Old Slavic Language

The Old Slavic, together with Serbian, Macedonian, Slovenian and Bulgarian belong to the group of South Slavic languages. Also, it was the first literary language of all the Slavs. The Old Slavic was the language Cyril and Methodius devised in the 9th century, based upon what the Slavs around Salonika were speaking, with an addition of an appropriate alphabet (Glagolitic), so as to be able to translate the church books, primarily the Gospels from Greek. Although the Salonika brother found almost all the corresponding words and expressions, nevertheless Old Slavic abounds in Greek words and grammar structures. Greek was spoken in Byzantium and at the time it was the “world” language in its trues sense. Besides Greek, Latin and Gothic, Old Slavic was the fourth world language into which Biblewas translated, and the Slavs became a people to accept and listen to the word of God in their own language. The year 864 is considered the initial year of the Slavic literacy.


Old Slavic used to have even 15 vowels with two semivowels, four liquid r’s and l’s, and two nasals which can be heard today in French and Portuguese. Semivowels were common to all the Slavic languages, and depending on their position, in Old Slavic they gave е or о, and in Old Serbian а (Vоskrs – Vаskrs; Easter), also the liquid r and l in different Slavic languages gave different reflexes (Hristоs vоskrеsе – Hristоs vаskrsе; Jesus Resurrected), while the nasals ceased to be such, yielding different sounds or groups of sounds in different language (Svјаt, svјаt, svјаt Gоspоd Sаvаоt – Svеt, svеt, svеt Gоspоd Sаvаоt; Holy, Holy,Holy, O Lord of Sabaoth). The most prominent Slavic vowel yat, making a mess zbrku in all the Slavic languages and dialects, yielding eije (je) and i in Serbian (mlеkо – mliјеkо – mlikо; vеrа – vјеrа – virа).


The Old Slavic, as a common language to all the Slavs, was understandable to all the Slavic nations. With time, the literary language started adopting many characteristics of local colloquial variants, thus resulting in different versions.  The Serbian version is called Serbian Slavic, the Russian one – Russian Slavic.  And from these versions of the Old Slavic language, the Slavic nations’ literary language histories start. And particularly interesting for us is the combination of the said Russian Slavic, which for a time used to be the literary language in Serbs – and as such it mixed with the then actual literary language, resulting in the Slavic Serbian language, and as the language of church service it remained in use as Church Slavic, still actual today. Serbian Slavic, the first Serbian Literary language, before it combined with the Russian Slavic and some decades after that, but prior to the Vuk’s “reform”, had several gradual and non-imposed instances of adjustments to the colloquial language, in terms of pronunciation and rejection of the phonemes not having any sound values. The first such adjustment was made by St Sava. Important works of Serbian literature and cultural heritage were written in Serbian Slavic, An Homage to Love, to mention just one.

Curiously, until two centuries ago, Old Slavic was the church service language of the Romanian Orthodox Church.