31502 - Slavic Philology 1

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course aims at providing students with basic notions of comparative grammar, which will allow them to recognize the main differences between east-slavic (Russian in particular), west-slavic (Polish) and south-slavic (Bulgarian) languages. The aim of the course is also to provide an accurate knowledge of slavic medieval history, within the broader context of european and mediterranean culture and civilization. Students will acquire the knowledge and skills to read and comprehend short slavonic texts.

Course contents

The course concerns the evolution of slavic languages and cultures, beginning from the earliest written records. Particular attention will be paid to the Old Slavonic language and to the literature of ancient Rus'. Basic notions of comparative grammar will also be supplied, so that students may learn to recognize the various modern slavic languages and the peculiarities of their structure, from the phonological, morphological and syntactical point of view. The course will also supply the basis for approaching the complex cultural history of the slavic populations.

1. Introduction: ‘Philology' / Alphabets / Cultural Areas / Historical and Linguistic Periodization;

2. Old Slavonic: Cyril and Methodius / Byzantium / Typology of Medieval Books / Canonic Texts / First and Second Bulgarian Empire / ‘Second South-Slavic Influence'

3. Church Slavonic: Local Redactions / Orthodox Christianity;

4. Historical Grammar: from Proto-Indo-European to Modern Languages;

5. Similarities and Differences among Modern Slavic Languages;

6. ‘Old Russian': Theories of the Literary Language / The Skazanie of Boris and Gleb / Chronicles / Novgorod and the Birchbark Documents.


1. Skazanie o Borise i Glebe (teaching material downloadable from the lecturer's website). Cf. also the edition by L.A. Dmitriev, in: D.S. Lichačëv, L.A. Dmitriev, A.A. Alekseev, N.V. Ponyrko (eds.), Biblioteka literatury Drevnej Rusi, I (XI-XII veka), Nauka, SPb. 1997, pp. 328-352 (on-line version: http://lib.pushkinskijdom.ru/Default.aspx?tabid=4871).

(for the translation of the slavonic text the following dictionary is recommended: R.M. Cejtlin et al. (eds.),Staroslavjanskij slovar' (po rukopisjam X-XI vekov), Moskva 1994; see also the morphological tables at pp. 813-841; on-line version: http://ksana-k.ru/?p=803).

2. M. Garzaniti, Gli slavi. Storia, culture e lingue dalle origini ai nostri giorni, Carocci, Roma 2013, chapters 1-20 (pp. 1-263).

3. A.M. Schenker, The Dawn of Slavic. An Introduction to Slavic Philology, Yale Univesity Press, New Haven-London 1995, chapter 2 (pp. 61-103, up to and including § 2.44).

 (Further readings will be provided during the course: non-attending students, as well as students of the old – four-year – course, or students who wish to attend the advanced class, must consult with the lecturer in order to arrange a program).

Teaching methods

frontal lessons; reading and analysis of texts

Assessment methods

The evaluation of the students' competencies consists in an oral exam on course subjects, and is articulated in three parts (that is, in three questions by the lecturer):


1. Historical phonology (development of the Proto-Slavic sound system and formation of the modern Slavic languages, cf. Schenker 1995: chapter 2; Garzaniti 2013: chapters 6-8). This is the core of the exam, and special attention should be given to it. The student should show an accurate knowledge of the main rules of evolution of the Proto-Slavic phonological system, giving examples from the modern slavic languages (with particular reference to Russian and Polish) and from Old Church Slavonic.


2. History (from ethnogenesis to medieval Slavic states, cf. Garzaniti 2013). The student will be asked to recognize and discuss critically the crucial points in the historical and cultural development of the Slavic populations, during the three periods, characterized by the absence of written sources (Prehistory and Antiquity), by the presence of non-Slavic sources (Late Antiquity - Early Middle Ages) and – finally – by the presence of Slavic sources (Middle Ages).

Particularly appreciated will be the student capability to incorporate the assimilated notions into a comprehensive vision of the european Middle Ages, independently filling potential gaps.


3. Attempt of (oral) translation from Church Slavonic (4 pages at student's choice – equivalent to the recto and verso of 2 manuscript leaves – of the Skazanie o Borise i Glebe, cf. the teaching material on the lecturer's website). The student will be asked to read and translate some lines of text, and also to provide appropriate grammatical explanations about it. A purely mnemonic repetition of the translation will not lead to positive results.


During all phases of the examination, the use of an appropriate terminology and the capability to express oneself in a fully autonomous way, without suggestions or corrections, represents the necessary prerequisite for an assessment of excellence.

Teaching tools

Audiovisual aids and downloadable teaching material will be used.

Office hours

See the website of Alberto Alberti