0

In modern Russian you could say:

  • Это дерево – дуб.
  • Это – дерево.

In older times you might have used сей in its neuter form for the first sentence:

  • Сие дерево – дуб.

But what was used for the second sentence? Would it be сие or would it be сё?

  • ? Сие – дерево.
  • ? Сё – дерево.

On the one hand, there are expressions like:

  • то да сё (то и сё, то-сё)
  • ни то ни сё (declined like: ни с того ни с сего, ни тем ни сем)

But I get the impression that сё is only used as a rhyming pair with то in the above idioms, and that for other normal uses the pronoun would be сие. Is this correct?

For instance in ruscorpora.ru there are phrases like:

  • Понятия не имею, что сие означает
  • Сие было правдой
  • одновременно с сим
  • вместе с сим
  • И с сим встала и вышла

(the declensions differ only in the nominative and instrumental: сё/сем versus сие/сим)

Or is it possible that сие and сё were both valid and were a contrasting pair with the same usages as это and то? Was сё ever used on its own, rather than just in a couple of fixed expressions involving то?

1 Answer 1

3

Сие is an adjectival pronoun in the full singular nominative first person neuter, се (not **сё) is a nominative pronoun (originally, the short form of the same). Both are dated and in the modern language they have been replaced with это.

Сие дерево — дуб means "this tree is an oak", се — дуб means "this is an oak". In the first case, the word "this" modifies "tree" like an adjective would; in the second case it's a subject in its own right.

Nominative deictic and demonstrative pronouns are invariant, they don't change by gender or number: се дуб, это кошка, то ножницы, вон мама.

English doesn't convey the difference between adjectival and nominative deictic pronouns on the syntactic level, but many other languages do.

Note that you can also use the full form сие in the nominative sense, as your examples show, but, technically, not the other way around.

But I get the impression that сё is only used as a rhyming pair with то in the above idioms, and that for other normal uses the pronoun would be сие. Is this correct?

In this rendition, with ё, it is. Normally, то да се would be expected, but it doesn't rhyme.

Or is it possible that сие and сё were both valid and were a contrasting pair with the same usages as это and то? Was сё ever used on its own, rather than just in a couple of fixed expressions involving то?

In Proto-Slavic, there was a trichotomy of this (next to me) / that (next to you) / that over there (far away for both of us). The Russian reflexes of the Proto-Slavic words for these concepts are се / то / оно.

Оно has been relegated to the role of a personal pronoun (replacing the reflexes of *jь which still form the stems of oblique cases of personal pronouns in the third person singular), and is not actively used in the demonstrative sense anymore except in set phrases время о́но etc.

Это/этот is a relatively new (c. XVI century) replacement for се/сей. For quite a long time they coexisted in neutral speech.

2
  • In ruscorpora.ru when searching for се, SPRO & nom, the only phrases I get are: 1) mostly paired то/се, 2) a few misspellings or variants of всё равно, and 3) only one sentence with се not paired with то, from 1790: "И се явился паки взорам нашим седящ на коне борзом в древней Отцов своих одежде, Муж, основание града сего положивший и первый которой на Невских и Финских водах воздвиг Российский Флаг доселе не существовавший." Is it known for sure that they pronounced it се and not сё, and how was that determined? Feb 29 at 22:47
  • @ghostarbeiter: they who? The main corpus starts around 1700, by that time it long since had been only used as a Slavonicism.
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 1 at 6:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.