you begin.

Apr 1 Introduction: The place of the Slavic lgs within the IE lg family (centum vs. sat¶m)

East vs. West vs. South Slavic

Hmwk: Chap. 1 in Carlton (and learn transliteration on facing page): The Slavic Lgs Past and Present

Chap. 4: Slavic as a Member of a Larger Family

3 Proto-Indo-European: ablaut, laryngeals, etc.

Hmwk: Chap. 5: The Reconstructed Phonology of Proto-Indo-European (pay attention to regular differences between Proto-IE and Slavic forms in the charts) [NOTE: the textbook has a glossary in the back of all words used in it as examples, listed by language!]

5 Early Common Slavic ("Proto-Slavic")

Hmwk: Chap. 6: From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Slavic

8 Late Common Slavic: the breakup into South, East and West Slavic: palatalizations; reflexes of *tj, *dj; nasal vowels

Hmwk: Chap. 7: Phonological Developments in the Period of Disintegration (up to p. 144 "Metathesis")

10 Breakup into S-W-E, cont.: *TORT, *TšRT reflexes; jers

Hmwk: Finish chap. 7

12 Summary of differences among S-W-E Slavic

Hmwk: written exercise to do in study groups (Late Common Slavic and S-W-E derivations)

Chap. 3: The Beginnings of Slavic Literacy (no need to learn Glagolitic alphabet!)

Start learning Old Cyrillic alphabet with your partner

15 Stress; Common Slavic morphology

Hmwk: Chap. 8: The Prosodic Features of Late Proto-Slavic (skim, don't worry about details)

Finish learning Old Cyrillic alphabet with your partner
Written exercise: transliteration from Old Cyrillic into Latin alphabet

17 Common Slavic morphology; hand out English translation of Luke X:30-35

Hmwk: photocopied OCS morphology materials. With your partner, look at OCS translation of Luke X:30-35 in book (p. 350), identify Late Common Slavic and South Slavic features. Don't worry about vocabulary

19 The West Slavic languages: Czech vs. Slovak

Hwmk: Chap. 9: Summary of the Major Differences in the Individual Languages (to p. 247)

22 The West Slavic languages, con't: Polish

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 248-264

24 The West Slavic languages, con't: Lusatian (Sorbian, Wendish)

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 265-276

26 West Slavic morphology

Hmwk: read photocopied materials on declensional/conjugational paradigms in the individual West Slavic languages

29 Review for midterm

Hmwk: With your partner, start going through the basic vocabulary charts on pp. 334-349. Explain any differences in the chart that reflect differing features of the three major language groups. (You may not be able to explain all the differences yet, since some of these are language-specific.)

May 1 IN CLASS: Student review session (instructor will be away): with your partner, continue going through the basic vocabulary charts pp. 334-349. You can also check with others in the class, of course.

3 NO CLASS: MIDTERM (on Late Common Slavic and E-W-S dialect features)

Hmwk: With your partner, compare the West Slavic translations of Luke X:30-35 (pp. 350-353). Be prepared to analyse these in class. Of course, you can expect some individual words to vary from language to language, so don't worry about these; focus instead on morphological and phonological differences.

6 Comparison of West Slavic translations of Luke X:30-35; hand out English translation of Ostrovskij excerpt

Hmwk: Compare West Slavic translations of Ostrovskij excerpt, pp. 356-357.

Written asgnt (with partner): how can you tell which one is written in which language?

8 The East Slavic languages: Ukrainian

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 277-285; photocopied materials on Ukrainian declensions/conjugations

10 The East Slavic languages, cont.: Russian

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 285-292; photocopied materials on Russian declensions/conjugations

13 The East Slavic languages, cont.: Byelorussian

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 293-303; photocopied materials on Byelorussian declensions/conjugations

15 East Slavic morphology

Hmwk: With partner, compare Ukrainian, Byelorussian and Russian translations of Luke X:30-35, be prepared to discuss in class pertinent differences among the languages and differences from the West Slavic translations in general

17 Discuss East Slavic readings

Hmwk: With partner, read East Slavic versions of Ostrovskij text (p. 358); be prepared to discuss in class how you can tell which language each is written in

20 The South Slavic Languages, cont.: Bulgarian and Macedonian

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 303-306, 323-326; photocopied morphology materials

22 The South Slavic languages, cont.: South Slavic morphology

Hmwk: With your partner, compare the Bulgarian and Macedonian versions of Luke X:30-35

24 The South Slavic languages, cont.: Slovenian

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 307-322 (don't worry too much about stress); morphology materials

With partner, compare translations of Bulgarian, Macedonian and Slovenian versions of Luke X:30-35; be prepared to discuss the differences in class


29 The South Slavic languages, cont.: Serbocroatian; discuss Bg-Mac-Slov translations

Hmwk: Chap. 9, pp. 326-333; photocopied materials on morphology
With partner, compare Serbian and Croatian versions of Luke X:30-35 with the other South Slavic languages; be prepared to discuss the differences in class

31 Discuss South Slavic readings; look at Ostrovskij translations together in textbook

Hmwk: Mystery language! (Lu XVI:1-10) Written assignment: Identify the text and explain how you figured it out (try this one without your partner)

June 3 More mystery languages: identify these and discuss in class (Lu XVI:1-10)

Hmwk: Identifying and reading non-matching texts (with dictionaries from the library)

5 Discuss and read non-matching texts in class

Hmwk: Prepare questions for final exam review

7 Last day of class: optional term papers due. Review for final

Final: Wed., June 12 (will include identifying the language of various sample texts, and discussing their features)



I thought this course might be of interest to other AATSEELERs, since it's turned out to have the biggest enrollment of all the courses in our dept after first-year Russian -- there are 20 students registered. Of these, four are our M.A. students; the rest are all from outside the dept, the majority being undergraduates from Linguistics. (The Linguistics Dept generously listed it as one of the electives for its senior proseminar.) The majority of the students in the class have never had any exposure to a Slavic language before. To deal with this, I've had the students divide into study groups, each containing one person who already knows a Slavic language to some extent. The group members do the derivations on the homework assignments together, and the "Slavic" partner helps the others learn the Old Cyrillic alphabet, and explains to them grammatical concepts such as the case meanings and the imperfective/perfective opposition. This way we don't have to spend time on these things in class. So far it's been working out very well; there seems to be a particular element of fun for the non-Slavic-speakers in deriving real words in languages they've never studied. In any case, the unexpected enrollment success of this course shows that undergraduate Slavic linguistics courses, particularly ones that offer a survey of all the Slavic languages, can be a major tool for drawing students to the department. We're already seeing a spin-off effect, with some students indicating that they want to sign up for the Old Church Slavonic course next year, and we're hoping that others will go on to take Russian, Polish or Bulgarian in the department. By the way, Russian clearly is not what's drawing the outside students to this course: some have said they've signed up because this is their only opportunity to learn something about specific languages of interest to them (Czech and Serbocroatian were mentioned in particular) which we don't offer regularly as language courses.