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Древненовгородский…
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Древненовгородский диалект

by А. А. Зализняк

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Recently added byq_and_a, blokland

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There's no hyperbole in saying that this book is the current bible for scholars of the birchbark letters, an absolutely indispensable reference, and a must-have for any collection of Medieval Russian philology.

This latest edition includes material uncovered since the previous one, from 1995-2003. The book begins with a 215-page sketch of the unique features of the Old Novgorod dialect, with reference made to the letters themselves. Anyone using this material, or the commentary to the individual letters, should be aware that Zaliznjak's stance on issues such as the status of the palatalizations in Novgorod is not undisputed, but in this introductory section he does a respectable job of pointing out other viewpoints when appropriate.

The main bulk of this book is the letters themselves, presented chronologically (as best as possible). Each entry contains the text of the letter, a translation into modern Russian, and an often extensive commentary on the interesting aspects of the letter, both grammatically and orthographically.

As this is a philologically-focused book, Zaliznjak only treats letters with a meaningful amount of text, though each major temporal section contains a transcription of letters with only a few words, or pieces of words.

Particularly in regards to the letters containing only a few words, it would be very interesting to see drawings of the letters themselves, as early reports on the birchbark letters included. That said, given that the book is already 872 pages long, it is an understandable omission.

While the letters themselves are a treasure-trove of data, arguably the most amazing part of this book is the reference material and indices in the back. There is a concordance of every word, including the spelling variants as they occur (the texts deemed "Church Slavonic" are given separately). There is also a section where the words are also listed by their part of speech. There is a 14-page bibliography of scholarship on the birchbark letters. Finally, there is a table of contents of the letters in order, in order to help the user find them in the chronological listing.

Doing research on the birchbark letters would be all but impossible without this book. The only thing that could top it would be the following edition, though I suspect we'll have a long wait for that one.

(Q)

NOTE: All birchbark letters (most with photographs, or at least a tracing) with transcription and translation are now available on-line at http://gramoty.ru/ ( )
  q_and_a | Jan 20, 2007 |
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