Transcripts of byliny in 18-century manuscript miscellanies: linguistic criteria of the genre

2021. № 2 (42), 104-124

Институт русского языка им. В. В. Виноградова РАН
(Москва, Россия)


The article is devoted to the analysis of byliny (Russian traditional oral epic poems) preserved
in 18th century manuscript miscellanies . Compilers of such miscellanies tended to select
action-packed stories for entertaining reading, which included adapted transcripts of byliny.
The compilers did not endeavor to reproduce the oral text as accurately as possible.
When transcribed, byliny lost characteristics of the oral text and acquired features of adventure
stories. In dealing with such adaptations, the researcher is faced with the question of the
proportion between the original oral text and its literary reworking more akin to lubok novel.
The study aims to find linguistic criteria by which such written narratives can be formally
contrasted with byliny. Using these criteria, the study further examines texts with bylinyspecific
plots in 18th-century transcripts. For example, subordinate conjunctions are not very
common in byliny, while written records contain a lot of them. By this criterion, manuscript
texts with byliny-specific plots are similar to stories. Entertaining texts and literary adaptations
of byliny have quite a lot of Slavonicisms, while transcribed oral byliny contain much
fewer of them. At the same time, literary records of byliny have a number of characteristic
features that are not typical of written stories, such as repetition of preposition before adjectives
and nouns, placement of the attribute after the subject, extensive apostrophes, etc. Therefore,
it is possible to talk about a special subgenre of entertaining short novel aligned with byliny.