Church Slavonic language

From Academic Kids

The Church Slavonic language (ru: церковнославя́нский язы́к, tserkovnoslavynskiy yazk) is the liturgical language of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church and other Slavic Orthodox Churches. Historically, this language is derived from the Old Church Slavonic language by adapting pronunciation and orthography and replacing some old and obscure words and expressions by their vernacular counterparts (for example from the Old Russian language).

Before the 18th century, the Church Slavonic language was in wide use as a general literary language in Russia. Although it was never spoken per se outside church services, members of the priesthood, poets, and the educated tended to slip its expressions into their speech. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was gradually replaced by the Russian language in secular literature and retained its use only in church. Although as late as the 1760's Lomonosov argued that Church Slavonic was the so-called "high style" of Russian, within Russia itself this point of view largely vanished in the course of the nineteenth century. Elements of its style may have survived longest in speech among the Old Believers after the late-seventeenth century schism in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Church Slavonic (in various modifications) was also used as a liturgical and literary language in other Orthodox countries — Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria and (former Yugoslav) Republic of Macedonia — until it was replaced by national languages (but the liturgical use may continue).

Many words have been borrowed from Church Slavonic into Russian. However, as both languages are Slavic, the borrowings are usually thought of as variants of Russian words, e.g. (the first word in each pair is Russian, the second Church Slavonic): золото / злато (zoloto / zlato), город / град (gorod / grad), горячий / горящий (goryačiy / goryaščiy), рожать / рождать (rožat / roždat).

The Church Slavonic language is written with Cyrillic alphabet while using a lot of otherwise archaic letters and diacritical signs. Currently the computer support for this language is very poor, so people have to use some ad hoc solutions.


In most cases, the Chuch Slavonic language is pronounced like the modern vernaculars; consequently, its pronounciation today differs considerably between the different Slavic nations. In Russia, the Church Slavonic language is pronounced in the same way as Russian, with some exceptions:

  • There is no vowel reduction in unstressed syllables. That is, о and е in unstressed positions are always read as IPA and respectively (like in Northern Russian dialects), whereas in standard Russian pronunciation they then become and .
  • There should be no devoicing of final consonants, although in practice there often is.
  • The letter е is never read as ё (the letter ё does not exist in Church Slavonic writing at all). This is also reflected in borrowings from Church Slavonic into Russian: in the following pairs the first word is Church Slavonic in origin, and the second is purely Russian: небо / нёбо (nyebo / nyobo), одежда / одёжа (odyežda / odyoža), надежда / надёжный (nadyežda / nadyožniy).
  • The letter "g" is read as voiced fricative velar sound (just as in Southern Russian dialects), not as occlusive in standard Russian pronunciation. When unvoiced, it becomes ; this has influenced the Russian pronunciation of Бог (Bog) as Бох (Bokh). In modern Russian Church Slavonic occlusive [g] is also used and considered acceptable; however Бог (nominative) is pronounced (Bokh) as in Russian.
  • The adjective ending -его () is pronounced as written, whereas in Russian it is pronounced –ево ().

Grammar and style

Although the various recensions of Church Slavonic differ in minor points, they share the tendency of approximating the original Old Church Slavonic language to the local Slavic speech.

Inflexion tends to follow the ancient patterns with few simplifications. The original six verbal tenses, seven nominal cases, and three numbers are intact.

The fall of the yers is fully reflected, more or less to the Russian pattern, although the terminal ъ continues to be written. The yuses are often replaced or altered in usage to the sixteenth- or seventeenth-century Russian pattern. The yat continues to be applied with greater attention to the ancient etymology than it was in nineteenth-century Russian. The letters ksi, psi, omega, ot, and izhitsa are kept, as are the letter-based denotation of numerical values, the use of stress accents, and the abbreviations or titla for words that would otherwise be capitalised.

The syntax, whether in scripture, liturgy, or church missives, is generally somewhat modernised in an attempt to increase comprehension. In particular, some of the ancient pronouns have been eliminated from the scripture (such as етеръ "a certain (person, etc)" > in the Russian recension). Many, but not all, occurrences of the imperfect tense have been replaced with the perfect.

Miscellaneous other modernisations of classical formulae have taken place from time to time. For example, the opening of the Gospel of John, by tradition the first words written down by Saints Cyril and Methodius, "In the beginning was the Word", were set down as in the Elizabethan Bible of 1755.

External links

cs:Staroslověnština de:Altkirchenslawisch ja:古代教会スラヴ語 nl:Kerkslavisch pl:Język cerkiewnosłowiański ru:Церковнославянский язык sl:cerkvenoslovanščina fi:Kirkkoslaavi


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools