Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Problems of Proto-Slavic Historical Nominal Morphology

On the Basis of Old Church Slavic

Jussi Halla-aho

Doctoral dissertation, May 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Slavonic and Baltic Languages.

In this study I offer a diachronic solution for a number of difficult inflectional endings in Old Church Slavic nominal declensions. In this context I address the perhaps most disputed and the most important question of the Slavic nominal inflectional morphology: whether there was in Proto-Slavic an Auslautgesetz (ALG), a law of final syllables, that narrowed the Proto-Indo-European vowel */o/ to */u/ in closed word-final syllables. In addition, the work contains an exhaustive morphological classification of the nouns and adjectives that occur in canonical Old Church Slavic.

I argue that Proto-Indo-European */o/ became Proto-Slavic */u/ before word-final */s/ and */N/. This conclusion is based on the impossibility of finding credible analogical (as opposed to phonological) explanations for the forms supporting the ALG hypothesis, and on the survival of the neuter gender in Slavic. It is not likely that the */o/-stem nominative singular ending */-u/ was borrowed from the accusative singular, because the latter would have been the only paradigmatic form with the stem vowel */-u-/. It is equally unlikely that the ending */-u/ was borrowed from the */u/-stems, because the latter constituted a moribund class. The usually stated motivation for such an analogical borrowing, i.e. a need to prevent the merger of */o/-stem masculines with neuters of the same class, is not tenable. Extra-Slavic, as well as intra-Slavic evidence suggests that phonologically-triggered mergers between two semantically opaque genders do not tend to be prevented, but rather that such mergers lead to the loss of the gender opposition in question. On the other hand, if */-os/ had not become */-us/, most nouns and, most importantly, all adjectives and pronouns would have lost the formal distinction between masculines and neuters. This would have necessarily resulted in the loss of the neuter gender.

A new explanation is given for the most apparent piece of evidence against the ALG hypothesis, the nominative-accusative singular of the */es/-stem neuters, e.g. nebo 'sky'. I argue that it arose in late Proto-Slavic dialects, replacing regular nebe, under the influence of the */o/- and */yo/-stems where a correlation had emerged between a hard root-final consonant and the termination -o, on the one hand, and a soft root-final consonant and the termination -e, on the other.

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