Some remarks on the vocabulary of birchbark letters (klanjajusja in No. 293, vodja in No. 65, naprasno in No. 494/469)

2020. № 1 (39), 172-179

Μarina А. Bobrik
Vinogradov Russian Language Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
(Moscow, Russia)


In the present article, I offer alternative lexical readings in three birchbark letters from
Novgorod. In two instances (klanjatisja D ‘to be grateful for something’; voditi A ‘to offer
something for sale’), my lexical reinterpretations have not been registered yet in the historical
dictionaries of Old Russian. Firstly, on the basis of linguistic and palaeographic arguments
I argue that the expression klanjajusja toi girivъně in letter no. 293, which has previously
been understood as an ironical commentary of the sender (‘I say farewell to my money
(grivna)’), should be regarded as a grateful reaction in a note made by the addressee. Secondly,
the form vodja in letter no. 65, which has no plausible lexical interpretation in the previous
editions, can be translated in the sense of ‘give, offer’ if we take into consideration evidence
from T. Fonne’s conversation book (17th c.). Also, in contrast to DND, I reinterpret
vodja as a third person plural present form of voditi, not as a gerund. Finally, the word
naprasno in letter no. 494/469 is used in the Old Russian meaning ‘not rightly’ rather than in
the Old Church Slavonic meaning ‘suddenly’, as translated in DND.