Church Slavonic Language - Grammar and Style

Grammar and Style

Although the various recensions of Church Slavonic differ in some points, they share the tendency of approximating the original Old Church Slavonic to the local Slavic speech. Inflexion tends to follow the ancient patterns with few simplifications. All original six verbal tenses, seven nominal cases, and three numbers are intact in most frequently used traditional texts (but in the newly-composed texts, authors avoid most archaic constructions and prefer variants that are closer to modern Russian syntax and are better understood by the Russian-speaking people).

The fall of the yers is fully reflected, more or less to the Russian pattern, although the terminal ъ continues to be written. The yuses are often replaced or altered in usage to the sixteenth- or seventeenth-century Russian pattern. The yat continues to be applied with greater attention to the ancient etymology than it was in nineteenth-century Russian. The letters ksi, psi, omega, ot, and izhitsa are kept, as are the letter-based denotation of numerical values, the use of stress accents, and the abbreviations or titla for nomina sacra.

The vocabulary and syntax, whether in scripture, liturgy, or church missives, are generally somewhat modernised in an attempt to increase comprehension. In particular, some of the ancient pronouns have been eliminated from the scripture (such as етеръ /jeter/ "a certain (person, etc.)" → нѣкій in the Russian recension). Many, but not all, occurrences of the imperfect tense have been replaced with the perfect.

Miscellaneous other modernisations of classical formulae have taken place from time to time. For example, the opening of the Gospel of John, by tradition the first words written down by Saints Cyril and Methodius, искони бѣаше слово "In the beginning was the Word", were set down as въ началѣ бѣ слово in the Ostrog Bible of Ivan Fedorov (1580/1581) or in the recently used Elizabethan Bible (the first printing in 1751).

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