History of Slavic Languages:

Russian, Polish, and Serbo-Croatian in Comparison



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SLV 440, 3 credit hours




Danko Sipka, Ph.D.

Professor of Slavic Languages

E-mail: danko.sipka@asu.edu

Web: http://www.public.asu.edu/~dsipka


Course Web Page




Schedule & Location


Fall Semester 2015, TuTH 3:00-4:15pm, LL 105




Although primarily intended for those with previous knowledge of a Slavic language, there are no prerequisites for taking this course.




This course has the following objectives: a) to familiarize its participants with the methodology and techniques of historical, comparative, and contrastive linguistics; b) to present the major lines of development (in both internal and external language history) from Proto Indo-European, through the Common Slavic language to present-day Slavic languages; c) to compare and contrast three Slavic languages (Russian, Polish, and Serbo-Croatian), each of them representing a different branch, and; d) to empower its participants with the mechanisms to draw upon their knowledge of one Slavic language to acquire the other two Slavic languages discussed here.




This course represents a merger of a) traditional Slavic comparative and historical linguistics, b) a synchronic contrastive approach to three Slavic languages, and c) a survival course in these three Slavic languages. It is divided into the following topics:


Scope, Methodology and Techniques

Internal and external linguistic history; Synchrony and diachrony; Reconstruction techniques; Source and reflex; Change vs. alternation; Area and isogloss, Comparative vs. contrastive approaches; Research tradition

HW: Selected readings and tasks listed on the Web page


Proto Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Common Slavic

Languages; Area; Centum and satem branch; The structure of Proto Indo-European; Common Balto-Slavic features; The Structure of Common Slavic

HW: Selected readings and tasks listed on the Web page

Quiz: Map quiz and multiple choice quiz


East, West, and South Slavic

Languages, their linguistic and sociolinguistic status; Common Eastern Slavic features; Common Western Slavic features; Common South Slavic Features; Further differentiation of the Western and Southern Slavic branches

HW: Recognizing the language of the assigned lexical list and underlining the common Slavic features that are typical for the branch to which that text belongs


History I: Phonology

Prosody; Vowels; De-nasalisation; Development of the Semi-Vowels; The Yat’; Consonants; Palatalizations; Reductions; Metatheses

HW: Tracing the development of the phonemes from the assigned contrastive lexical lists

Quiz: Multiple choice quiz on phonological development


History II: Morphosyntax

Declension patterns; Conjugation patterns; Simplification mechanisms in inflectional morphology (loss of the dual number, gender vs. inflectional ending, time vs. tense); Word order; Selected syntactic forms (the absolute dative, accusative with the infinitive, etc.)

HW: Tracing the development of the endings from the assigned contrastive grammatical tables

Quiz: Multiple choice quiz on morphosyntactic development


History II: The Lexicon

Common Indo-European and Slavic roots; Metaphorical mechanisms of semantic extensions; False cognates; Slavic etymological dictionaries

HW: Analyzing selected entries of core vocabulary from Slavic monolingual dictionaries


Russian, Polish, and Serbo-Croatian in Contrast

Sociolinguistic status; Phonology; Morphosyntax; the Lexicon

HW: Writing formal contrastive rules for selected phonological and morphosyntactic features

Quiz: Multiple choice quiz on contrastive features


Three Slavic Languages – a Survival Kit

Core vocabulary; Basic grammar; Basic intentional phrases; Sources and opportunities for further studying of Polish and Serbo-Croatian

Final exam


Course Materials


The principal books for this course will be The Slavonic Languages (edited by B. Comrie and G. G. Corbett), Routledge, London-New York, 1993 and C.E.Townsend and L.A Janda Common and Comparative Slavic: Phonology and Inflection with special emphasis on Russian, Polish, Czech, Serbo-Croatian, and Bulgarian, Slavica, Columbus, 1996. Students should choose one of these two books. The former book ($ 39.95) is recommended for those aspiring more intimate involvement with historical and comparative linguistics of Slavic langauges, while the latter ($ 27.95) is to be used by those seeking practical easily digestable knowledge.

Selected texts from H. Leeming’s Historical and Comparative Lexicology of the Slavonic Languages, PAN, Krakow, 2001 and E. Stankiewicz’s The Slavic Languages, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin-New York, 1986 will also be used. A substantial amount of other materials, such as charts, tables, fact sheets, etc., will be available on-line on the course Web page.


Grading Policy


Class work will contribute to the final grade in the following manner:

Quizzes: 30%

Homework: 20%

Final Exam: 30%

Class Participation: 20%




Weeks 1-3:  Scope, Methodology and Techniques, Indo-European, Balto-Slavic, Common Slavic, Eastern, Western, and Southern Slavic

Weeks 4-7:  History I: Phonology

Weeks 8-9:  History II: Morphosyntax

Week 10:  History III: The Lexicon

Weeks 11-12:  Russian, Polish, and Serbo-Croatian in Contrast

Weeks 13-16:  Three Slavic Languages – a Survival Kit