And the word internal means that this will be done within the given language, without going beyond its limits.
The texts from which you will see that the language was a little different, sometimes very different or not at all like that, but, nevertheless, this is clearly a previous stage in the development of the current language.
We already said last time that the degree of difference between a modern language and the same language a thousand years ago for different languages is very different. For example, the English language has changed so much over this thousand years that it is almost impossible for a modern Englishman to read the text of the 10th century without preparation – he will understand very little there. In the same way, if you studied English and gave you a text of the 10th century, then perhaps you will not even recognize that it is Old English, and not some other language – the degree of evolution of this language is so strong.
In contrast, say, the Russian language has changed much less in a thousand years. If you have before you an old Russian text of the 11th century, then it will, of course, be difficult for you, in many respects incomprehensible, but nevertheless you will perfectly recognize that this is also your language, only much more archaic than it is now. You will understand something, you will not understand something, but the difference one way or another will be much less.
This kind of difference can be seen all over the world. It remains the same for everyone that the difference will be obligatory, only for some languages it will be more, and for others less. Analyzing ancient texts (of course, not from the first time you opened the tenth century manuscript, but maybe after many years of study), you gradually come to understand the intricacies of the language of that era and can compare it with the modern one. And you can, in particular, make sure that some words were clearly pronounced differently than they are now.
But, mind you, this is not such an easy task, even when you have in front of you a completely readable text written in the same alphabet as now, say, the Latin alphabet for the Old English language or the Cyrillic alphabet for the Old Russian language. From what is written there, it is not at all as obvious as it was read. This is also a whole special discipline, which, like any science, has its own methods and experience, which allow one to draw more or less reliable conclusions about what is behind such and such a letter notation from the point of view of phonetics. I repeat: this requires some special training and special deepening into this problem. But nevertheless, this is material that is absolutely accessible to linguists. They can, analyzing the written texts of previous eras, come to reasonably plausible or even quite reliable conclusions about how it was pronounced. Well, and thus make sure that a lot of words were pronounced differently than they are now. And then it is already to establish the difference between the ancient pronunciation and the new, to look for explanations of how and in what direction changes in the ancient pronunciation could occur.
This, I repeat, is the logically simplest way, and for a linguist studying the corresponding language, this is a happy situation when it is. Fortunately, the Russian language is in just such a position: for the Russian language, the tradition of written documents has never been interrupted for the last thousand years, and with each successive century more and more documents have accumulated. True, from the first centuries of writing in Russia, namely the XI-XII centuries, there are few documents left, but still enough for us to get some initial idea of how what was pronounced.
Note, this is not a closed-end fund! Sometimes it happens that a fund of this kind is replenished, and just for the history of the Russian language during the last 50 years, such a replenishment has taken place. You have heard about it, of course – this is the discovery of birch bark letters in Novgorod and other places. Texts began to appear out of the ground, there are more and more of them – now there are about 1000, and they belong to the most ancient centuries of the history of the Russian language and thereby expand our understanding of what Russian was like in the 11th, 12th, etc. centuries … The opening of birch bark letters continues, it is such a living thing – there may be news in it.
So, this is an easy way, but limited only to those few languages of the world where there is a written tradition. I repeat: this is not the case for most languages - there is no written tradition. In this case, you can record in detail how what sounds, how phrases are constructed, etc., but only in the modern state of the language.
What about those cases when you have a language in front of you, where there is no written tradition, that is, this simple source of knowledge about the past is absent? Is it true that in this case we know nothing about the previous states of the language? No, it is not correct. Modern linguistics is also able in these cases to obtain a certain amount of knowledge about the previous states of the language.
How is this possible? There are two main methods by which such information can be obtained.
One is the so-called internal reconstruction method. Reconstruction is restoration, an attempt to restore the previous state with the help of some logical reasoning. And the word internal means that this will be done within the given language, without going beyond its limits.
I will illustrate some of the possibilities of this kind for the Russian language.
Let us imagine for a moment – although this is actually not the case – that there is no tradition of the written Russian language, that there is not only a written language of the ancient centuries, but even a written language before 1917. There is only what we now hear in our own speech and read in what has just been printed.
Take feminine nouns, say bee, wall, price, wife, arrow, spring, gum, and so on. Here is a row. What do they have in common?
– End a.
– Quite right. Anything else?
– Two syllables.
– e, of course! Quite right. I already told you that I will take the feminine words, so the ending -а is just a consequence of this. And the peculiarity of these words is that they all have an e at the root.
You can continue this series: for example, a sister, a broom and so on.
This is what we will be interested in. The pronunciation is exactly the same e, isn’t it? It is impossible to determine by ear that in one word e is of one type, and in another case – of some other type.
However, there is reason to suspect that now e is the same everywhere, but once it was not the same. Why? But you try, using your existing knowledge of the Russian language for free, to form a plural for all these words.
– bees, walls, prices, wives, arrows, springs, gums …
– Not difficult, right?
– sisters, brooms.
– Okay. Formed plural. And don’t you think that something unexpected is happening to your e? What happens to them?
– They become drums and some, when they become drums, are replaced by yo …
– Quite right. And some are not replaced. Exactly. You said this to yourself, and it became clear that there would be one thing or another: bees, but walls; prices, but wives; arrows, but springs, gums, sisters, brooms. Sometimes e is replaced by e, and sometimes e is retained.
How can this be from the point of view of history, if we already know the principle that the change should be the same for the same phoneme? We see that in the transition from these original forms to the plural, the stress changes, and under this new stress, some e become g. Some, but not all, that is, there is a violation of the main law that we talked about earlier: if there is some kind of phonetic change, then it should occur in all cases when a given phoneme appears. Well, I’m ready to invite you to think: what then, what can be the assumption about what really happened here?
Lev Kozlov (grade 8): Well, where the plural is e, it used to be “yat”.
A. Zaliznyak: Well, here you show your education, you already know about “yat”. This is not bad – I am not against education, it is even very good, but nevertheless now I would like to hear the reasoning of those who do not know about “yat”, but nevertheless observe this situation. I want to say once again that I do not in the least belittle the value of direct knowledge, but I invite those who do not have this knowledge to make sure that the same conclusion can be reached through their own reflection.
The main law of phonetic development, which was discussed, asserts that if a phoneme changes into something, then it changes not in one word, not in two or three words, and not in half the words, but in ALL words, where it is contained.
In this case, the only way to “fit” into this law, that is, to avoid violating it, is to assume that we have not one e here, but at one time there were two different ones. Do you understand? You cannot get out of this situation in any other way: if you assume that there has always been the same e, then you have a blatant violation of the main law of language development. Hence the need to assume that once there were two different e: one – which, when shifting to it, gave the stress e, and the other – which, when shifting to it, gave the stress e. Let’s denote them as follows: e1 and e2.
This is a typical step in internal reconstruction. What is the achievement of our reconstruction? In the fact that we saw something in the modern state of the same type – all these words in modern language represent a homogeneous series – but we came to the idea that once before it was a heterogeneous series. This was a series in which in some cases there was a vowel e of the first type, and in other cases a vowel e of the second type.
I note right away, and this is essential: I didn’t say anything about the fact that one e, for example, some long, and the other short, or one wider, and the other narrow, one e with one phonetic feature, the other with the other phonetic feature. This is unknown to us. The only thing that is known – this is, so to speak, pure algebra – that these e1 and e2 were not equal to each other. This is the most important provision of linguistic reconstruction. And in what they really differed phonetically, this method does not follow in any way. It is possible to build separate hypotheses about this, but they will lie in a completely different area. The main conclusion from our reasoning: what is the same here today was once different.
Well, in this case, I built an artificial example, demanding that you forget about the existence of Russian writing before 1917. Because if you remember this, then everything that we have come to will simply lie on the surface. In traditional graphics, our e1 corresponds to the letter e, and our e2 corresponds to the letter y – that’s all.
So the answer really lies in yata, that is absolutely correct. And here I am ready to appeal to your education: which of them is e, and which is? The one that gives the plural e, or the one that gives the e? Which one in modern language gives e?
– True, it gives e. So, if you like, it is more “e-shaped”, i.e. more constantly associated with the sound of e just yat. Whereas the ancient e under stress sounds no longer like e, but like e.
Linguists also have some highly probable hypotheses about how the ancients differed phonetically, but I do not want to talk about this now, because this does not follow from the method we are considering.
I will write you one more series of words – and this time I will not even invite you especially to forget the Russian writing before 1917. You can remember – all the same it will not help you.
Let me write down, say, the following words: forehead, bob, skein, stream, sand, source, leaf. You can continue, but that’s enough. What do these words have in common?
– Well, you quickly learn. That was for the sake of e, this was for the sake of Fr. Let’s do some research on this about. Again, there is no doubt that now it is exactly the same about, that you pronounce the forehead and bob, sand and skein, and so on in the same way. And now I will ask you this question: do you have any suspicions about something that is the same now, but once was not the same? Think about it.
– In the genitive case, somewhere will remain about, but somewhere not …
– Right. Indeed, do some exercise: put everything in the genitive case and see what happens.
– forehead, bean, skein, stream, sand, source, leaf.
– Quite right, you notice it very quickly. It turns out that these words fall into two groups – about the same as in the previous example. Here is a slightly different effect, but it is important for us whether there is a difference or not. She is. We have two groups of words: in one, o is preserved, in the other it drops out. You were probably taught what is called a fluent oh, right?
– So the situation itself is familiar to you. But when it says “cursory about”, it means that this is also about. Do you understand? But in this case, we again find ourselves in the face of a violation of the basic pattern. It turns out that after translating the word into the genitive case and adding the ending -а in the genitive case, sometimes o remains with you, and sometimes disappears. But according to the basic regularity, if initially there was one and the same phoneme o in these words, then the same changes should have occurred with it in all words. But here it turns out that not in all: in half they occur, and in the other half they do not.
Consequently, by the method of internal reconstruction, we get the same conclusion as in the first example: in ancient times there was not one o, but two different ones – o1 and o2. Again, how they differed, we still cannot judge at all, we have reached only an important conclusion that there were two different o, that is, in antiquity there were different phonemes. And here, I repeat, the pre-revolutionary spelling will not help you: it provides exactly the same Fr.
The spelling of the 11th century would help you. If you went so deep into the history of the Russian language that you took these words from the monuments of the 10th century, it would turn out that they are written there in different ways. Moreover, different spellings would exactly correspond to the difference between o1 and o2. But is your education enough to say what was there? In the first example, there was a yat, but argumentative essay gun control here what?
– It seems to me that where about the fugitive, there was an omega.
“This is an elegant hypothesis, but in this case it is wrong. What other assumptions are there?
EB Feklistova (Russian language teacher): Er!
A. A. Zaliznyak: Well, why don’t you let the children tell you?
Then I will take these words and rewrite them in the spelling of the 11th century. Firstly, there will be an ep at the end – I will sign this mechanically – what we now call a solid sign. But, in addition, something will change radically.
Let’s agree: if o remains, then it will be o1, and if it falls, then o2. First you dictate the words from o2 to me, and I will underline them.
– Forehead, sand, skein, leaf …
And here is our series of words in the 11th century entry:
lb, bob, motk, stream, pus’k, source, leaf.
As you can see, our o1 here corresponds to the letter o, and our o2 – the letter b.
In this case, we have the opportunity to act with two methods simultaneously, that is, first construct a hypothesis by the method of internal reconstruction, and then check it against what the study of ancient manuscripts gives. And it turns out that they are perfectly consistent with each other – indeed they were two different phonemes: one was a phoneme about, and the other was a phoneme that you cannot pronounce now. How will you pronounce a solid sign? In modern Russian, it is believed that this is not something pronounced, but just a conventional sign for reading adjacent letters.