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On Proto-Slavic Oath Formulas

Jasmina Grković-Major

Abstract


This paper deals with Slavic oath formulas containing the phrases ‘stand firm’ and ‘hold firm’, found mostly in peace treaties. The analysis carried out on the rich corpus of Old Serbian charters written in the vernacular and followed by a comparison with the data from Old Russian. The research is an attempt to reconstruct their possible Proto-Slavic structure, both linguistic and conceptual. After presenting the relevant data, the author reconstructs the following Proto-Slavic formulas: * stojati tvrьdo / krěpьko vь / na klętvě ( ) komu ‘stand firm in / on the oath toward someone’, * drьžati tvrьdo / krěpьko klętvǫ ( ) komu ‘hold firm the oath toward someone’. Both Serbian and Russian charters show lexical variations in the prepositional phrase and in the adverbial modifier of the formulas, which testify to their semantic compositionality. The etymology of their basic lexical constituents (* stojati, * drьžati, * tvrъdo, * krěpьko) indicates that ‘immobility, firmness’ is their core meaning, * drьžati ‘make immobile > hold’ being just a transitive version of * stojati ‘be immobile > stand’. The concrete, physical concepts ‘stand’ and ‘hold’ were mapped into the target domain of the abstract ones (> ‘exist’ and ‘keep, have’). They represent the embodied experience and speak in favor of Embodied Realism. Indo-European parallels show that ‘stand’ and ‘hold’ belong to some of the basic Indo-European (although not just Indo-European) conceptual metaphors, having a deep cultural motivation. These notions were so deeply rooted into the conceptual apparatus that they survived the change of cultural codes, becoming an integral part of the oath in Christian times. As time went by, they were secularized and reduced to phraseological units. They still exist today, even with the same lexical constituents as in the medieval charters, e.g. Serb. držati X ( reč, obećanje, veru), Russ. sderžat’ X ( dannoe slovo, kljatvu), stojat’ na X = tverdo deržat’sja X ( ubeždenija, mnenija).

Keywords


formulaic phrases; oath formulas; Proto-Slavic; Serbian; Russian; peace treaties

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