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On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth



A variety of names are traditionally used to refer to the literary language as cultivated by the Belarusians and Ukrainians in the late Middle Ages. It is maintained that the emergence of the term prostaja mova/prostyj jazykъ was brought about by the (German) Reformation in the Polish Kingdom and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Based on a comparative analysis of the names of the prostaja mova attested in Ruthenian, Polish, and Lithuanian writings, the author surmises that the coinage and the use of the corresponding terms was primarily determined by the revival of the indigenous “linguistic democratism” dating back to the time of Constantine and Methodius.
Studia Slavica Hung. 51/1–2 (2006) 97–121
DOI: 10.1556/SSlav.51.2006.1-2.6
0039-3363/$ 20.00 © 2006 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova
in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
Pace University, 41 Park Row, New York City, NY 10038, USA
(Received: 2 December 2005; accepted: 12 December 2005)
Abstract: A variety of names are traditionally used to refer to the literary language as
cultivated by the Belarusians and Ukrainians in the late Middle Ages. It is maintained that the
emergence of the term prostaja mova/prostyj jazykъ was brought about by the (German) Re-
formation in the Polish Kingdom and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Based on a comparative
analysis of the names of the prostaja mova attested in Ruthenian, Polish, and Lithuanian writ-
ings, the author surmises that the coinage and the use of the corresponding terms was primari-
ly determined by the revival of the indigenous “linguistic democratism” dating back to the
time of Constantine and Methodius.
Keywords: the history of Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian; Ruthenian, prostaja mova,
rusьkij jazykъ, slavenskij jazykъ; lingua rustica, die Gemeine Sprache; mowa prosta, język
prosty; the Polish Kingdom, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Prussia; “linguistic democratism”
of Constantine and Methodius
1. The name prostaja mova: problems of interpretation
It has been maintained that problems in the interpretation of the prostaja
mova (Ruthenian), used in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (hereafter, GDL) and
the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (hereafter, PLC) in the late Middle Ages,
are largely determined by a variety of names which are applied in reference to
this language (G
UMECKAJA 1965; GARZANITI 1999: 169; MOSER 2002: 223). With-
out even trying to indicate all pitfalls facing the specialist in this field, I would
prefer instead to concentrate on an old view of the origin of the above term,
which, although largely overshadowed by new hypotheses and suggestions, may
shed light on some long-running controversies around the name(s) of the vernac-
ular used by Ukrainians and Belarusians in the late Middle Ages.
Remarkably, Belarusian and Ukrainian scholars prefer assessing the name
prostaja mova through the prism of its ethno-linguistic attribution, thereby iden-
tifying this language either with Middle Belarusian or Ukrainian (P
LJUŠČ 1971:
98 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
33–34; RUSANIVS´KYJ 2001: 64f.; cf. ANIČENKA 1969: 11–17). The most straight-
forward position has recently been revived by S
VJAŽYNSKI (2001; 2003) who iden-
tified the prostaja mova with the Middle Belarusian literary language (Bel. stara-
belaruskaja litaraturna-pis´movaja mova) (Ž
URAǓSKI 1967: 239; ŠAKUN 1994:
531; B
EDNARCZUK 1994: 114); moreover, he refuted the existence of the “Slavic
chancery language” (Lith. kanceliarinė slavų kalba), first postulated by S
(1935) and subsequently propounded by Lithuanian linguists (Z
133f.). For Svjažynski, the latter name seems most unacceptable (cf. J
1996: 4), perhaps because it hinders peeling off the Ukrainian element in the East
Slavic chancery language, which was most likely influenced by the vernacular of
the inhabitants of the Volhynja region (Luc´k being the second capital of Vytau-
tas in the later 14th–early 15th c.
The validity of these terms appears vulnerable if approached from the view-
point of the history of literature(s) and literary language(s), on the one hand, and
from the viewpoint of the history of spoken language(s), on the other (cf. S
VELOV 1974: 146). To begin with, functions of “the Slavic chancery language” are
likely to be more stylistically diversified, since it was subsequently even in-
troduced into learned literature, in particular in theological texts (OHIJENKO 1995:
103–111). The term “Middle Belarusian” also generates confusion, inasmuch as
the ratio of Belarusian elements is known to be changing in the literary language
over time, which was different from the spoken language(s) used in the Bela-
rusian and Ukrainian ethnic territories (D
INI 1997: 280). To draw an analogy with
Ukrainian of the Middle period, which is conventionally called in Ukrainian
linguistics staroukrajins´ka literturna mova of the 14th to the 18th c. (RUSANIV-
S´KYJ 2000: 593), neither Middle Ukrainian nor Middle Belarusian records can be
taken for granted as evidence of two separate languages (S
HEVELOV 1979: 571).
Aside from some early Belarusianisms, and a sizable number of Church Slavonic
and Polish components, as attested throughout the whole period, and the Russian
admixture, which appeared in its final decades, text written in the prostaja mova
might reflect the vernacular koiné. The latter was likely to be based on a specific,
in particular transitional dialect, or a deliberate (and sometimes distorted by ex-
aggeration) mixture of dialects. Yet in the view of two literary languages, Church
Slavonic and Ruthenian (another name for prostaja mova), used in Ukraine in
that time, one can hardly expect the written evidence to represent facts of the
spoken language. All things considered, the identification of the prostaja mova
with exclusively Middle Belarusian or Middle Ukrainian may be used, with a
good deal of abstraction, in the context of the history of Belarusian and Ukrainian
literatures and their records correspondingly.
Vis-à-vis the above reservations, of less controversial and more transparent
derivation appears another name, viz., rusьkij jazykъ (the Rus´ian language),
which clearly bears witness to a territorial, ethnographic and largely religious
unit of East Slavic tribes, although the referential scope of this term might have
undergone some changes, in particular in the sixteenth-century GDL, where this
name referred to the Dvina and Dnieper regions as opposed to the Ukraine,
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 99
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
Volhynja, and Lithuania, including Samogitia (ŽURAŬSKI 1967: 238). This is no
doubt that speakers of the prostaja mova, who lived in the Rus´ian lands in the
GDL, were likely to describe themselves as members of one ethno-linguistic
group, being called, for instance, rusy and rusyny in the Homilary Gospel (1570
or 1580) of Vasilij Tjapinskij [Vasil’ Cjapinski] (DOVNAR-ZAPOL´SKIJ 1899: 1035,
1049). These appellations, derived from the name Rus’, proved viable and are
still retained, along with other analogous ethnonyms, by the Rusyns of the Carpa-
thian region (R
USINKO 2003: 7). Viewed broadly, common ethno-linguistic patri-
mony of the East Slavs is observable in the identification of the prostaja mova
with the rusьkij jazykъ by Francysk Skaryna (Francisk Skorina) in his Bivlija
ruska (1516–1519), published in Prague and Polack, and by Vasyl´ Žuhaj in a
Ukrainian copy (1568) prepared in Jaroslavl’ (A
NIČENKA 1969: 136–141), and by
Vasilij Tjapinskij in Polack. It comes therefore as no surprise to find a synthentic
ethno-linguistic identification of the language of the Rus´, as proposed by
Lavrentij Zyzanij in the forward to his vocabulary: “rečenię […] iz slovenskago
jazyka, na prosty ruskij dięlektъ istolkovany” (N
‘expressions [which are] from the Church Slavonic language into the common
Rus´ian vernacular translated’. A similar identification is found in Meletij Smo-
tryc´kyj’s preface to the second edition of the Homilary Gospel (Vevis, 1616)
(KARSKIJ 1921: 38), where he cites the jazykъ [naš] prostyj ruskij (1×) ‘[our]
common Rus´ian language’ beside the podlějšyj i prostejšyj jazykъ (1×) ‘most
vulgar and common language’, which both are contrasted with a more regular for
this text term, ruskij jazykъ (HG 1616: 21).
Elsewhere (D
ANYLENKO 2006b) I tried to interpret the above synthetic appel-
lation in terms of a functional ethno-linguistic continuum, marked by different
levels of dignitas as represented by the slovenskij/slavenskij jazykъ ‘Slavonic’,
prostaja mova ‘common vernacular’, jazykъ prostyj rusьkij ‘common Rus´ian
language’, barzo prostaja mova i dialektъ ‘very common language and vernacu-
lar’ (Semion Timofĕevič) (Ž
YTECKIJ 1905: 54–55), and the rusьkij jazykъ ‘Rus´ian
language’. I argued that, certain details aside, the rusьkij jazykъ and the prostaja
mova should be treated not as different languages (M
IAKISZEW 2000) or two chro-
nologically consecutive varieties of one language system, shared by Ukrainians
and Belarusians, but rather as stylistically differentiated versions of one secular
language. The point is that the rusьkij jazykъ was continuously used in adminis-
tration, and also sporadically in some literary writings (e. g., tales about Bova
and Tristan, Attila, and Troy). The prostaja mova in its turn was a result of grad-
ual and concurrent systemic adjustments in the vernacular system to match ulti-
mately the emergence of new, especially “learned” genres, e. g., polemical and
theological writings, poetry, grammars, primers, chronicles, and so forth.
I also argued (D
ANYLENKO 2006b) that, without serious reservations, one
could hardly treat the prostaja mova as the “common Middle Ukrainian and
Belarusian literary language” (cf. MOSER 2002: 223). What is not immediately
obvious for this case is that a straightforward postulation of the common
Ukrainian–Belarusian literary language is premised basically on modern ethno-
100 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
linguistic groupings of East Slavic peoples and comprises the concepts “Ukrai-
nian” and “Belarusian” which are known to have emerged only in the 19th c.
Moreover, as has been already mentioned, the above view does not account for
the historical distribution of dialect features, which might have been constantly
changing their pattern, along with loan components, making the prostaja mova
“even more artificial and ugly” (K
ARSKIJ 1962: 259). Within this theory, facts of
the spoken language remain confined to the background, while representing a
particular pattern of dialect features which in different periods might have been
predominantly either Ukrainian or Belarusian.
As evidenced by historical dialect facts, there seem to be solid grounds for
positing the existence of a particular Polissian vernacular standard in the late 14th
c. onward (D
ANYLENKO 2006a; id. 2006b). The latter hypothesis largely fits with
the thesis about “the common literary Middle Ukrainian and Belarusian” based
on the assumption that speakers of the rusьkij jazykъ considered themselves as
“one Rus´ian people” (M
OSER 2002: 224). Although having common ethno-
linguistic heritage, one should note the vagueness of the concept “rus´ian” as
used by Belarusians and Ukrainians in the Late Middle Ages for the purpose
of self-identification. To take the ethnic consciousness of Belarusians as an
example, most arresting appear fluctuations in their self-identification till the
mid-19th c. as exemplified in such (self-)designations as kriviči, viz., descendents
of the (Polack-Smalensk) Kriviči tribe,
tutejshy in the meaning “autochthones”
as opposed to all other peoples (Jews, Poles, Russians, Latvians and so forth),
rusьki in the religious sense (Orthodox) (ULAŠČIK–BYXOVEC 1966: 60), litviny
denoting the Belarusian inhabitants of the (former) GDL (cf. K
hence the appearance of the name litovskij jazyk in the early 19th c. in reference
to the official language used in the Polish–Lithuanian state (OHIJENKO 1930: 235;
cf. D
INI 1997: 280; XARLAMPOVIČ 1914: 105).
To trace the latter coinage, commonly used in the Russian imperial historio-
graphy as a synonym of the term “West Russian”, it would be useful to dwell on
terms found in a well-known entry of pĕtelь ‘cock’ in Pamvo Berynda’s Leksi-
konъ (1627): česki i ruski, kohutъ. volynski, pĕvenь. litovski, petuxъ (N
ERYNDA 1961: 104 These terms are commonly translated as ‘(in) Ruthenian’,
‘(in) Ukrainian’, and ‘(in) Belarusian’ (U
SPENSKIJ 2002: 389), although some
This designation is obviously in tune with the prehistoric distribution of Slavic tribes as
enumerated in the Primary Chronicle (H
YP. 1908: 8), which locates Kriviči somewhere in the basin
of the Upper Volga, Dvina, and Dnieper. Moreover, this term seems to rebut, along with other
linguistic arguments (KRYS´KO 1998), the long-standing theory of the Lechitic origin of Kriviči,
Vjatiči and other north-western East Slavic tribes (Š
AXMATOV 1915: 101–102). According to
Shevelov (Š
ERECH 1953: 88), the well-known dialect differences between the so-called South and
North Kriviči are results of the North Kriviči (of Novgorod) merging with one substratum, and the
South Kriviči (of Smalensk and Polock) with another substratum. Yet, in light of historic de-
signations of Belarusians, in particular that of kriviči, it is useful to adhere to Krys´ko, tracing Old
Novgorodian back to a tribal dialect of the Il’men Slavs who might have had contact with the
original, South Kriviči.
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 101
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
objections can arise, in particular about the spoken basis of the Ruthenian literary
standard (P
UGH 1996: 13). Yet, without going into details of possible objections,
one can agree with N
IMČUK’s (1961: 23) interpretation of the above terminology,
who clearly differentiated between West Ukrainian (ruski), some right-bank
Dnieper dialects, including Volhynian (volynski), and finally Belarusian (litov-
ski). Unique as it may seem, Berynda’s use of the name litovski(j) is corroborated
by another example, dating to the late 17th c., as encountered in a collection of
poems compiled by Klymentij Zinovijiv somewhere in Southern Černihiv or
Northern Poltava region: O tesljax, abo tež o plotnika(x) po mosko(v)ski(i): a o
deilida(x) po lito(v)ski(i) (Č
EPIHA–KZ 1971: 135). NEPOKUPNYJ (1971: 57) argued
that in this passage the adverb po litovski is used in the same meaning, ‘(in)
Belarusian’, as in Berynda’s entry. Apart from this derivational similarity, of
utmost interest here is also a strange form, deilidъ. Attested already in the rusьkij
jazykъ at the Princely Chancery in the early 16th c., the meaning of this word,
dojlidъ, however, is not explained by T
YMČENKO (1930: 761). Yet, premised
on his examples and the above citation from Zinovijiv, it is most likely ‘car-
To be pedantic on the distributional ground outlined already by Nimčuk,
there is limited space, if any, for the rusьkij jazykъ/prostaja mova/prostyj jazykъ
as the “common [Rus. obščij] Middle Ukrainian and Belarusian literary lan-
guage”, which is likely to be a product of modern research abstraction. I would
cite, in this respect, Rusanivs´kyj (2001: 61), according to whom, only the
chancery language (the rusьkij jazykъ) can be regarded as a common language of
Ukrainians and Belarusians, thus belonging to the history of the literary lan-
guages of both peoples. But to heavily outweigh this quibble, one had better per-
ceive the above commonness primarily in terms of common territories, religion
with the same church language as opposed to the same secular vernacular, finally
common interests and common enemies (cf. S
HEVELOV 1974: 146).
In Western writings, the term prostaja mova is conventionally translated as
Ruthenian, while pre-modern Ukrainian- and Belarusian-speaking territories are
called sometimes Ruthenia (G
OLDBLATT 1984: 139; see MARTEL 1938). The first
writer who started to consistently use the form Ruthen- for the Rus’ was a Polish
chronicler, Gallus Anonymus, of French origin. Since he is known to write in the
early 12th c., Gallus is likely to have based his choice on the learned forms
Ruten- (Rutenorum rex) as first attested in the Annales Augustani under the year
1089 and Ruthen- (Ruthenorum) which appears as early as in the Annalista Saxo
(ca. 1139), although both originated from the Gallic tribal name in Julius Cae-
sar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico, viz., Ruten (P
2004: 16). The form Ruthen-, which in the late Middle Ages denoted East Slavs
as opposed to all other Slavs and the rest of the world, only by the 16th c. began
to refer to Ukrainians and Belarusians in contradistinction to Moscovitae (U
GAUN 1969: 134–135). All in all, the above opposition within the East Slavdom is
retained today in Western scholarship, as well as in literary traditions of Slavia
romana and partly of Slavia orthodoxa in the Ukrainian–Belarusian territories
102 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
exposed to the influence of the sixteenth-century Western European intellectual
revival (P
ICCHIO 1984: 10).
Thus, while being deeply rooted in Western scholarly tradition, the learned
form Ruthenian has fewer connotations as compared with the names rusьkij
jazykъ and, in particular, prostaja mova which seems to have been introduced
somewhat later in the confines of Slavia orthodoxa. At any rate, in view of the
purely Western rationale of the form Ruthenian, one wonders whether it is
reasonable to introduce this derivative into East Slavic scholarship, especially in
the transliterated form rutenskij jazyk (I
VANOV 2005: 100–101). Used in reference
to both rusьkij jazykъ and prostaja mova, as has been practiced now and then in
Western scholarly tradition (S
TRUMIŃSKI 1984: 20–26), the rutenskij jazyk could
hardly compete with indigenous terms, Rus. russkij/prostoj, Ukr. rus’kyj/prostyj,
in East Slavic scholarship. Needless to say, the above-transliterated form is not
synonymous with the outdated term zapadnorusskij
in some present-day Rus-
sian-language publications (cf. I
23) prefers speaking about a particular hybrid, “the West-Russian-Lithuanian
version” (Rus. zapadnorussko-litovskij variant), which, according to him, was
used equally by Ruthenians and Lithuanians. Clearly, this use differs from the
long-running term litovsko-russkij jazyk referring to what is designated by the
term rusьkij jazykъ (O
HIJENKO 1930: 235).
Overall, all the above terms, denoting a secular East Slavic language as
practiced in the GDL and the PLC in the late Middle Ages, fall into two groups.
The first comprises self-designations of the type rusьkij jazykъ and prostaja mo-
va or their combinations like prosty ruskij dięlektъ (Lavrentij Zyzanij) (N
IZANIJ 1964: 23), prostaja mova i dialektъ (Semion Timofĕevič) (ŽITECKIJ 1905:
54–55) and jazykъ prostyj ruskij (Meletij Smotryc´kyj). The second group in-
cludes the learned form Ruthenian and artificially construed concepts of the type
“the Slavic chancery language”, “Middle Belarusian” or “Middle Ukrainian”, and
finally the term “zapadnorusskij jazyk (
the rutenskij jazyk).
The first group can be expanded by another rather interesting learned form,
The term “West Russian”, coined in the Russian historiography in the 19th c., looks obso-
lete and, as a geographical identification of Belarusian as a dialect of Great Russian, barely fits the
modern paradigm of East Slavic dialect groupings (Ž
URAǓSKI 1967: 239; WEXLER 1977: 59; cf.
ERECH 1953: 91–93). This tradition (cf. KARSKIJ 1962), although in a modified version, is observ-
able in G
UMECKAJA (1965), who endorsed the existence of “the common Belarusian-Ukrainian
written literary language”, viz., West Russian, to refer to those texts which could hardly be identi-
fied either as Ukrainian or Belarusian proper. A similar compromising stance is found in R
S´KYJ (2000). To his mind, the terms “West Russian” (Rus. zapadnorusskij jazyk) and “South
Russian” (Rus. južnorusskij jazyk) are “obsolete” and modeled geographically (metropolis vs.
colony). What is more remarkable, he claims that these terms are commonly interchangeable in
special literature with the term “Ukrainian-Belarusian literary language” of the 14th to the 16th c.
which became, in fact, a first stage in the development of Middle Belarusian and Ukrainian. A
similar line of argumentation is found in H
UMECKA (1958) who, most likely under political
pressure in the 1950s, had to retain the Ukrainian equivalent zaxidnorus´ka literaturna mova ‘West
Rus´ian literary language’ to denote a language of those records which demonstrate both Ukrainian
and Belarusian features.
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 103
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
rossijskij, as encountered in seventeenth-century expressions like dialektъ rωssij-
skij written with the omega, the latter clearly demonstrating the Middle Greek
(Byzantine) influence in the derivative base as evidenced in ‘Ñ™óßá in Constan-
tine Porphyrogenitus’s “De administrando imperio” (M
ORAVCSIK–CP 1967: 37:
1.43). Certain derivational details aside, the East Slavic adjective rωssijskij
seemed to denote originally the common (prostyj, pospolityj) Rus´ian (Orthodox)
people, as found, for instance, in the text of the statute of the Orthodox Broth-
erhood in L´viv of 1586 and in the comparative Greek-Slavonic grammar pro-
duced by this Brotherhood in 1591 (S
OLOV´JOV 1957: 149). A similar meaning is
manifest in the expression narodъ rosiskij in Meletij Smotryc´kyj’s preface to the
second edition of the Homilary Gospel (Vevis, 1616) (HG 1616: 21). The only
difference is that the latter adjectival form might have derived from a competing
Middle Greek form, ‘Ñ™ò, also recorded, among other Byzantine texts, in “De ad-
ministrando imperio” (M
ORAVCSIK–CP 1967: 4:1.11) (see MARTEL 1925: 272–273).
As a parallel specification of the underlying meaning, one should note a fully
“autocratic” interpretation of the adjective rωssijskij in Russia, where, already in
the late 16th c., it was associated with the Russian autocratic ruler and his state.
The above process was accompanied by a gradual decline, on the one hand,
of the toponym rus(s)kaja zemlja ‘Rus’ian country’ and Rusija
in the Muscovite
Rus´ and Kyiv, and, on the other, of the toponym Ru, as used in the GDL,
under the influence of the form Rosija. To take the Latin form Rossia, as attested
twice in Bellum Pannonicum of an Italian historian and spy, Pietro Bizzarri
(1525?–1586?), as a first example, this toponym denoted Galicia only, e. g., in
palatinus Rossiae ‘the country of Galicia’ and Rossia et Podolia ‘Galicia and
Podolja’ (BP 1746: 715–716). Another geographical reference is observed in the
late fourteenth-century title of the Metopolitan of Kyiv and, correspondingly, in
the name of the Ukrainian lands. Thus, in the preface to the Book of Hours
published in Kyiv in 1616, the Hieromonach of the Kyiv Cave Monastery,
Zaxarija Kopystens´kyj, wrote “otъ narochityxъ mestъ v Rωssii Kiiovskixъ”, that
is, ‘[…] from the mentioned places in Kyiv, in Rossia’ (T
ITOV 1924: 6). Finally,
there is a remarkable Middle Greek compound, Ëéôâïñùóßá, literally Litvo-
rosija or Lithuanian Rosia, which is attested in a charter of 1397, addressed by
the Patriarch of Constantinople to Jagailo (1348–1434), Grand Duke of Lithuania
and King of Poland (RIB 1908: appendix: 298).
Interestingly enough, ‘Rus´ian’, with a new meaning designating a specific
language in reference to the East Slavic literary language in the GDL, also
emerged in the late 16th c. and also in the Ruthenian lands. To give the earliest
For a comprehensive survey of the corresponding derivative forms in Byzantine, German-
Latin and Islamic texts, see DANYLENKO 2004.
The form Rusija seems to be first attested as early as 1270 in a letter of the Bulgarian
Despot Jakov Svjatoslav (1246–1272) to the Metropolitan of Kyiv, Kirill, where this form is used
concurrently with a more traditional toponym, ruskaja zemlja (S
REZNEVSKIJ 1879: 12–13).
Preserved in Serbian and Bulgarian, this form was, nevertheless, dropped in Russian in the mid-
17th c. (S
OLOVJOV 1957: 149).
104 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
example, the meaning is discernable in the writing (1592) of the Kyivan Ortho-
dox Metropolitan Myxajlo Rahoza who labeled the language slovenskij rosyjskij.
Only in the 18th c., in the eastern Ukraine under the political and ecclesiastical
control of Moscow, the adjective slovenoros[s]ijskij began to mean a common
redaction of Slavonic for all East Slavs (STRUMIŃSKI 1984: 18). Still in the late
16th–early 17th c. a new version of Church Slavonic, designed originally for the
Orthodox Slavs (Ruthenians) in the GDL, was known as slavenskij/slovenskij
jazykъ (T
ITOV 1924: 22, 74, 251), as found in the titles of Lavrentij Zyzanij’s
Hrammatika slovenska (Vil´na, 1596) and Meletij Smotryc´kyj’s Hrammatiki
Slavenskię pravilnoe sintagma (Vevis, 1618), cf. also slovenskaja hrammatika
‘Slavonic grammar’ in Ivan Vyšens´kyj’s writings (V
YŠENSKIJ 1955: 175). Final-
ly, a more Hellenistic-like adjectival form occurs in the title of Pamvo Berynda’s
Leksikonъ slavenorωsskij (1627), written with the omega and derived with the
help of the native suffix -sk from the Middle Greek stem ‘Ñ™ò.
Keeping in mind the type of bilingualism obtained by that time in the
Ruthenian society, exemplified by the jazykъ slavenskij as opposed to the pro-
staja mova (U
SPENSKIJ 2002: 388, 397), one can legitimately assume that the form
rossijskij/rωssijskij (jazykъ/dialektъ) could have been used in its generic (ethno-
linguistic) meaning. First, this assumption fits well into the context of the overall
glorification of Slavonic-Rhossic (slavenorωsskij), which was placed in that time
on an equal footing with Greek (hreckij, ellinskij, ellinohrečeskij).
Second, there
is an obvious parallel with the name rusьkij jazykъ, which is known to designate
in the late 16th c. several languages, namely, Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian
recension, the spoken (Rus´ian) language and even the prostaja mova (B
ILGER 2005: 70, fn 9; cf. BOLEK 1983: 27–28). Remarkably, the above triad
seems to be reflected in a linguistic system outlined by Ivan Uževyč in his
Gramatyka slovenskaja (1643) (BILODID–KUDRYC´KYJ 1970); he distinguished
herein between lingua sacra sclavonica, lingua popularis and lingua sclavonica,
although the last term could also refer to the rusьkij jazykъ. In the Rozmova/
Besěda, a translation of the best-selling Berlaimont-Colloquia in the 17th c., Ivan
Uževyč contrasted the term lingua popularis, viz., the prostaja mova, and lingua
sacra, viz., Church Slavonic (B
In this respect, of interest is a later expression found in Pamvo Berynda’s
preface to the Triodь Postnaja (Triodion) (Kyiv, 1627), which was translated
from Nikifor Kalista’s Synaksarion into the rωssijskaja besĕda obščaja by
Tarasij Zemka in the time of his study in Ostroh (T
ITOV 1924: 178). In Ruthenian,
the above expression may be glossed as prosta(ja) rusьka(ja) mova. A somewhat
In the dedication to Prince Stefan Svjatopolk Četvertynskyj, as found in one copy of John
Chrysostom’s [Ioannъ Zlatoustъ] Homilies (Kyiv, 1623), Zaxarija Kopystens’kyj compared the
system of Slavonic with Greek, ranking both languages higher than Latin (S
TRUMIŃSKI 1984: 17):
“[…] maje(t) bovĕm’ językъ slavenskij takovuju v cobĕ silu i zacnostь, že języku hreckomu jakoby
prior(d)ne cъhlasujetъ, vlastnosti jeho cъčinęetsę”, that is, ‘[…] because the Slavonic language has
such a power and dignity that it agrees with the nature of Greek, and is in tune with its property
ITOV 1924: 74).
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 105
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
anachronistic expression for Ruthenian traditional terminology, the rωssijskaja
besĕda obščaja, was modeled upon the Greek glottonym ëüãïò êïéíi ãëþóóf,
thus going in step with the analogous sixteenth-century translation, obštimъ
jazykomъ, in the Bulgarian damaskinari. The latter form apparently antedated the
appearance of the expression na prostomь jezikomь (1755) through, most likely,
the contamination of prostym skazuvanїem and of obštimъ jezikomъ, cf. also
tlъkuvanїe ot elinъski ezikъ na prostoj besedia translation from Greek into the
common vernacular’ (D
ELL’AGATA 1984: 158–159). All this allowed MOSER
(2002: 225) to refute rightly any translation of the above Greek name into
Ruthenian as prostaja mova. According to him, this term could hardly have been
patterned on the learned Latin designation lingua rustica (P
ICCHIO 1984: 21; see
SPENSKIJ 2002: 388, 407), since the prostaja mova ‘common vernacular’ fails to
parallel the meanings ‘(related) to the countryside’, ‘local’ and ‘people’s, popu-
lar’ (Rus. narodnyj) (O
HIJENKO 1930: 135).
Among the foregoing, the most remarkable appears the term prostaja mova.
Stripped of any ethnic connotation, its uniqueness lies in a contradiction between
its use as a literary language (“a Ruthenian vernacular standard”, according to
Goldtblatt), and the underlying meaning of the adjective prostъ/prostyj ‘common,
simple, unsophisticated (style)’ (U
SPENSKIJ 2002: 388f.), which is in its turn
derivative from two interrelated meanings ‘common’ and ‘secular’ (S
1895: 1583–1584).
With an eye to resolving that controversy, M
OSER (2002: 225–226) postu-
lated a non-indigenous basis for prostaja mova, a term as being modeled on the
German expression die gemeine (deutsche) Sprache ‘the common German lan-
guage’, attested as early as 1384 in writings of an Austrian literate, Leopold
Steinreuter, and used subsequently during the Reformation. Apart from some
secondary meanings, the German adjective gemein coincides, according to M
(ib.), with Ruthenian prostyj, both having the meaning ‘common; simple’. To
prove the alleged parallelism, the author cited the above-mentioned adjectives as
found in the titles of Jan Seclucian’s Katechizmy tekst prosti dla prostego ludu.
wkrolewczu […] (Königsberg, 1545) and Martynas Mažvydas’s Catechismusa
prasty szadei […] (Königsberg, 1547), which was in fact a translation of this
Polish Catechism (see S
TANG 1929: 179). Thus, MOSER (2002, 226) concluded
that the German expression die gemeine Sprache
had in fact been an ultimate
source for the borrowing of the Ruthenian name prostaja mova.
2. Mowa prosta in the Polish Kingdom
The above hypothesis is rooted in the scholarly tradition (Žytec’kyj, Vladi-
mirov, Peretc), dealing primarily with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation
Cf. the title of Martin Luther’s Enchiridion of 1529: Der kleine Catechismus für die gemei-
ne Pfarrherr und Prediger, that is, ‘The Small Catechism for the Common Pastors and Preachers’
106 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
discussion about the admissible use of the vulgar tongue in the Polish Kingdom,
in particular, in the Ruthenian lands. One can cite here most interesting expres-
sions as found in Gregorz Knapski’s Thesaurus polonolatinograecus (Crakow,
1621) under the lexical entry “mowa”: mowa gruba, prosta, pospolita, stilus
rudis, } ëüãïò Dêïóìïò, räéùôéê{ò (KLEMENSIEWICZ 1974: 353, 354), with the
Polish term mowa prosta which is remarkably reminiscent of the Ruthenian term
prosta(ja) mova. Moreover, in view of the similarity in names, it is even tempting
to parallel the MPol. mowa prosta with the so-called mowa prosta (or język
tutejszy), which is basically an uncodified Belarusian vernacular spoken in the
border region of contemporary Belarus’, Lithuanian, and Latvia (W
IEMER 2003).
Yet both chronologically and structurally, the two identical names are different in
their relation to the prostaja mova which denoted a vernacular koiné as cultivated
by representatives of different East Slavic speech communities.
Chronologically, the Polish adjective prosty as used in similar expressions,
might have antedated the emergence of the Ruthenian counterpart, which seems
to speak indirectly for the borrowing of the latter from Polish. At first sight,
several arguments may be adduced in favor of this claim, which, nevertheless,
stands on shaky grounds. To start with, first attestations of the Polish adjective
prosty in the meaning ‘simplex, facilis, perspicus’ are found in the Kazania
Gnieźnieńskie extant from the late 14th c., e. g., proste pyszmo ‘simple writing
and prosty vyklath ewangely szwyanthy ‘simple language of the Holy Gospel’
(SSP 1973–1977: 68), where prosty seems to allude to the embryonic literary
dignity of the local vulgar tongue as opposed to Latin and also to German and
Strikingly enough, until the 16th c. there was in the Polish Kingdom no
major attempt to affirm the literary dignity of Polish, although the language was
used in different intellectual milieus, especially in fifteenth-century Cracow, and
was accepted in the Polish Church for pastoral use. The level of Latinization of
Polish culture was so high that it seems impossible to elevate the local vernacular
to the dignity of an apostolic and sacral language. In addition, the supranational
character of Latin was the expression of a political ideal aiming at the creation of
a new Empire which would include, among other peoples, the whole of Slavia
orthodoxa (P
ICCHIO 1984: 35). Only in the late 16thearly 17th c., with the col-
lapse of the political system of what was called by Picchio (ib.) Latinitas polona
and the emergence of national linguistic trends within the Rzecz Pospolita, the
dignity of Latin was replaced by the local vernacular without any direct struggle
AMCZARZ 1972: 279284). The latter fact was obviously inconceivable for the
case of Ruthenian developing at a time of the general decline of the humanistic
ideal of tolerance and gentrification of the elite. Consequently, the creation of
“political Poles” was compensated by the retention of minor national identities,
in particular, Ruthenianness. The latter is notoriously exemplified by a Catholic
priest and publicist, Stanisław Orzechowski (Orichevius Ruthenus, 1513–1566),
a Ukrainian by birth, who authored a well-known formula: “gente Ruthenus,
natione Polonus sum” (F
RICK 1994: 213, 215216).
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 107
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
Under new conditions, when the Polish language became the carrier of the
basic spiritual trends of the European Renaissance, the literary dignity of Polish
was promoted by the Protestants. Yet this promotion went on sluggishly, with the
only towering figure of the Calvinist Mikołaj Rej who consistently defended in
his confessional writings the use of Polish, język przyrodzony, while identifying it
with the simple (mother, vulgar) tongue or simple words (proste słowa). Quite
remarkable, from this point of view, appears the title of his famous Postilla (Cra-
cow, 1557): Świętych słów a spraw Pańskich […] kronika albo postylla polskim
językiem a prostym wykładem też dla prostaków krótce uczyniona; the native,
Polish language is declared here to be simple and, therefore, intelligible to all
common people.
However, activities of Rej and of some other Protestants and
members of the Catholic establishment were most likely exceptional rather than
typical of the Polish language question, since the new Polish literature in the
vernacular came into being without provoking serious polemics with the sup-
porters of other languages, save, perhaps, of the Ruthenian language. In the case
of the Ruthenian language, however, which differed from the Polish in that the
prostaja mova was not, in fact, a vulgar tongue but a vernacular koine, P
(1926: 7–10) accepted the mediation of Polish Protestantism and Catholicism in
the spreading of the German reformation. He referred in this case to Polish
postylli which, to his mind, might have influenced the content and the language
of Ruthenian Homilary Gospels. Among Polish confessional publications, he
mentioned, in addition to the Calvinist Mikoła Rej’s Postilla, the Catholic Jakub
Wujek’s Postilla (Cracow, 1573), as well as the Dominican Ferus’s Postilla
published in Antwerpen in 1555, who in his turn followed Johannes Faber,
Bishop of Vienna (1530–1541).
All in all, Rej’s linguistic primitivism and his limited coinage of the corre-
sponding term(s), with their possible influence on Ruthenian, can be explained
through the prism of multidimensional relationships between Polish and Ruthe-
nian. To be sure, while debating over somewhat vague terms mowa prosta, język
(wykład) prosty, and the prostaja mova in the time of Reformation and Counter-
Reformation, one should bear in mind the prior impact of Italian Renaissance
Humanism for Polish and even of some earlier discussion of the questione della
lingua for the prostaja mova. In the case of Polish, which, in view of a smooth
transformation of its dignity, has not acquired any regular term covering the
authority of the new Polish literary standard, it would be legitimate to assume
two sources of possible cultural influence. The first source is associated with the
European (Italian) Renaissance, the second with the German Reformation, al-
though Luther was hesitant to demand the exclusive use of the vernacular in the
Mass (F
RICK 1985: 40). Finally, in case of the prostaja mova the overall alien
impact might have been much less than traditionally purported (see § 4).
Basically, similar lines of reasoning were also used by Catholics, e. g. Jakub Wujek, for
whom, however, the strict distinction between the language of the liturgy and the language of the
homily had to be maintained (FRICK 1984: 43).
108 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
3. The vernacular in Lithuania Major and Lithuania Minor
Speaking about the vernacular standard as used in the GDL (Lithuania
Major) and the Duchy of Prussia (Lithuania Minor) (hereafter, DP), Lithuanian
functioned under different conditions in Lithuania and Prussia. In the DP, the
Lithuanian element did not fade, but eventually grew stronger through the
reforms undertaken by the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Albrecht von
Hohenzollern. Advised by Luther, Duke Albrecht dissolved the Teutonic order,
secularized the state, restructured it into the Duchy of Prussia and introduced
Protestantism. This prompted him to favor the preparation and publication of
Protestant books in Prussian and Lithuanian. He also ordered that in Prussia
church sermons for Lithuanians, who enjoyed a privileged position as compared
with the Prussians, be given in Lithuanian (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1998: 227–229). It comes
then as no surprise that a first Lithuanian book, the Calvinist Katekizmas (Cate-
chismusa prasty szadei, makslas skaitima raschta yr giesmes […] ‘Simple words
of the Catechism, the Art [skill] of Reading, and Writing, and Hymns’), was
published in Königsberg (1547) by Martynas Mažvydas from Lithuania Major.
Since the author used for this translation primarily the Polish catechism by
Jan Seklucjan, also published in Königsberg in 1545 (S
TANG 1929: 179), his way
of writing was patterned upon the Polish original. Apart from linguistic traits
characteristic of the South Žemaitian dialect area, from where Mažvydas origi-
nally came (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1988: 173–180), the language of the Katekizmas is some-
what influenced by Latin. In the Latin-language preface, entitled “Pastoribus et
ministries ecclesiarum in Lituania gratiam et pacem” (‘Grace and peace to the
Pastors and Ministers of Churches in Lithuania’), the author criticized the clergy
for their disdain for the lingua vernacula ‘vernacular tongue’, viz., lingua Lithua-
nica nostra ‘our Lithuanian language’ (M
ORD 1971: 6–7). However, Polish interference in the morphology, vocabulary,
and syntax is observable to a much greater extent. Some of the religious termi-
nology, which reveals a “Ruthenian-Belarusian mediation” (D
INI 1997: 282–283),
might have been created by other translators (Abraomas Kulvietis (Culvensis),
Jurgis Zablockis, Stanislavas Rapolionis et al.) whose texts were used by Maž-
vydas. Taken statistically, the vocabulary of the Katekizmas has some bookish
Latinisms, borrowed as a rule via Polish or East Slavic, and a handful of Ger-
manisms, e. g., kunigaikštis ‘prince’, kunigaikštienė and kunigė ‘princess’ bor-
rowed from O(L)Gr. kunigas (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1988: 39–40). There is, however, a
plethora of (East Slavic and Polish) Slavicisms (including borrowings mediated
by Slavic), which constitute almost all non-Lithuanian lexemes in this book
TANG 1929: 180). To show a close resemblance between the Lithuanian trans-
lation and its original, it is helpful to cite the very beginning of the text translated
word for word from the Polish (TOPOROV 1998: 75–76): Catechismusa prasty
szadei del prastu zmaniu o didziaus del suneliu ir scheiminas hukiniku, ‘The
simple words of a catechism for simple people and especially for the sons and
households of householders’ (G
ERULLIS 1923: 17; FORD 1971: 28–29)
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 109
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
Thus, despite the fact that the first Lithuanian book was published in a
Germanized society, where, however, Lithuanian was more widely rooted in the
public life than in the Lithuania itself, the direct German influence in this book is
reduced to nil, in particular in what regards the alleged use of the names Gemein-
sprache, die gemeine Sprache. Moreover, it is noteworthy that Mažvydas, invited
by Duke Albrecht from the GDL (Lithuania Major), did not know German at all
TANG 1929: 180), albeit he might have had a good command of the rusьkij
jazykъ as used in the GDL. Two years after the publication of the Katekizmas, in
his letter of 1549 to Duke Albrecht, the author, who was conceivably highly
versed in his mother tongue, disclosed his complete ignorance of the German
language: “[…] non calleo aliquantulum Germanice. Etsci vero ignorem Ger-
manice tamen quia meam nativam linguam Lituanicam, dico, perfectissime scio”
OPOROV 1998: 43–44; cf. MAŽVYDAS–KATEKIZMAS 1993: 653f.).
Only much
later, after having been appointed pastor in Ragainė (Ger Ragnat) parish, where
he worked until his death in 1563, did he master German so that he was able to
communicate with his German-born wife and publish a small book Forma
krikštymo (1559), which he translated from the original Kirchen Ordnung (1558),
including one hymn composed by Martin Luther (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1988: 44–45).
It would be instructive, in this place, to track down the adjective prãstas in
writings of Mažvydas as compared with other Lithuanian authors of that time,
which will indirectly allow us to determine if this lexeme was used in names
similar to the prostaja mova or die gemeine Sprache. What is remarkable in this
respect is that, semantically, the adjective prãstas was loosely connected with
MHGr. gemein. In the seventeenth-century manuscript German–Lithuanian Dic-
tionary, attributed to Friedrich Prätorius Senior (1624–1695) from the DP, the
word gemein has two translations. The first is ‘mužikkas’ as found in Konstan-
tinas Sirvydas’ Dictionarium trium linguarum (first edition in 1620), cf. MoLith.
mužìkas ‘peasant’, Bel. mužyk (LKŽ 1972: 491). The second meaning is exempli-
fied with the help of two adjectives, paspalitas and prastas (C
LAVIS 1995: 191).
The adjective paspalitas, derived from Pol. pospolity, was commonly used in the
meaning ‘usual, common’, e. g., in Baltramiejus Vilentas’s Enchiridion, a trans-
lation of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism (V
even ‘catholic’ (S
KARDŽIUS 1931: 160). Having produced, by that time, a lot of
derivatives like paspalitvas ‘common’, paspalitva and paspalstva ‘community’
and some others (ib.), this adjective was more likely to occur in the expression
‘common people’ as in Mikalojus Daukša’s Postilla Catholicka (1599): žmones
paspalitos (pl.) (84.31; LKŽ 1973: 519). Interestingly enough, this adjective is
attested only one time in the writings of Mažvydas: paspalita Malda ‘common
Remarkably, the Latin-language introduction was not written by Mažvydas, either; as far as
some hymns are concerned, e. g., “Giesme ape swetasti” which may be juxtaposed with a German
song from Luther’s Geistliche Liede (‘Sacred Songs’), they were translated from Seklucjan’s origi-
nal, primarily from Pyesńy duchowne, a nabożne nowo zebrine y wydane przes Jana Secluciana
(1547). At any rate, none of the three hymns in the Katekizmas was translated directly from Ger-
man, in particular by Mažvydas (S
TANG 1929: 180).
110 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
prayer’ (GERULLIS 1923: 590; URBAS 1996: 273). This may be tentatively related
to a less Polish influence in the DP as compared with the GDL, where the Union
of Lublin (1569) accelerated Polish acculturation of Lithuanian aristocracy.
The adjective prãstas ‘poor, fair; common, simple, regular’ (LKŽ 1976:
549–550), along with numerous nominal and verbal derivatives, is commonly
regarded as a Slavic borrowing (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1987: 140), either from Polish prosty
or Belarusian prosty (S
KARDŽIUS 1931: 176; FRAENKEL 1962: 646); a similar bor-
rowing scenario is also postulated for the Latvian parallel form prasts (K
1992: 77), which is likely to speak of the East Slavic origin of this adjective. In
the works of Mažvydas, this adjective is used 13× in the meaning ‘priprastas’
(‘usual, common’) and 4× in the meaning ‘šiokia diena, ne šventė’ (‘week day,
non-holiday’), e. g., prastosu dienosu ‘ordinary day’ (loc. sg.) (481. 7; U
1996: 300). Among them, there are two well-known examples in collocations
prasty szadei ‘simple words’ (2×) and prastas Textas ‘simple text’ (1×) (1.17,
583.1; U
RBAS 1996: 300), which are related somehow to “simplicia […] verbi
Catechismi” (Mažvydas’s letter of 1551) (M
therefore can bring about an association with the prostaja mova or Polish verna-
cular, called by Gregorz Knapski “mowa prosta” in his Thesaurus polono-
latinograecus (see § 2).
All other uses are also characteristic of more or less set
expressions, which are encountered as clichés in later confessional publications.
The first, most representative collocation is prastas wando (3×), as attested in:
Kriksstas ne esti tektai prastas wando (24.5; U
RBAS 1996: 300), literally, ‘Bap-
tism is not only simple water’.
It is not surprising that the above collocation is repeated only twice in the
so-called Lysius Catechism, Mažasis Katekizmas (1719): Krikßas esti ne prástas
tiktay Wandů ‘Baptism is not only simply water’ (24.5) and again, in the next
page, prástas Wandů ‘simple water’ (25.13) (L
YSIUS–KATEKIZMAS 1993: 168–169,
255). This was a new version of the Lithuanian translation of Martin Luther’s
Small Catechism, specifically designed, under the sponsorship of Heinrich
Johann Lysius, to accommodate Prussian Lithuanians, living in new conditions of
heavy German influence (D
INI 1997, 359; cf. ALEKNAVIČIENĖ 2001). Yet,
remarkably, no mention of vulgar Lithuanian is made in the revised text of the
Mažasis Katekizmas, although Luther himself designed his Catechism for com-
mon priests and preachers (L
UTHER–ENCHIRIDION 1910: 239; see fn. 6).
Finally, to shape a fuller socio-linguistic picture of the Lithuanian-speaking
territories, it is peremptory to briefly dwell on Lithuania Major, where Lithua-
nian, due to the Polonization of the aristocracy, was relegated by the late 16th c.
to the lower class, rural masses who both preserved and continued to develop
their ancient vernacular (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1988: 157–172). Since the authors of the
first Lithuanian books in the GDL belonged to the Polonized upper class, open to
the Reformation (mostly Calvinism), their publications were primarily transla-
Today, the idea of ‘common, simple language’ is associated in the Lithuanian language, first
of all, with a poor command of the language: Jis prastaĩ kalba lietuviškai ‘he speaks Lithuanian
poorly’ (LKŽ 1976: 549).
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 111
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
tions from Polish, sometimes not only transferring lexical items, but also imi-
tating the syntax (see D
ANYLENKO 2005: 155–158).
Because of the threat of the Reformation, mediated in particular by the
Polish language, more radical in their argumentation in favor of the propa-
gandistic use of the vernacular were Catholics. Among them, one can name
Mikalojus Daukša, the canon of the Episcopal College of the Samogitian diocese
INKEVIČIUS 1988: 173–180), who was the most prominent partisan of the written
language of the former Duchy of Samogitia. He published two books, the
Katekizmas (1595), a translation of Jacob Ledesma’s Catechism, and the Postilla
Catholicka (1599), a translation of Jakub Wujeks Postilla Catholicka Mnieysza,
published in Cracow (1590) (L
OCHER 1972: 178, 181). Interestingly enough, in
his Katekizmas (D
AUKŠA–KATEKIZMAS 1995: 711), there is no attestation yet of the
adjective prãstas which may be somehow associated with the status of Lithua-
nian in the Polish–Lithuanian society.
However in the Polish-language “Preface
unto the benevolent reader” to his Postilė Daukša condemns the neglect and
rejection of own (Lithuanian) vernacular, caused by the domination of Polish;
this is why he urges that Lithuanian be introduced into everyday life in the
church, state and society, because “[j]ęzyk iest spolnym związkiem miłości,
matką iedności, oycem społeczności, państhw strożem” (“The language is a com-
mon bond of love, mother of unity, father of community, and a defender of the
country”). It is important to note for our case that, throughout the preface, he
consistently calls this language either język (swój) własny or język ojczysty, with-
out any derivative form from prosty (P
ALIONIS–DAUKŠA 2000: 42, 43, 45), al-
though the lexeme prãstas is encountered more than 10× in different lexical
environments in the main text of his Postilė (K
UDZINOWSKI 1977: 142).
In this regard, of utmost importance are works of another prominent repre-
sentative of Lithuania Major, Konstantinas Sirvydas, an ardent Jesuit who work-
ed hard on the normalization and the popularization of the eastern variant of the
written language as used in the center of the GDL, in Vilnius. From the outset of
the Polish–Lithuanian Union, this language was most exposed to Polish inter-
ference and subsequently underwent drastic changes due to Polish acculturation,
accompanied by the influx of newcomers from the Slavic-speaking territories.
All this had a disastrous effect on its dialect basis and the status of this literary
language, which subsequently demised in the early 18th c. (Z
253–255). As if foreseeing the future disaster of the Vilnius vernacular, Sirvydas
hastened to record its norm in his Dictionarium trium linguarum (‘A Dictionary
of Three Languages [Polish–Lithuanian–Latin]’) (first edition in 1620) and Cla-
The only example of this adjective is found in the expression […] idąnt manús prastoimus
(acc. pl.) ‘coming empty-handed’ (D
AUKŠA–KATEKIZMAS 1995: 189.13) with the accusative case
which may be identified with the so-called “Greek accusative” as attested in Latin and other Indo-
European languages, in particular Slavic and Baltic (H
AUDRY 1977: 283). However, for our case, of
utmost importance is not the archaic construction with the accusative similar to the “Greek accu-
sative”, but the idiomatic realization of the adjective ‘simple’ as ‘empty’.
112 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
vis linguae Lithuanicae (‘A Key to the Lithuanian Language Grammar’) (pur-
portedly in 1630, although there is no extant copy) (S
Yet most valuable material for our analysis can be found in Sirvydas’s two-
volume Punktai sakymų (‘Gospel Points’) (PS), which was published in 1629
(vol. I) and 1644 (vol. II, posthumously prepared for the publication by Jonas
Jaknavičius). A synopsis of the author’s sermons, the book was originally written
in the eastern variant of Lithuanian and subsequently translated into Polish, thus
presenting a more or less normalized native usage against the background of
Polish (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1988: 254–256). A comparative survey of the meanings of the
adjective prãstas in this work will allow me to decide whether the unique
attestation of this adjective in the title of Mažvydas’s Katekizmas has any validity
for the history of “Prussian Lithuanian”, the “Samogitian language”, and the
eastern (Vilnius) variant of the literary Lithuanian language (Z
On the whole, there are six examples of the adjective prãstas which are the
following in the order of their attestation (see S
Lithuanian text Polish text Translation
Nes kita ira nusidet wa-
gisty daykto prasto, o ki-
ta nusidet wagisty daykto
Diewuy paszwisto (PS, I,
Abowiem insza iest zgrzebyć
kradzieża rzeczy prostey, a
insza zgrzebyć kradzieża rze-
czy Bogu poświeconey (PS, I,
‘Because it is one thing to
commit the thievery of an
ordinary thing, but it is an-
other thing to commit a
thievery of a thing, dedi-
cated to God’
[…] ne wiena prasta
žmona ir pawargusi su-
naus ne turetu (PS, I,
[…] żadna prosta niewiasta y
uboga synaby nie miała (PS,
I, 167.30–168.1–2)
‘[…] no simple and poor
woman would have a son’
[…] nereykia skirt nu-
sideimu ing dalas, kaip
kartais prastieji daro
(PS, I, 247.21–24)
[…] nie trzeba dzielić grze-
chów na części, jako czasem
prości czynią (PS, I, 247.22–
‘One should not divide
sins into parts, as some-
times the common people
Wel buwo ne iz didžiu
giminiu, ney auksztu na-
mu, bet prasti leti pokim
swieto (PS, I, 298.25–
Ktemu byli nie z wielkich
familiy ani wysokich domow
ale prości podli w świata (PS,
I, 298.24–28)
‘Besides, they were not of
the great families nor of
the noble houses, but
simple ordinary people in
the eyes of the world’
[…] ir beweliia prastu
duonu ir sausu krimst
(PS, II, 85.2–4)
[…] y wolą prosty y suchy
chleb gryść (PS, II, 85.2–3)
‘[…] and they wish to
gnaw only simple and stale
6. Er didis žmogus? er pra-
stas? (PS, II, 196.23–24)
Czy to wielki człowiek? czy
prosty? (PS, II, 196.23–25)
‘Is this a great man or
simple ?’
While demonstrating a semantic parallelism with the Polish adjective prosty
(SSP 1973–1977: 68), all the above examples fall roughly into two groups,
covering correspondingly two basic meanings of the adjective prãstas, viz.,
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 113
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
‘simplex, communis’ (1 and 5) and ‘simplex, modestus, qui nulla re excellit’
(2, 3, 4, 6); yet some semantic fluctuations are possible, as in sentence 4, where
the adjective can be interpreted in a twofold manner. However, the most remark-
able thing is that, save for the two regular meanings, there is not a single example
of the adjective prãstas in the meaning ‘facilis, perspicius’ in reference to the
(Lithuanian) vernacular, thus stressing its intelligibility to all common people.
Altogether, there are no solid grounds for drawing a parallel between the
Lutherian term Gemeinsprache, the Ruthenian prostaja mova, let alone the Polish
język (wykład) prosty, with the Lithuanian expression prasty szadei. Attested
reliably only once in a translation from Polish, this expression has never acquired
a terminological status, comparable to that of the prostaja mova, thus remaining
in the periphery of the Lithuanian language question. It is not surprising since the
socio-linguistic situation in Lithuania was radically different from that in the
Ruthenian lands. As F
RICK (1994: 213) pointed out, the process of acculturation
was clearly smoother for the Lithuanians who did not have a radical confessional
difference from the dominant culture in Polish–Lithuanian society. Speaking in
linguistic terms, as the Lithuanians became Polonized and Catholicized, they
learned an entirely new language. Moreover, this language might have been
perceived by the majority of the Lithuanian élite as an important vehicle for
strengthening the political Union of two states, thus placing Polish within a
hierarchic system of other rhetorical and linguistic norms represented by the
vernacular, Latin, and (in the case of Lithuania Minor) German.
In the Ruthenian lands, on the contrary, in addition to confessional differ-
ences, the Ruthenians learned a new alphabet, but spoke a vernacular related to
the new, Polish language and could thus be perceived as speaking a social variant
of the better-positioned Polish language (F
RICK 1994: 213). As Ruthenians
became more and more linguistically, culturally and politically Polonized, the
potential for tensions became greater. Clearly, there was no such potential in the
Lithuanian society, which may tentatively explain the lack of extensive polemics
about the rights of the Lithuanian language as compared with the Ruthenian
writings. Yet one can hardly adduce persuasive arguments in favor of the alien
nature of the name prostaja mova rather than of its old indigenous tradition,
sprung up, most likely, in the time of the Cyrillo-Methodian mission.
4. The prostaja mova – Ruthenian or “Lutheran”?
To resolve the above conundrum, it is expedient to investigate the emer-
gence of the prostaja mova in the context of Constantine and Methodius’s
linguistic program, which, according to SHEVELOV (1988–1989: 596), was unusual
enough in the ninth-century Byzantium and even far beyond, in all of Christian
Europe. The point is that the brothers considered the local vernacular not simply
as a means, e. g., in translating some prayers and the Gospel, but as a program for
employing Slavic as a missionary and a liturgical language at the cost of Greek
and Latin.
114 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
Vis-à-vis this unprecedented “linguistic democratism” of Constantine and
Methodius, it is interesting to note some arresting examples of the adjective
prostъ as used in Vita Constantini (VC) (LAVROV–VC 1930) and Vita Methodii
(VM) (L
AVROV–VM 1930) (see DVORNÍK 1933: 339–343). In these texts, the ad-
jective occurs in the expressions prosta čadь (L
AVROV–VM 1930: 5, 72; see LLP
1967–1973: 382) or neknižnaa čędь (L
AVROV–VC 1930: 10, 21),
as opposed to
oumnaę čadь i knižna (L
AVROV–VC 1930: 6, 8). A detailed analysis of the mean-
ing of prost- in Old Church Slavonic aside (cf. S
HEVELOV 1988–1989: 603–604),
it is clear that the adjective prostъ in both Vitae is fairly synonymous with
neknižnaa and antonymous to oumnaę and knižna. There are six meanings of this
adjective as glossed in the LLP (1973–1982: 382–383): (1) ‘simplex, rusticus’
(‘unsophisticated’), (2) ‘purus, lucidus’ (‘sincere’), (3) ‘profanus’ (‘usual’),
(4) ‘idiota’ (‘uneducted’), (5) ‘rectus’ (‘straight’), and (6) ‘remitti’ (‘free of
Meanings (2) and (5), and partially meaning (6), seem basically to
be lost. As S
HEVELOV (1988–1989: 603) assumed, meaning (4) is likely to be a Slav-
ic innovation, since it is persistently used along with meanings (1) and (2) in VM
and indirectly, through synonyms, also in VC. Remarkably, meaning (4) is re-
tained in the Lithuanian prãstas, as found in F
RAENKEL (1962: 646) and examples
2, 3, 4, and 6 excerpted from Sirvydas’s Punktai sakymų (see § 3), the most
representative text from the point of view of the usage of prãstas. Moreover,
meanings (4), (1), and (2), which as a whole agrees with Shevelov’s thesis about
the brothers’ “linguistic democratism”, proved to be historically most viable
since they are found in most Slavic languages, first and foremost in Ukrainian.
The question arises as to the parallelism in the semantic spectrum of OCS
prostъ and MUkr. prostyj. Is this a common patrimony or a result of the specific
development of the adjective prostyj in the “glottonymic meaning” under the
influence of Lutheran Reformation as postulated by Moser? The linguistic
material prompts us to opt for the latter possibility. To begin with, the semantic
amplitude of prostyj in the name prostaja mo(l)va or prostyj jazykъ
1967: 238) is basically identical with that for the Cyrillo-Methodian period, but
the main meanings now activated were (1) and (4) (S
HEVELOV 1988–1989: 618).
What was new in the occurrence of the adjective prostyj with the noun jazykъ?
This collocation was dubious in the time of VC and VM, since the noun jazykъ
was primarily used in the meaning ‘people’. This is why, in order to avoid
As SHEVELOV (1988–1989: 600–601) rightly noted, these characterizations of either the
Moravian or the Khazar flock were by no means derogatory. There is, however, a rather similar
expression, groub(aja) čadь (L
AVROV–VM 1930: 9, 75), which, however, conveys a derogatory
attitude toward German clerical adversaries. Speaking about the noun čadь, its meaning in VC and
VM as ‘people’ (S
HEVELOV 1988–1989: 605), although the etymological meaning was ‘children’
(SREZNEVSKIJ 1912: 1469).
To maintain the argumentation of Shevelov as a whole, in particular in terms of its
chronological order, we keep numbers of the meanings as proposed by the author, albeit the LLP
(382–383) glosses them in a somewhat different order: (1) ‘simplex, rusticus’, (2)purus, lucidus’,
(3) ‘profanus’, (4) ‘idiota’, (5) ‘remitti’, and (6) ‘rectus’, which in no way effects our own line of
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 115
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
possible ambiguity of the word jazykъ, the author of CV made use of some other
lexemes, e. g., glagolati besĕdoju to speak a language’ (L
AVROV–VC 1930: 11,
12) next to glagolati jazyky ‘to speak languages’ (L
AVROV–CV 1930: 31); rečь
(ib.: 11) with a remarkable seventeenth-century parallel, rωssijskaja besĕda
obščaja, in Tarasij Zemka’s translation (1627) of Nikifor Kalista’s Synaksarion
(see § 1). S
HEVELOV (1988–1989: 618) concluded that the formation of the expres-
sion prostyj jazykъ was naturally determined by two factors. First, the lexeme
čadь went out of use. Second, and this is more important, the word jazykъ under-
went cardinal semantic changes, with the meaning ‘people, nation’ relegated to
archaisms virtually alien to the active vocabulary.
Altogether, one can posit here a development from prosta čadь to prostyj
jazykъ, to be later replaced by (prostaja) mova, a simplification which S
(1988–1989: 621) was ready to perceive as a manifestation of the “linguistic
democratism” that marked, according to him, so many phenomena in the history
of the Ukrainian language (see V
AKULENKO 1995: 144). It follows form the above,
that the adjective prostyj was by no means limited to the “rustica lingua” (P
1984: 21), but denoted the city dwellers, clergy, and intellectuals, in short all
Ruthenians of Orthodox denomination (O
HIJENKO 1930: 135). According to
HEVELOV (1988–1989: 618–619), in the same vein Constantine’s and Metho-
dius’s prosta čadь included not only peasants, but also princes.
5. Conclusions
The Ruthenian “linguistic democratism”, which became palpable in the mid-
16th c., just a few decades after the Reformation, but without any obvious refer-
ence to it (S
HEVELOV 1988–1989: 616), was brought about by, strictly speaking,
“domestic reasons”. The point is that the vernacular character of Church Slavonic
in the 9th century was entirely lost, and the vernacular itself was essentially put
outside of church already in the Bulgaria of Boris and Symeon and especially
during the enforced Hellenization of the Bulgarian Church in the 11th c. onward.
OLDBLATT 1984: 130–131). After centuries of petrification of the Church Sla-
vonic language, which underwent a new codification by Smotryc´kyj for the
VAKULENKO (1995: 144) gives an interesting survey of the modern distribution of the
words jazykъ and mova (< OCS mlъva ‘tumultus, turbatio’) (LLP 1967–1973: 220) in modern
Slavic languages. The author does not accept Shevelov’s thesis about the “linguistic democratism”
which might have ousted the noun jazykъ associated with the Old Church Slavonic tradition; he
claims instead that the latter lexeme was aptly used in Ukrainian linguistics in the beginning of the
20th c. to refer to the Saussurian parole. However, this argument does not look much convincing
since Vakulenko discusses the only known to him use of the lexeme jazyk in the translation of
Kristian Sandfeld’s first edition of Die Sprachwissenschaft, published by a Ukrainian linguist,
Jevhen Tymčenko, in 1920. Interestingly enough, Vakulenko’s position, reviving the term jazyk in
modern Ukrainian linguistics, is reminiscent of that of Ivan Vyšens´kyj. The latter belonged to a
more conservative wing of Ukrainian intellectuals in the late 16th–early 17th c. Although the word
mova had advanced so far that, by the 1580s, it was used in a high style poem along with Church
Slavonicisms (S
HEVELOV 1988–1989: 621), Vyšens´kyj consistently employed the word (prostyj)
jazykъ, which sometimes even could be associated with peasants, e. g., xlop prostyj ‘a common
peasant’ (VYŠENSKIJ 1955: 25).
116 Andrii Danylenko
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
church use, the admittance of the prostyj jazykъ/prostaja mova in the secular
milieu became the only way out of the overall cultural stagnation of the “Hlupaja
Rus´” (“Foolish Rus’”) (VYŠENSKIJ 1955: 179), especially in the face of ever-
growing Polish acculturation in the late 16th c. Viewed as a resurrection of the
indigenous Slavic Orthodox tradition of “linguistic democratism”, first engen-
dered by the mission of Constantine and Methodius, one can legitimately wonder
whether there are any ideological grounds for juxtaposing the Ruthenian prostyj
jazykъ/prostaja mova with the Polish mowa prosta, język (wykład) prosty, let
alone the Middle Lithuanian expression prasty szadei.
The Polish and especially Lithuanian terms were unique derivatives com-
pared with the Ruthenian analogous form. Their productivity and usage in the
written records reflect cardinal differences in the vernacular language question in
other than Ruthenian lands in the PLC. Unlike the Ruthenians who returned to
their “linguistic democratism” to stand firm against Polish acculturation, the
Poles did not feel any necessity to make any major attempt to affirm the literary
dignity of their language until the 16th c. The relationship between Latin and the
Polish vernacular was not seen as a conflict at all, since the Latinitas polona was
the expression of a political ideal aiming at a new imperium (P
ICCHIO 1984: 35);
hence the lack of terminological use of the name mowa prosta or język prosty to
refer to Polish which replaced Latin “peacefully” after the collapse of the PLC
AMCZARZ 1972: 279–284).
As was emphasized, the Lithuanian vernacular question was somewhat
similar to the Polish in that Lithuanians seem not to have engaged in any direct
struggle against Polish in the GDL. In Lithuania Minor, however, Duke Albrecht
favored the preparation and publication of Protestant books not in German, but in
Prussian and Lithuanian. Unlike the Ruthenian lands, the Polish acculturation in
the GDL went comparatively smoothly. Polish might have been perceived by the
Lithuanian aristocracy, striving to become “gente Lithuani, natione Poloni”, as a
banner of the political Union of the two states. Remarkably, after its demise and
subsequent partitions by Prussia and Russia, the Lithuanian literary and spoken
language also underwent a prolonged period of decline, never even narrowing its
dependence on Polish in Lithuania Major (Z
INKEVIČIUS 1998: 256–258). This is
why, having used the expression prasty szadei only once in a direct translation
from the Polish original, the Lithuanians did not even take any effort to coin a
term similar to that used by Ruthenians or, sporadically and in a non-termino-
logical use, by Poles.
To sum up, the emergence of the name of the vernacular(s) used in different
lands of the Polish–Lithuanian state took place in various socio-linguistic condi-
tions. However, save for a few calqued translations in Polish and Lithuanian, the
coinage and the use of the corresponding names, as discussed above, were not
directly determined by the debate about the dignity of the vulgar tongue(s) in the
Protestant devotional works. The core term, the prostyj jazykъ/prostaja mova, as
well as early Polish attestations of the adjective prosty in the Kazania Gnieź-
nieńskie (late 14th c.), are most likely products of the historical revival of the
On the Name(s) of the Prostaja Mova in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth 117
Studia Slavica Hung. 51, 2006
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... The impact of Church Slavonic on speech communities employing vernacular Slavic has been different in each case, and largely differed from the historical influence of Latin on western European languages. Suffice it to mention here the so-called ''linguistic democratism'' of Slavs (Shevelov, 1988(Shevelov, /1989) which, as a reaction to centuries of the petrification of Church Slavonic, resurged in the Ruthenian (pre-Ukrainian and pre-Belarusian) language of the 16th century, just a few decades after the Reformation but without any obvious reference to it (Danylenko, 2006a(Danylenko, , 2006b. ...
... The impact of Church Slavonic on speech communities employing vernacular Slavic has been different in each case, and largely differed from the historical influence of Latin on western European languages. Suffice it to mention here the so-called ''linguistic democratism'' of Slavs (Shevelov, 1988(Shevelov, /1989) which, as a reaction to centuries of the petrification of Church Slavonic, resurged in the Ruthenian (pre-Ukrainian and pre-Belarusian) language of the 16th century, just a few decades after the Reformation but without any obvious reference to it (Danylenko, 2006a(Danylenko, , 2006b. ...
... In this respect, it should be borne in mind that Ukrainian demonstrates a split system. One the one hand, Southwest Ukrainian is oriented toward analyticity, typical of western European languages; on the other hand, North and Southeast Ukrainian tend to follow the conservative type of Russian (Danylenko, 2013(Danylenko, , 2006b. It comes, therefore, as no surprise to find the HAVE perfect in some archaic western Ukrainian dialects; its emergence could have been a result of the convergence of societal factors (external determinants) shaping the linguistic parameters of the respective speech communities. ...
... 1. Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian recension (jazykъ slavenorosskij 'the Slaveno-Rusyn language'), called conventionally Meletian Church Slavonic (after Meletij Smotryc'kyj who codified the language in 1619) (Danylenko 2006b(Danylenko , pp. 103-104, 2008a; 2. Ruthenian (prostaja mova 'the plain language'), a vernacular standard employed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as one of the official languages (Dini 1997, pp. 281-283); it was still used in the administration of the Cossack Hetmanate (Danylenko 2006c, pp. ...
... The name 'Ukrainian' is employed as a generic term, overlapping semantically with the modern, post-romanticist understanding of this concept. 2 For a variety of names of the prostaja mova in its relation to other languages used in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, see Danylenko (2006b). 3 Pavlenko (2011, p. 339) erroneously called Kotljarevs'kyj's work a "play" which is a lesser foible among all other shortcomings in the line of her argumentation. Thus, unaware of the variety of languages used by Ukrainians (and by Belarusians also) in the historical perspective, Pavlenko (2011, p. 345) claimed that "Ukrainian and Belorussian [Belarusian-A.D., H.N.] were less developed [?-A.D., H.N.] than Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian", thereby completely ignoring the continuity of the former languages from the late thirteenth century onward in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Bednarczuk 2010;Danylenko 2011a). ...
Full-text available
The paper deals with the vagaries of linguistic russification among the Ukrainians from the midseventeenth century to 1914. The authors explore the major stages in the implementation of the policies of russification in Russian Ukraine, starting with first bans on books printed in Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian recension via the decrees and edicts issued by Peter I together with the Holy Synod to the punitive measures taken by the tsarist regime against new literary Ukrainian in the second half of the nineteenth century. The authors distinguish three languages (Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian recension, Ruthenian, and new literary Ukrainian) which were consecutively exposed to various forms of hostile language management by the tsarist administration.Based on these three languages and the classification into different models of imperial policy, a new periodization of linguistic russification and denationalization is substantiated. The material analyzed with the help of this new periodization proves that Russia’s rulers had special reasons for treating Ukraine more severely than other non-Russian areas, resulting in a constant, consistent, and long-lasting policy of linguistic russification in Russian Ukraine. Keywords: Ukrainian-Russian interlingual relations, sociolinguistics, Russification, imperial censorship, Rusian language, Ruthenian, Church Slavonic language, Standard Ukrainian
... 1. Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian recension (jazykъ slavenorosskij 'the Slaveno-Rusyn language'), called conventionally Meletian Church Slavonic (after Meletij Smotryc'kyj who codified the language in 1619) (Danylenko 2006b(Danylenko , pp. 103-104, 2008a; 2. Ruthenian (prostaja mova 'the plain language'), a vernacular standard employed in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as one of the official languages (Dini 1997, pp. 281-283); it was still used in the administration of the Cossack Hetmanate (Danylenko 2006c, pp. ...
... The name 'Ukrainian' is employed as a generic term, overlapping semantically with the modern, post-romanticist understanding of this concept. 2 For a variety of names of the prostaja mova in its relation to other languages used in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, see Danylenko (2006b). 3 Pavlenko (2011, p. 339) erroneously called Kotljarevs'kyj's work a "play" which is a lesser foible among all other shortcomings in the line of her argumentation. Thus, unaware of the variety of languages used by Ukrainians (and by Belarusians also) in the historical perspective, Pavlenko (2011, p. 345) claimed that "Ukrainian and Belorussian [Belarusian-A.D., H.N.] were less developed [?-A.D., H.N.] than Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian", thereby completely ignoring the continuity of the former languages from the late thirteenth century onward in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Bednarczuk 2010;Danylenko 2011a). ...
Full-text available
The paper deals with the vagaries of linguistic russification among the Ukrainians from the mid-seventeenth century to 1914. The authors explore the major stages in the implementation of the policies of russification in Russian Ukraine, starting with first bans on books printed in Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian recension via the decrees and edicts issued by Peter I together with the Holy Synod to the punitive measures taken by the tsarist regime against new literary Ukrainian in the second half of the nineteenth century. The authors distinguish three languages (Church Slavonic of the Ukrainian recension, Ruthenian, and new literary Ukrainian) which were consecutively exposed to various forms of hostile language management by the tsarist administration. Based on these three languages and the classification into different models of imperial policy, a new periodization of linguistic russification and denationalization is substantiated. The material analyzed with the help of this new periodization proves that Russia’s rulers had special reasons for treating Ukraine more severely than other non-Russian areas, resulting in a constant, consistent, and long-lasting policy of linguistic russification in Russian Ukraine.
... With this in mind, I offer a general survey of names denoting Ruthenian space within the confines of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish Crown. While elaborating on the comparative-historical and philological vagaries of the respective designations (see Danylenko 2004aDanylenko , 2006aDanylenko , 2006b, I propose to distinguish between the Greek-(Sections 2-2.2) and Latin-based (Section 3) derivatives which are ultimately determined by different reflexes of the root vowel in the underlying East Slavic derivative *Rous' borrowed from Baltic Finnic *rōtsi (see Table 1); Arabic and Latin German evidence is also taken into consideration with an eye to substantiating this hypothesis. In Section 4, I tease out particular philological nuances of the Byzantine matrix as well as shifts in the referential scope of the term Rosia due to its spreading beyond Ruthenian cultural space. ...
Many of those who will read these pages are fully aware of Professor Marek Stachowski’s scholarly achievements up to the present. How versatile and appreciated an author he has been is illustrated quite perfectly by the table of contents of the present tome. Indeed, Professor Stachowski is commonly regarded as a Turkologist whose varied academic career has been marked by a consistent approach to linguistic analysis: utilising historical-linguistic and philological methods while at the same time paying special attention to the historical background, cultural context, chronology, and the geography of linguistic contacts. Certainly, Marek Stachowski has helped broaden our knowledge of the history of Turkic languages and improve the methodology bequeathed to us by earlier generations. Additionally, however, thanks to his broad interdisciplinary approach – combining the experience and knowledge of a Turkologist with, primarily, the expertise of Uralists, Slavicists, Arabists, Iranists, Mongolists, and specialists in Yeniseic, Carpathian and Balkan studies – Marek Stachowski has been able to address issues lying beyond his main field of expertise. In fact, during his career he has highlighted just how relevant Turkology is to these research areas and, just as importantly, how much Turkology has been enriched by them. Thus, it would perhaps not be amiss to say that the central theme of his work has been its wide-ranging, multifaceted outlook.
... В науке нет единогласного мнения по поводу того, каким термином лучше называть этот язык (см. работы о применении терминов «руськой» и «простой» мовы(Мякишев, 2000;Мозер, 2002;Danylenko, 2006;Rabus, 2010)).Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved. ...
Full-text available
Аннотация В статье анализируется функционирование кратких форм страдательных причастий прошедшего времени в предикативной функции в западнорусских летописях. Внимание уделяется, прежде всего, причастным формам, употребленным в отношении прошедшего действия без глагола-связки в прошедшем времени. Для их адекватного анализа необходимо привлечение как древнерусского материала, так и данных современных русских говоров, а также украинского, белорусского и польского языков. Анализируемые формы могут употребляться в тех же двух функциях, что и в древнерусском: для обозначения либо результативного действия в прошлом, либо действия аористного типа. В то же время в западнорусских летописях было обнаружено использование форм на -но-/-то-, которые являются практически грамматикализованными и функционируют в качестве безличных финитных форм аналогично тому, как это происходит сейчас в украинском и польском языках. Формирование этих форм связано, по всей видимости, с изначальной возможностью страдательных причастий использоваться без связки в контекстах аористного типа. Выявленные особенности функционирования страдательных причастий свидетельствуют о параллелизме в истории их развития с двумя другими причастными образованиями: на -ъш-/-въш- и на -л-.
... Importantly, there have always been emic (folk, vernacular) classifications held by (typically unschooled or with no formal education) Slavophones at the local level of their town, village or region in the form of unanalyzed 'common knowledge,' passed from generation to generation via the medium of just-so stories. Oftentimes, within the framework of such 'folk classifications,' people have not accorded any specific linguonym to their own language ('speech'), terming it 'simply' našinski ('ours') naš je(a)zik ('our language'), po naschy(i)mu/po naszymu ('[speaking] in our own [specific] manner'), or prosta(ia) mova ('simple, common language') (cf Danylenko 2006;Glasnik 1940: 73;Gościniak 2012: 323;Peti-Stantić 2008). If all the alternative and folk views were taken into account, then the number of Slavic languages would be potentially huge and rather innumerable. ...
Full-text available
The essays gathered in this volume are devoted to different aspects of the reception of Humanism and the Renaissance in Slavic countries. They mark the beginning of a dialogue among scholars of different Slavic languages and literatures, in search of the ways in which the entire Slavic world – albeit to varying degrees – has participated from the very beginning in European cultural transformations, and not simply by sharing some characteristics of the new currents, but by building a new identity in harmony with the changes of the time. By overcoming the dominant paradigm, which sees all cultural manifestations as part of a separate ‘national’ linguistic, literary and artistic canon, this volume is intended to be the first step in outlining some ideas and suggestions in view of the creation, in the future, of an atlas that maps the relevance of Humanism and the Renaissance in the Slavic world.
Departing from received notions about Vasil’ Tjapinski as an early representative of Belarusian national enlightenment, who in translating parts of the gospel into Ruthenian endeavoured to turn over the established diglossic linguistic order in favor of the vernacular language of the people, this article is meant to principally reassess his cultural role and significance. By subjecting the foreword to his gospel edition to a close reading and aligning our reinterpretation of this key document with the actual make-up and design of his text-critical synoptic edition of the gospel texts, it is hoped to place Tjapinski in a more adequate manner than heretofore within the broader framework of cultural change brought about by the vivid dynamics of innovative protestant religious thought against the backdrop of orthodox traditionalism. We argue that Tjapinski, being socially rather conservative, aimed at the expansion of active bible interpretation beyond the narrow sphere of priests and professional theologians within his own social class of minor gentry ( szlachta ) through adopting methods of critical philology as a highly formalized and therefore reliable truth-finding device. We argue further that, in an effort to win over primarily adherents of orthodoxy, Tjapinski rather than suggesting to have Church Slavonic replaced by the Ruthenian vernacular went out of his way to reestablish Church Slavonic as the true language of the Ruthenian nation (i. e. the Ruthenian szlachta ) by arguing for the authoritativeness and reliability of the original Cyrillomethodian gospel translation, which would put the Church Slavonic gospel translation on a par with its Greek source text. His synoptic gospel edition should be appreciated as an effort at making the Church Slavonic gospel accessible through the medium of a vernacular Ruthenian translation, which accordingly ought to be seen as a gloss on the Church Slavonic original rather than as an independent text in its own right.
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In this paper, Lithuanian impersonals are explored in comparison with corresponding Polish, Ukrainian, and Belarusian constructions. Special emphasis is placed on the historical substitution of the nominative by the accusative case in Lithuanian. Contrary to Holvoet who has recently postulated a "natural shift" from an agreeing passive construction with the neuter passive participle towards an impersonal construction in both Lithuanian and Polish, dialectal and diachronic evidence is cited to refute this claim. Subsequently, partial introduction of the accusative case marking in some (High) Lithuanian dialects, as well as in literary Lithuanian, is related primarily to heavy Polish adstratum interference throughout the Polish-Lithuanian Union (1569-1795).
The Subcarpathian Rusyns are an east Slavic people who live along the southern slopes of the Carpathian mountains where the borders of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland meet. Through centuries of oppression under the Austro-Hungarian and Soviet empires, they have struggled to preserve their culture and identity. Rusyn literature, reflecting various national influences and written in several linguistic variants, has historically been a response to social conditions, an affirmation of identity, and a strategy to ensure national survival. In this first English-language study of Rusyn literature, Elaine Rusinko looks at the literary history of Subcarpathia from the perspective of cultural studies and postcolonial theory, presenting Rusyn literature as a process of continual negotiation among states, religions, and languages, resulting in a characteristic hybridity that has made it difficult to classify Rusyn literature in traditional literary scholarship. Rusinko traces Rusyn literature from its emergence in the sixteenth century, through the national awakening of the mid-nineteenth century and its struggle for survival under Hungarian oppression, to its renaissance in inter-war Czechoslovakia. She argues that Rusyn literature provides an acute illustration of the constructedness of national identity, and has prefigured international postmodern culture with its emphasis on border-crossings, intersecting influences, and liminal spaces. With extracts from Rusyn texts never before available in English, Rusinko’s study creates an entirely new perspective on Rusyn literature that rescues it from the clichés of Soviet dominated critical theory and makes an important contribution to Slavic studies in particular and post-colonial critical studies in general.
The “próstaja mova” is one of the written languages used by both Ukrainians and Belorussians during the 16th and 17th centuries. In this article it is argued that its name is based on a calque of German Gemeinsprache, die gemeine Sprache, a term from the Reformation age. The „prostaja mova” was based on the Ruthenian (Ukrainian and Belorussian) chancery language and developed into a literary language because of its growing polyfunctionality, its increasingly superregional character, and its stylistic variability. The norms of the “prostaja mova” were based on its common usage, not on codification. We discuss the role of Church Slavonic and Polish elements on the different levels of this language and try to show that a “prototypical” text written in the “prostaja mova” was a translation from a real or only virtual Polish text, consisting in the “Ruthenization” of its phonology and morphology and, if it was a written text, in a change of the alphabets - the lexicon and the syntax, instead, remained mainly on a Polish basis. Until the 18th century the Polish language itself had gained so much importance among the Ruthenian gentry that the “prostaja mova” had lost its main addressee and was restricted only to some homiletic and cathechetic works for the common people of the Greek-Catholic Church.