All Slavic languages: definiteness with adjectives

Discussion in 'Other Slavic Languages' started by cajzl, Jun 22, 2006.

  1. cajzl Senior Member

    IMHO every Slavic language have short (nominal) and complex forms of adjectives.

    In Czech we use:

    mlád, mláda, mládo (short forms)
    mladý < mladъjь < mladъ + jь
    mladá < mladaja < mlada + ja
    mladé < mladoje < mlado + je

    The Czech complex forms evolved from the nominal forms and the demonstrative enclitic by contraction (e.g. -á < aja).
    I think it is similar in Serbian. The Russian complex forms are less contracted than the Czech ones.

    the meaning was:

    nova-ja kniga (nom.) = the new book
    novu-ju knigu (acc.)
    novy-je knigy (plur.)

    the old pronoun jь, ja, je is preserved in the pronoun jenž, jež, jež (jehož, jemuž, ...) and in forms of the pronoun on, ona, ono: jeho, jemu, ji, ....
  2. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    This is an interesting theory but I won't stop quibbling. :)

    OK, we have "mlád", a short (and dated) word for "young" (masculine).

    In old Czech, you could say: Když jsem byl mlád, ...
    Nowadays, we would say: Když jsem byl mladý, ...
    Both mean: When I was young

    We also say "mladý muž", "a young man" nowadays. I am rather disinclined to believe that our ancestors would say "mlád muž" - I hasten to add that it does not follow from your contribution.

    Would it mean that j, ja, je are/used to be applied as both determinate and indeterminate articles?
    We say: "ten mladý muž" but also "nějaký mladý muž".

    A comparison with German:
    Der Mann ist jung.
    Ein junger Mann.
    Der junge Mann.

    In the last case, Germans have both an article and a suffix. I thought Czech was similar.

  3. cajzl Senior Member

    I wanted to say that the majority of the Slavs uses unconsciously the demonstrative enclitic in their speech. Only the Bulgarians use it consciously, but they replaced the jь, ja, je by tъ, ta, to.

    BTW it is not a theory, the demonstrative pronoun jь, ja, je existed in OCS (in some form; and in Old Czech: jen, jě, je) and meant ten, ta, to (this, the). Thus the Proto-Slavic dobra-ja voda meant the good water.
  4. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    I wouldn't know about other Slavic languages, because it is alreadu demonstrated that I know very little about them, but at least I know about my mother tongue. There are no enclitic demonstratives. Demonstratives -i.e. demonstrative pronouns, are always in front of the noun (if not poetically used), and they are:

    ovaj, ova, ovo
    taj, ta, to
    onaj, ona, ono

    which the first two would be THIS and the third one THAT.
    That's all about demonstratives in Serbian.

    I assume this would be in Serbian:
    mlad, mlada, mlado
    mladi, mlada, mlado (where feminine and neuter have different acentuation, but we do not WRITE accents).

    At least in Serbian, and as far as I know, these are not demostratives, these are adjectives and one of them is called deffinite and the other indeffinite, but ADJECTIVE, not article. I cannot say which is which since this difference is almost forgoten in our language, and it is completely same if you say "mladi profesor" or "mlad profesor"... Maybe people still make difference between masculine deffinite and indeffinite adjective, but they are for sure only proffesors of Serbian language. Normal people do not make that difference at all. I doubt they even know it exists.
  5. cajzl Senior Member

    mlad, mlada, mlado - indefinite
    mladi, mlada, mlado - definite

    The Serbian definite forms have evolved from the indefinite (nominal) ones and the demonstrative enclitic (jь, ja, je) like in Czech and other Slavic languages. But the difference definite vs. indefinite was nearly or completely lost.
  6. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    This is what I am trying to say. NO article in Serbian.

    What was the history of Serbian from Church Slavonic to today's modern Serbian... I don't know. But I know one thing for sure. There are no articles in Serbian.
  7. cajzl Senior Member

    And I am trying to say that the definite (complex, long) adjective forms implicitly include the old Slavic demonstrative enclitic jь, ja, je.

    This is true even for the Serbian language (despite of the fact that some Serbs do not know it).
  8. cajzl Senior Member

    I have found an interesting feature of the Slovene language:

    I think it proves the theory that the definite adjectives evolved from the indefinite ones and the demonstrative (anaphoric) pronoun jь/ja/je in Common Slavic.

    Whence it follows that the Bugarian definite article is nihil novum sub sole.
  9. natasha2000

    natasha2000 Senior Member

    For me, it is.
  10. cajzl Senior Member

    It simply means that Serbian as well as Modern Czech (and unlike Slovene and Common Slavic) does not distinguish the difference:

    velik konj (a big horse) vs. veliki konj (the big horse)
  11. Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li! Member

    Czech | Czech Republic
    Indeed. It should be noted, however, that these "short forms" (called jmenné tvary, literally nominal forms) of adjectives derived from verbs are commonly used along with an auxiliary "být" to express passive tense.


    "Vůz byl při havárii poškozen." - The car was damaged in the accident. "Byl poškozen" = "was damaged" (passive verb).
    "Vůz byl při havárii poškozený." - Does not compute; at best, it could mean the car already had damage when the accident took place. "Byl poškozený" = "was damaged" ("was" + adjective).

    Remarkably, Slovak lost this distinction, and uses the long forms exclusively (I believe this particular sentence would go, "voz bol pri havárii poškodený").
  12. Ozar Midrashim New Member

    Rubí (Barcelona)
    Spain - Spanish
    In fact, it was an anaphoric pronoun in Common Slavic. An anaphoric pronoun makes reference to something / someone which has already been mentioned by the speaker. So, in Old Church Slavonic we can find:

    й призъвавъ единого отъ рабъ · въпрашааше à
    (i prizъvavъ edinogo otъ rabъ, vъprašaaše )

    "And, calling one of the servants, he asked him"

    As Cajzl points out, the anaphoric pronoun was added to adjectives in order to give them a definite meaning. That's how the opposition definite / indefinite (long / short) arose in Slavic adjectives. It's not just a theory, you can find it in any book about Slavic linguistics, and it's easily proven by the facts.

  13. dudasd

    dudasd Senior Member

    The difference definite vs. indefinite concerning adjectives in Serbian still exists in nominative of masculine gender, and the rules are very strict and precise.

    What kind of a man? - Dobar čovek.
    Which man? - Dobri čovek.
    What is the man like? - Čovek je dobar.

    Also it can make distinction between characteristic of a group and an unit:

    Divlji konj - a member of a sort of the horses that are not cultured by man's hand.
    Divalj konj - a horse that has a bad character and can't be tamed easily.

    Etc. Just jumped in to beg you to consult valid sources before you post. Hope you don't mind. :)

    But I don't think that definite/indefinite adjective suffixes in other Slavic languages can be compared with Bulgarian and Macedonian clauses, for there are no definite/indefinite nouns in other Slavic languages. Also, so-called "Torlak dialect" is considered to be a borrowed local dialect, so it doesn't count as an original Serbian dialect. (I remember that in one of the previous threads had put it together with prizrensko-timočki once. Again: consult the serious sources, please.)

    A question for Bulgarian native speakers - I'm good with Middle Age Slavonic, but not with later redactions of Church Slavonic (apart from the Serbian redaction). Do clauses appear in Bulgarian redaction later, at any moment? Or they appeared in literature together with predomination of everyday language?
  14. Christo Tamarin

    Christo Tamarin Senior Member

    Yes, the Proto-Slavic made an unsuccessful attempt to adopt the arthromania. Only the second attempt of the Slavo-Balkanic was successful.
  15. phosphore Senior Member

    That is not true. I think absolutely no one would ever use the definite adjective form as a predicative or to answer a question of which kind someone or something is, it would be both descriptively and prescriptively ungrammatical.

    Kakav je taj balon?
    (What kind of baloon is that?)


    Taj balon je žut.
    (That baloon is yellow.)

    Koji je to balon?
    (Which baloon is that?)

    (The yellow one.)

    But it could be said that the difference in declension (in cases other that nominative) is preserved only in grammars.
  16. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    Well, I disagree. The difference is preserved in accent, however weak or volatile it is with many people's pronunciation. I do discern it, for onе:

    U kakvom je kaputu bila?
    (What kind of coat did she wear?)

    U žúm.
    ([In] A yellow one.)

    U kojem je kaputu bila?
    (Which coat [of the known coats] did she wear?)

    U žûm.
    ([In] The yellow one.)
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2009
  17. phosphore Senior Member

    But the correct indefinite form would be žutu, wouldn't it?
  18. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    That I'm not sure of, and I'd have to verify it in a grammar book. I believe both forms are valid. "Žutu" is certainly correct, but would sound very archaic and/or stilted to most people; it is somewhat better preserved in Croatian, especially higher registers, but still rare even there, in my opinion.
  19. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    Its not so easy to explain this. You are right but not completely.

    For explaination of all this feature we need to look a little bit in Old Slavonic or Churchold Slavonic.

    Like todays BCS, also Churchslavonic had two declinations of Adjectivs, a short one which would points at undefinite things and a long one which points at more definite noun.

    Short form masculinum
    1. mUdr človek
    2. mUdra človeka
    3. mUdru človeku
    4. mUdra človeka
    6. s mUdrim človekom
    7. o mUdrom človeke

    1. mudri ljudi
    2. mudryh ljudej
    3. mudrym ljudom
    4. mudryh ljudej
    5. -----
    6. s mudry ljudy
    7. o mudryh ljudeh

    1.4. mudra človeka
    2.7. mudru človeku
    3.6. mudryma človekoma

    Long form (definite form)
    1. mudrYj <<<<< mudr+ij
    2. mudrAgo<<<<<mudra+ego
    3. mudrOmu<<<<<mudru+emu
    4. mudrYj (-ago) =1. or 2
    5. mudrYj <<<<<=1.
    6. s mudrYm<<<<mudry(m)+jim
    7. o mudrEm<<<<mudro(m)+jem

    1. mudrjI <<<<<mudry+ji
    2. mudrYh<<<<<mudry(h)+jih
    3. mudrYm<<<<<mudry(m)+jim
    4. mudrijA<<<<<mudri+ija
    5. =1.
    6. s mudrYmi<<<mudry+jimi
    7. o mudrYh<<<<mudry(h)+jih

    Big letter always points to the accentuation of a word.

    mudr človek - a wise man
    mudrij človek - the wise man

    mudra žena - a wise woman
    mudraja žena - the wise woman

    mudro solnce - a wise sun
    mudroe solnce - the wise sun

    The short form is older and the long one is created after division of the Slavic and Baltic languages because Baltic dont own this feature.

    With the time vowels have fused on diferent way by diferent Slavic languages.
    East Slavic languages own almost identical gander as Chirchslavonic but also the short form is almost lost.
    West Slavic languages also lost short declension exept perhaps in Nominative where it also sounds archaic. The long form difused this way:
    mudroemu>>mudremu etc.

    South Slavic:
    Slovenian has principle of West Slvic languages.
    BCS has kept the short and the long gander but the short one is used mostly in Nominative, rest ov the short declension you can use but it sound a bit poethic.

    mUdar čovek and mUdrI čovek
    mUdra žena and mUdrA žena
    mUdro dete and mUdrO dete
    *please pay atention on the accent by mudra and mudro in bouth cases, short and long!!!

    mUdra čoveka and mUdrOga čoveka
    mUdru čoveku and mUdrOmu čoveku etc.

    Bulgarian and Macedonian have lost any type of declinsion although they both had such declension as Serbian or Russian.
    And they also had such system of short and long adjectivs but it has remained only in Nominative and they got "articles".

    muder čovek and mudrI+ot čovek but not muder+ot čovek, you see what I mean?

    Exept this article there are 2 more in Bulg and Mac.

    mudriOT čovek = the or that man
    mudriON čovek = that man there
    mudriOV čovek = this man here

    analogue mudraTA, mudraNA, mudraVA žena etc.

    And be aware that this so called article in some cases changes the position, from the noun to the adjective or vice versa.
  20. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    Nope, U žutu would be totaly incorrect and u žutom correct because its lokative and not dative. And dative and locative have the same form only by nouns, not by adjctivs. It was this way also in Churchslavonic.

    locative: v žOltom vs v žOltJEm while dative was žoltu vs žoltomu
  21. phosphore Senior Member

    My grammar (Mihailo Stevanović, Savremeni srpskohrvatski jezik I, Naučna knjiga, Beograd, 1986) does not think so: it lists nom. zèlen, gen. zelèna, dat. zelènu, acc. zèlen, zelèna, voc. zèlenî, instr. zelènîm, loc. zelènu.

    But that is quite off topic at the moment.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2009
  22. SweetCherry Member

    Žut kaput
    Žuta kaputa
    Žutu kaputu
    Žut kaput
    Žuti kapute
    Žutim kaputom
    Žutu kaputu

    Žuti kaput
    Žutog kaputa
    Žutom kaputu
    Žutog kaputa
    Žuti kapute
    Žutim kaputom
    Žutom kaputu
  23. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    Hmmm yes I must agree too now. It sounds a little unusual but if he says so :)
  24. Diaspora Senior Member

    Serbocroatian, English
    Definiteness can also be expressed through declination.


    Možeš li usput kupiti kruha. (By the way can you buy some bread)-indefinite

    Možeš li usput kupiti kruh. (By the way can you buy the bread)-definite
  25. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    Well, its called "the partitive Genitiv" and it inicate to non definite quantity of something.
    And whats so definited at the second example?
    Perhaps only quantity that its just one bred but it must not be so. It can also mean that you goes to by bred and not some other thing, and how much of bred its not so familiar.
    So in your examples is not the word about definition but quantity.
  26. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
    I would argue that Diaspora has a point here; a case could be made that partitive genitive expresses indefiniteness and accusative does not. However, the nuance is really fine, and it most cases it doesn't matter. Thus, we could as well say that they're interchangeable (with verbs such as imati or doneti).

    For example, on another forum, I argued that:

    Imate li dece?

    expresses a genuine question about indefiniteness (Do you have any children). The same question with accusative:

    Imate li decu?

    sounds unnatural (at least to me), and appears to refer to "The" children. But again, most speakers in most situations do not feel any difference in meaning between those two cases.
  27. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    I dont see this like you two do although you might be right.
    We speek here about definite and indefinite articles and posibility of expressing it in Serbian language. But the point is that the noun thus object should be concidered definite or indefinite but what you yre saying is definitness of quantity which is not the same.

    "Imate li dece?" i "Imate li decu?" in none of those two cases the object noun is definite.
    If it would be a word of "hleb" or "voda" and the verb "doneti"
    "Donesi mi vode" or "Donesi mi vodu" the first sentence doesnt say anything about definitness of which or how much. But the second could be concidered that the spaeker means the one bottle of water or a glas of water which is on the tabel or so but it must not be so. So its all depending on situation.
    Its how I understand it.
  28. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Mod note:

    Split from the articles thread. Please concentrate here on definite adjectives only (you may of course also refer to the distinction of short/long adjectives in those languages where definitiveness was lost in the course of history).
  29. Diaspora Senior Member

    Serbocroatian, English
    Perhaps because I speak English and Spanish I am more sensitive toward "feeling" definiteness in Serbocroatian. Adding an -a to the ending of a word could be thought of as a indefinite partitive article even though standard language treats it as a case ending, in fact Bulgarian adds an -a to some words to indicate definiteness whilist it got rid of declination.

    If somebody told me "Daj mi vodu" my mind would think "the water", "Daj mi vode" would be any water and undetermined amount. That's just my take on it.
  30. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    I just think that there is no such feeling of definitennes in BCS like in English.
    Definiteness is depending on imortance of the object to the subject.
    If it is important for me I would accent it by adding a pronoun in front of the word or even behind of it. And if you notice we also use it mostly with the verbs expresing emotion.

    Ta knjiga mi se tako dopada. Or even more emphisized: Kako volim knjigu tu.

    We also use such emphasizing of the verb with "tako" although it doesnt say anything about the way we do it but only shows that our relation with it is more than normaly.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2009
  31. TriglavNationalPark

    TriglavNationalPark Senior Member

    Chicago, IL, U.S.A.
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    In addition, at least one Slovenian adjective is completely different (in all genders and cases) depending on whether its definite or indefinite:

    mali = small, little (def.)
    majhen = small, little (indef.)


    majhen avto = a small car
    mali avto = the small car

    majhna hiša = a small house
    mala hiša = the small house
  32. Orion7 Member

    The definite and undefinite adjectives are not solely Slavic feature, it's a common Balto-Slavic feature. Moreover in Baltic languages this feature is preserved almost in its original stage.
    The definitness of adjectives is made by adding personal pronouns jis, jī/jā, jie, jās 'he, she, they, those' to the adjective; in Latvian for easier pronounceability the complex forms are later reduced, e.g.
    baltas + jis = balta|jis,-sis > baltais 'белый/the white (masc.)'
    baltā + jī/jā = baltā|jī,-jā > baltā 'белая/the white (fem.)'
    balt|ie,-ai + jie = balt|iejie,-ajie > baltie/baltajie 'белые/the whites (masc.)'
    baltās + jās = baltāsjās > baltās/baltajās 'белые/the whites (fem.)'

    All forms ar fully declinable. E.g.
    baltamī + jamī > baltajamī > baltajā 'в белому/in the white'

    Slavic forms are made in the same way.
    белый < бēлыйи < бēлэйис << бāлас йис
    белая < бēлайа < бēлайā << бāлā йā
    белые < бēлыйе < бēлэйiе << бāлаi йiе
    белые < бēлыйе < бēлэйē << бāлāс йāс
  33. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    That's very interesting and enlightening, Orion7 (and welcome to the forum :)). I didn't know that this is a common Balto-Slavic feature. However, and putting my mod-hat halfway on: if you want to discuss this in more detail (you're very welcome to do so :)) then please our EHL forum would be the right place for that. :)
  34. WannaBeMe

    WannaBeMe Senior Member

    Serbian (ijekavian)
    I completely agree!
    Only one little thing. The preslavic form wasnt balas jis but
    beil-u(s) jis > belujis > bielij
    beil-a ja > belaja > bielaja
    beil-o je > beloje > bieloje
    beil-ui(s) jes> belys je> bielyje

    It would be also interesting if we would compare the whole declension of Baltic and Preslavic.
  35. zdravkoskalarov New Member


    I'm new to this forum but will try to fill the gap for the bulgarian language since this is my mother's language.

    Here is an example of how we use defined and undefined adjectives:

    Млада жена -> A young woman
    Младата жена -> The young woman
    Жената е млада -> The woman is young

    We have two forms for adjectives regarding to masculine nouns. Although we have no cases (der Fall / падеж) it is important whether the noun is in nominative or not:

    Младият мъж пие ракия -> The young man drinks rakia (Schnapps / Rakija)
    Двама другари дойдоха, за да пият с младия мъж -> Two friends came to drink with the young man
    Жената на младия мъж е недоволна -> The wife of the young man is unhappy

    This is from me for now. If u have more questions about bulgarian feel free to ask me.
  36. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    There is a common mistake circulating in the general literature for many decades: the original compound adjectives being associated with the definiteness distinction as it exists in the modern Romance and Germanic languages (or in Bulgarian in the Slavic context). The reality is somewhat more complex: this particle jь/ja/je was not a demonstrative ("that", from IE is/is/id), but a relative ("which", from IE ios/iā/iod) pronoun, so that the meaning of e. g. "sin'e-je nebo" was not "the blue sky" as often assumed but "blue-which sky", "a/the sky that stands out in being blue" (cp. "Peter the Great"). That is pretty much the situation still found in the modern Lithuanian, and examples of this usage can be found in many manuals of the Old Slavonic. This also explains why this jь/ja/je was always attached to the adjective and never found together with a noun, which would be absolutely enigmatic be it a plain article. So, the additional meaning expressed by the compound adjectives (and by the original Germanic weak adjectives, by the way) was a special emphasis put on the adjective itself ("sin'e nebo": "a/the blue sky" vs. "sin'eje nebo": "a/the sky which is especially blue (today)"), and not a definiteness of a noun.
  37. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    Does it mean that "a" would be longer (mlaadi, mlaada, mlaado) instead of mlad, mlada, mlado?

  38. ahvalj

    ahvalj Senior Member

    Two references as an illustration to my post:

    Ambrazas V, Geniušenė E, Girdenis A et al. · 2006 · Lithuanian grammar.pdf (31 MB)
    see pages 142–147

    Хабургаев ГА · 1974 · Старославянский язык.pdf (88 MB)
    see page 229
  39. Anicetus Senior Member

    No, in this adjective, the a in the stem is long in all the forms. The difference is in tone; feminine and neuter indefinite forms, mláda and mládo have a rising tone, while definite forms, mlȃdā and mlȃdō have falling tones. The definite forms also have a long vowel in their endings, hence the macron. The masculine adjective has a falling tone in its indefinite form (mlȃd) as well as its definite form (mlȃdī), because pronunciation units made up of a single syllable can have only falling tones.

    When a syllable has a falling tone, that means it has both stress and the highest pitch in its pronunciation unit -- that one probably sounds more like an accent in Spanish, for example, would. A rising tone means that the syllable after the stressed one has the highest pitch in the unit (that's why single-syllable words can have only falling tones).

    This probably sounds pretty abstract and confusing to you. Don't worry, BCS accents are rather complex but totally unimportant for communication, and that's why you shouldn't concern yourself with them too much. There are even native dialects in which these distinctions have been lost.
  40. Azori

    Azori Senior Member

    Even though Slovak doesn't have such distinction there are at least three adjectives with both a "short form" and a "long form":

    hoden / hodný (worthy)
    dlžen / dlžný (owed)
    vinen / vinný (guilty)

    They don't differ in meaning and the short ones (hoden, dlžen, vinen) are rather literary. I'm not sure how common the form vinen is as I don't think I've ever come across it. The short forms can be used only as a complement or a predicate, e.g. "Necítil sa vinen." - He did not feel guilty. / "Nie je nikomu nič dlžen." - He doesn't owe anything to anybody.
    I think in this case I'd rather say: "Vozidlo sa pri havárii poškodilo."
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2013
  41. qwqwqw Senior Member

    Bayern, D
    Could you tell me the difference between "ovaj" and "taj"? Hvala.
  42. Duya Senior Member

    Not in WR world
  43. sesperxes

    sesperxes Senior Member

    Burgos (Spain)
    I think I've understood, thanks!

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