The Past Imperfect tense in the bylinas of North Russia and the narrative tradition of Old Russian chronicles

2012. № 1 (23), 179-193


The primary concern of this study is to investigate the use of imperfective verbal forms with the meaning of completed single action that advances the narrative. The material of the “bylinas of Onega” is studied in comparison with Old Russian chronicles. The author concludes that this atypical usage of the imperfective aspect in bylinas resonates with analogous functions of the imperfect tense in earlier epochs. The existence of these imperfective forms advancing the narrative in the chronicles of the 14th and 15th centuries and the parallel functioning of the imperfect in these dialect texts demonstrates that these forms in the Russian folk epic are not exceptional but have an ancient origin and were used in the Old Russian spoken language.