Look at the rhythm of the rest of the letters – it is perfectly even.

I want to show you a number of illustrations on how we have to deal with the difficulties of understanding birch bark letters. Show you several cases when the history of understanding such documents turned out to be difficult and sometimes dragged on for a year, for three, and in one case for twenty-five years. And you will see what we, philologists, are about to do when we deal with these documents and try to bring them to a clear knowledge.

Now in front of you is just a screen saver – a nice picture of Novgorod to include you in the atmosphere.

And this is what the excavation looks like – one of our good excavations.

If any of you have already participated in the excavations or will still participate, you will see something like this. You see, this is a huge number of buildings – in this case, the 12th century was discovered on the territory of a rather large excavation site.

And this is an example of a birch bark letter after it was found and washed. Because if you didn’t wash it at all, the letters would hardly be visible – after all, it was taken out of the ground. In this case, it is such a double roll, although more often it is just a single roll – birch bark naturally rolls into such rolls. This is ideal as you can see immediately that the letters are visible. And it is quite clear that in order to read the text, you need to unfold the letter.

Unfolding is a special operation. Next picture.

You see the same letter immediately after you unfold it.

Here are the fingers of people who are holding it, there are still drops of water on it. This is a very good letter, preserved in its entirety, on which the text is visible even from afar. This is not always so clearly visible, but we have a certain number of such wonderful samples.

The following picture shows you roughly what happens to the letter you just found. This is Valentin Lavrentievich Yanin, the head of the expedition, who bent over the letter, and all the other members of the expedition in various poses of interest: what to whom will get to see. The text was written, for example, 900 years ago, and now it lay unread for 900 years. The moment comes to read it. And how this reading happens – easy or difficult – we will now see from other examples.

Now a little introduction, without which I cannot show you the letters. You need to know that birch bark letters represent some somewhat unusual writing system, to which we also did not get used to it right away, but which we now know well. It consists in the fact that in birch bark letters, instead of o, you can find a solid sign – either of these two letters can be found one instead of the other. And in the same way, the letters e and the soft sign can meet one instead of the other, freely varying. This was allowed in the so-called everyday writing system, which is most often used in birch bark letters. And it is absolutely necessary to know it in order to correctly understand the texts of birch bark letters.

Here you see the word sea: in classical book writing it should be written in the same way as now: m, o, p, e. And in everyday writing there are four possibilities. Instead of o, ep can be written, that is, b, instead of e – b, and even both letters can be replaced. And you get such a terrible spelling m’r! It seems impossible to read it. But in fact, this is one of the legal ways to write the same word sea.

The second rule concerned the fact that the letter yat, which was used very strictly in book writing, in everyday writing could be replaced with the letter e and the letter b. This, too, was within the framework of legal spellings, and when reading letters, this should be taken calmly.

Of course, these letter replacements will at first be unusual for you in the texts that you see, but, I repeat, you must know and take this into account, otherwise the texts of the letters will be largely incomprehensible. Until these replacements were identified as a kind of systematic property of the letters, quite a few letters were read by mistake. So this is a serious thing.

Now you have another important table in front of you.

It concerns other prior knowledge that is necessary in order to deal with birch bark letters. Here we are not talking about letters, but about the endings of declension and conjugation. I will not discuss the entire table with you; It is important for me that you see the first column, and in it is what is called “supra-dialectic Old Russian”. It can be seen from this column that in the Old Russian books the nominative singular (where the ending is now zero) was written with a solid sign. For example, city, Ivan was pronounced with a small “y-shaped” vowel. It was the classic book form of the central dialect of the Old Russian language. And in Novgorod, in the Novgorod dialect, in the place of this there was an e at the end. For example, a city was a city, Ivan was Ivane. And in the same way in the adjectives: not to blame, but to blame, not by itself (pronoun), but by itself. The same in the past tense of the verb: not byl, but byle, not sold, but sold. You don’t need to look at the rest of the lines yet – we won’t really need this, but the first will be needed quickly.

Here are two prior knowledge that will be required to make the credentials available to you. We have to look at several letters and try to follow how we made our way through the incomprehensibility.

This is a photograph of the letter, but it is quite clear that you will not be able to try to read the text with such a reproduction, therefore in such cases, and, incidentally, in all other cases, we use what is called “breakthrough”. This is a drawing made by an experienced artist who reproduces all the lines that belong to a person’s hand, and does not reproduce all sorts of cracks and spots that interfere with the perception of the text.

Here is the same letter, where you see the letters of the text in black on a white background.

It’s much easier this way, you can start doing something about it.

This is diploma number 377 (let me remind you that now the last number is 1063, so 377 has been a long time ago). I draw your attention to the fact that there is no division into words. Most often, this difficulty is rather easily overcome, but there are times when a lot of things also depend on it. We will face this a little more.

Please, next frame.

This is the same letter No. 377, of the last third of the XIII century, which you just saw in the form of a photograph and in the form of a line. The diploma is remarkable in content, although we will not admire its content for a long time. But still, we will not pass by this when we see what is written here.

First, an appeal from some Mikita, that is, Nikita. Next comes the female name, which we will talk about separately. In general, this is a letter from a certain young man to a girl. And what does he write to her? Follow me. Of course, this means “marry me.” This is already very impressive, because in our view it was, of course, so that no one ever addressed the girl directly, but went to ask their parents for permission, send matchmakers, and so on. And here is a document that shows that people were as free as in our time, nothing much has changed. Thirteenth century!

Here he writes simply: “go for me.” And an explanation follows: I want you, but you don’t want me, “I want you, and you want me.” And for that he heard Ignat, then the patronymic is visible – Moiseev. Hearing is a witness, what exactly the witness is – we do not know, since the letter is torn off, it reached us incomplete. Most likely, he is the person who told Mikita that the girl agreed. Therefore, Mikita had the opportunity to write not only “I want you”, but also “you me”. As you can see, the content itself is great. But this part, which I have just translated for you, was not a big problem for us.

I would like to draw your attention to the letter substitutions I spoke about: the word me is not written with a soft sign, but this is actually me; Tbe is also written through a soft sign. The word “witness” is written as an out-of-ear, that is, instead of era (a solid sign), at the end it is written about. This is a typical everyday letter, exactly according to the general scheme that was shown to you.

Now let’s go back to the trace. Mikiti – I will not really comment on why this name differs from the current Nikita, but it was like that in Novgorod. From Mikiti to … To whom?

But this really turned out to be an extraordinary problem for us. A problem that has dragged on for many, many years. It is quite clear from the text that this must be a female name. What’s the name?

Here it is in front of you in the form of a line. What is written here? This is the letter a, this is the letter a, this is the letter n, everything is clear here. But between k and a there is such a rather narrow zone where, generally speaking, one letter could fit … When this letter was found, in this zone an o was found, on which y was planted.

A small explanation for those who have not yet encountered this: in the Old Russian language, the sound [y] was written in two letters: oh, according to the Greek model. Much later, they began to write the simple u, which we now use. If we accept that in our letter these letters ran into each other, then https://123helpme.me/synthesis-essay/ we can assume that it says oh. Next comes something strange, but if we accept that the first is l, and the second is u, in which the left barrel has merged with the right barrel from l, then it will be such a ligature, that is, a fused spelling of whether.

This was the very first attempt to read the name of the girl to whom this marriage proposal is addressed. Happened: oh, l, and. Further, for some reason, however, two a’s in a row: ouliaa. Further, as if prostrating: Ouliaanits.

Here I must tell you that the experience of studying with birch bark letters constantly shows: if we assume that the scribe was mistaken somewhere, then with a high probability after a while it will become clear that it was we who were mistaken, and not the scribe. We didn’t know something, we didn’t understand something and interpreted it wrongly. This has happened so many times that now we are extremely cautious about the hypothesis that there is a scribe’s mistake in the text. Of course, sometimes there are mistakes – scribes are people, like all of us. But there are no more mistakes in birch bark letters than in good parchment books, that is, it happens very rarely. There are a lot of letters in which there is not a single mistake from the point of view of the system in which they are written. And, generally speaking, to consider that two a’s are accidentally written here instead of one is already a weak point in the interpretation. This is already something that makes you think that maybe we are wrong here.

Now let’s go back to the picture again so that you can see why this reading of the Owlianits raises various doubts, even beyond this double a. Look. The four letters – o, y, l, and – are set so that they take up space for almost one or one and a half letters, no more. This is already very suspicious. Look at the rhythm of the rest of the letters – it is perfectly even. In other places, there is nothing like this kind of compression of letters, and even more so, gluing them together. For example, oy in the word out-of-ears: o and y – quite clearly. The letter u, by the way, is very graceful, with such a special bend – it doesn’t look like u in Ouliaanits at all. In general, there is a strong suspicion that something is wrong here. And this is already two suspicions: four letters take up space normal for one letter, plus two a instead of one. And besides, the word Ouliaanits strangely does not have an ending: it should have had an ending -? or -e.

Three oddities in one place. And at the same time, not a single oddity in the rest of the letter – in other places everything is completely clear. This is a sure indication that something is missing here.

This is a wonderful principle, which has been confirmed many times in different letters: if your letter is read well in all places, except for one, and in this one there are two or three wrongs at once from the point of view of your reading, then most likely, even just for sure, you just misread this passage. And the correct reading will be – if, of course, you find it – in which all three errors are eliminated at once, they will turn out to be non-existent. And we have had such instructive cases more than once, so this has already become the principle of our work. A very important principle, because it forces us to be extremely strict with our assessments and not take liberties like: “Well, one letter is missing here – we will neglect.” Can’t be neglected. It is imperative to look for the reason, and only if all the possibilities of interpretation have been completely exhausted and there is no other possibility but to admit the scribe’s mistake, one can agree with this.

Over the course of many years of studying letters, this principle gave us a lot and finally allowed us to assert that now we understand letters by an order of magnitude better than before.

So what to do with this Ulyanitsa?

I must say that Ulyanitsa flourished for twenty years. She got used to Novgorod life so much that performances from Novgorod life were staged, where the role of Ulyanitsa was played by a student who was awarded this honorable role in our skits. She performed, as befits Ulyanitsa of the 13th century, with appropriate speeches, and this has already become such an episode from Novgorod life that you cannot throw out. Despite the fact that in the XIII century there was no Ulyanitsa, and Ulyanitsa arose due to these three stretches when reading …

From the audience: As Second Lieutenant Kizhe …

A. A. Zaliznyak: Yes, yes, we certainly deal with such second lieutenants from time to time.

And then the following happened.

Twenty years after the discovery of the letter, one young colleague from our group of philologists, tormented by the inaccuracy of Ulyanitsa, began to work with this letter again. And she found another solution.

The picture shows what it consisted of: everything written between the letter k and the first letter a was interpreted as strikethrough strokes. Indeed, you see that this may be so, that is, perhaps in the zone between the letters k and a the scribe tried to write something, and then crossed it out.

This is already a fairly realistic solution, since we know cases when a scribe crossed out letters that he wrote incorrectly with similar strokes. Accepting this version, the researcher received the text of K a and n and. And then there was a new decomposition into words.

Ka instead of ko may not be a slip of the tongue, but some special phenomenon; I will not tell you about it now, I will only say that this is, in principle, possible for Novgorod phonetics. And then only the girl’s name remains – ani. Indeed, the name Anna could be spelled with one n, so this is quite normal. A somewhat weak point, however, in this instead of ko, since it was still a very rare phenomenon, almost not confirmed by other texts.

So, our Uljanitsa disappeared, turning into Anna. And Anna lived for some years.

Anton Noskov (grade 10): What kind of c? This is Ch?

A. Zaliznyak: Yes, this letter, which now looks like a h, is an Old Russian c. The letter h was written in the form of a so-called bowl.

Note: you are now dealing with a cut. And we haven’t studied photography. But the breakthrough is the work of human hands, the artist could not see something, and in this case we will really face it. So, generally speaking, only the original is the decisive source for us. You have to resort to it over and over again; the history of this letter is exactly what it looks like.

It is also important for the assessment of the reading of ka ani that the end here is not quite reliably written. That is, this solution also had incomplete reliability – firstly, because of ka, and secondly, because the end is not read reliably.