7

What I got from reading this is that the Russian recension of Church Slavonic (церковнославянский язык) is probably not terribly difficult to understand, at least generally, for an educated Russian. However, it is most certainly not modern Russian and thus would require dedicated study to understand completely.

My question, then, is this: How are Russian Orthodox priests educated with regards to the Russian recension of Church Slavonic? Do they learn it in the same way one might learn Latin or Ancient Greek (though with more attention to pronunciation than those languages typically receive)--i.e., rigorously studying the grammar and vocabulary? Or are they mainly just taught how to correctly pronounce it, with comprehension being merely an afterthought?

I'm curious if the (majority of) priests are essentially just reciting these texts without necessarily comprehending them, or if they're actually fluent in the language and could, at least theoretically, read or compose religious new texts in it that they haven't memorized through repetition.

By extension, when they study scripture, do they read in Church Slavonic or modern Russian? Since services are in CS, I suppose one should assume the priests understand the language they're speaking, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to me to believe that they are simply reciting the prayers in CS but actually do all their Bible study in Russian.

If they actually do study the language's grammar and vocabulary and such in a rigorous manner, does anyone know what textbook(s) they use to do so? Thanks.

  • your question is off-topic. It's like ask how certain priests are learning ancient Greek - just like some orthodox priests do as well. This has nnothing to do with Ruassian language. – shabunc Jul 22 '15 at 22:12
  • @shabunc: I believe Church Slavonic, especially the Russian recension, should be on-topic here, as it's really intertwined with Russian. As far as I know, heraldic language questions are on-topic on ELL. – Quassnoi Jul 22 '15 at 22:35
  • @shabunc: this is not to mention I like it, of course! – Quassnoi Jul 22 '15 at 22:36
  • @Quassnoi, OK, let's see. – shabunc Jul 22 '15 at 22:56
  • @shabunc, Eh, I do see your point, although I thought I fell on the right side of the boundary between relevant and irrelevant topics. I was partly interested in how rigorously a certain group of Russian-speakers (priests) needs to study a related language (CS) in order to comprehend it. I've seen questions here asking about how understandable a related languages like Ukrainian is for Russophones, so I figured it was just a short jump to a topic like this one. – Kачкодзьоб Jul 24 '15 at 4:22
6

My question, then, is this: How are Russian Orthodox priests educated with regards to the Russian recension of Church Slavonic? Do they learn it in the same way one might learn Latin or Ancient Greek (though with more attention to pronunciation than those languages typically receive)--i.e., rigorously studying the grammar and vocabulary? Or are they mainly just taught how to correctly pronounce it, with comprehension being merely an afterthought?

I've been studying Old Church Slavonic in a secular school, but from what I've heard it's pretty much the same in religious institutions as well.

They have courses in Church Slavonic (and probably Old Church Slavonic), learn the things and pass the tests, as usual. A native Russian speaker does have to study CS grammar pretty much as rigorously as they would that of Latin or Greek, because it has much less in common with Russian than one might think. Vocabulary is of less concern but there are lots of "false friends" because of large numbers of loanwords which had since shifted their meaning.

One more thing a priest has to learn is pronounce Church Slavonic properly: get rid of vowel reduction (аканье), use fricative г in all positions, etc.

I'm curious if the (majority of) priests are essentially just reciting these texts without necessarily comprehending them, or if they're actually fluent in the language and could, at least theoretically, read or compose religious new texts in it that they haven't memorized through repetition.

If you read those texts much as a Russian speaker, you'll inevitably reach a decent degree of comprehension. Composing the texts is a little bit harder, but this ultimately depends on how devoted you are. Bedřich Hrozný, who deciphered Hittite, claimed he was so familiar with the structure and spirit of the Ancient Eastern documents that he could easily make a career of a scribe in any of those ancient empires. So as with any language, the more you use it, the more fluent with the language you get.

By extension, when they study scripture, do they read in Church Slavonic or modern Russian? Since services are in CS, I suppose one should assume the priests understand the language they're speaking, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to me to believe that they are simply reciting the prayers in CS but actually do all their Bible study in Russian.

As a priest you would probably have to do the Bible study in both languages, because the authorized Russian translation (Synodal), which is from Bible Hebrew, and the authorized Church Slavonic translation (Elizabeth), which is from Greek, in fact differ in quite a few aspects.

If they actually do study the language's grammar and vocabulary and such in a rigorous manner, does anyone know what textbook(s) they use to do so?

Not sure about Church Slavonic (I didn't take it), but the classic Old Church Slavonic textbook is Khaburgaev's Старославянский язык. It won't teach you the modern Church Slavonic subtleties, though, like when to use ѧ vs. , how to put accents on words etc.

  • "Use fricative г in all positions" - that's a very unusual thing as for me, is it really the norm in the CS? And a great respect for your mentioning the Khaburgaev's book, it is superb. :) – Yellow Sky Jul 22 '15 at 21:43
  • @YellowSky: I'm not a regular church goer, but from what I know yes, it is (or at least it should be) the norm. You definitely need to articulate it in adjective and pronoun endings in -го. – Quassnoi Jul 22 '15 at 21:50
  • I'm very interested in OCS, too, so I appreciate the tip about Khaburgaev's text. Thanks! – Kачкодзьоб Jul 24 '15 at 4:24
5

Well, unless there are some Russian priests actually here, I doubt anyone else can provide you a full answer on such a detailed question. But yes, the grammars of CS and modern Russian differ much, so they must learn it more or less like Englishmen learn Latin.

Personally, I read book by Pletneva and Kravetskiy which, as the title says, was recommended for the church schools. You may find it along with other materials here - http://azbyka.ru/tserkov/tserkovno-slavyanskiy/uchebnye_posobiya/rukovodstvo_po_tserkovnoslavyanskomu.shtml

  • Did you say the equal ratios Ru_Church_Slavonic/Ru_contemporary = Latin/English? It's a HUGE mistake. – Avtokod Jul 22 '15 at 6:28
  • @Avtokod No, I mean "a little similar" (less differences in vocabulary, more in grammar). – Matt Jul 22 '15 at 6:50
  • Отлично! Спасибо за ссылку. Сайт выглядит хорошо. – Kачкодзьоб Jul 24 '15 at 4:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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