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The Ruthenian literary language in Ivan Uževyč’s texts
(Abstract)

 
1. Introduction.
Helmut Keipert has shown the Rozmova/Besěda, an ‘anonymous’ bilingual phrase book held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (Slav No. 7) and first published in 2005, to be an autograph of Ivan Uževyč, the author of the first East Slavic grammar (1643/1645).

2. The Status of Ruthenian. The left column of this manuscript, bearing the title "Popularis", does not represent what happened to be the author’s "popular" dialect but rather the literary language of all East Slavs on the territory of Poland-Lithuania. The present work demonstrates that the original Old East Slavic literary language did not immediately break up into three (Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian) but first into two distinct parts (Russian and Ruthenian), so that from the late 14th century onwards the Old Russian language of texts written in Muscovy differs noticeably from the language of texts written in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and that in the middle period of their history the ancestors of today’s Ukrainians and Belarusians had a single common language that to a considerable extent already met most of the criteria formulated in the 20th century for the definition of a standard language. This language is nowadays generally called Ruthenian in the Western philological tradition and prostaja mova in Russian language publications. Only after it had finally fallen from use at the end of the 18th century were new national languages formed during the Romantic period on the basis of popular dialects: the Belarusian and the Ukrainian.

3. Ivan Uževyč and his Phrase Book. Before the linguistic analysis of Ivan Uževyč’s texts, his biography and the process of his work on the phrase book are considered. Additional arguments are provided to prove that not only the two manuscripts of the Hrammatyka slovenskaja but also the Rozmova/Besěda and the Polish-language panegyric Obraz cnoty y sławy of 1641 (the text of which is reprinted in the appendix) must be attributed to him. There is no foundation, however, for Alena Jaskevič’s attribution of the Ruthenian-Church Slavonic dictionary Synonima slavenorosskaja to Uževyč.

Apart from that, the issue of Uževyč’s faith is raised. At the moment it is difficult to give a clear answer to this question: he may have been a Basilian but there is also a possibility that he was a Roman Catholic.

The Rozmova/Besěda is a translation of the first part of the well-known phrase book by Antwerp schoolmaster Noël de Berlaimont that was printed more than one hundred and fifty times from the 16th to the 19th century. Uževyč translated from the Latin column of the eight-language edition Colloquia et dictionariolum octo linguarum printed in The Hague and Delft in 1613. He did not know the Polish version of the Warsaw Berlaimont edition of 1646. It is most likely that he translated his phrase book after he composed the second manuscript of his grammar (1645) and that he intended it not for his compatriots but for well educated Western European (primarily French) readers. Whether the Rozmova was meant to teach Ruthenian – say, to Catholic missionaries – remains unclear.

4. The Church Slavonic of the Besěda: The central issue here is the practical significance of the translation of a Western European secular text into the Church Slavonic language (in the right column of the manuscript). It is probably safe to assume that Uževyč understood Ruthenian ("lingua popularis") and Church Slavonic ("lingua sacra") to be two varieties of one and the same language, a language that he calls "lingua sclavonica" in his grammar book. On the graphical-phonetic level the Church Slavonic version of the manual does not differ from the Ruthenian. On the morphological and syntactical levels, however, certain devices of 'Slavonification' may be observed: preterites formed with -l are substituted by aorist forms, even in cases where the rules of Old Church Slavonic would have called for the imperfect tense, or in "optative" forms with the particle by (e.g. ašče by vosxotěchom 'if we wanted'). The language structure is made more complex in a variety of ways: the Ruthenian iti 'to go' is translated as pospěšestvovati, vědaj 'you must know' by vědomo da budet' ti, oxotne bym prišol 'I would have liked to come' by blagovolenie prijti iměl bym and so on. Several lexical Church Slavonicisms do not correspond to the original semantically: a landlord is addressed as hospodi moj, a common messenger as apostol, a neighbour at the table as bližnij, and admonishing one's son to be good comes out as: priloži prisno svjato žiti. Similarly, the Church Slavonic equivalents of Ruthenian expressions recommended for letter-writing were in fact used only in prayer. It follows from this that the Church Slavonic language was by no means a mere 'vessel' that would hold any content, but on the contrary that Uževyč, in order to translate a secular text into Church Slavonic, was compelled to interpret each sentence as if he had taken it from a text belonging to the religious canon (e.g. a biblical parable).

5. The Ruthenian Grammar of the Rozmova. The phonetic and grammatical description of Uževyč’s language on the basis of his phrase book does not in itself represent the aim of the present book (Oleksandra Antoniv in L'viv is preparing a dissertation dedicated to this task). However, since several linguists analysing the language of the Hrammatyka and the Rozmova have arrived at different conclusions, it was necessary to at least outline the most important characteristics of its language. The majority of these researchers have committed logical errors: from Uževyč’s use of the letter <y> after sibilants it is concluded, for instance, that *i and *y coincided in his native dialect, or his confusion of the letters <ě>, <i>, and <e> in unstressed positions (ikan’e) is supposed to indicate that he pronounced as [i]. It would seem that letters are taken altogether too literally here: the spelling <ca> in a Ruthenian text by no means indicates that c is not palatalised, just as in contemporary Russian the spelling <ča> is used although č is palatalised.

Discovering Uževyč’s origins has proved a lot more complicated than has been assumed so far. It is most likely that his home dialect was characterised by an [e]-type (possibly diphthongised) pronunciation of as well as by ikan’e, which suggests he came from West Central Polesie - whether from the north or south of today's Ukrainian-Belarusian border remains unknown.

Turning our attention away from the mistakes betraying Uževyč’s origins to the norm in accordance with which he attempted to write, we find that this norm was a deliberately tolerant one with regard to regional variants; Polonisms are almost always allowed by way of compromise although there are rules regulating such borrowings. Uževyč uses što, ščo, and co; odin, jedin and jeden; budem and budemo. If we compare the characteristics of this language to that of Skaryna, Smotryc'kyj or Vyšens'kyj, it becomes obvious that all these authors conceive of the Ruthenian norm in similar terms although in each case the author's home dialect can make itself felt in deviations from that norm. We can therefore conclude that Ruthenian was a literary language that allowed variation, but its several regional varieties cannot be identified with present-day Ukrainian and Belarusian.

6. The Ruthenian Vocabulary of the Rozmova. The main objective of this book is to establish the lexical and word-formative devices that Uževyč employed in his translation of the phrase book and to relate these to the Polish language - represented by the parallel Polish version of that same text, which was unknown to him. First a small extract from the text is subjected to a lexical analysis. After that various lexical fields are examined where the realities of West European every-day life play an especially prominent role and that will therefore challenge the translator in a special way: currencies, textiles, buildings, religion, the names of the months, anthroponomy and toponymy. (An overview over the lexicon of Uževyč’s texts as a whole is provided by a dictionary presented in the appendix.)

On the one hand, there are astounding parallels between the Ruthenian and the Polish translation that extend even to the semantic and the pragmatic levels: both translators, for instance, use the word funt 'pound (as a currency)' in conversational and libra in literary situations, for both the prototype for the word sukno 'texture' appears to be woollen cloth etc. When referring to realities unknown to Slavic readers they employ similar devices of word-formation (the street-name platea Cameria, for example, is rendered as ulica Komornaja/komorna ulica in one and as kamerskaja ulica/Cámeriyska ulica in the other case; no suffixation by -sk- is used with the old root komor-, nor -n- with the younger kamer-).

On the other hand, there is a host of indications of the independence of the Ruthenian language. Apart from the use of quite a few East Slavic words (e.g. teper alongside teraz 'now', xvost alongside ogon 'tail', or sorok alongside čtyridesjat 'forty'), there are also independent semantic solutions like the choice of the word hroš 'grosh' instead of penjaz 'penny' to denote 'money' in general: hroši (but cf. Polish pieniądze 'money'). However, we must not identify the structure of the lexicon of contemporary Belarusian or Ukrainian with that of Ruthenian. Uževyč, for example, does not yet treat the interrogative particle čy as part of the Ruthenian lexicon, instead, he consistently uses li, which today would be considered a Russianism. Conversely, when referring to the following day he exclusively wrote jutro, which would be seen as a Polonism in our time, while zautra (cf. Ukrainian zavtra, Belarusian zautra 'tomorrow') appears only in the Church Slavonic column of Uževyč’s phrase book.

7. Conclusion. The case of Ivan Uževyč, whose linguistic origin cannot be definitely located either in Belarus nor Ukraine, shows that Ruthenian authors in general cannot be treated in the context of a single national - i.e. anachronistic - philology, be it Ukrainian or Belarusian, but must be regarded from the broader viewpoint of "Ruthenian Studies".

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Daniel Bunčić, 07.07.2006