On the kings and the beasts: the rules of accentuation of a group of Russian surnames

2022. № 1 (43), 154-181

Ksenia A. Gilyarova
Russian State University for the Humanities
(Moscow, Russia)

Ilya B. Itkin
Institute of Oriental Studies of the RAS
National Research University Higher School of Economics
(Moscow, Russia)


The article is devoted to the accentuation patterns of Russian surnames ending in -ov
(-jov, -ev), which are derived from monosyllabic masculine nouns: hvost (‘tail’) – Hvostóv,
list (‘leaf’, ‘sheet’) – Listóv and Lístov, zver’ (‘beast’) – Zvérev, etc. The accentuation of such
surnames is determined by the complex interaction of two factors – the final consonants of
their stem and their accent scheme. The analysis of the material shows that, contrary to the
previous descriptions, in the vast majority of cases the stress in the surnames formed from
nouns with a stem-final single hard paired consonant falls on the root regardless of the accent
scheme of the base (Chékhov, Zúbov, Úmov, etc.). For the surnames derived from nouns of
the accent paradigm “b” (Býkov, Kótov, Sómov, etc.) such stress is an innovation: cf. Bykóv,
Kotóv in late Old Russian manuscripts. In the article we discuss arguments for and against the
hypothesis that this accent shift is due to the tendency to resolve the ambiguity between the
surname and the genitive plural form of the base noun: e.g. Býkov ≠ bykóv ‘bulls (Gen Pl)’.