Imi zhe vesi.

This is one of those posts that will not be of wide interest, but having put so much time and effort into understanding a few words, I feel compelled to publish my results, and since those few words are found in The Brothers Karamazov, I figure someone might benefit. So: at the end of Part One (Book Three, Chapter 11), Alyosha offers up a prayer that includes the words “У Тебя пути: ими же веси путями спаси их.” Most of this is clear: ‘Thine are the ways (or ‘paths’); by them … by the paths save them.’ But that ellipsis represents the word vesi, which I knew only as the plural of the word весь ‘village,’ which made no sense here. And when I checked the old-spelling text, I found it was вѣси (with yat), and I was even more confused.

Eventually I figured out that it was the second-person singular form of the OCS verb вѣсти/вѣдѣти, whose present-tense forms are вѣмь, вѣси, вѣсть, вѣмы, вѣсте, вѣдѧтъ; the preceding ими же [imi zhe] is the instrumental plural form of the old relative pronoun иже, equivalent to modern которыми. So the final clause of the quoted sentence means ‘by the ways that Thou knowest, save them.’ (David Magarshack, alas, misunderstood веси as a form of весь ‘all’ and translated “All the ways are thine.”) I then discovered that the phrasing was found in a number of traditional prayers, e.g. “Единый, Ты Сам точию можеши, аще восхочеши, спасти нас ими же веси путями и судьбами,” and was used in two Leskov novels, Некуда (Nekuda: Господи! ими же веси путями спаси его [Lord! save him by the ways that Thou knowest]) and Соборяне (The Cathedral Folk: Господи, ими же веси путями спаси! [Lord, save (him) by the ways that Thou knowest!]) And now you know as much as I do. (I’m guessing native Russian speakers these days have almost as much trouble as I did with that phrase.)

Update. The Bloggers Karamazov (the official blog of The North American Dostoevsky Society) has published an expanded version of this post.


  1. Google searches confirm that the phrase is a source of deep confusion to the contemporary Russians. A page after page sets out to explain it, before getting lost.

    The word вѣси shows up quite transparently in the countless “thou knowest” constructs though, like in
    Глагола Ему: ей Господи, Ты вѣси, яко люблю Тя. Глагола ему: паси агнцы Моя.

  2. Alright. How about explaining “ими же веси судьбами” (can be found in 19c writing as well, one example is in OP). судьба (sud’ba) means “fate” or “destiny” in modern language, which is sort of makes sense (“you know in which way”), but original meaning is “judgement”, thus it goes down to “because you know your decision”(???). My suspicion is that it is novodel, a relatively new prayer inexpertly archaicized. Be glad to be proven wrong.

    EDIT: A bit of a google books search shows that it goes back to at least Avvakum. Then it cannot be too new. And probably further back, but with a different meaning. If true, not a novodel, but a really old expression, which changed the meaning when a constituent word changed its meaning.

  3. David Marjanović says

    Huh, a word-order jumble almost like in Latin poetry. Is the whole thing a literal translation from Greek?

    ими же вѣси путями
    those.that-INSTR EMPH knowest ways-INSTR
    “by those that thou knowest – the ways, I mean”

  4. vesi

    Polish still has it in almost the same form – wiesz (you know)

  5. Bѣси = “Thou wotst.”

  6. Czech too: vím, víš, ví, víme, víte, vědí.

  7. This is one of those posts that will not be of wide interest…

    Maybe not wide, but very deep! This post was fascinating! More please!

  8. PlasticPaddy says

    Proverbs 3:6 may be the point of departure (the prayer would then be an allusion to the verse). Here is a link for the Greek.

  9. Looks too different in the Slavonic: во всѣхъ путехъ твоихъ познавай ю, да исправляетъ пути твоя.

  10. Two obvious differences: no relative pronoun, no form of вѣдѣти.

  11. PlasticPaddy says

    You are right, hat. The plurality of paths is unusual to me, as opposed to the one straight and narrow☺. Maybe there is another verse or non-bible orthodox literature that provides a source for the prayer.

  12. Stright and narrow is for the human beings, not for G-d in this faith :). A much more extant reference to the “many paths” is a Russian exclamation of surprise with the same verb stem, неисповедимы пути Господни.

  13. Inscrutable are the ways of God. Even I recognize that one.

  14. I just checked Garnett, and she too misunderstood it: “All ways are Thine. Save them according to Thy wisdom.”

  15. Ha, and so did Pevear and Volokhonsky: “All ways are yours: save them according to your ways.” I wonder if they just copied Garnett, modernizing the language? Am I the first English-speaking reader who’s ever understood that line??

  16. David Eddyshaw says

    Silent upon a peak in Darien.

  17. Except that I’m shooting my mouth off instead of standing in awed silence.

  18. I hesitate to play a theologian (although if the things are desperate, I may shoot a question to a facebook friend who is an Orthodox priest and a University professor), but I understand the origins of the prayer and of the saying about the inscrutable ways as being very equivalent. “Only G*d knows the way out” – “Save them and deliver by the ways only Thou knowest, for all the ways are Thine”.

    Which is pretty darn close to what P&V have, isn’t it?

  19. I’ll give earlier translators a pass, because when you’re translating a very long novel, presumably with a deadline, you can’t spend an indefinite amount of time trying to figure out one word. But P&V had the internet, just like me, and they have no excuse. They were just too lazy and/or incompetent.

  20. Hat: As Dmitry Pruss pointed out above, the phrase is widely misunderstood by present-day native speakers of Russian. Add to this the fact that even some translators did not get it right, and that understanding its meaning requires a good knowledge of Old Church Slavonic, and I think there is indeed a good chance that you are the first English-speaking reader who has ever understood that line.

    And English-speaking translators seem not to have been the only ones who misunderstood the prayer: this is the translation into French of Henri Mongault, dating back to 1935:

    « Seigneur, pardonne-leur à tous, protège ces malheureux et ces agités, guide-les, maintiens-les dans la bonne voie. Toi qui es l’Amour, accorde-leur à tous la joie ! »

    So, Hat, you just might actually be the first Western reader to understand the line…

  21. I wonder if they just copied Garnett, modernizing the language?

    I’ve long suspected that that’s their fundamental methodology.

    But P&V had the internet, just like me, and they have no excuse. They were just too lazy and/or incompetent.

    OTOH, in their (very tepid) defense, The Brothers Karamazov was actually their first effort (Holy Jumping into the Deep End, Batman!) in 1990, when the Internet was not quite as comprehensive, or even as “Inter-,” as it is today.

  22. Ah, an excellent point. I’m a fair man, and I withdraw my accusation. But future translators have no excuse, especially when I’ve handed them the explanation on a platter!

  23. It really does shock me, though, that none of them seems to have noticed that веси could not possibly be a form of the word for ‘all.’

  24. none of them seems to have noticed that веси could not possibly be a form of the word for ‘all.’

    Hmm, I have a feeling that they were simply trying to express the meaning of “У Тебя пути” by “All ways are yours”.

    You have (the) paths ~~ You have all the paths ~~ All the paths are yours?

  25. Yeah, I guess that’s possible. But I think it’s more probable that it represents веси, because 1) there’s no other representation of веси in any of the translations, and 2) it’s an obvious (if incorrect) source for “all.”

  26. Lars (not the original one) says

    Asking Wiktionary, and using the form with the yat, gets you the right etymology (I won’t link, since that would set me on the way to the spam box). Also, I note that this is an old PIE root.

  27. Yes indeed, *wóyde, stative form of *weyd-.

  28. David Marjanović says

    It really does shock me, though, that none of them seems to have noticed that веси could not possibly be a form of the word for ‘all.’

    That reminds me of a Latin test we once got. I think the word in question was reum. Almost everybody figured it just had to be rem and translated it accordingly, even though reum cannot possibly be a form of res and even though we were allowed to use our dictionaries. I took a good long while pondering the mystery, eventually remembered in dubio pro reo, looked it up, and yes, reus is the accused. I got it right.

    (I did not know mens rea yet.)

  29. David Eddyshaw says
  30. David Eddyshaw says

    Reus may be the accused, but reum is the accusative!
    Pretty guilty if you ask me.

  31. Andrej Bjelaković says

    The one Serbian translation I have access to currently (actually I don’t know how many there are) appears to get it right:

    Господе, смилуј се свима данашњима, сачувај их несрећне и немирне, и упути. Твоји су путеви: путевима којима знаш спаси их. Ти си љубав. Ти ћеш свима послати радост!

  32. PlasticPaddy says

    The usual etymology of reus is from an alternative genitive of res. But what if they were unrelated? Rache in German goes back to the PIE stem *wreg “to drive” and vrag in Russian goes back to a “similar” *wargas in proto balto-slavic. What would the Latin reflex look like?

  33. PlasticPaddy says

    Please ignore question. Latin reflex of PIE seems to be urgeo. I don’t know why the balto-slavic root for vrag is not matched but can believe there is a reason.

  34. The one Serbian translation I have access to currently (actually I don’t know how many there are) appears to get it right

    So it does! And I guess it’s not surprising that a speaker of a South Slavic language would be better able to deal with OCS bits in Russian.

  35. I was reading Psalm 1 and was struck by a couple of nice examples of the relative pronoun:

    Блажен муж, иже не иде на совет нечестивых […] Не тако нечестивии, не тако; но яко прах, eгоже возметает ветр от лица земли.

    Blessed is the man who does not go to the council of the wicked […] Not like that are the wicked, not like that; but like the dust, which the wind sweeps from the face of the earth.

  36. Most Russians are familiar with its use in the OCS Lord’s Prayer:

    Otche nash, izhe esi na nebeseh
    (Our father, who art in heaven)

    Needless to say, without translation, Russians don’t understand the meaning of this phrase either. In fact, after comma, they would get correctly only the preposition “na” (“on”).

  37. I suspect most English speakers no longer understand the word “hallowed” in the English version.

  38. izhe esi na nebeseh

    not infrequently understood as a mere poetic license for rhyming the lines, иже еси // на небеси (with over 100,000 Google hits to the latter spelling, actually beating the “иже еси на небесех” by the number of hits).

    хлеб, нас несущий, дашь нам есть is also known but far less common

  39. January First-of-May says

    My impression was that “иже еси на небесех” is the plural, “who art in heavens”, and substituting the last word with the singular “heaven” results in the often-quoted “иже еси на небеси”.
    If this is correct (I don’t know enough OCS to be sure), it’s possible that the rhyming version is actually fairly old, and not just a random fix to make the text rhyme.

    (Possibly conceptually similar, in terms of origin, is the famous Caesar “quote” Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est.)

    As for “хлеб, нас несущий, дашь нам есть” – that’s just a regular mondegreen and/or eggcorn (not sure which term is more correct here). For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard that version personally.

  40. Totally off topic, except the topic of conceptual re-interpretation of the old expressions. Overheard today in my feed:

    я хочу произвести впечатление. Чтобы она под него попала …. и больше уже оттуда не выбралась.

  41. Speaking of OCS-inspired mondegreens. Here’s one I like, Воз несу с осла, вою непрестанно. And it’s not actually OCS, just a slightly dated Russian.

  42. Omnia Gallia in tres partes divisa est.

    “All gallium is divided into three parts”, I suppose. (YouTube)

  43. I think the greatest oddity of the English-language Lord’s Prayer is the locution, “Our father, who art in heaven….” That kind of relative clause seems ungrammatical in modern standard English. The following are fine:

    I, who am in my office pretty late tonight,…
    You, who are still going on and on about this,…
    You, Melanie, who are looking dangerously thin,…
    Brian, who is at work today,…
    His father, who is out getting drunk,…
    He, who is not among our best and brightest,…
    The moist bells of Swansea, which are described in a very silly way,…

    However, the second person version requires that the subject be pronominal. Addressing Roger, I cannot say

    *Roger, who are wearing a fabulous shirt,…

    Addressing someone by a title does not make it work either

    *Mister Chairman, who are doing such a commendable job with this hearing,…

    Of course, the version in the Lord’s Prayer is addressing God in the familiar, so it is art rather than are. The old colloquial second person singular forms are not part of my natural dialect, but I normally do feel like I am capable of using them fluently. However, it is possible that this is a weird edge case, where my not-quite-native intuition about proper usage of art is wrong—that the construction does not work with are, but with art it is fine.

    For anyone who might not get the reference. Obviously, I was listening to the song while I was writing this.

  44. David Eddyshaw says

    In fact, that should be Our Father, which art in heaven. Those of us with proper Presbyterian childhoods know these things.

    Years ago, I saw a letter to one of the UK papers from the president of the Prayer Book Society, whose remit is apparently to safeguard “the language and doctrine” (sic, in that order) of the Anglican Prayer Book from horrid liberals and scholars. He was objecting to this very change of “which” to “who”, on the grounds that the original “which” reflected the fact that the Father was not personal, unlike the Son.

    There seemed to be a pleasing irony in the fact that he had been betrayed into an unequivocally heretical statement by his ignorance of early modern English.

  45. David Eddyshaw says

    It always seemed odd to me to change (quite rightly) “which” to “who”, but not to change the equally-obsolete “art”; but then, the whole construction is obsolete. It should be something like “Our Father, you who are in heaven”, as Brett says.

  46. David Marjanović says

    I think the greatest oddity of the English-language Lord’s Prayer is the locution, “Our father, who art in heaven….” That kind of relative clause seems ungrammatical in modern standard English.

    No surprise there! It’s translated word for word from qui es in caelis/coelis. In Latin this is perfectly normal, and it still is in modern French.

    “Our Father, you who are in heaven”

    That’s what the German version tries to do: der du bist im Himmel. Of course that’s not remotely idiomatic either, even aside from the word order – what we’d normally do is to step out of the direct address and comment on it: der im Himmel ist, third person. Interrogative/relative/demonstrative pronouns are stuck with the third person.

  47. der du bist im Himmel. Of course that’s not remotely idiomatic either, even aside from the word order

    Apart from the word order, and off the streets, “ich, der ich…” is unremarkable. I occasionally use it to starch up a sentence.

    Here with distancing effect in the first sentence of a review of a Schätzing thriller: Vielleicht bin ich gar nicht ich, der ich das hier schreibe.

    It may not be idiomatic, but I’m not going to let a bunch of idioms tell me what to do.

  48. David Marjanović says

    Yeah, well, very literary.

  49. Lars (the original one) says

    Danish Fader vor, du som er i himlene, … For our purposes this is unchanged since 1685, and the construction is still usable in speech, though not ultra-colloquial:: Steffen, du som taler alle sprog, ved du hvad en ko hedder på japansk?

    My Sprachgefühl tells me that du is a resumptive pronoun here — the name / designation of the addressee is left dislocated (and could be omitted), but the undislocated form is only usable when talking _about_ someone, not to them, because third person is the default.

    (Since Danish has had no truck with personal verb endings for the last 800 years or so and this particular text was read in Latin prior to 1537, I can’t tell you how the copula would have been inflected if it had been. Though Icelandic has Faðir vor, þú sem ert á himnum, exactly parallel and with an unambiguously 2sg form. The relativizer is root cognate to E same, not some).

  50. *Roger, who are wearing a fabulous shirt

    I don’t think that’s really on point, because it is non-restrictive. Saying “Hey, girl in the red dress!” is natural, but I don’t think “Hey, girl who’s wearing the red dress!” is ungrammatical; it just has a clash of registers.

    It should be something like “Our Father, you who are in heaven”

    All this logomachy is just because Latin can’t (or doesn’t like to) attach prepositional phrases directly to nouns. The Greek says “Our father in the heavens”, and IMAO the English should say “Our Father in Heaven”.

    unequivocally heretical statement

    Denying the personhood of the Father is not one of the known and named ancient heresies, though individuals do pop up now and then; as is usually the case, most of what we know comes from denouncers rather than adherents of the doctrine. I once met online a young person who believed that Jesus did not have nocturnal emissions; when I said he was ipso facto an Arian heretic, the next posting was from his spiritual adviser defining Arianism and distinguishing his doctrine from it. I thought his arguments were specious and said so, and I never heard from either of them again on the subject.

    I found a source (orthodox, says so right here on the label) to the effect that the personhood of the Father is a presumption of Scripture rather than a conclusion from it, and I think that historically that is right: even before people start to talk about a god (much less a God) they assume that whatever speaks to them must be a person (cf. Echo, the personification of an echo). As far as I know, not even the most modernist heretics have held dogmatically that God is an artificial intelligence, though the topic has been raised in science fiction from time to time.

  51. David Eddyshaw says

    the personhood of the Father is a presumption of Scripture rather than a conclusion from it

    Certainly; as indeed is the very existence of God.

  52. People seem to prefer personal gods, whether uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattman or not.

    I remember thinking about the I who am construction when as a teen I read 2 Esdras in the NEB (1970), where 3:1 says “I, Salathiel, who am also Ezra”. It seemed to me then, as it does now, that “who is also Ezra” would be better English on every count. (The KJV dodges the bullet by simply omitting the parenthetical and saying “I”.) Of course, this construction is inapplicable to object constructions: “*You should listen to me, who am your father” is unthinkable to me.

    2 Esdras is known to the Catholics as 4 Esdras and to the Orthodox as 3 Esdras, neither of whom consider it canonical. The Oriental Orthodox are divided: the Georgians definitely reject it, the Ethiopian and Eritrean Church definitely accept it, but I’m not sure of the others. It is frequently quoted by the Fathers, but also in the opening words of the Requiem Mass.

    The core, chapters 3-14, was probably written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek, but neither survive: we do have Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, Georgian, and Armenian versions from which the Greek may be triangulated (heptangulated?). The book did not appear in Jerome’s Vulgate but is in the Clementine Vulgate that became standard; the OCS version is a translation of the Latin. Chapters 1-2 and 14-15 appear only in the Latin, and are almost certainly Christian.

  53. David Eddyshaw says

    because Latin can’t (or doesn’t like to) attach prepositional phrases directly to nouns

    I can think of examples (multum in parvo, lupus in fabula); perhaps it’s more that Latin really likes relative clauses, as seen for example in the marked Latin tendency to use them for carrying forward narrative (“Then Caesar deployed his veterans. Who proceeded to make short work of the horrid barbarians …”)

    Most of the languages that spring to mind can use adpositional phrases as NP dependents, including all the modern western European ones I can think of (Cenedl heb iaith yw cenedl heb galon); and Hausa, for example, happily says

    wata mota gaban tashar
    “a car in front of the station”.

    Kusaal has only two prepositions, and prepositional phrases can only be used within NPs if they’re basically nominalised clauses:

    ya antu’a mɔrim kɔtʋ ni taaba la
    “your going-to-law in court with each other.”

    But Kusaal does use postpositional phrases as dependents in NPs without any trouble:

    kɔligin nɔraug
    “in-river cockerel”, i.e. crayfish

    daukaŋa la yɛla gbauŋ
    “a book about that man”

    The Lord’s Prayer begins

    Ti Ba’ onɛ bɛ arezana ni
    “Our Father, who is in heaven”

    though, with a relative clause, and thinking about it a bit more, I think that is probably necessary because the construction is not restrictive and isn’t describing what kind of Father we’re talking about, which it would have to be if a NP dependent were used.

    What about (for example) Mongolian and Japanese?

  54. David Eddyshaw says

    I should say too that Kusaal likes relative clauses every bit as much as Latin does (to the point of having two quite different sorts.) The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer translation, with its relative clause, is perfectly ordinary language, unlike the usual English version.

  55. @John Cowan: I’m not sure what you are driving at with, “Hey, girl who’s wearing the red dress!” While it is pragmatically a direct address, it is rendered in the third person. Only in the grammatical second person does a pronoun seem to be required.

    As to whether, “who art in heaven,” is restrictive, I had always taken it not to be. However, my interest in the Lord’s Prayer had always been literary rather than theological, so I never gave it too much thought. Yet it seems to me that, by virtue of its genre alone, there is no pragmatic need in a prayer to distinguish God the Father from the literal father of the speaker. (I have been playing Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire lately, and one of the main characters is a “godlike,” born with blue skin and tentacles instead of hair. Despite been born to an ordinary woman, he emphatically considers his mother to be the sea goddess, Ondra. Ondra, it turns out, returns his familial affections, to the extent that an artificial deity manufactured from the dead souls of a fallen civilization can have such emotions.)

  56. David Eddyshaw says

    I think as far as the English wording goes, you could perfectly well take the relative clause as restrictive or non-restrictive (though presumably a hard-core Strunk-and-Whiter would “correct” the former case to “Our Father that is in heaven”, and be quite rightly struck down by a thunderbolt.)

    My Greek Sprachgefühl is pretty nugatory, but the construction with the article before the prepositional phrase looks restrictive to me. Much ink has presumably been spilt over this question. Some Hatter will Actually Know. (Googling the subject seems just to throw up nonsense about commas.)

    [I found a nice example for an unequivocally non-restrictive relative clause in the Kusaal Bible:

    o sid onɛ da bɛ nɛ o la
    “her husband, who was there with her”

    – Genesis 3:6. QED.]

  57. David Marjanović says

    I’ve actually never encountered any mention of a distinction between restrictive and other relative clauses except in English, and then only for the purpose of determining whether commas are needed.

    But I haven’t read many grammars lately, or ever.

  58. This 2009 paper by David Wharton is about adnominal prepositional phrases in Latin. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, only skimmed it. But there are only 2.2 APPs per 1000 words in Latin prose, vs. 6 in Ancient Greek, 9 in Modern French, and 11 in Modern English. This excludes PPs attached to adjectives within NPs, nominals that are verbal nouns (gerunds, infinitives, and Latin supines), and (in the modern languages) PP-based genitive equivalents.

    I’m not sure what you are driving at

    Yes, I kind of lost track of what I was doing there. But “Hey, girl who are in the red dress!” is definitely impossible.

  59. I was again reminded this morning at church that one of the delightful things about Anglophone Eastern Orthodoxy is that if you get more than n of its practitioners together (for a really quite small value of n) and ask them to recite any common text such as e.g. the Lord’s Prayer, they won’t all (from memory) give you precisely the same English text. (This is more obvious if it’s spoken; if it’s sung/chanted and the members of the actual choir are all working from the same text they may be able to overwhelm dissident perspectives with volume + coordination.) Believing there is only One Right Way to English a text that exists authoritatively in some non-English Ursprache (whether that be Greek or Slavonic or perhaps even Latin as a rather grudging concession to the pathway by which the text may have come into English) is for suckers and/or uniformity-enforcing commissars.

  60. What about (for example) […] Japanese?

    Japanese has no relative pronouns:

    One version of the LP:
    まします【坐す】 ローマ(mashimasu)
    be; dwell; live.
    ▲天にましますわれらの父よ. 【聖】 Our Father which art in Heaven.
    Ten ni mashimasu wareware no chichi yo

    Another version:
    Ten ni orareru watashitachi no chichi yo
    (Orareru is the polite form of iru/oru ‘to be’)

  61. David Eddyshaw says

    Japanese has no relative pronouns

    This I knew; I was wondering more about postpositional phrases as noun premodifiers, e.g. can you have a “from-Tokyo train” instead of a “from-Tokyo-coming train”? (I seem to remember that you can at least have a “from-Tokyo one.”)

    Interesting thought from David M about restrictive/non-restrictive relative clauses cross-linguistically. There are quite a few languages where all relative clauses are restrictive, at least. I’ll have a trawl through some exotic grammars this evening.

    I’m not clear about Kusaal, beyond knowing that relative clauses certainly don’t have to be restrictive. I think non-restrictive interpretation is only possible when the relationship between antecedent and relative clause is formally appositional, but the vagaries of word division in texts make it difficult to be certain.

  62. Checked Mongolian Bible (2013 edition). Matthew 6:9 has

    Tenger deh, bidnii Aav aa
    (Sky at, our Father you)

  63. Is this “non-restrictive relative clause” business equivalent to what we farm boys still call apposition, when provoked ?

  64. can you have a “from-Tokyo train”

    You can, but you have to add の (no, the genitive particle) to it: Tōkyō kara no ressha ‘train of from Tokyo’

    the train from Tokyo

  65. David Eddyshaw says


    Makes a lot of sense semantically.Come to think of it, the type “the man I saw”, where there is no relative pronoun and there is no equivalent without a head noun, is always restrictive, so at least you could say that if they can’t be interpreted as appositional, they can’t be non-restrictive.

    Kusaal makes a formal difference between apposition and modification, but only in some contexts, and the differences are often either just tonal or involve differences in word division. Unfortunately the ordinary orthography doesn’t mark tone, and word division is often made incorrectly in texts, so it’s difficult to investigate the matter from written sources.


    So Mongolian can do it! Thanks.

  66. To be exact, it’s actually in vocative case just like in Latin.

    so perhaps “O, our father in the sky!”

  67. David Eddyshaw says

    Actually, “the article, which I happened to read just now” can be interpreted as non-restrictive despite the fact that even in the most mannered English prose you can’t just say “Which I happened to read just now was interesting.” So it’s not true that if the clause couldn’t stand alone the interpretation must be restrictive. I’ll see what CGEL says when I get home.

  68. you could say that if they can’t be interpreted as appositional, they can’t be non-restrictive

    Sheesh, with sillygisms like that, who needs to command four languages to stay mentally fit ?

    Let’s cast out the rhetorical “can’t be”s, and say equivalently: “if they are not appositional, they are not non-restrictive”. By the (admittedly somewhat controversial) principle of modus tollens, we find this statement to be equivalent to “if they are non-restrictive, they are appositional”. Asserting this amounts to saying “yes” in answer to my original question.

    As to casting out, I am working on the assumption that one can derive an “isn’t” from a “can’t”, in fact one has no effing alternative to so doing.

    Yes, I am extremely grumpy today. Adding to that a conviction that I am incontrovertibly right in what I just wrote, we may conclude that I should not step out the front door.

  69. David Eddyshaw says


    Ah, but I was right to hedge. I turned out to be wrong. Hadn’t thought it through.

    “Can’t beinterpreted as” are no omissible needless words. Some of these differences are probably only in the ear of the listener.

    You may feel that the entire issue is de trop. It’s OK: I have long since made my peace with the fact that there are scattered individuals out there who do not share my puppyish enthusiasm for syntax. People are strange.

  70. David Eddyshaw says

    (As are italics.)

  71. David Eddyshaw says

    The answer to your original question is No. I was wrong.

  72. @David E

    So this is not about Barbara or any of her cousins. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser. Now it’s syntax bones for puppies ?

    “Can’t be interpreted as” – well, sous peine de quoi can it not ? As a paid-up Luhmann follower, I have no problem with interpretation vs. meaning, to put it crudely. Even more crudely, I am lumen years ahead of that old game.

    I’m guessing you are implicitly positing a universal observer who observes intentions and meanings in terms of syntax, and is thereby immune to the pitfalls of interpretation.

    But this is all too abstract. Who gets hurt (even if only the feelings) if I say “apposition” instead of “non-restrictive”, up to parts of speech ?

  73. David Eddyshaw says

    Most apposition has nothing to do with relative clauses, so the most that might be claimed is that all non-restrictive relative clauses are appositional. But in apposition, both components have to be potentially stand-alone, and not all English non-restrictive relative clauses can stand alone. Therefore, not all English non-restrictive relative clauses are appositional.

    [Moreover, relative clauses that can stand alone (in Wardour Street English, anyhow) can be restrictive: “(He) who dares, wins.”]

    You may now redefine “apposition” in such a way that the individual components don’t need to be potentially stand-alone. That would invalidate my argument.

  74. David Eddyshaw says

    I had forgotten that apposition itself can be restrictive or non-restrictive. Wikipedia has, respectively:

    My friend Alice Smith likes jelly beans.
    Alice Smith, my friend, likes jelly beans.

  75. But in apposition, both components have to be potentially stand-alone

    There was not a whisper of such a qualification when I were a lad. They changed the rules again. They moved my bowl.

  76. CGEL in fact is well-known for its well-knownness in the relevant circles for calling the distinction integrated vs. supplemental, citing examples similar to “The father I knew would never have said that”, which uses the pronounless integrated form even though there is nothing to restrict, most of us having only one father (other than our father in heaven, if any).

    Italian notably has a grammatical distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive adjectives: la divina Commedia is so called by way of compliment to it, whereas la commedia divina would be so called in distinction from una commedia umana.

  77. There are a couple of striking “I who am”-type relative clauses in All the King’s Men in the chapter where the narrator, Jack, is recounting his failed Ph.D. thesis. He’s so distant from his younger self that he uses the third person:

    Long ago Jack Burden was a graduate student, working for his Ph.D. in American History, in the State University of his native state. This Jack Burden (of whom the present Jack Burden, Me, is a legal, biological, and perhaps even metaphysical continuator) lived in a slatternly apartment with two other graduate students, one industrious, stupid, unlucky, and alcoholic and the other idle, intelligent, lucky, and alcoholic.

    And at the end of the chapter:

    I have said that Jack Burden could not put down the facts about Cass Mastern’s world because he did not know Cass Mastern. Jack Burden did not say definitely to himself why he did not know Cass Mastern. But I (who am what Jack Burden became) look back now, years later, and try to say why.

    Those both sound perfectly idiomatic to me, even though Jack Burden’s present is 1939. Of course, first-person relative clauses are so rare that it could just be a matter of being used to the few examples I’ve encountered.

    Leiber and Stoller wrote both “I who have nothing” and “it’s I who loves you” in the same song.

  78. My Greek is so lamentably rusty I cannot immediately figure out whether the “ὁ” in “πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς” could be omitted and if so how the omission would change the meaning and/or proper syntactic parse. But now I am wondering if the stray ὁ may have somehow prompted the “qui” in the Latin, which in turn prompted various other things in languages that used the Latin as their starting place.

  79. David Eddyshaw says

    Re restrictive/non-restrictive relative clauses in languages other than English (that I promised to look up): I looked at some African languages that I have grammatical descriptions for, detailed enough to address the question. (Most don’t.)

    Hausa (from Jaggar) has a robust distinction between the two:
    Restrictive clauses follow the noun antecedent with the particle da and use a special relative perfective:

    Ga motar da muka saya jiya
    “Here’s the car that we bought yesterday.”

    The headless type uses the relative pronoun m. wanda, f. wadda or wacce, pl waɗanda:

    wadda za ta zo ƙanwarta ce.
    “The one who’ll come is her younger sister.”

    Non-restrictive relative clauses start with a distinctive all-low-tone variant of the pronoun and are added after the antecedent with an “afterthought” intonation:

    da ya tafi Amirka sai ya ga iyayensa, waɗanda suka jima can.
    “When he went to the USA he saw his parents, who had been there some time.”

    Some speakers (but not all) use the ordinary perfective in these clauses.
    Swahili (from Joan Maw) formally distinguishes what she calls “defining” relative clauses as in

    Wale walionialika nihudhurie arusi ya binti wao
    “those who invited me to their daughter’s wedding”

    where it the bolded verb form is marked as relative, from what she calls “non-defining”, introduced by amba:

    Nilifanya urafiki na binti arusi, ambaye sasa amehama
    “I made friends with the bride, who has now moved away”

    As she points out, the distinction is actually more obvious in Swahili than English.

    Gao Songhay, on the other hand, makes no formal difference between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses according to Geoffrey Heath, but relative clauses don’t have to be interpreted restrictively. Mandinka is the same according to Denis Creissels. Russell Schuh’s remarkable Miya grammar says that “virtually” all the examples of relative clauses in texts are restrictive but cites one example that can’t be interpreted restrictively; it’s no different formally from the others.
    In the Senufo language Supyire, according to Carlson, there are only restrictive relative clauses.

    So it’s not a peculiarity of English particularly; other languages make the distinction formally, though a lot just have relative clauses which can be interpreted either way and don’t make any formal distinction, and some only have relative clauses with restrictive meanings.

  80. BTW, I was poking around the history of English translations of Matthew 6:9 and came across “Our Father who is in heaven” in the NASB (“considered by some sources as the most literally translated of major 20th-century English Bible translations,” sez wikipedia). So unlike others who have just decided that “Our Father in heaven” will suffice, they kept the relative clause, but having abandoned the archaic verb-form “art” decided that they needed to switch over to 3d person “is” rather than 2d person “are” in order to be grammatical in 20th-century English. (Apparently this switch was not a feature of the original NASB NT from 1963, which had preserved some vestigial thee/thou diction, but was done in an updated edition that came out in 1995.)

  81. David Eddyshaw says

    The Dogon languages only have internally-headed relative clauses, and as far as I can make out they’re (unsurprisingly) always restrictive; the same is true of the internally-headed type of relative clause in Kusaal.

  82. David Eddyshaw says


    Nice cartoon. And puppies!

  83. PlasticPaddy says

    I am not sure these relative clauses are so unusual for Germanic, especially in the invocation in prayer:
    From Caedmon’s hymn
    uerc Uuldurfadur, suē hē uundra gihwaes,
    From merseburger Zaubersprüche II
    thû biguol en Wuodan, sô hê wola conda

  84. Defining and non-defining is the jargon used by English as a Second/Foreign Language practitioners, and has probably spread out from them. So we now have three pairs of terms for (essentially) the same concept.

  85. David Eddyshaw says

    I am not sure these relative clauses are so unusual for Germanic

    Gothic does its own thing: Atta unsar, þu in himinam …

  86. David Marjanović says

    I am not sure these relative clauses are so unusual for Germanic, especially in the invocation in prayer:

    These are in the third person. The unusual thing is who art.

  87. It is fascinating how native speakers can, apparently all consistently, know that this second person relative is not grammatical, when the first and third person forms are fine, and when the ungrammatical second person form exists in the Lord’s Prayer, which lots of people are exposed to from a fairly young age. What keeps children who hear the Lord’s Prayer from learning the second person form as grammatical? Does the fact that the construction is in the archaic familiar mean that the kids’ language-learning mechanisms recognize it as not belonging to their primary dialect? Is it recognized that the Lord’s Prayer—however often a child might hear it—is only a single source, and grammaticality requires confirmation from multiple sources?

  88. Religious/cultic formulas are in a special category. As SFReader said up there, to most Russians the entire first line of the Lord’s Prayer is incomprehensible in grammatical terms (though they presumably know more or less what it means).

  89. Stu Clayton says

    So are many passages in the KJV bible incomprehensible. They are grammatically unremarkable, like colorless green ideas or pissing against a wall. I see no warrant to assume most readers know what they mean, if anyone does.

  90. Antiquity surely beats grammatical transparency. Even those holy books which have been put into English text quite recently, like BoM, wear grammatical antiquity like a badge.
    For behold, thus saith the Lord, I will liken thee, O house of Israel, like unto a tame olive-tree

    And a good magic sooth better be not understandable at all.

  91. Stu Clayton says

    “I’m going to cut you down to size” ?

  92. I missed David’s question about Mongolian and Japanese. Try this Harry Potter chapter title:

    The Boggart in the Wardrobe

    There are a some other chapter titles with similar constructions. However, I haven’t got round to describing them in as much detail.

  93. Stu Clayton says


  94. David Eddyshaw says

    @Juha, Bathrobe:

    My question abundantly answered. Thanks! Also, bonus boggarts.

  95. vaatekAapissa

  96. I thought I’d fixed the 404. Sorry about that.

  97. Stu Clayton says

    Later I saw that the correct URL was in there, I just hadn’t bothered to look closely the first time. I get tired of figuring out why IT things don’t work when they don’t when I’m not working. It’s a programmer’s holiday.

  98. David Eddyshaw says

    There was not a whisper of such a qualification when I were a lad

    And I was wrong again. Twice in one year, and it’s only October!
    I couldn’t come up with any examples of apposition where the individual components were not potentially self-standing, but I hadn’t looked hard enough; there’s what CGEL calls the appositive oblique, as in the city of New York or the month of December.

  99. Stu Clayton says

    They also are justified who only sit and wait.

  100. David Eddyshaw says

    CGEL in fact is well-known in the relevant circles for calling the distinction integrated vs. supplemental

    I’d tended to glide over that as CGEL just showing off by inventing new terms when there are perfectly good established ones but (a) as you say, CGEL’s terminology is more accurate and (b) their preferred terms actually clarify matters significantly.

    In particular, the “supplemental” type is set apart from the rest of the clause structurally (as clearly seen in the Hausa and English prosody, too.) Starting from that end, the facts in Kusaal become easily explicable: in themselves, there’s nothing about the relative constructions which is specifically restrictive or non-restrictive, but a relative clause can only be used non-restrictively/supplementally if it’s structurally possible to set it apart, which excludes all internally-headed types and those externally-headed types where the relative pronoun forms a compound with the antecedent:

    man mi’ sɔ’
    “someone I know”

    man mi’ ninsieba la
    “the people I know”

    ninkanε ka m nɔŋ la
    “the person I love”


    m pu’a onε ka m nɔŋ la
    “my wife whom I love” (which could be restrictive or non-restrictive)

    In retrospect, I feel a bit stupid for not having worked this out before.
    I’m coming to the conclusion that Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey Pullum may be quite clever really.

  101. J.W. Brewer says

    Lots of people who know the Lord’s Prayer don’t know the rules of 400-year-ago verbal conjugation more generally (i.e. they are the sort of people who if they want to sound old-fashioned for effect will come up with something like “we giveth and you taketh away”), so they’re not going to draw inferences from the syntax of the Lord’s Prayer about the grammaticality vel non of any other text, esp a non-archaic-sounding one.

    But is there reason to believe the Lord’s Prayer as traditionally Englished was anomalous/weird way back then? I think Brett way upthread correctly describes the current state of play in English, where it’s fine to say “you, who are X” but not fine to say “VOCATIVE-NAME/TITLE, who are X.” That’s kind of an oddity (especially since as Brett noted it’s otherwise in first and third person), and I don’t know that the default assumption ought to be that the same oddity existed 400+ years ago when thee/thou forms were normal rather than self-conscious-archaisms-at-best. Maybe it did; maybe it didn’t. Does anyone have actual data on that?

  102. J.W. Brewer says

    It’s not really an answer to my own question to note that you can find texts Out There via googling like “Oh my only Lady, who art the sole consolation” etc etc etc, where the “Lady” in question is the Bl. Virgin Mary and it’s a 19th-century translation of a foreign text (either Latin or Latin mediated through an Italian translation) done self-consciously in a register thought specially suitable for religious texts. If there were something comparable in a completely secular love poem (or, better, prose love letter …) originally composed in English in 1605 that would be stronger evidence.

  103. David Eddyshaw says

    I think the use of “who” as a relative pronoun began as a foreignism anyway in English; if so, the import may have brought foreign syntax trailing in its wake. French has person agreement here: Vous, qui passez sans me voir …

  104. J.W. Brewer says

    Well, if it’s the “who” that’s specifically objected to as a foreignism you can push back even earlier than the KJV to the 1550’s, when there was briefly a monarch interested in English-language versions of non-Protestant prayers, and find (w/ spelling modernized) “Have mercy upon me, O Lady, which art called the mother of mercy; and in the bowels of thy great compassion cleanse me from mine iniquities.”

    [EDITED TO ADD: This was alas again a translation, from a Latin original attributed to S. Bonaventure; I found it in a very Protestant 19th-century volume which gives extensive excerpts from works from the reign of Bloody Mary being condemned as FULL OF POPISH BLASPHEMY.]

  105. David Eddyshaw says

    The parallel-universe CGEL, where C is merely “Comprehensive” instead of “Cambridge”, does treat person agreement in relative clauses (albeit in a very-small-print note, p766); it has the interesting pair

    It is I who am to blame.

    presented as neutral, versus

    It’s me who’s to blame.

    described as “informal.” I’d say that the first is actually very formal, though acceptable – I can just about imagine using it in writing (if the matter ever arose, which is obviously unlikely.) However, mixing the parts and saying

    *It’s me who am to blame

    strikes me as entirely ungrammatical.

    On the other hand:

    I think I would only say It’s you who are to blame to more than one person (they usually are); and even if somebody wrote formally to me It is you who are to blame I would assume he was blaming the organisation rather than me personally (and quite right, too, they’re terrible people.)

    Unless, perhaps, he was William Rees-Mogg, in which case I would assume that I, personally, was the Enemy of the People and Rootless Cosmopolitan Saboteur responsible for his unhappiness. He could avoid all ambiguity, of course, by writing It is thou who art to blame. It is well known that he cares a great deal about such nice points of usage.

  106. J.W. Brewer says

    Those examples aren’t quite parallel to the Our Father, who art/are/is in heaven one. Consider as a more parallel example something like “Besides, you, who are a lawyer yourself, know very well, that a law was passed only about eight years ago, to authorize” blah blah blah. That’s from almost 200 years ago but it sounds grammatical and natural and reasonably informal to my native-speaker ear, although as printed maybe the comma placement is weird-to-archaic.

  107. David Eddyshaw says

    Para-CGEL does actually mention “our Father, who art” in the same place, noting that it’s particularly odd because the second person is in concord (as they call it) with a vocative. I think the personal-pronoun + who sequences lend themselves particularly to person agreement leaping the gap of who: hence the relative felicitousness of It is I who am to blame and the like.

  108. J.W. Brewer says

    Or consider the opening lines of this aged-hippie anthem, which does not strike me as overformal in register although maybe there’s a bit of folkie-archaic diction that fits the genre?

    You who are on the road
    Must have a code that you can live by
    And so become yourself
    Because the past is just a good-bye.

    (Checking wikipedia to see what year Graham Nash was born I came across the fearful news that he now bears the unhippie-ish title of “Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.” Although I guess if you say “Most Excellent” in a stereotypical Bill-and-Ted stoner voice there are some possibilities.)

  109. David Eddyshaw says

    he now bears the unhippie-ish title of “Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.”

    This is the end, beautiful friend. The end …

    Pulling myself together:
    Yes, and I couldn’t myself say “You who is” at all in that context, regardless of number. Hmm. Come to that, “I who is” is right out, too. And “Me, who is”, come to that.
    “You who are” would be covered by my who-jumping-agreement theory, though. Still, there are obviously more subtleties to be explored.

    Thinking about it a bit more, I think your suggestion about folkie-archaic diction has some traction. The whole business of starting a sentence with personal pronoun + who seems like a borrowing from a more elevated register. (“We, who are about to die, salute you.”)

    And the same album that I have that song on has another beginning “Four and twenty years ago …”

  110. PlasticPaddy says

    For another invocation, “you who are my parents/her maidens” (Nic Jones version). See
    Apologies to our Edinburgh lass if she prefers the purer version…

  111. David Eddyshaw says

    Ah, but that’s plural anyway, so you’d expect are in any case.

    The song seems to go “you that are”, in fact; if there are cases with singular “you” or with “thou”, that would refute my idea that this had anything to do with the adoption of “who” as a relative pronoun.

    I suppose I could stamp my foot and insist that foreign “who” had contaminated the construction of good old indigenous “that”, but I think I’d actually go quietly.

  112. David Eddyshaw says

    I think the CGEL doctrine of integrated/supplemental relative clauses may generalise quite widely across languages.

    I looked up amba in Ashton and in Perrott, both of which, like most stuff from that era, are long on morphology but short on syntax. They mention amba forms almost entirely in the context of the synthetic type of relative construction being morphologically awkward or impossible for some reason (and Perrott looks down on the amba construction as being more analytic, simpler and therefore basically degenerate.) So it may be that the use of the construction for non-restrictive senses is due to the fact that it enables constructions which can be used as embedded afterthoughts, rather than an intrinsic property of the construction itself.

    I looked up Sam Mchombo’s Syntax of Chichewa, but unfortunately it’s full of the usual Chomskyite obsessions with showing how the facts validate the beautiful Theory and didn’t help a bit; it also displays the cardinal Chomskyite sin of featuring lots and lots of sentences made up by the investigator himself and varying from one another in minimal allegedly deeply significant ways. Sadly typical example sentence: “The zebras are making the hare bend the bows.” There should be laws against this sort of thing. What a waste, when there’s actual description to be done.

    To be more positive, not for the first time I’ve understood more about Kusaal through the very process of trying to explain it here, and thinking about people’s comments on related issues. I hate to admit it, but Stu’s comments re apposition made me realise I’d been working with an inadequate concept of it. More of this and I might have to mention him in the acknowledgments.

  113. John Cowan says

    The OED agrees that fused subject who is Latinate, but the seed fell on fertile soil: who that goes right back to Holy Maidenhood.

  114. I just discovered that Victor Terras in his Karamazov Companion says of the title of Book Six, Chapter 2 “The whole title is in Church Slavonic.” Here’s the title: “Из жития в бозе преставившегося иеросхимонаха старца Зосимы, составлено с собственных слов его Алексеем Федоровичем Карамазовым.” The only CS bit is “в бозе.” That level of ignorance astonishes me.

  115. Stu Clayton says

    More of this and I might have to mention him in the acknowledgments.

    It would be quite adequate to just mention Farmboy’s Digest: A Guide to Advanced Thinking While The Corn Ripens.

  116. The only CS bit is

    Zhitie and prestavitsya are also of Church Slavonic origin. Starets is common to both and Ἱερομόναχος is Greek.

    The phrase itself is Russian, of course. Words alone won’t make CS phrase, you need distinctly CS grammar too.

  117. Uspensky famously claimed that the phrase “Da zdravstvuet Sovetskaya vlast!” (‘long live Soviet power!’) is entirely in Church Slavonic – not only all words are Slavonic, but also a specifically CS grammatical construction (da+verb) is used. Old Russian equivalent would be “Svetskoy volosti zdorovo buti”

  118. PlasticPaddy says

    Actually the Dostoevskij uses ieroskhimonakh, not ieromonakh. The former refers to monks of the great schema (or their vestments). Is it original to OCS?

  119. Zhitie and prestavitsya are also of Church Slavonic origin.

    Yes, of course. Lots of English is of French origin; that doesn’t make it French.

  120. Is it original to OCS?

    I don’t know. It’s sure composed of Greek roots, but the word might have been coined in the Slavic world.

  121. I think it was; Greek has only Ἱερομόναχος, as far as I can tell.

  122. Lots of English is of French origin; that doesn’t make it French

    The same reasoning 100% applies to “в бозе”. It is a Russian word, a euphemism for dying, mostly used ironically for the demise of plans or ideas, and hardly anyone realizes that it uses Slavonic inflexions because the word isn’t inflected in modern Russian (if anything, it’s folk-etymologized as a reference to some location, “boza”, where the aforementioned people or plans “go to sleep”)

  123. I’d want to see some backup on that. Yes, it’s used in Russian texts, but almost entirely in the fossilized phrase «почил в бозе», and there’s no боз(а) in dictionaries of Russian; it’s a Church Slavic phrase borrowed into Russian, but “бозе” is not Russian.

  124. It’s a Church Slavonic inflection of a word common to both languages – ‘Bog’ (‘God’).

    Russian “v boge” vs CS “v boze”.

    “Pochil v boze” means “rests in God”.

  125. Dmitry Pruss says

    I don’t understand your logic about this vis a vis French borrowings in English. You and I know the etymology and realize that it refers to G*d with a Slavonic suffix. But the ordinary users of the phrase don’t have a clue. For them it’s just a Russian expression like many others. They don’t use “Boh” and add a case endings; for them it’s just an immutable word.

  126. That’s what it is, a fossilized phrase with obscure meaning. Just like “иже еси”. The best way to check that it is not really Russian is to see that it never changes its case, which it doesn’t.

  127. I don’t understand your logic about this vis a vis French borrowings in English. You and I know the etymology and realize that it refers to G*d with a Slavonic suffix. But the ordinary users of the phrase don’t have a clue. For them it’s just a Russian expression like many others. They don’t use “Boh” and add a case endings; for them it’s just an immutable word.

    Fair point; it’s certainly different from the rest of the title in that it can’t be analyzed in Russian, but you’re right that Russian speakers wouldn’t see it as Church Slavic. So Terras is even wronger than I said: none of the title is necessarily Church Slavic.

  128. Yes, but the whole title is written in “church register”, for which most modern Russian speakers probably not sure what language it belongs to. This is not a reliable linguistic criterion, most modern Russian speakers probably think that OCS is a form of Old Russian. BTW, I am reluctant to criticize Dostoevsky on this point, but he probably shouldn’t have included the patronymic in the title. Uses of patronymics are uncharacteristic of “church register” and clearly mark Alyosha as civilian. He was, of course, a civilian, but why emphasize it.

  129. Russian speakers wouldn’t see it as Church Slavic

    To be more precise, Russian speakers wouldn’t realize that the syntax is Slavonic. But every word in the phrase is from the Church lexicon, which is quite distinct from the contemporary Russian, and it’s absolutely normal for the Russians to conflate “Church High Russian” with “Church Slavonic” (from where most of the difference came, indeed)

  130. OK, maybe you guys can help me with this. Remizov, towards the end of his Взвихрённая Русь (В конце концов), says: “и в этом наша какая-то вера в бурю: вот надвигается в мире, идет и придет, наконец, подымет и развеет — развущит!” That word развущит occurs only here in all of Russian (at least as far as online search can tell), and I don’t know what he means by it. Ideas?

  131. Dmitry Pruss says

    Sounds like an onomatopoeic invention like woosh, scatter with the wind.

  132. Ah, that makes sense: raz-whooshes!

  133. “…none of the title is necessarily Church Slavic.”

    Exactly. The first part, related to Zosima, is in a “churchy” register. The second, related to Alexey, is pretty standard lay Russian, if old-fashioned somewhat. Fixed expressions from OCS like pochil v boze and nichtozhe sumnyashesya were even used – ironically as a rule – in Soviet Russian, the language of Soviet newspapers and magazines. The enormous influence that OCS had on literary Russian is undeniable but that’s a different matter.

    What I don’t understand is why imi zhe is in the instrumental case. Shouldn’t it be governed by vesi, which requires the accusative?

  134. David Marjanović says

    The way I understand it, the instrumental in ими […] путями спаси их is expected: “by these ways save them”. The trick appears to be that и(же) unites the functions of a relative and a demonstrative pronoun. It would need to be both in the instrumental and in the accusative, but it can’t, so it picks one. This may actually be the reason why the verb is sandwiched between the pronoun and its referent.

    This also happens in English, where it leads to confusion: do this with who(m)ever did that – this is with whom (oblique) and whoever did that (nominative) at the same time. In German this situation is avoided by splitting the pronoun: mit dem, der das gemacht hat(, wer auch immer das ist) “with whomever who did that”.

  135. The way I understand it, the instrumental in ими […] путями спаси их is expected: “by these ways save them”.

    Exactly. And by repeating the words so often to myself (because of this post), it’s actually starting to sound natural to me!

  136. The Bloggers Karamazov has published an expanded version of this post; see update above.

  137. “…и(же) unites the functions of a relative and a demonstrative pronoun.” Thank you, David.

    LH, v boze is in the locative rather than the instrumental. A slip of the pen probably.

  138. David Marjanović says

    I was taught to call it “prepositional” because it only occurs with prepositions, never alone like all other cases. It’s cognate with the Lithuanian locative, but it doesn’t function as a locative, which would mean not needing a pronoun that means “in”.

  139. Vilniuje, Kaune, Palangoje…

    I’ve seen both “prepositional” (as in Russian) and “locative” used to refer to that case in OCS.

  140. LH, v boze is in the locative rather than the instrumental. A slip of the pen probably.

    Yup, I’ve asked them to change it.

  141. In OCS, pure locative uses (i.e. without preposition) still occur, and it’s of course the continuation of the PIE locative.

  142. Yet another example of how much harder it is to edit one’s own writing.

  143. David Marjanović says

    Huh, I’d never have guessed that about OCS.

    Vilniuje, Kaune, Palangoje…

    My most memorable encounter with the Lithuanian locative was quite different. Lo these halfscore years ago, a common way to respond to trolls was to mock them by posting a YouTube clip from Harry Potter where someone runs into a hall and shouts “TROLLS! IN THE DUNGEON!” twice. It happened to have Lithuanian subtitles.


    Alas, the clip has disappeared.

  144. oldie but goodie from Soviet Lithuania

    Aš negaliu sugrįžti i Jamaiką
    Nes niekuomet tenai ir nebuvau
    Ir niekuomet žavioji juodaplaukė
    Į lūpas manęs nebučiuos karštai

    Ir niekada tikrai aš nenuskęsiu
    Tų aksominių jos akių gelmėj
    Kada saulėlydžiai raudoni gesta
    Nuostabiame mieste Montego bay

    Montego bay Montego bay
    Santechniku aš dirbu Ukmergėj
    Montego bay Montego bay
    Santechniku aš dirbu Ukmergėj

  145. David Marjanović says

    At 2:20 the weather comes up at the bottom of the video.

    Lots of place names in the locative. ^_^

  146. John Cowan says

    I think we should call the two Big Grammars P-CGEL for Puddleston, and Q-CGEL for Queech. This also assimilates them nicely to the various Celtic and Italic languages.

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