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Lexicographic Miniatures: Research Notes on Russian and Church Slavonic Historical Lexicography

Margarita I. Chernysheva, Roman N. Krivko


One of the most crucial problems in the historical lexicography of the Russian language is that lexicographers are regularly faced with texts and sources which often have neither been properly published, if at all, nor properly commented on from linguistic, philological, and historical points of view. The first part of these research notes shows that a Greek source of one of the liturgical chants dedicated to SS. Constantine and Helene has been erroneously identified in the Index of the Incipita of Old East Slavonic liturgical chants; this made it possible to assume textual corruption in the Slavonic translation and prevented scholars from establishing a correct understanding of the hapax legomenon tresadovnyj, which actually means ‘made of three species of wood’ (about the Holy Cross made of the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box, according to Christian exegesis of Is 60:13). In the second part of these research notes, the edition and lexicographic interpretation of one passage from the Church Slavonic translation of the Homilies by Gregory the Dialogist have been critically reconsidered. Editorial mistakes and a lack of commentary has made it impossible to understand and to explain adequately the phrase krotostʹ na tjažestʹ obratiti lit. ‘to transmute modesty into gravity.’ This phrase is important to exemplify the rare meaning of the Church Slavonic word tjažestʹ (lit. heaviness, gravity) ‘dignity,’ which is lexicographically recorded in this meaning only in a few translated texts, and attests a semantic calque. While the Slavonic translation of this passage is erroneous, its edition and lexicographic interpretation are corrupted and inadequate, so that on the basis of the edition and of the available dictionaries one could not understand that the phrase krotostʹ na tjažestʹ obratiti (‘to transmute modesty into gravity’) actually means ‘to renounce light-mindedness and to return to (proper) dignity.’ In the third part of the article, the lexical meaning of the words tščetina, tščetinnyj is analyzed. The final part is dedicated to the critical analysis of some erroneous editorial decisions made by scholars, who ignored the Greek origin of translated texts.


historical lexicography; historical dictionaries; history of the Russian language; history of Church Slavonic; translations from Greek and Latin into Church Slavonic


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