E. Wayles Browne, Cornell University

Seminar: Ling F: 3 Puzzles in Slavic Linguistics

E. Wayles Browne (Cornell University)

Day 1: Introductions, and general background, start of Puzzle 1

How do we make names of languages in BCS (and other Slavic languages)? The basic names are adjectives, like engleski (jezik), portugalski (jezik), indonezijski/indonežanski (jezik), but what do we make these from? And once we have them, what forms do we derive from them? We can make adverbs, like Kako govori? Bosanski. We can make nouns, like čakavski > čakavština, though other languages like Slovenian do this much more. 

This ties in with some other thoughts about adverbs, which can be in copular predicates: griješiti je ljudski, opraštati je božanski, unlike English (*To err is humanly).

Day 2. Complete Puzzle 1. Q&A and discussion. Sneak preview of Puzzle/Topic 2. We will also talk about the relationship between place names and person names: Poland <- Pole, Finland <- Finn, but Iceland -> Icelander, New York -> New Yorker.

Day 3. Introduction of Puzzle 2: Numerals,  nouns and premodifiers in BCS. It's easy to describe 1 with singular; 2, 'both', 3, and 4 with the 234 form; 5 and higher with the genitive plural:

taj jedan sat

ta dva sata, ta oba sata, ta tri sata, ta četiri sata

tih pet sati ...

But what happens with other sorts of numerals: 'zero'; '1 or 2'; '4 or 5'; 'one half' etc.? We can go through a bunch of examples and see what generalizations we can make.

Day 4. Review Puzzle 2. Start of Puzzle 3:  BCS nouns can have alternations of the last consonant of the stem. Feminines (and the few masculines) in -a have k>c, g>z, and h>s before -i in the dative and locative singular: djevojka>djevojci, briga>brizi, svrha>svrsi. Masculines have it in the nom.pl. before -i, and both masculines and neuters have it in the dative-instrumental-locative plural before -ima. But there is a complicated set of conditions under which the alternation fails to occur. We get pazuho> both pazusima and pazuhima, and one of the factors making one or the other more likely turns out to be whether the noun is directly after a preposition or not.

Day 5. completion of Puzzle 3 and final discussion. If we have German speakers, we can ask him/her whether masculine nouns are more likely or less likely to take their optional dative case ending -e when they're directly after a preposition (vom Mann vs. vom Manne; von dem jungen Mann vs. von dem jungen Manne).