Grammatical And Stylistic Commentary Of A Fragment From Suzdal Chronicle, Lavrientyev Scroll


The relevance of the study is determined by the polemics of distinction between Old Russian and Old Slavonic in a chronicle. The innovation is in the detailed analysis of the morphological and syntactic structure of a fragment from the Suzdal Chronicle, according to Lavrientyev Scroll (1305). We applied a descriptive method of research, as well as observation, comparison, generalization and inter-level interpretation. We focus on new morphological research and distinguish among traditional (bookish) characteristics and morphologic-syntactic features of colloquial speech. We prove that morphological features of Old Russian prevail over those of Old Slavonic. The paper analyses sentence components are reflecting syntactic features of Old Russian chronicles. Particular attention is given to the ways of expressing the predicate: use of a linking verb, not typical for Old Russian, and short forms of past passive participles as part of a compound nominal predicate. The paper also analyses active voice participial constructions functioning as predicates in both Old Russian and Old Slavonic syntax. We show that the stable features of Old Russian syntax are the use of postpositions expressed by a possessive pronoun in attribute phrases, and repetition of prepositions with homogeneous members. The study defines the role of particles and initial conjunctions.

Keywords: Dative of possessiongenitive of timenarrativeOld RussianOld Slavonicpolynomial system of demonstrative pronouns


The diachronic study of the Russian language by domestic scholars has a long history. “Russian grammar” by Lomonosov was made on the basis of the research of written monuments of Kievan and Moscow Russia. Vostokov and his successor Sreznevsky, Buslaev and Potebnya made a great contribution to the study of the history of the Russian language after the description of the manuscripts in the Old Slavonic and Old Russian languages. The work by Borkovsky (1931) “On the language of the Suzdal Chronicle” is devoted to the problems of studying the language of Old Russian monuments (p. 15). Among the recent works, Brandner ( 2013) that deals with various syntactic functions of cases as one of the features in the Old Russian syntax should give special attention to the article. Sergeeva (2007) examined the composition and functioning of pronouns in ancient Russian chronicles. The facts stated in the article by Palladieva show the degree of variability at the grammatical level in written Old Russian language of the early Middle Ages (Palladiyeva, 2008). Dyerfy explores the historical change in the status of participial constructions in the Old Russian language from the Suzdal Chronicle according to the Lavrentyev List (Gorshkova & Khaburgaev, 1981). Skachedubova gives an interpretation of the л-form without a linking verb in pluperfect contexts in the Ipatiev and 1st Novgorod Chronicles, regarding it as the initial stage of the appearance of the form expressing the result (Skachedubova, 2018). The object of the research by Erofeeva is the derivational system of Old Russian in the chronicle genre. The author explores the plan of expression, considering word formation as a means of categorizing the phenomena of reality, giving an idea of how the world is structured in the minds of native speakers (Erofeeva, 2018).

Foreign scholars also show interest in the morphological and syntactic features of written manuscripts in Old Slavonic and Old Russian languages. The outstanding Danish linguist and specialist in the field of Slavic studies Nørgård-Sørensen relied on the chronicles when developing his theory of conceptual proximity of nominative and verbal categories (Zimmerling, 2015). The fundamental research by Cohen is devoted to the morphological analysis of the Suzdal Chronicle according to the Lavrientyev List (Cohen, 1976). The monograph by Bermel gives a detailed description of the origin and functioning of the category of voice in Old Russian written sources. The author puts forward his model of forming the category of voice-based on the lexical and contextual analysis of an impressive corpus of chronicle texts (Bermel, 1997).

Some grammatical phenomena of the early stages in the development of the Russian language also attract foreign researchers’ attention. The research by Jung examines the process of the appearance of passive participle forms with -то, -но endings in the perfective aspect (Jung, 2007). Dickey and Janda (2009), who demonstrated the dependence of the distribution of morphemes -ну- and с- on the morphological class of the verb, studied single perfectives as a special group of verbs. Nesset (2013) also touches upon the history of the formation of one-act verbs as a radial category in the article. Minlos (2012) made a contribution to the study of pre- and postpositions of adjective attributes in the Old Russian language. The study by Matthews is a comparative analysis of the preterite forms in direct speech of the Tale of Bygone Years and the Galician-Volyn Chronicle (Matthews, 1995). Larsen is the author of several articles about the distribution analysis of short and complete forms of adjectives in the annals. She also studied the transformations of syntactic functions of adjectives, as well as the mechanism for replacing short adjective forms with full adjectives in an attributive position (Larsen, 2006; Larsen 2007). The research by Goeringer studies the factors that determine the choice of the pluperfect form in the chronicles (Goeringer, 1995).

This article is part of a series of our works on linguistic analysis of Old Russian texts (Ogorodnikova, 2014; Ogorodnikova, 2017). Its aim is to analyse the characteristics of the morphological system and the syntactic structure of a fragment from the Suzdal Chronicle, according to the Lavrientyev List of 1305.

The main research method is the descriptive analysis, which records the identified characteristics of the research subject (morphological forms and syntactic structures). The methods of observation, comparison, generalization, inter-level interpretation are applied as well. Syntactic structures are studied in terms of their morphological manifestation. The method of internal interpretation consists in the classification and systematization of language units.

The source of the study is a fragment from the Complete Collection of Russian Chronicles (Volume I. Lavrientyev Chronicle. Issue 2: Suzdal Chronicle) (Tale of Bygone Years… 1926). According to the type of narration, this fragment is a chronicle story characterized by factuality, abundance with concrete details and reproduction of the logic of events.

“Тогож̑ лѣт̑ . Здумаша Ѡлгови внуци на Половци. занеже бѧху не ходили. томь лѣт̑. со всею кнѧзьѥю. но сами поидоша ѡ собѣ. рекуще мъı ѥсмъı ци не кнѧзи же. [поидем̑] А такъıже собѣ хвалъı добудет̑. и снѧшасѧ оу Переӕславлѧ. Игорь съ двѣма сн҃ома. из Новагорода Сѣверьскаго. ис Трубѣча Всеволодъ. брата ѥго Ѡлговичь Ст҃ославъ из Ръıльска. и Черниговьскаӕ помочь. и внидоша в землю ихъ. Половьци же оуслъıшавше. поидоша рекуще брат̑ӕ наша избита и ѡц҃и наши. а друзии изъимани. а се нонѣ на нас̑ идут̑. послашасѧ по всеи земли своєи. а сами поидоша к симъ. и ждаша дружинъı своєӕ. а си к ним̑ идуть к вежамъ ихъ. ѡни же не пустѧчи в вежѣ срѣтоша ихъ” (Tale of Bygone Years… 1926, p. 161).

“Togo zhe lete. Zdumasha Olgovi vnutsi na Polovtsy. Zanezhe biakhu ne khodili. Tom lete. So vseju kniazieiu. No sami poidosha v sobe. Rekusche my esm tsi ne kniazi zhe [poidem] A takzhe sobe khvaly dobudet. I sniashasia u Pereyaslavlia. Igor s dvema synoma. Iz Novagoroda-Severskago. Is Trubecha Vsevolod. Brata ego Olgovich Sviatoslav iz Rylska. I Chernigovskae pomoch. I vnidosha v zemliu ikh. Polovtsy zhe uslyshavshe. Poidosha rekusche bratie nashi izbita i otsy nashi. A druzii izimani. A se none na nas idut. Poslashasia po vsei zemli svoei. A sami poidosha k sim. I zhdasha druzhiny svoya. A si k nim idut k vezham ikh. Oni zhe ne pustiachi v vezhe sretosha ikh.”

[In the same year, Oleg's grandchildren decided to go to the Polovtsy, since they did not go last year with all the princes, but now they went on their own, saying: “Aren't we princes for ourselves? Let's go the same way and get our praise!” And Igor with two sons from Novgorod-Seversky, his brother Vsevolod from Trubchevsk, Svyatoslav Olegovich from Rylsk and help from Chernigov met at Pereyaslav. And they went into their land. The Polovtsi, having heard of this, went, saying: "Our brothers and fathers were killed, some are in captivity, and now they are coming against us." They sent a message throughout all their land, and they themselves went out to meet and waited for their troops. And ours went to their camps. The Polovtsi did not let them near their waggons, but they met them].

The above fragment is a story about a military campaign waged by the grandchildren of Prince Oleg against the Polovtsian. The author depicts the event, giving specific details and the speech of the characters.

Problem Statement

In the morphological organization of the text, there are grammatical forms of the nominal parts of speech, verbs, pronouns and an adverbial unit ( ноне ). Nouns play a significant part in the text. They are the names of people and their social position ( князь ), ethnicity ( половци ) degrees of kinship ( брат, отци ), military terms ( дружина, вежи ). Among personal and subject names, we distinguish such lexical and grammatical categories as proper names (names of people, geographical names — Святослав, Всеволод, Рыльск, Трубѣч ) and common nouns ( сын, помочь ); concrete ( внуци, вежи ), collective ( дружина , братия ) and abstract ( хвала, помочь ); personal ( половци, брат ) and non-personal nouns ( лето, земля ). It is easy to notice that the nouns form the basis on which the chronicle text is built; they are needed to designate and characterize people who participated in the described events, names of the place of action, to reflect the interrelation of events and phenomena, to transmit thoughts accurately.

The prevalence of masculine nouns is obvious. The word лето is used twice in the text. Feminine nouns are not numerous, which is characteristic of the annals genre. In the given text, these are abstract nouns: помочь, земля, хвала .

The morphological form of the noun вежи is used mainly in the plural form.

Друзии is a pronoun-adjective, which has moved into the category of nouns as a result of substantivisation. In the fragment, this word is the subject to a two-part sentence: а друзии изъим а ни . Substantivisation is a process that has long existed in the Russian language.

In the given fragment, we can find the facts that indicate the destruction of the system, according to which the attribute in the singular form of the feminine gender agreed with the collective noun, and the predicate to this noun was used in the plural form, as it denoted the logical plurality of aы collective name. Братия наша избита is a compound noun predicate, expressed by a participle, with a collective noun without a linking verb used in the singular form, which corresponds to the norm of agreement in the modern Russian language. Only the attribute in the singular form is used with other collective nouns in the fragment: со всею кнѧзьѥю, ждаша дружинъı своєӕ . The singular forms of possessive and definitive pronouns in the agreement express the attributes. The agreement of the subject and the predicate in its meaning was observed in the manuscripts before the 18th century.

There are few adjectives in the text under study These are language units derived from toponyms: ( Новагорода) Сѣверьскаго and Черниговьскаӕ (помочь) . The short (nominal) form of the adjective that agrees with the noun in gender, number and case is used as part of a compound noun denoting the name of a city: Нова города.

The form of the complete (pronoun) adjective in the text is of the old Slavonic character: из Новагорода СЂверьскаго (the genitive case of the singular masculine). The inflection - аго dominated in Russian spelling until 1917.

The use of language units in the Old Russian texts is largely due to the genre-style of the manuscript, its communicative attitudes and usage, the characteristics of the content (Krylova, 2011). The high frequency of the nominative case in the passage is predetermined by its use in the syntactic function of the subject in a two-part sentence: здумаша Ѡлгови внуци ; рекуще мы ѥсмы ци не кнѧзи же; половьци же оуслъıшавше поидоша. The description of events, the reproduction of their logic in the narrative determine the structure of sentences. We largely find two-part sentences with complete grammatical bases where a noun or a pronoun denote the subject, and the predicate indicates an action.

The second in frequency is the use of the genitive case with verbs of achievement and expectation, e.g. хвалы добудемъ, ждаша дружины своея . In the phrase того ж лЂта we observe the non-prepositional genitive of time, which was widely used in Old Russian to indicate a year, month, or a day. In modern Russian the genitive case does not have such properties.

По земли is an Old Russian construction. The influence of the strong declination variant on the weak variant in the dative case was noted already in the written monuments of the 11th century. However, as a stylistic tool, this form has long been used in literary works of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The dative of possessive as in the phrase Ѡлгови внуци has disappeared from a living language. In Modern Russian, the genitive possessive is used in the place of the Old Russian dative possessive.

The substantive forms of the dative case ending in - ови(-еви) are originally the forms of this case derived from the *u stem. According to Palladieva (2008), the use of the dative case has little relation to the *u stem. The ending - ови(-еви) common in proper names, along with the ending - у by grammatical differentiation was used in names with the meaning of belonging and contributing to the formation of the category of person (Larsen, 2007).

Thus, the analysed fragment reflects the diversity of the syntactic functions of the cases as one of the syntax features of Old Russian.

An abundance of pronouns characterizes the text. The words of this part of speech are the least studied due to their lexical semantic specificity. In our fragment, there are personal ( мы ), reflexive ( собе ), determinative ( всею ) and demonstrative ( того, там, се ) pronouns. The category of demonstrative pronouns is most fully represented. The text reflects a polynomial system of demonstrative pronouns that existed in the original system of the Old Russian language (expression of the degrees of deletion): сь, си (the nearest, that is, “ours”, “relatives”, those close to the speaker) and онъ, они (the distant ones, “strangers”). А сами поидоша к симъ; а си к ним идуть к вежамъ ихъ; ѡни же не пустѧчи в вежѣ – симъ, си (Russians, “Ѡлгови внуци”), они (the Polovtsian). The same is true of the Polovtsian direct speech: а се (Russians) нонѣ на нас идут . In this system of pronouns, there is the element – тъ , the grammatical forms of which are not fixed in the given fragment. Thus, it is true that “despite certain semantic “inferiority”, in the linguistic picture of the world, these words acquire additional meanings, connotations, associations, thereby forming a specific linguocultural space of Russian pronouns” (Khairullina, 2014).

Собѣ, о собѣ are the Old Russian forms of the dative and local cases of the reflexive pronoun preserved in some dialects of Modern Russian.

It is known that the masculine forms of demonstrative pronouns predominate in the annals due to the nature of their content. In the given passage, the indicative pronoun of the middle gender is used twice, indicating the time of the action: того же лѣта, томь лѣта . Such speech formulas are characteristic of annals; therefore, the frequency of the demonstrative pronouns of the middle gender increases.

Some verb forms require a comment. The verb occupies a special place in the morphological structure of the chronicle since it is this part of speech that allows focusing attention on the action and makes the narrative more dynamic.

We observe the Old Slavic ending of the 1st person plural: ѥс мъı (cf. Old Russian - мъ ).

Sigmatic and new sigmatic aorist forms dominate in the text of the chronicle over other forms of the past tense: поидоша, снѧша сѧ, внидоша, послаша, ждаша . Namely, the aorist is the main narrative form of the past tense since it designates the action that took place in the past as a single continuous completed act (in the fragment we deal with individual events that occurred in a short period). This verb form conveys the dynamism of alternating one-time actions. The aorist had become obsolete by the 14th century and can be treated as a bookish verb form.

In the subordinate clause of a cause, the bookish pluperfect is used: занеже бѧху не ходили.

А си к нимъ идуть is the Old Russian form of the 3rd person plural (cf. Old Slavic идѫтъ).

(Они же) не пуст ѧ чи is by origin the form of the present participle of the singular feminine gender in the nominative case. Gorshkova argues that the form -учи never really defined “the name in the feminine gender, which should be perceived not as “non-observance of the agreement”, but as a reflection of the real adverbial participle form with a shade of adverbial modifier ” (Dyorfy, 2012), a participle used an adverbial participle.

Some conjunctions and particles are of interest with regard to their structure and use.

The subordinate conjunction of Old Slavonic origin занеже (because), introduces the subordinate clause of cause. The conjunction is composed of the preposition за- with a causative meaning, the special form ( не ) of the demonstrative pronoun of the middle gender singular e and the corrobоrative particle же .

The particle ци is noted in a conversational speech in the north-east of Russia (the Suzdal area), north-west and south Russia. It is mostly used in rhetorical questions: мъı ѥсмъı ци не кнѧзи же (“are we not princes?”). The equivalent particles in modern Russian are разве, неужели .

Research Questions

Let us consider the structural components of sentences and phrases of the d fragment, as well as the means of organizing the text. The order of the structure-forming components of the first sentence is as follows: firstly, the preposition of the predicate ( здумаша Ѡлгови внуци ), characteristic of weather records in the chronicles; secondly, the words referring to the date ( Того же лѣта is repeated from the chronicle in the chronicle), followed by the predicate ( здумаше ) and the subject ( Ѡлгови внуци ).

In most of the sentences we observe the simple verbal predicate: занеже бяху не ходили ; сняшася у Переяславля Игорь съ двѣма сынома ; половьци же оуслъıшавше. поидоша ;

There is a linking verb in the compound nominal predicate: Мы есмы ци не князи же . According to Borkovsky, sentences without есть and суть were typical for the Old Russian language (Borkovsky & Kuznetsov, 2006).

The short forms of past participles in the passive voice are used as the nominal part of the compound nominal predicate: Братья наша избита и отци наши, а друзии изъимани . Such participles in the predicative function indicated the result of an action performed in the past. According to Sabelfeld, past participles in the passive voice were not labelled as purely bookish forms and were widely used in texts of various genres (Sabelfeld, 2008).

The sentence Половьци же услышавше поидоша рекуще has short participles in the active voice used as a secondary predicate. They agree with the subject in gender, number and case, and adjoin the main predicate поидоша . It is important to note the past participle is in preposition to the verb, while in the present participle is used in postposition. Scientists in Old Russian and Middle Russian monuments established this correlation; it is also characteristic of Old Slavonic texts (Sharikhina, 2017). Sharikhina in her research on the functioning of short participles as a secondary predicate states: “The study of Zhivov showed that a similar distribution of participles is characteristic of a narrative” (Sharikhina, 2017). The specified system of distribution of participles tense forms is relevant for transmitting a series of events: “The temporal characteristic of participles, except in rare cases, consistently implements certain semantic links between actions expressed by a participle and a verb” (Sharikhina, 2017).

Active participles and past participles in the function of adverbial modifier are found in the following structures: поидоша ѡ собѣ. рекуще ; они же, не пустячи в вежЂ, срѣтоша ихъ.

The postposition of an attribute expressed by the possessive pronoun reflects the word order in Old Russian attributive phrases which was preserved until the XIX century: братия наша , отьци наши , по всей земли своеи , дружины своея , к вежамъ ихъ .

The parts of compound sentences are connected by conjunctions и, а, но: братия наша избита и отьци наши, а друзии изъимани (the matching parts of sentences are connected with the help of the conjunction a ). The conjunction a introduces adjoining constructions: а се нонѣ на нас идут; а си к ним идуть к вежамъ ихъ. It is a regular feature of Eastern Slavic colloquial speech.

The conjunction и indicates the beginning of an action: и сняшася у Переяславля Игорь… и внидоша в землю ихъ. This conjunction connects predicative units, united by meaning, transmitting successive actions.

The particle же is frequently used in Old Russian to connect sentences ( половьци же оуслышавше поидоша рекуще… ). It expresses opposition (simultaneousness with different subjects): Russian princes (Igor with his sons, Svyatoslav Olegovich) – Polovtsian army. In another part of the fragment: ѡни же не пустѧчи в вежѣ срѣтоша ихъ (they [the Polovtsian] met them, did not let them to the tents).

Parts of sentences are connected asyndentically or by coordinating conjunctions: из Новагорода СЂверьскаго, ис ТрубЂча Всеволодъ, брата его Олговичь Святославъ, и черниговская помочь … Prepositions are repeated with homogeneous members, which is characteristic of Old Russian syntax: из Новагорода СЂверьскаго, ис ТрубЂча .

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to comment on the morphological forms and syntactic structures of the fragment under analysis. These forms and structures either go back to Old Slavonic tradition or represent new phenomena associated with the democratization of the language: the use of Old Russian elements and some features of colloquial speech in the written text.

Research Methods

Research methods include the analysis of research papers, the descriptive method, as well as observation, comparison, generalization, inter-level interpretation, classification and systematization of language units.


We singled out and examined the possessive forms characteristic of Old Russian: the forms of the dative case of nouns and reflexive pronouns, the substantive forms of genitive and dative cases. The paper gives a detailed description of the polynomial system of demonstrative pronouns, the obsolete form of the present verb in the 3rd person plural and a native form of the adverbial participle.


As a result of the detailed study of the morphological organization and syntactic structure of the fragment from the Suzdal chronicle, according to the Lavrientyev List (1305), it was established that nouns, verbs and pronouns dominate in the text. The analysis of these parts of speech allowed to determine the characteristics of Old Russian of that time such as the use of Old Russian nouns in the dative case and reflexive pronouns; the forms of genitive and dative cases in the meaning not common for Modern Russian; Old Russian possessive dative; the polynomial system of demonstrative pronouns; Old Russian form of the 3rd person plural of the verb in the present tense; native Russian adverbial participle. Grammatical agreement of a collective noun with a predicate in the singular is considered to be a fact indicating the destruction of systems of meaningful agreement of the subject (a collective noun) and the predicate. The predominance of the aorist over other forms of the past tense and the form of the pluperfect are the features of bookish style. Other features of bookish speech are the use of old Church Slavonic forms of adjectives and the 1st person plural form of the verb. Thus, new linguistic phenomena in morphology are represented by numerous examples in the studied fragment.

The structural arrangement of sentence components is peculiar to annals. Linking verbs in compound nominal predicate can be attributed to the bookish features of syntax. In contrast, the short forms of passive past participles as part of the compound nominal predicate are not stylistically marked. The use of short participle as secondary predicates, the past tenses in a preposition are characteristic of Old Russian and Old Church Slavonic languages. The postposition of an attribute expressed by a possessive adjective is a typical syntactic feature of Old Russian. Conjunctive constructions introduced by the conjunction а belong to colloquial speech. Complex and compound sentences with coordinating and subordinating structures, syndetic and asyndetic connection inside the predicative parts attest the development of the literary language of ancient Rus.


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