4.13. Balto-Slavic

4.13.1. Balto-Slavic evolution

The traditional Balto-Slavic binary subgrouping is often accepted, although there are fierce opponents even to a common Proto-Balto-Slavic trunk, who propose a more dynamic dialectological model for the languages assigned to this branch, involving internal divergences and requiring a more fine-grained description. A more accurate division of Balto-Slavic subgroups, with bilateral relationships among them, must probably include Proto-West Baltic (PWB), ancestor of Old Prussian; Proto-Slavic (Sla.); and Proto-East Baltic (PEB), ancestor of Lithuanian and Latvian.

Common sound changes to Balto-Slavic languages include (Kim 2018):

·       Satemisation trend:

o    Velars become palatovelars, with many exceptions: *k→*kj, *g→*gj, *gh→*gjh.

o    Voiced and voiced aspirated merged as voiced stops: *kw→*k, *gw→*g, *gwh→*gh.

·       Voiced and voiced aspirated merge: *bh→*b, *dh→*d, *gh→*g.

·       Palatalisation trend (into palatal sibilants, distinct from the palatal affricates in Indo-Iranian): *kj → *ś, *gj → *ź.

·       Loss of first t in the “intrusive” *s compounds PIE *-tt- *-tst- → BSl. *-st-.

·       Late ruKi-rule: Retraction of *s → *š (probably to a palatoalveolar sibilant) after after *r, u, K, i, affecting Proto-Slavic, but neither PWB nor PEB.

·       Word-final *-d and *-r are lost.

·       Palatalisation and yodisation trends found in BSl. dialects began quite late or after the disintegration of the parent language.

·       *o, *a → BSl. *a; *oi, *ai → BSl. *ai; *ou, *au → BSl. *au.

·       *, *, *, * → BSl. *ir, *il, *im, *in, in most cases. Examples of *uR may have had expressive and/or pejorative value.

Morphological features include (Darden 2018):

·       Archaic inflectional system of stem variation in pronouns.

·       Merger of relative *o-/a- and *-i-/-e-/-ei- anaphoric pronoun.

·       Innovative changes shared with Germanic (see above §4.5.3. Northern European).

·       Past active participles formed with suffix *-us-.

·       Verbs with infinitive/past-tense stems with the suffix *-e-, present tense with suffix *-.

·       Present participle in *-(o)m-os/-ā.

Even though Balto-Slavic languages were attested quite late (Old Church Slavonic documents AD 865, and Prussian among Baltic languages AD 1400), their proto-languages are supposed to have been spoken ca. 500 BC – AD 1, which puts a common Balto-Slavic language probably in the centuries around the mid–2nd millennium BC (Kortlandt 2018).

4.13.2. Uralic influence on Balto-Slavic

The recent influence of Finno-Ugric languages on Lithuanian, Latvian, and Russian as a shift from Uralic is indisputable. Proto-Slavic shows a stronger influence than PWB or PEB, probably due to the continued migration of its speakers eastwards into Finno-Ugric territories, before the proto-historic Slavic expansions. However, an older Uralic substratum layer on Balto-Slavic has also been described with detail by Bednarczuk, Meerwein, Strade, Viitso, Wiik, etc., with interference features found in several grammatical subsystems, and on a basic phonological level (Künnap 1997), which suggests that, akin to Germanicand even more soa North-West Indo-European-like Pre-Balto-Slavic language was adopted by Finno-Permic speakers and transformed under their influence.

On a phonological level, the following features have been related to Uralic substrate influence, from earliest to latest (see above Indo-Iranian §3.4.2. Influence from Uralicfor comparison):

·       Early satemisation trend.

·       Loss of aspiration of voiceless and voiced aspirates.

·       Tendency towards palatalisation and yodisation in PEB, Proto-Slavic, and PWB. This trend shows a different output, probably constrained by the specific Uralic dialect and stage: cf. BSl. palatal sibilants *Ś relative to PIIr. palatal affricates *Ć (Kallio 2001).

·       ruKi-rule.

·       Change *i ~ e attributed to vowel harmony (also *ĭ ~ i, *ŭ ~ o in Slavic).

·       Change of the vowel and consonant system in Proto-Slavic so that it became fully comparable to that of Finno-Ugric:

o   Trend to loss of opposition of short/long vowels.

o   Simplicity of vocalism (quality of vowels) and not complicated prosody as opposed to the developed consonantism.

o   Correlation of front/back vowels as well as palatal/nonpalatal consonants in Slavic, which led to the symmetry of the phonetic system.

Morphological features related to a Finno-Ugric substrate influence in Balto-Slavic include:

·       The high level of maintenance of the inherited complex Indo-European case system. Balto-Slavic and Indo-Iranian share a special position among Indo-European languages regarding their rather conservative nominal case system. It has been argued that languages with more second language speakers lose nominal cases (Bentz et al. 2015). It has also been shown that forces driving grammatical change are different (stronger) than those driving lexical change (Greenhill et al. 2017). These natural human trends would explain the higher simplification of the declension system in other North-West Indo-European dialects and in Palaeo-Balkan languages, expanded over areas with simpler case systems (Pre-Basque or Afroasiatic may be good examples of potential European substrate languages), compared to the maintenance of the original system by Balto-Slavic speakers into historic times. A case system with a similar number of casesand a continuous trend to expand themis found in Proto-Finno-Ugric dialects.

·       In languages around the Baltic Sea (PEB, PWB, and dialectal Slavic), likely contact-induced changes through code-switching:

o   Lack of conventional perfect/imperfect opposition.

o   Inflectional preterite (independent of the opposition perfect/imperfect).

o   Trend to the use of present tense instead of inflectional future.

o   Use of ‘genitive-partitive’ in Baltic and Slavic languages, corresponding to Balto-Finnic.

·       In Proto-Slavic:

o   Animate/inanimate gender distinction.

o   Tendency to agglutination resulting in abundance of formants and relational morphemes which caused the lengthening of the word.

o   Nominal conception of sentence: verbal and nominal predicate being little differentiated.

o   Use of locative possessive with the adessive possessor, likely a Late Proto-Slavic feature, in common with Balto-Finnic.

o   Development of declension as opposed to the simplicity of conjugations.

o   Considerable number of participial formations and respective constructions, as well as impersonal expressions, cf. Russ. nado, Ukr. treba, Pol. trzeba ‘(one) must, (it is) necessary’, Lith. reikia, Ltv. vajadzīgs, etc.

o   Emergence of predicative instrumental construction (best developed in Russian and Polish).

Lexical borrowings are usually from Indo-European to Uralic, but the reverse is probably found in Proto-Slavic, as:

·                 Sla. *pol ‘half’ ~ Pre-PF *pale ‘half’ (before the lengthening of *-aRe > *-ōRe , cf. Finn. puoli, Est. pool).

·                 Sla. *dǫb ‘oak’ ~ PF *tammi (cf. Finn. tammi, Est. tamm, Liv. täm̄, Mord. tumo, Mari tum, Udmurt ti̮-pi̮, Komi tu-pu). The substitution of -mb- for -mm- is common in languages which lack geminates (Toporov and Trubachev 1962).

The presence of early Slavic loanwords in Middle Proto-Finnic, especially those that already reflect the First Palatalisation (e.g. Finnish hauki ‘pike’ and hirsi ‘beam), suggests a potential contact dated to AD rather than BC, but probably predating the expansion of East Slavic to the region, which supports some direct contact (i.e. not mediated through Baltic or Germanic) during the Early Roman Iron Age trade routes along the Russian rivers connecting Finnic and Slavic homelands (Kallio 2006). Proto-Germanic loanwords in Slavic and Finnic

Some wanderwords or loanwords, usually from Proto-Germanic into Proto-Balto-Finnic (probably from contacts through the Baltic Sea) and into Proto-Slavic (probably through the northern Lowlands) should probably be dated to the expansion of the Proto-Germanic community in Northern Europe, and bear witness to the closeness of the three communities at the time (Pronk-Tiethoff 2013):

·       Gmc. *xansō- ‘band of warriors, cohort’ Sla. *xǫsa ‘robbery, trap’ ~ PF *kansa ‘people, nation’ (a quite early borrowing in Proto-Finno-Samic, see below).

·       Gmc. *arkō- ‘box, chest, ark’ Sla. *orky ‘box’ ~ PF *arkku ‘box, chest, coffin’.

·       Gmc. *beuda- ‘plate, table’ Sla. *bludo ‘plate, dish’ ~ PF *peütä ‘table’.

·       Gmc. *dōm()a- ‘judgment, verdict’ Sla. *duma ‘advice, thought, opinion’ ~ PF *toomijo ‘judgment, verdict’.

·       Gmc. *katila- ‘kettle’ Sla. *kotĭlŭ ‘kettle’ ~ PF *kattila ‘kettle’.

·       Gmc. *kaupan- ‘to buy, trade’ Sla. *kupiti ‘to buy’ ~ PF *kauppV-’to trade’.

·       Gmc. *kuninga- ‘king, ruler’ Sla. *kŭnędźĭ ‘prince, ruler’ ~ PF *kuningas ‘king’.

·       Gmc. *laugō- ‘bath, lye’ Sla. *lugŭ ‘lye, caustic soda’ ~ PF *lau(k)ka ‘brine, pickle’, *lauko(vesi) ‘washing (water)’.

·       Gmc. *lauka- ‘allium, onion’ Sla. *lukŭ ‘chive, onion’ ~ PF *laukka ‘Allium, onion’.

·       Gmc. *naba-gaiza- ‘auger, drill’ Sla. *nebozězŭ/*nabozězŭ ‘wood drill’ ~ PF *napakaira ‘large drill’.

·       Gmc. *nauta- ‘cattle’ Sla. *nuta ‘cow, cattle’ ~ PF *nauta ‘cattle’.

·       Gmc. *skauta- ‘(hem of a) skirt, coattail’ Sla. *skutŭ ‘hem, clothing covering the legs’ ~ PF *kauta ‘footlet (of a sock)’.

·       Gmc. *u̯īnan- ‘wine’ Sla. *vino ‘wine’ ~ PF *viina ‘spirits, liquor’.

·       Gmc. *xlaiba- ‘loaf, bread’ Sla. *xlěbŭ ‘loaf, bread’ ~ PF *laipa ‘loaf, bread’.

·       Gmc. *xlea- ‘cover (against the weather)’ Sla. *xlěvŭ ‘cattle shed, stable’ ~ PF *lëvo ‘roof, loft’.

4.13.3. Contacts with Palaeo-Balkan languages

It is often argued that Balto-Slavic shares features with Palaeo-Balkan languages, sometimes even within a broader Graeco-Aryan group, or as an Indo-Slavonic dialect, due to its satemisation trends. Nevertheless, and although there is no statistical work done on shared isoglosses, the shared vocabulary with Balkan languages seem to be in fact lesser than that shared by Balkan languages with Germanic or Italic (or at least not so well researched).

These are some well-known isoglosses shared only between Balto-Slavic and Palaeo-Balkan, which could be dated to contacts between Mierzanowice/Nitra or Trzciniec and Balkan EBA and MBA cultures:

·       *aghl-u- ‘darkness, fog, mist’, cf. Arm. alj ‘darkness, fog, twilight’, Gk. akhlū́s, ‘mist, darkness’, OPru. aglo ‘rain’.

·       *arti ‘now, near’ (probably a locative from *ar- ‘to fit together, join’, with the original meaning ‘fittingly, suitable, at hand’), cf. Arm. ard(i) ‘now’, Gk. arti ‘just now’, Lith. artì ‘near’.

·       *dhghū - ‘fish’, cf. BSl. *źuˀs, OArm. jukn, Gk. ikhthū́s.

·       Gk. faidrós ‘bright, beaming’ ~ Lith. gaidrùs ‘bright, brilliant’.

·       Gk. gélgis ‘garlic clove’, Arm. geɫj-k' ‘gland’ ~Russ. železá ‘gland’.

·       *(H)iHlu- in Gk. ilū́s f. ‘mud, slime’, Gk. (Hes.) eilú mélan ‘black’, OCS ilŭ ‘bog, mire’, Ltv. īls ‘very dark’.

·       Arm. nnjem <*ninudh-i̯e/o ‘sleep’, Gk. nustázō ~ Lith. snúdau, snústi.

·       Gk. phulḗ ‘tribe, people’ ~ OCS bylĭe ‘grass’.

·       Gk. rṓks <*u̯roħg-‘grieta, breach’ ~ Sla.  razĭ ‘golpe, vez’.

4.13.4. Contacts with Indo-Iranian

Many shared words between Indo-Iranian and Balto-Slavic should probably be dated back to a Late PIE community. Those terms which are clearly borrowed are more likely from Iranian-speaking peoples expanding westward from the steppe, which places Balto-Slavic and the eastern fringe of the NWIE territory.

Some common terms include (Derksen 2008):

·       Skr. áchā ‘towards’ ~  OCS  ešte, Russ. ešče  ‘still’.

·       Skt. ati-réka- ‘remnant’ ~ BSl. *otloiko(s), cf. OCS otŭlěkŭ, Lith. ãtlaikas. From root *leikw- ‘let, leave’.

·       Skt. dakiá- ‘right’, Av. dašina- ~ Lith. dšinas, OCS desnŭ, besides different derivatives from the same root in other dialects, cf. Gk. deksiterós ‘right’, Lat. dexter, Osc. destrst.

·       *kjiē-uó- into Skt. śā- ‘black-brown, bay, dark’, Av. *sāva- ‘black (personal name Siiāuuāspi- ‘black-horsed) ~ *kjī-uó- into Lith. šývas ‘gray-white’, OCS sivŭ ‘gray’ (horse colour).

·       Skr. kośa- ‘pail, bucket, vessel’ ~ Lith. kiause ‘saucepan’.

·       PIE *kwsnós ‘black’, into Skt. kṣṇá- ~ BSl. *kirsnos cf. OCS črŭnŭ, Lith. kisnas, OPru. kirsnan.

·       Skr. mantra- ‘thought, speech, formula’, Ltv. mîkla, mîkle ‘mystery’.

·       PIE *moros ‘death’, into Skt. pramará (RV) ~ BSl. *moros cf. OCS morŭ ‘plague’, Lith. mãras.

·       Skr. níṣṭya- ‘foreign, strange’ ~ OCS. ništĭ ‘poor, miserable’.

·       Skr. paścā ‘afterwards’, Lith. pàskui ‘id’ (cf. Lat. postquam)

·       Skr. r̥tí- ‘assault, attack’ ~ Sla. ertĭ <*ertis , OCS retĭ ‘strife’.

·       Skr. tavīti ‘is strong, has power’; Russ. tyjǫ, tyti ‘to get fat’ (cf. Lat. tōmentum).

·       Skr. tóśate ‘push oneself along, hurry’; YAv. -tusa- ‘name of a charioteer warrior’ ~ Ltv. taucêt ‘pound in a mortar’, OCS tŭknǫti ‘strike, wound’.

·       PIE *tus-sk(t)o- into Skt. tucchá- (RV) ‘empty, vain’ ~ OCS tuštu ‘empty’ < Sla. *tŭščŭ, Lith. ščias ‘empty’, Ltv. tukšs ‘empty, poor’. Notice the palatalisation in spite of the commonly reconstructed ‘non palatovelar’ PIE *-sko- ending.

·       Skr. vāpī- f. ‘pond, body of water’~ Sla. *vapa f. ‘lake’.

·       Skr. valká- ‘bark of tree’, YAv. varəka-; ~ SCr vlákno, Russ. voloknó ‘fibre’.

·       Use of *kwid to introduce absolute interrogative sentences: Skr. kiṃ=ápi (kiṃ tatra gacchati? ‘does he go there?’) ~ Pol czy, Ukr. chi.



4.13.5. Schleicher’s fable in Proto-Balto-Slavic

Balto-Slavic and PEB versions modified from Kortlandt (2013); Proto-Slavic version modified from Wikipedia (author unknown) [xxv]. Accents and their changes are not represented.


ou̯iš ā eśōs

ou̯iš āi ilna ne est

eśons īdē;

īnun tingun u̯oźun u̯elkontin,

īnun u̯elīn krou̯un,

īnun źmōnin burźu neśontin.

tēr tu ou̯iš eśomos:

“bolei mini śēr,

īrun īdenti eśons genontin.”

tren tu eśōs: “śludi ou̯ei!

bolei īnmos śēr īdenti,

īros, potiš, iź ou̯un ilnās

subi teplān drōbin kurneuti,

ā ou̯imos ilna ne esti.”

to ślušuš ou̯iš plānun bēgā.



ovĭca i koni

ovĭca (i̯)aka bez vĭlny estĭ

konę vidętu;

edinŭ tęžĭkŭ vozŭ tęglŭ,

edinŭ veliko bermę,

edinŭ čolvěka nosilŭ bŭrzo.

ovĭca kǫnemŭ reče:

sĭrdĭce moe bolitĭ,

viděti konję že vozitĭ čolvekŭ.”

koni rekošę: “slušai, ovĭče!

sĭrdĭca naša bolętĭ kogda vidimŭ,

mǫžŭ, gospodĭ, ovĭčĭeǫ vĭlnoǫ

sebě teplŭ drabŭ tvoritĭ,

a ovĭca bez vĭlny estĭ.”

to slyšavŭ, ovĭca na pole poběže.




Proto-East Baltic

avìs ā źìrgǫs

avìs kurí netùri vìlnās

règē źìrgǫs;

vẹ́ną smàgųs ràtǫs vèlkantį,

vẹ́ną dìdį kràvą,

vẹ́ną źmṓnį grḗṭ ai nèśantį.

avìs sàkē źirgàmus:

màni sápā śirdìs

règinti vírą gènantį źìrgǫs.”

źìrgai sàkē: klàusi avḗ!

mùmus sápā śirdìs règinti,

víras patìs iź avḗṣ vìlnās

sèvi dàrā śìltą drṓbį,

ā àvies vìlnās netùri.”

gìrdusi tà avìs bégā į lauką.